Paradise waits as the NCAA tournament was revealed last night. While the seedings are what they are, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they accurately reflect the 18 best teams in the country. Yet, at the same time, it’s difficult not to acknowledge what some teams did down the stretch.
I decided to reward the conference champs for winning, regardless of their conference.
NOTE: My list this week is actually a top 21 because I realized after I submitted by ballot that I forgot to include Albany. Mea culpa to Scott Marr and his crew. I’m going to slate Albany where I would have had them, but they just won’t be receiving any points in the official poll from me.
1. Maryland: The Terps have been flirting with the top spot in my poll for a while now, inching up to the top three a few weeks ago. With both Denver and Brown losing this past weekend this is a no-brainer.
2. Denver: Yes, they lost at home for the first time since the ECAC final in 2012, but this team showed earlier in the year that they’re capable of picking up the pieces and getting the job done.
3. Brown: Similar to Denver a one-goal loss, I can’t drop Brown too much considering it’s the final weekend of the year and they just now collected their second loss on the season.
4. Syracuse: The ACC champs had a cakewalk with Colgate, and benefited immensely from everyone else who lost in the past week.
5. Yale: Yes, Yale won the Ivy League outright, and I still have them behind Brown. I don’t think they’re too far off, but Yale stumbled a bit in April and they’ve got more losses than Bruno. We’re splitting hairs here.
6. Notre Dame: Winning against Army didn’t really impress me much because I expected that to happen. It will be very interesting to see how ND deals with a scrappy Air Force team next week.
7. Loyola: The Patriot League champs were idle this week, but everyone’s still talking about Pat Spencer’s performance in the conference tournament. The Hounds will need their freshman phenom to continue his impressive streak in the first round. Will there be shades of 2013 this year?
(Ed Note: I thought Doc was referring to Loyola's 2012 run, so the original draft was edited to "2012" instead. He was referring to the 2013 playoff game. It's been corrected and a hyperlink to the 2013 Duke vs. Loyola tournament game has been added.)
8. Marquette: I’ve had the Golden Eagles in my poll for the entire year. I’ve never wavered on them being a top 20 team and they proved that they belong, at least for this year. Their win over Denver was one of the most impressive second half 180s I’ve ever seen.
9. North Carolina: The Heels played well down the stretch, but will they be able to handle Marquette’s defense? This has the potential to be one of the best first round games this year.
10. Rutgers: Apparently that win over Hopkins on April 2nd wasn’t a fluke. Despite beating the Jays twice, Rutgers is bubble out while Hop got an at-large. One of the best Cinderella stories of the year never even got a change to try on that glass slipper. #Hosed
*Albany: What a shocker that the Danes lost to Hartford. Clearly the Hawks saw something in that UMBC game film. Despite the loss, the Scoobies still made the tournament and the re-match with Syracuse could be a major corker.
11. Johns Hopkins: The 2016 edition of the Blue Jays is a decent team. 8-6 isn’t a stellar record, but I don’t know if I buy them getting in and Rutgers not. Blue bloods gonna blue blood, I guess.
12. Navy: Most likely the last team in, Navy faltered in their conference tournament, but if anyone doubts that Rick Sowell’s squad can show up when it counts then you haven’t been paying attention. This team can be dangerous. But will they be?
13. Towson: The Tigers wrapped up the THUNDERDOME title with a 4-2 victory over Fairfield. It will be fun to see what this defense can do against Denver’s offense when it’s playing angry.
14. Air Force: The Falcons won the SoCon in OT over Richmond. A thrilling ending to be sure. The fly boys are on a 15 game win streak at the moment, the longest in the country. Can they continue it against Notre Dame? Anything is possible this year.
15. Duke: The Durham Rollercoaster pulls into Ridley for a rematch with Loyola. The Blue Devils lit up the Hounds earlier this year, but both teams have been through a lot since then. What second round game would you rather see, Denver/Duke or Denver/Loyola (assuming Denver wins?). I’m not really interested in re-matches of regular season games so I’d vote for the latter. YMMV.
16. Quinnipiac: I had them in at 20 last week, but the MAAC championship gives them a bump this week.
17. Stony Brook: A fate parallel to that of Albany, but the Seawolves miss the tournament. It’s a pity because I think they could have been a real thorn in someone’s side. #Hosed2.0
18. Harvard: The Crimson finished at .500 and looked like hot garbage for a while there. I considered Villanova for this slot, but after seeing firsthand how defeated the Wildcats appeared in their Big East semi-final against Marquette, I gave the edge to the team that actually went out with their claws out.
19. Hartford: America East champs. Double-digit wins. They have a better record than Duke. I’m just saying.
20. Hobart: Well doctor my eyes, Hobart goalie Jackson Brown. EVERYONE was expecting a St. Joe’s/Bryant rematch in the NEC title game. The Statesmen had different plans. Hobart finished the season 10-6. Again, double digit wins earns some respect in my book.
Dropped Out: Villanova, Bryant, (*Albany, on a technicality)
Also considered: Villanova