A year after being considered one of the biggest snubs of the tournament, the Rutgers men's lacrosse team is yet again on the bubble, albeit in a much better spot than last year. Let's take a look at the landscape of the NCAA as a whole and how that could affect the Scarlet Knights chances.
Coming into the 2017 season, the NCAA actually reduced the number of NCAA qualifiers from 18 to 17. The point of this was to remove one play-in game, and only have two teams vieing to play their way into the tournament. The way the bracket is set up is there are eight seeded teams and nine non-seeded teams. The eight seeded teams all host first round games before quarterfinal games are played at predetermined locations.
There are two ways a team can qualify for the NCAA tournament, either though an automatic qualifier (AQ) which is when you win your conference tournament, or through an At-Large bid. Nine conferences get an AQ. The nine conferences are: America East, Big East, Big Ten, CAA, Ivy League, MAAC, Northeast Conference, Patriot League and Southern Conference. One conference that sticks out as not having an AQ is the ACC and that's because they fall below the mandatory six team threshold.
These AQ’s are a spot where Rutgers could run into some trouble so let's take a look at how each conference is stacking up.
American East: Albany is the top dog here (no pun intended) and should easily run the table. If they somehow get upset though, it opens up a chance for a bubble team such as Rutgers to get bumped because of Albany’s strong SOS and top tier wins.
Big East: This is a tournament Rutgers fans have to keep an eye on. Denver is the team to beat but Villanova and Marquette are two teams on the bubble who could stir things up. Last year, Marquette upset Denver to steal a bid and could potentially do the same this year.
UPDATE: Denver lost to Marquette again on Thursday afternoon and the hope for Rutgers to receive an at-large berth is on the ropes.
Big Ten: No matter the outcome of the tournament, Rutgers will not be affected. Most, if not all, major publications have five Big Ten teams in.
CAA: Here is another tournament that Rutgers fans will have to keep an eye on. It is a two horse race between Hofstra and Towson and whichever team loses has a fair shout at earning an at large bid regardless of the outcome. Hofstra owns Top-20 wins over Monmouth, Princeton, and a big win over North Carolina. Towson owns top tier wins against Johns Hopkins and Hofstra. Of the two, Hofstra is more likely to earn the AQ.
Ivy League: What do you know, another conference with major implications for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights own wins over half the field so on one hand, if Brown and Princeton do well, it's good for Rutgers, but on the other hand Yale is the top seed and if they lose, they could steal an at-large bid. Best case scenario is that the seeds hold and Yale wins the title.
MAAC: Monmouth is the favorite here but there is really no fear of them stealing a bid if they get upset.
Northeast: Similar to the MAAC, Hobart is the favorite but if they lose, they should not be stealing a bid.
Patriot: The Patriot League completed their tournament last weekend with Loyola securing the AQ. They beat Army in the final. The Black Knights could find themselves in the tournament with an at-large bid, especially since they have a game remaining against Notre Dame.
Southern: This one is a little tricky, Air Force and Richmond are the top two teams and both have a shout at earning an at-large bid. Richmond has wins over Marquette and North Carolina. Air Force beat Duke and Richmond. This will most likely be a one bid league, but it’s one to keep an eye on.
As you can see, nothing is set in stone and much can change over the next few days, but Rutgers is still in the drivers seat. Here are some reasons why Rutgers will make the tournament, and some reasons why Rutgers will miss the tournament.
Why Rutgers is In?
- The Ohio State win.
- Non-conference wins over Army, Brown, Princeton, and Stony Brook.
- Strong Year for the Big Ten in general with five teams in the top-12.
- Down years for teams such as Marquette and Towson.
- Rutgers has a strong RPI at #12. Full RPI standings can be viewed here.
Why Rutgers won't get in?
- The Delaware loss.
- Wonky results in leagues where there is a clear winner (AE, Big East)
- The committee punishes Rutgers for missing their conference tournament
All in all, it seems like Rutgers is more on the “in” side than the “out” side but crazy things can happen.
After all of this, here is one mans prediction at the 17 teams that will make the NCAA tournament.
Albany, Denver, Maryland, Yale, Towson, Monmouth, Hobart, Loyola, and Richmond
Syracuse, Duke, Norte Dame, UNC, Penn State, Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, Rutgers
There you have it folks, Rutgers men's lacrosse is unofficially in! Let me know what you think in the comments below!