2021 DI NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Bracketology 1.0

(Photo Courtesy of Duke Athletics)

On March 30th, Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse dropped the news that the NCAA Tournament would be holding the first round at four predetermined sites instead of having the seeded team host, and last week Patrick Stevens reported that the tournament would do away with the play-in game due to the Ivy League not playing. As of right now, no other changes are expected.

So, with that news in hand we now have the most pressing question of the 2021 season answered and we can dive straight into some bracketology with Selection Sunday just 27 days away at the time of this being published.

How It Works

As always, here is a refresher as to how the NCAA Tournament works for those of you who may be unaware or have forgotten. The 2021 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament will feature eight seeded teams and eight non-seeded teams. Those teams will make up the 16-team bracket.

Eight teams will be automatic qualifiers (AQ) and those eight will all be conference champions. Remember, the ACC does not have an AQ because a conference needed six teams to qualify for an AQ. The ACC only has five teams. With eight AQ’s, that leaves eight spots for at-large selections.

Now how does the NCAA selection committee pick teams for at-large bids and seed teams for the tournament? According to the committee, they consider a multitude of things. The committee looks at record, strength of schedule index (based on team’s 10 highest-rated games), RPI results, average RPI wins and losses, head-to-head results, record against ranked teams (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, and 21+), significant wins and losses, location of games, results versus common opponents, and any polls do not matter. 

However, because of the uniqueness of this season, the selection process will be more different than ever before. For instance, the Big Ten opted for a conference-only schedule whereas the ACC allowed their teams to play non-conference games. Because of such instances, the committee will likely be relying more heavily on the eye test and feedback from their regional advisory committee, which is made up of 10 coaches.

Projected Automatic Qualifiers

We still have a lot of lacrosse to be played, but if the tournament started today this is what the AQ situation would look like. These selections are based on best conference record at this moment.

ConferenceTeamRecordConference RecordRPI RankSOS Rank
America EastStony Brook^7-35-12119
Big EastDenver7-27-0128
Big TenMaryland8-08-0939
Patriot LeagueLehigh6-05-0 (3-0)*1561
NECSaint Joseph’s5-35-02844

*The Patriot League has split into two divisions this season: North and South. Record in parentheses is division record.

^Vermont and Stony Brook have the same conference record and the two have yet to play each other. Because of that, RPI rank was used to decide that AQ spot.

^^Richmond and Jacksonville have the same conference record due to Richmond’s game against Mercer getting cancelled this weekend and the two have yet to play each other. Because of that, RPI rank was used to decide that AQ spot.

Data from Laxbytes.com – 4/11.

Possible At-Large Selections

While its always interesting who gets chosen as an at-large selection, it will be even more interesting this season given all the differences in scheduling from team to team and conference to conference. And, as always, any upsets in conference tournaments could change at-large selections drastically.

For this section we are listing 16 teams that are in contention for a possible at-large bid after removing the projected AQs. Teams are listed in order based on their RPI rank. However, that number really doesn’t mean much this season at all. And as always, some of these teams listed have little to no chance of getting unless they get an AQ.

ConferenceTeamRecordConference RecordRPI RankSOS Rank
ACCNotre Dame6-12-116
ACCNorth Carolina8-21-222
Patriot LeagueArmy West Point5-23-157
Big TenRutgers6-26-21143
Big EastGeorgetown8-17-11427
America EastUAlbany6-34-22332
America EastVermont5-35-12436
America EastUMBC5-24-22653
Patriot LeagueNavy3-21-22928
Patriot LeagueLoyola5-43-23218
Big TenOhio State4-44-43841

Data from Laxbytes.com – 4/11.

Bids Per Conference

Before getting into what I think the bracket could look like at this time, let’s take a look at how many bids each conference could receive. There are a few conference that are sure to get multiple bids while other may get just get one bid. Some of the bottom conferences will obviously only get that one AQ, as usual.

ACC – Five Bids

Big East – Two Bids

Big Ten – Two Bids

Patriot League – Two Bids

America East – One Bid 

CAA – One Bid

MAAC – One Bid

NEC – One Bid

SoCon – One Bid

Projected Bracket 1.0

Last Four In: Army West Point, Georgetown, Rutgers, Syracuse

First Four Out: Loyola, Ohio State, Navy, Drexel

Who’s Living on The Bubble and Who’s Out?

As usual, the bubble is pretty sizable in early and mid-April with conference races in full gear and things changing week from week across the landscape. However, there are some teams that, at least at this point, look like they will need a boost more than others if they want to get into the tournament.

Stony Brook, UMBC, Vermont, and UAlbany are all contenders in the America East. And while Stony Brook and Vermont are the two sole leaders in the conference coming into this week with UAlbany beating UMBC on Sunday, things can change with Vermont still having games against UAlbany and Stony Brook left, and UMBC and Stony Brook having another contest against each other left. Any one of those four teams could snag the America East AQ, which is almost 100% certain to be the conference’s only bid.

Similarly in the CAA, Delaware sits top the conference but just took their first conference loss of the season against Drexel over the weekend. Additionally, Hofstra and UMass have split their season series, and even Towson – who just got their first win in conference play last week – ends the season with games against Hofstra, UMass, Delaware, and Drexel. And in their first games against each they only lost by a goal. So, in essence, the CAA still offers little clarity. Their AQ will most likely be their only bid.

If any team in the Patriot League has anything to worry about it’s Loyola. They have been one of the more inconsistent teams in the nation. Their season-ending contest against Georgetown looks to be their best ticket in as an at-large selection, especially after losing to Army on Saturday. If they lose against the Hoyas and/or don’t win the Patriot League, they are pretty much done. The same could be said for Georgetown in the Big East. However, they have a big rematch against Denver this weekend that could give them a big resume booster.

Syracuse and Rutgers are in very odd places. For the Orange, they have two losses against Duke and Notre Dame. However, they still have a win against Virginia that looks better and better with each passing week, as does their season-opening loss against Army. ‘Cuse also ends the season with games against North Carolina, Virginia, and Notre Dame that could help boost their resume. The Scarlet Knights, like the rest of the Big Ten, have been screwed over by their conference’s idiotic decision to play a conference-only schedule. Rutgers has looked really good and owns season sweeps of Ohio State and Penn State. Their two losses are against Maryland. They now have to tread a very thin line the rest of the way through the Big Ten Tournament.

Also in the Big Ten, Ohio State, who is the third-best team in the conference, is out unless they can pull off a cinderella story run in the Big Ten Tournament. Navy is in a similar boat as they are already out of the Patriot League Tournament and only have games against a bubble team in Loyola and rival Army left to boost their resume. And even if they win those two and beat Lafayette to end the season, it would take something insane to happen for them to squeak in as an at-large.

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