(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)
The NCAA Tournament bracket is set and the fight to be the final team standing on Memorial Day gets underway on Saturday at high noon.
Each half (top and bottom) of the bracket will see two teams advance to Championship Weekend in Hartford, Conn. This year, the road to Championship Weekend will run through Hempstead, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio.
The top half of the bracket features the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins, who stand out amongst the rest of the overall field as the only remaining unbeaten left in college lacrosse. Additionally, this half of the bracket may be the most tightly contested and intriguing overall.
You can view the full NCAA Bracket (printable) here.
Here’s a look at some storylines and superlatives for the top half of the bracket:
National Title Favorite
Top-seed Maryland is the clear-cut favorite to not only come out of the top half of the bracket, but win the entire tournament. The Terrapins enter the big dance with a perfect 14-0 record and only one team (Notre Dame) has come within two goals of them all season. From start to finish, it has been pure dominance from Maryland. They will be looking to become the first team since 2006 Virginia to go unbeaten.
With a top-tier offense headlined by Logan Wisnauskas, steady play of Logan McNaney in cage, the emergence of Ajax Zappitello on defense, and improvement of Luke Wierman at the faceoff dot, the Terrapins have virtually no holes. Maryland has beaten teams by an average of 8.86 goals per game this season and it will be very hard-pressed for anyone to get past them.
Best First-Round Game
Ask this question to multiple people and you are bound to get multiple different answers. This tournament field is stacked with great first-round games up and down, and the top half may have the two best. However, No. 8 Brown vs Virginia is going to be the one I’ll go with as the best matchup in the top half of the bracket. Although, No. 5 Princeton vs Boston U. is certainly a great rematch.
When the Brown Bears welcome in the Virginia Cavilers to Providence for a 7:30pm contest on Saturday, they won’t just be welcome in the two-time defending national champions, but they will also be welcoming Lars Tiffany back home. Tiffany, a Brown alum, left his alma mater following the 2016 season in which he took them to Championship Weekend to take over at Virginia. It’ll be his second trip back to Providence since heading down to Charlottesville as Brown upset Virginia during the shortened 2020 season. Both of these teams can play a similar fast-paced style at times, but the main theme to watch is how the Brown defense, anchored goalie Connor Theirault, handles the Virginia offense, which is led by Connor Shellenberger and Matt Moore.
Best Potential Matchup
Maryland and Virginia met in the national title game last season with the Cavaliers taking home the victory. This season, the two met in March for a neutral site contest that Maryland took in convincing fashion, 23-12. The two could very well meet once more in the quarterfinals in what would be the biggest matchup of the season (outside Championship Weekend). Having those two meet again is the clear-cut top potential matchup this possibly in the top half of this year’s bracket. Not only just the general storyline, but the various matchups within the game, would garner immense attention and hype. How would the Cavaliers attack after being blown out last time? Would the Terrapins be able to break away like they did in March or would it be a much tighter contest?
Underdog With The Most Potential
Boston U. is in the tournament for the first time in program history and has the potential to pull off the upset against No. 5 Princeton, who they fell to 12-7 a month ago. Now heading back to Class of 1952 Stadium to face the Tigers in the first round, the Terriers are the one team I feel the most confident about pulling a first-round upset not only in this half of the bracket but in the tournament as a whole. Despite their top midfielder, Jake Cates, going down with a season-ending injury against Princeton, they have seemingly gotten deeper. The attack unit of Timmy Ley, Vince D’Alto, and Louis Perfetto has continued to put up numbers, but also players such as Matt Hillburn have really stepped up on offense. And on the other end, Matt Garber anchors a defense that is led out front by Roy Meyer, who was bumped from LSM to close for a time while Patrick Morrison was out. Connor Calderone at the faceoff dot and the 10-man ride have proven to be X-factors that have helped put it all together.
One Player From Each Team You Need to Know
Logan Wisnauakas, Attack, Maryland: No. 1 for the number one team in America, Wisnauskas has had an outstanding season as the leader of a dangerous Maryland offense. He had netted 48 goals and dished out 36 assists for a total of 84 points this season, a stat line which has helped him become a potential Tewaaraton finalist and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Thomas McConvey, Midfield, Vermont: The leader of a deep and talented Catamounts offense, McConvey has scored 60 goals and dished out 13 assists for 73 points this season. He comes into this week on his hottest streak yet as he had five goals in their regular-season finale and conference semifinal game before putting up seven goals in the America East title game.
Connor Theriault, Goalie, Brown: Dubbed “The People’s Goalie,” Theriault hopped in cage as a first-time starter this season and has been phenomenal with 194 saves and a 55% save percentage as the anchor to the Bears’ defense.
Connor Shellenberger, Attack, Virginia: Shellenberger made a name for himself last tournament by helping lead Virginia to a national title. The Tewaaraton nominee has continued his dominance this season, leading the Cavaliers as the quarterback on offense with 68 points off 28 goals 40 assists.
Jake Stevens, Midfield, Princeton: One of the key aspects that makes this Princeton team so dangerous is their two-way midfielders. Leading the charge in that group is Jake Stevens, who literally makes plays all over the field. Whether it’s on the faceoff wings, offense, defense, or in transition, he can make an impact. Stevens has tallied 22 points (21G/1A), grabbed 59 ground balls, and caused four turnovers this season.
Roy Meyer, LSM, Boston U.: The Terriers rank first amongst DI teams in caused turnovers per game with 12. A big reason for that is the play of Roy Meyer. An LSM who has also played at close this season, he has caused 54 turnovers, scooped up 75 ground balls, dished out three assists, and scored a goal.
Matt Brandau, Attack, Yale: From the beginning of the season through now, the most consistent player on an ever-evolving Yale team filled with youth has been Matt Brandau. He has put up 91 points off 52 goals and 31 assists this season and is top three in both points per game (6.07) and goals per game (3.47) in DI.
Zach Cole, Faceoff, Saint Joseph’s: The best faceoff man in college lacrosse, Cole is the face of the franchise for this Hawks squad as their most impactful player. Cole ranks first nationally in faceoff winning percentage as he has gone 125-for-402 (68%) this season.