This weekend will bring the start of the NCAA Division 1 lacrosse tournament, and whether you're a fan of an AQ or an at-large team, the bracket is set up quite nicely. Let's take a look at just how awesome this thing can be.
Sixteen teams (only eight of which are actually seeded), is the perfect set up for the regular season and post season.The games during the regular season still matter when it comes to getting into the tournament, but losing a game or two, or even more, doesn't necessarily mean that you're out of it. Just ask 5-9 Detroit. Although I'm typically not a fan of teams with losing records playing for something, I will hypocritically say that in the instance of lacrosse there IS something that I like about it. Maybe it's because the University of Detroit has had a D1 program for only five years, and now they have an opportunity to continue building their program by playing on the sport's biggest stage. Hold on, Wolverines fans, our time is coming soon.
The fact that there are only 63 D1 teams also lends itself to a smaller bracket. Even in the event of other D1 schools adding lacrosse programs (specifically, and hopefully, B1G schools...yes, I'm talking to you Minnesota and Michigan State), a sixteen team bracket is still going to be the best at the end of the year. Expanding the field would be like that commercial with the dudes wearing bags on their heads and the big snail getting into the basketball tourney, because the field was expanded to everyone. There is a lot of good debate around the "Bracketology" for lacrosse, which is easier to follow than for something like basketball or football with an infinite number of teams getting into the post season. It's pretty easy to tell who will/won't get in, but there's always a scenario for this or that team to be in or out. The bottom line, though, is that the overall quality of the teams in the tournament is high, as is the quality of many of those who just missed, read: Villanova.
Keeping this thing down to just this handful of teams also gives one that, " Oh, man, if only 'they' could be in it!", and that's the beauty of it. It would have been great if a team like Villanova could have made it (at one point, they were the best damn 2-6 team in the country), but they just came on too late and then fell to Syracuse in the Big East Championship. I'm okay with them out, though, and I'm also okay with Hopkins missing their first tournament since the Louisiana Purchase. This just gives Towson and Detroit opportunities, limited as they may be. Maybe Hopkins being left out will prompt them into joining an AQ conference...just not the as yet non-existent B1G, please. But that's a conversation for another time.
It's short, it's sweet, it leaves you wanting more, and it's the best damn tournament you could ask for.
So how will this whole thing shake out? Syracuse has the toughest road, with possible match-ups against either Yale or Penn State just to get a chance to play either North Carolina or Denver, but the 'Cuse will end up playing on May 27. Maryland and Cornell will be the most exciting first round game on either side of the bracket; quite possibly the best game of the whole tournament. The Terps will make their third straight championship game by getting through the Big Red and a game with Duke. They will then face a battle royal against a defensively sound Notre Dame squad, and will walk away with the national title after beating the Orange 12-10.