The 2015 NCAA Lacrosse Playoff Bracket and Predictions.
It's that time again, lacrosse fans!
May Madness is upon us!
With less than a week until the tourney begins, Inside Lacrosse magazine has shared the bracket for us.
If you click on the word bracket, as highlighted above, it should show you the whole field.
I would've just saved and re-uploaded it myself, but alas, the internet was not cooperating with me.
As you can see, the committee decided to set the playoff field as follows.
16. The winner of Towson vs. High Point.
15. The winner of Marist vs. Bryant.
12. Ohio State.
10. Johns Hopkins.
3. North Carolina.
1. Notre Dame.
The tournament is taking place in classic bracket style, meaning that number one plays number sixteen and so on and so forth, in four brackets that become two brackets, leading up to the final four, being held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
I won't get into just how hilariously political the seeding is or how ridiculous some of the rankings are. I would be sitting here all day, and I already fear that my bias will become evident as is without complaining about who should really be number one... Or number eight for that matter.
Instead, I'll just break down each bracket as I eliminate more and more teams.
I won't mention how strong Syracuse's schedule was.
Or that the only shaky thread of logic defining Notre Dame's ranking was a single head-to-head match-up.
I won't even complain that a team eliminated in the first round of the ACC Tournament has a higher spot than the ACC champs.
Won't mention any of that.
A small note...
You probably noticed that the two lowest ranked teams were actually four teams.
That's because the scheduling is sloppy and these teams are just happy to be making an appearance.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they don't belong...
Just last year, Bryant snuck into the tourney and managed to upset Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
These guys aren't playing around.
Anyway. Two of these teams are going home empty-handed before the tournament officially kicks off, so I'll be picking those games first!
Starting with High Point vs. Towson.
The 10-6 and 11-5 records may fool you into thinking that these are two elite programs, but I assure you they aren't.
The reason that neither of these teams were even considered for home games has less to do with prestige as teams and more to do with very weak schedules.
Towson's upset win over Hopkins, the 10th seed in this tourney, is the only significant win for either of these programs.
In what is ultimately a throw-away pick, I'm taking High Point.
Towson's offense has been spotty all season, not even ranking in the top 30 this season.
While they've been stingy around the crease, only giving up around 7 goals a game, you simply can't win without scoring. Considering the talent they've been playing against, it's really not a surprise that they have been so stingy on defense, but a huge red flag that they haven't been more efficient offensively.
Just for comparison, the team ranked number nine, Albany, are number one in offense, scoring around 18 goals per game.
Towson hasn't scored more than 12 goals once this season...
High Point, while not juggernauts themselves, are averaging 11 goals per game.
This isn't going to be a very exciting game to watch, I'm afraid.
If High Point has their way, they're going to run all over the Tigers.
If Towson has their way, they're going to hog the ball, try to make the most of every possession, and starve the Panthers offense.
So... High Point goes on to face Notre Dame in South Bend.
While Notre Dame can probably take that night off and win the game handily, you better believe the Orange will be watching this game with great interest.
The Orange is a mostly veteran squad, and they remember how it felt to lose to Bryant in the dome, where they're supposed to be invincible.
If I'm an Orange, I desperately want Bryant to stumble back into the raptor's nest.
And whether or not that happens all comes down to the play of one man.
Bryant's Kevin Massa is one of the very best face-off men in the country, and whether he can get possession for the Bulldogs means literally everything for Bryant.
Bryant likes to suffocate the game, keep it low scoring, and try to pull out a big win in the end...
Something they've done a terrible job of this year, losing all four of their one goal games.
I really can't say anything more than that.
If Bryant can get most of the face-offs, they can win this game, despite owning the worst record in the tourney.
The problem with Marist is that their signature win is over Hofstra.
They look good for what they are, a team from a small conference who earned a chance.
They look like the far more talented team on paper, but whether that translates, or if they'll even have a chance, remains to be seen.
It's been ten years since Marist sniffed the NCAA tournament, so I'm going to pick the devil I know, and take Bryant.
Of course, I also just want to see a re-match of Cuse vs. Bryant...
Who wants to go to Denver?
#1 Notre Dame vs. High Point.
See what I mean?
I love a Cinderella story, but refreshed after a spanking by the Blue Devils, the Fighting Irish should be ready to go, especially playing the game in South Bend, Indiana.
The Irish win big, and pack their bags for a trip to Denver.
#8 Cornell vs. Albany.
If you're going to watch any of the first round games, make sure it is this one.
Albany has one of the most exc-... Actually, they have the most exciting offense in all of college lacrosse. They're averaging 17 goals a game, but allowing around 10. Cornell is a bit more conservative, scoring 11 and allowing 9, but all these numbers say to me is one thing.
I don't have to sell this match-up to you hardcore lacrosse fans, but to the casual observer, keep an eye out for number four, Lyle Thompson. Last year's Co-Tewaaraton winner has scored 48 goals and tallied up 59 assists this year in the most exciting ways possible.
I wish I could say I was confident in picking Albany, but there's this little voice in the back of my head...
He reminds me that Albany already played against Cornell and the Big Red destroyed them.
It was back in February, but they lost 16-9.
Not a good look for the nation's best offense.
Since then, Albany has only lost once, a shredding in Syracuse, and Cornell...
I don't know what happened to Cornell.
They lost a thriller to UVA, but lost some credibility with other losses.
Blowout losses to Yale and Brown?
A heartbreaking loss to Harvard?
A blowout Ivy League loss to Princeton?
How are they ranked #8 with all these awful losses?
Is a head to head victory really enough to separate the two?
Well, I'm taking Albany.
Because while defense wins championships, offense gets you there.
#5 Duke vs. Ohio State.
Ohio State has had it's moments this year. They really have, and I'm starting to believe that the football national champs may be invading the lacrosse elite in the next couple of years.
Unfortunately for them, they drew the short straw and have to travel to the play the surging Blue Devils. As they always "du", those damn Dukies are coming alive in May.
#4 Denver vs. Brown.
I'm sorry Brown. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for you, but you drew a bad card here. Denver is ecstatic that they'll get to host a quarterfinal match if they can win this game... and unless that excitement causes them to overlook the Bears... I just don't see it.
The Ivy League will always be one of Lacrosse's prized conferences, but I don't know if it can keep up with the other big boys...
For those of you keeping up at home...
At the top of the bracket, we've got Notre Dame vs. Albany in a match that will truly decide once and for all if offense really is better, and at the bottom, Denver hosts Duke in a match-up that... Will likely disappoint.
Who wants to go to Annapolis?
#3 North Carolina vs. Colgate.
For a long time, the lacrosse blue bloods were Syracuse, Hopkins, UVA, and a rotating spot that included Maryland, Princeton, and now Duke.
As time has passed, Virginia has lost a step. Only 4 years removed from their last national championship, they just haven't been the explosive team we've grown accustomed to.
Interestingly enough, I think that conference rival, UNC has picked up the ball and ran with it. They're explosive, talented, and fun to watch.
Sorry Colgate, I had to gush, but it's UNC that's going to Annapolis.
#6 Maryland vs. Yale.
If I were to pick an upset, it would be this game.
Yale won the very competitive Ivy League, and Maryland...
Jeez. You talk about falling apart.
A loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, and a loss that wasn't anywhere near as close as the score suggests against Hopkins are what separate the Terps from a string of one goal wins against questionable talent.
A March 21st win over UNC is what gives this Maryland team some prestige.
I'm serious, that's their only signature win this season.
In fact, if you look back to the second week of the season, Maryland actually lost a really close game to this very Yale team.
You know what?
I'm taking Yale.
Yeah. You heard me...
Mostly because I really believe in UNC to cover my ass, but screw it.
I'm taking Yale over Maryland in College Park.
#7 Virginia vs. Johns Hopkins.
It's odd... These are two of the proudest franchises in the history of the sport...
And they don't really have a rivalry.
They have rivalries with a lot of the same teams, Maryland, Syracuse, even UNC, but with each other?
More like two ships passing in the night.
I'm also torn about this pick.
They played earlier this year, in a game where UVA came from behind to win in spectacular fashion.
However, that was over a month ago, and things have certainly changed.
Following that win, the Hoos were spanked in back to back games by UNC and Duke.
The only loss the Blue Jays have suffered since then was to Ohio State, a game they avenged when they beat the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship.
It's really quite the conundrum.
I'm taking my least favorite sports team, the Blue Jays.
I think they're an emotional unit, getting hot at the right time, with a deadly attack unit.
An attack unit that will make short work of a young and questionable UVA defense.
#2 Syracuse vs. Bryant.
I touched on this game earlier.
If Bryant does make it to the carrier dome, expect the Orange to show up.
While Bryant may feel confident, having won this game last year, the Orange have improved drastically since then.
And you don't have to dig deep to find out why.
Ben Williams probably won't win the Tewaaraton trophy this year, but he absolutely should if the Orange end up taking the title in Philly.
Since Danny Brennan graduated in 2009, the Achilles heel in upstate New York has been time of possession. If you could beat the lowly Chris Daddio, you could exploit a tired defense and take away Cuse's explosive offensive stars. With Ben Williams at the X for the Orange, that's simply not the case anymore. Expect the Orange to have many chances to score this year, and print the ticket to Annapolis.
We get to watch UNC face-off against Yale, and we renew a classic rivalry with Syracuse and Johns Hopkins.
The Denver Bracket.
Notre Dame vs. Albany.
Really tough choice.
But I've gotta take the Fighting Irish.
They earned that #2 ranking (still bitter) and are just a better team.
As explosive as Thompson and Albany are, I wouldn't use the one "disciplined" to describe them.
Meanwhile, the Irish are effective, persistent, and talented.
I'm printing their ticket to Philly.
Denver vs. Duke.
This match is interesting.
At Duke or even a neutral location, I give the Blue Devils the easy win...
But the game is IN Denver.
The air is thinner and the fans will be louder.
It's a tough pick, and unlike the picks before it, I don't know if I can save myself if I'm wrong.
I'm taking the Blue Devils because I believe they are the better team, and one that is peaking at the right time...
But don't count Denver's home field advantage out of it.
The Annapolis Bracket.
North Carolina vs. Yale.
It's midnight, go home Cinderella.
It's too bad, the Heels are too good.
Bye bye Nap-Town, helloooo brotherly love.
Syracuse vs. Johns Hopkins.
Saturday, May 24th, 2003.
A boy sits at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland with his family.
Excitedly, he bounces on the balls of his feet, white knuckles gripping a bent and battered blue lacrosse stick.
His long brown curls couldn't be tamed as they danced in the spring breeze.
He proudly adjusted his white, orange, and blue 22 jersey as he waited for the game to kick off.
It was no ordinary game, it was the semi-final round of the 2003 NCAA Lacrosse Championship, and his favorite team, the Syracuse Orange, prepared to face the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays.
Since the game was in Baltimore, Hopkins was well represented, and there was far more blue than orange in the crowd.
But the young boy didn't worry.
For as loud as the Baltimore crowd was, the play of junior midfielder, Mikey Powell was even louder.
There wasn't a doubt in his mind that Mikey and the Orange would win the National Championship again, just like they had the year before.
The game started and Hopkins struck first.
Despite being halfway across a cheering stadium, the blundering beats of the Blue Jay marching band filled the stadium.
Towards the end of the riff, the majority of the 37,944 in attendance counted, "One! We want more!".
Soon, the Blue Jays scored again, and the band picked back up...
"One, two, WE WANT MORE!" they cried.
With each score, the band got louder, and so did the crowd.
The final score was Syracuse 9... John's Hopkins 18.
For the rest of his life, that boy hated the Blue Jays, going as far as to loudly brag about how good his team was when the Orange rolled over the Blue Jays in the 2008 championship... Despite being seated next to a young Hopkins fan.
If you haven't figured it out yet...
I was that boy.
Nah, I'm not bitter or anything.
I am however, taking the Orange.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays will probably have more fans in attendance (though the Orange crowd has gotten better at traveling), I believe that Ben Williams will do as he did in the previous encounter, and give Syracuse too many chances to score.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, still have more...
The Final Four.
Notre Dame vs. Duke
A rematch of the first round of the ACC tourney pits the Blue Devils against the fighting Irish.
This is one of the younger rivalries in the sport, and I love it.
Two of the last five championships have come down to these two teams, and just this year, they've split the series.
During the regular season, the Fighting Irish won, beating the Dukies by 5.
In their ACC tourney matchup, Duke returned the favor, winning by the same amount.
This is going to be one hell of a game, probably staying interesting until the final whistle blows.
As much as I hate to, I've gotta take the Blue Devils.
They're coming into their own as a team, and the play of their young goalie, Danny Fowler, has been outstanding lately.
I'm not saying they'll blow Notre Dame out, and I'm still hoping I'm wrong, but... I've got a bad feeling the Blue Devils win.
Syracuse vs. North Carolina.
I just realized the final four is basically the ACC tournament.
It's even taking place in the same city!
With the same match-ups!
Well. They don't call it the best conference in the sport for nothing!
Well... I don't see why we should change anything now!
Unless they plan on making up "offsides" calls, Cuse advances to their first championship in years!
Since they faced...
Since they faced......
The Memorial Day Massacre.
Not a massacre.
But "The Battle of Memorial Day" just didn't sound right, and "Masters of Memorial Day" is commonly associated with one of the teams involved so...
Let's just flash back to the last time these two played in the title game.
Just two years ago, Syracuse and Duke faced off in this very same stadium.
Duke absolutely dominated on the X and choked the life out of the Orange.
I was in attendance at that game, and despite being up 5-0 at one point, JoJo Marasco, Brian Megill, and the other Syracuse Seniors could do nothing by watch as Duke played keep-away and made the 2013 class the first since 1982 to graduate without a championship.
With the addition of... Do I even have to say it again?
With the addition of a certain face-off specialist, it's pretty safe to say we won't see the same result here.
Not in the style anyway.
They say one of the toughest things to do in sports is beat a team three times in a season, but if the Orange want their 12th National Championship, that's exactly what they'll have to do.
In March, the Orange absolutely destroyed the Blue Devils, shutting outstanding midfield Myles Jones out, dominating the time of possession and winning 19-7.
Two weeks ago, in the ACC Championship, the Blue Devils really brought their A game, jumping out to a lead that they wouldn't surrender until the second quarter.
The Orange started out sloppy.
They weren't winning face-offs and when they did, they were turning the ball over far too often.
Before you could count to 22, Duke was up 6-2 and it started to feel hopeless.
But, then Syracuse did what Syracuse does, and they made the game interesting.
They tightened up on defense, started passing more carefully, and executed when it mattered most.
Duke however, fell apart, getting sloppy with the ball, taking questionable shots, and giving Syracuse far too many extra-man opportunities.
I believe the Syracuse Orange will win the 2015 NCAA Lacrosse Championship.
The reality is that while their goalie, Bobby Wardwell plays inconsistently when in doubt, and sometimes the defense adjusts too quickly, they're just too deep, and Ben Williams is too good.
If Syracuse comes to play in every game, they'll have a chance to win every game.
Obvious fan boy ranting.
Obvious fan boy ranting.
Obvious fan boy ranting.
But I'm serious.
Cuse has been in multiple games this year against many awesome opponents when they were down by several goals, but able to roar back behind the wrists of Bobby Wardwell and a talented, efficient offense.
My Tournament MVP is obviously Ben Williams, but if you want a flashier pick, look no further than Orange Midfielder, Nicky Galasso, who has really started to come into his own towards the end of the season.