Tonight, for the first time ever, Marquette fans have a reason to tune in to the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament selection show. YOUR Golden Eagles beat #1 Denver in the Big East tournament championship game on Saturday, which means come Sunday evening, we'll be waiting to find out when MU's next game is, not wondering if Marquette will be in the field.
So, let's get to the important details about the actual TV program.
WHEN: Sunday, May 8, 2016, at 8pm Central
AUDIO/VISUAL: ESPNU carries the broadcast, but you can catch it on WatchESPN, too.
If you're new to college lacrosse, the format of the tournament might be a little bit odd to you, so let's lay out how this works to answer a question or two before the show starts.
1) It's an 18 team tournament.
There are ten conferences that sponsor Division 1 lacrosse, and thus, just like the basketball tournament, 10 automatic bids. The remaining 8 spots are taken up by at-large teams that are decided on by a selection committee, also just like the basketball tournament. For what it's worth, Marquette head coach Joe Amplo is a member of the committee this year.
2) The four lowest ranked automatic qualifiers face each other in play-in games.
That's in two games, which will take place on Wednesday, May 11. Don't worry, Marquette is in no danger of being one of those four teams. Using LaxPower.com's selection probabilities page, MU is probably at worst the fourth best AQ team, and thus well clear of the 7-10 spots. The play-in teams will almost assuredly be Hobart, Hartford, Quinnipiac, and either Towson or Air Force.
3) The committee seeds the top 8 teams in the field.
Those top 8 teams, regardless of whether or not they're an automatic qualifier, will host the eight first round games, which will be split four and four on Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15. Remember those play-in games we mentioned? The winners of those games will play the teams seeded #1 and #2. That takes care of 12 of the 18 teams, which means we have six teams left to place in the bracket.....
4) The remaining first round games are decided completely by geography.
Well, not absolutely completely. The committee doesn't allow conference rematches in the first round, but any other regular season game is fair game for a rematch. Remember: there's only 70 teams playing Division 1 lacrosse, and a lot of the best teams play non-conference rivalry games against each other every year. For example: Marquette plays Duke and Notre Dame every year, and while maaaaaybe those haven't risen to "rivalry" status yet, they'd still be fair game for first round opponents for Marquette.
Other than avoiding conference rematches, everything else is decided by limiting travel as much as possible. After locking the play-in games into place and seeding the top eight teams, the committee then takes the remaining six teams and partners them up with the teams seeded 3 through 8. The shortest possible travel for each team will be the #1 deciding factor in the matchups. This could get very interesting very quick if the committee decides that Marquette, Notre Dame, and Denver - three of the most western teams in all of Division 1, and all three are locks for the field this year - are all seeded between 3 and 8.
To give you an example of the geographic preferences, Inside Lacrosse's Terence Foy did a bracket projection this morning before Yale beat Harvard in the Ivy League title game. With Maryland and Brown as the 1 and the 2, here's the 3-8 games:
- Air Force at #3 Denver
- Johns Hopkins at #4 Notre Dame
- North Carolina at #5 Yale
- Harvard at #6 Duke
- Loyola at #7 Marquette
- Syracuse at #8 Albany
Air Force and Denver are both natural partners, since they're both in Colorado, and the same can be said for upstate New York friends Syracuse and Albany. North Carolina can't play ACC rival Duke, and Harvard can't play Ivy League rival Yale, so those two streams get crossed. That leaves Loyola headed to play Marquette, even though they're based in Maryland.
If those end up being the teams in the field, those matchups could end up what we see announced, regardless of which teams are seeded where. It doesn't matter if Marquette is the #3 or the #8, Loyola is still the best fit to travel to Milwaukee in this circumstance.
As you can kind of guess from that #7 seed, the Golden Eagles are very much in play to host a game next weekend. They could also just as easily fall in the #9 or #10 hole and end up without a seed and get sent out on the road. If that happens and Notre Dame does get a seed, I think we can almost guarantee that the Golden Eagles will be headed to South Bend for a rematch with the Irish.
I hope that helps make things as clear as possible before tonight's Selection Show. If you've still got questions, drop them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!