YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles men’s lacrosse team will play in their second straight NCAA tournament this year after defeating Providence 10-9 in the Big East tournament title game on Saturday. That means you’re going to want to watch the Selection Show, so let’s get to the details about that before we go any further.
Date: Sunday, May 7, 2017 (that’s today!)
Time: 8pm Central
The NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament is a little different than the basketball tournament when it comes to the seeding and selection process, so here’s a couple of things to keep in mind when you watch the show on Sunday night.
#1 - It’s a 17 team tournament.
That’s down one from last year, as the NCAA’s waiver on the membership of the ACC has expired. The ACC has only five teams, down from the six required for an automatic berth in the tournament ever since Maryland left for the Big Ten. With no automatic bid for the ACC, the NCAA dropped one of the play-in games from last year, thus a 17 team field. Nine automatic bids, eight at-large spots.
#2 - The two lowest ranked automatic qualifiers are in the play-in game.
Let’s be clear here: Marquette would not be in the NCAA tournament without the automatic bid from the Big East, so they’re clearly at risk for the play-in game this year. However, when Inside Lacrosse assembled their bracketology on Friday afternoon, the play-in game was occupied by the winners of the MAAC tournament and the NEC tournament. All four teams in those championship games had a lower RPI than Marquette last Monday when the NCAA updated the RPI on their website, so I think MU should be safe. The Golden Eagles beat Denver, the #6 RPI team, since the last RPI update, so I would imagine that they’re a few spots higher than their #20 ranking from Monday.
#3 - The top eight teams are seeded and play host for the first round.
Automatic bid, at-large bid, it doesn’t matter. The best eight teams in the country get home games in the first round of the tournament. Four of the games will be on this coming Saturday, with the remaining four being played next week Sunday. As for their opponents, well, that’s where things get a little whacky. The winner of the play-in game automatically gets to play the #1 seed, but.......
#4 - The rest of the field is determined entirely by geography.
The NCAA will put the remaining seven teams into a first round game against the seeded team closest to them to minimize travel expenses, with one exception. The committee will not create conference opponent rematches in the first round. With only 70 Division 1 teams, most of the best teams in the country have been playing each other, so avoiding any regular season rematches is almost impossible. However, in fairness to the teams, the NCAA won’t make them play a conference opponent one more time in the national championship tournament, at least not in the first round.
How does this affect Marquette? Well, take a quick glance at the top 10 for the RPI again. You’ll notice that with the exception of Denver (which Marquette can’t play since they’re in the Big East), there’s a lot of Northeast/Eastern Seaboard teams. Marquette is almost assuredly not getting a seed again this year, so they’re going to have to on the road. Hey, look! There’s Notre Dame at #3 in the RPI! Given the distance between Milwaukee and South Bend, I will almost guarantee that Marquette will play Notre Dame on either Saturday or Sunday for their first round game. Depending on how the final few seeded spots end up, it is possible that Notre Dame would be a better travel partner for someone else, so don’t be too surprised if Marquette ends up paired with Ohio State or maybe even Penn State.