Maryland men’s lacrosse’s win over Bryant in the first round of the NCAA Tournament set the stage for a rematch between the Terps and No. 8 Albany, who took down the defending champion North Carolina on Saturday.
The Great Danes (15-2) and Terps will meet in Newark, Delaware, this Sunday, with the victor punching a ticket to the 2017 Final Four in Foxborough, Massachusetts. While this should make for an exciting contest, it’s not a matchup either team should have to face in just the second round of play.
The NCAA Tournament is a small field with just 17 slots, meaning two wins moves you into the Final Four. With such a small field, every team is going to be competitive and capable of moving on.
But Albany is one of the best teams in the country, and was grossly underestimated by the selection committee as a No. 8 seed. Even if North Carolina had prevailed over the Great Danes, that would’ve set up a rematch of last year’s championship game in only the quarterfinals. Despite being the top seed in the tournament, Maryland wasn’t granted an easy path at all.
The tournament’s seedings kinda don’t make sense.
Here are the seeds in order from one to eight: Maryland, Syracuse, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Denver, Johns Hopkins, Penn State, Albany.
Hopkins, a team that entered the tournament just 8-6, was awarded the No. 6 overall seed and a first-round home game. The Blue Jays got thrashed by Duke 19-6, and that really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. They lost their last two games of the season, and went just 2-4 in the regular season against teams who made the tournament. But for some reason, they were still “better” than the two-loss Great Danes.
Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils went 12-4 and boast the No. 6 RPI in the country and didn’t even receive a top-eight seed. But Notre Dame, who finished 8-5 and is one spot below Duke in RPI rankings, was given the No. 5 seed.
Put your schedule concerns aside. Albany is a good team.
Albany lost two games all season, tied for the lowest loss total in the field, along with No. 2 Syracuse.
A lot of people will look at Albany’s conference, the America East, and argue that the Great Danes’ record might be inflated because of the level of play. But Albany dominated its competition all season long, which is much different than just beating teams by the skin of its teeth. In the conference tournament, Albany outscored Stony Brook and Binghamton by a whopping 39-14. The Great Danes tout the highest scoring margin in the country at plus-6.76, which indicates they’re a quality team regardless of the level of play they face.
The two losses, by the way, are against Maryland and Syracuse, the top two seeds in the tournament. Both were one-goal games, and Albany was inches away from sending it into overtime against Maryland.
Despite going toe-to-toe with the two best teams in the country and holding the fourth-best RPI in the country, that wasn’t enough for the selection committee.
This happens in NCAA men’s and women’s basketball as well, where the selection committee will penalize a mid-major program for not challenging itself with some tough major-conference opponents in the non-conference slate of their schedule. But if they don’t win, they still get penalized. Think back to this year’s men’s basketball tournament, when Wichita State was disrespected by the selection committee and had to play No. 2-seed Kentucky in the round of 32.
The Shockers stayed with the Wildcats until the very end, and proved that dominant teams playing in mid-major conferences can square up against traditional blue bloods. Much the same, Albany has proven it can hang with college lacrosse’s best, and is a dangerous road block for the Terps.
The winner of Sunday’s contest will get the winner of Notre Dame-Denver, with a chance to move on to the national title game.