Bracketology: The Repercussions of Big East Chaos


Ryan McNamara (88) and Marquette will vie for a second straight Big East championship after upsetting No. 1-ranked Denver in the conference semifinals Thursday.

Everything seemed so tidy entering the week.

Then chaos arrived Thursday at the Big East tournament.

Out went Denver, possibly costing itself a home game in the NCAA tournament and almost certainly bumping someone else (sorry, Rutgers) from the at-large field. The Big East’s automatic bid will go to Marquette or Providence.

So much for tidy, though with Johns Hopkins, Denver, North Carolina and Rutgers all finished with their respective regular seasons, there shouldn’t be much movement at or near the edge of the field the rest of the weekend.

As for what to look for Friday:

* The Ivy tournament gets underway, with Brown-Princeton and Penn-Yale the semifinal matchups in a one-bid league.

* None of the four teams in the Metro Atlantic tournament own a top-30 RPI, and the winner of the event is destined for a place in this year’s play-in game.

The RPI is from LaxPower’s RPI replica (which is inexact since it includes Hampton in its Division I data and the NCAA does not). Records against the top five, top 10 and top 20 and losses to teams outside the top 25 are based on performance against the current RPI rankings, not human polls). The strength of schedule data reflects the average RPI of each team’s 10 best opponents to date.

Automatic Qualifiers (9)







26+ L

Maryland 1 2 2-2 5-2 7-3
Albany 6 23 0-2 0-2 3-2
Towson 12 20 0-1 1-2 3-3 Fairfield (40)
Loyola 16 30 0-0 0-2 3-3 Virginia (27), Bucknell (53)
Yale 20 26 0-1 0-2 1-3 Harvard (35), Bryant (37)
Richmond 21 45 0-0 1-1 1-1 Virginia (27), Air Force (32)
Providence 28 28 0-0 0-1 1-4 Sacred Heart (43)
Hobart 31 53 0-2 0-2 0-3 Sacred Heart (43), Georgetown (45), Colgate (49)
Monmouth 38 68 0-0 0-0 1-1 Delaware (41), Saint Joseph's (51)

Maryland remains undefeated all-time against Penn State after a low-scoring victory in the Big Ten semifinals. That might just lock in the Terrapins as the No. 1 seed. Maryland is projected to pass North Carolina for the No. 1 strength of schedule when it faces Ohio State on Saturday. …

A thought worth pondering about Albany: The NCAA’s RPI archive includes a Selection Sunday sheet for every year since 2009. Every team with a top-six RPI in that span has earned a first-round home game. The Great Danes sit at No. 6 entering Saturday’s America East finale against Binghamton, and while the top of their resume is skimpy, their strength of schedule isn’tthat much of a minus.

Towson, which will play host to Massachusetts in the Colonial final, is a victory away from its fourth NCAA bid in five years. The Tigers have done that only once before (four trips between 2001 and 2005). … Loyola will go on the road in the first round, and there are plenty of places it could conceivably end up. That includes Duke, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Ohio State and Penn State. …

Yale will try to lock up the Ivy League title on its home field starting Friday night against Penn. The Bulldogs’ only route to the tournament is to win twice in three days. … The Southern Conference has to feel good about its chances of avoiding a play-in game with Richmond and Air Force in the league final. …

Thursday’s Big East upsets could make bracketing a little easier on the committee. Providence would be a sensible team to ship to Syracuse if it wins Saturday’s final, while Marquette could save the committee a flight and bus to Notre Dame. … Hobart pummeled Bryant 13-6 on April 15. Expect the rematch to be tighter in Saturday’s Northeast Conference final. …

Monmouth begins play in the Metro Atlantic tournament on Friday. The Hawks open against Detroit, which was demolished at first-year program Cleveland State last weekend.

At-Large Bids (13 teams/8 slots)







26+ L

Syracuse 2 6 1-0 5-1 6-2
Notre Dame 3 5 2-1 4-4 4-4
Penn State 4 9 1-2 1-3 3-3
Ohio State 5 4 1-2 4-2 6-3
Johns Hopkins 7 3 1-4 2-4 4-5 Princeton (26)
Denver 8 10 1-1 2-2 4-2
North Carolina 9 1 2-4 3-5 3-6
Duke 10 7 1-2 2-3 3-3 Air Force (32)
Rutgers 11 12 1-2 1-3 2-3 Delaware (41)
Hofstra 13 32 0-0 1-0 2-2 Drexel (34)
Boston U. 14 51 0-0 0-0 1-2 Lehigh (42), Bucknell (53)
Army 15 27 1-0 1-0 4-3 Navy (46)
Villanova 17 21 1-1 1-2 1-3 Providence (28), Monmouth (38), Delaware (41)

So long as it handles Colgate, Syracuse will have a good case for the No. 2 seed. It has a head-to-head victory over Notre Dame and more high-end victories. … Speaking of the Fighting Irish, they’re probably looking at the No. 3 or No. 4 seed if they can close out the regular season with a victory at Army on Saturday. Notre Dame’s strength of schedule number looks like it will remain the same the rest of the way. …

Penn State doesn’t have the victories at the top of its profile that some other teams do, but the committee has a long history of hewing closely to the RPI when the teams involved have quality schedule strength numbers. The Nittany Lions could get leap-frogged by Ohio State, but that might be it. …

Any doubt that Ohio State would host a first-round game has evaporated. The Buckeyes have a strong case for a top-four seed even if they lose to Maryland on Saturday. … Johns Hopkins’ victory at North Carolina back in February could turn out to be the difference between home game and road trip in the first weekend of the tournament. …

Denver certainly underwhelmed in the Big East semifinals against Marquette, but the overall body of work suggests the Pioneers will be considered for a top-eight seed. But with North Carolina owning a head-to-head victory, Bill Tierney’s team might have cost itself a home game. … Yes, North Carolina is in the discussion for a home game. But at 2-6 at Fetzer Field this season, maybe the Tar Heels would rather be road warriors in May for the second year in a row. …

Duke really shouldn’t tempt fate this weekend. It needs to handle Boston University on Sunday and effectively take matters out of the hands of committee members. … What a wrenching emotional rollercoaster Rutgers was on over the last week. It beat Ohio State on Thursday, but Denver really let the Scarlet Knights down on Thursday, and Brian Brecht’s bunch might be just outside the field again as a result. Rutgers can only root for Ohio State on Saturday and hope for the best. …

Hofstra couldn’t have imagined a more ridiculous way to see its postseason hopes crumble than to give up a goal on a shot from midfield as time expired in the CAA semifinals against Massachusetts. … Boston University and Army had faint hopes entering weekend games against Duke and Notre Dame, respectively, but the Denver loss doesn’t help either team. Army, though, would warrant some vigorous discussion if it is holding a pair of top-five victories. …

Villanova needed to win the Big East tournament, and instead it got bottled up by a Providence team it pulverized just five days earlier. Sports can be weird.

Projected Bracket

A few reminders on bracket construction:

  • The committee seeds the top eight teams and then divvies up the unseeded teams based on geography in an attempt to limit air travel.

  • Conference rematches are to be avoided in the first round.

  • Quarterfinal host schools (in this year’s case, Hofstra) are funneled into their own site.

  • Of the nine automatic qualifiers, the two with the weakest profiles are assigned to the preliminary round game the Wednesday before the first round. At-large teams are not selected for play-in games.

Newark, Del.

(1) BIG TEN/Maryland vs. NORTHEAST/Hobart-MAAC/Monmouth

(8) Denver vs. North Carolina

Hempstead, N.Y.

(5) Penn State vs. PATRIOT/Loyola

(4) Ohio State vs. IVY/Yale

Newark, Del.

(3) Notre Dame vs. SOUTHERN/Richmond

(6) Duke vs. CAA/Towson

Hempstead, N.Y.

(7) Johns Hopkins vs. AMERICA EAST/Albany

(2) Syracuse vs. BIG EAST/Providence

Last three in: Johns Hopkins, Denver, North Carolina

First three out: Rutgers, Army, Hofstra

Multi-bid conferences: ACC (4), Big Ten (4), Big East (2)

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