If my memory is working properly, I believe this season would be our 3rd ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament...if we can seal the deal. With UNC eliminated from at-large consideration today, we have certainly entered more likely than not territory for achieving our goals. Accordingly, I thought it would be nice to see something promoting one of our biggest sports teams on here. After an 18-3 smackdown of the Big East cellar dweller today, our season comes down to back-to-back weekends at Providence, a team that just suffered back-to-back losses this past week against in-state rival Brown in overtime and conference champion Denver in blowout fashion. Providence is one of the few teams fighting with Villanova for those last two or three spots in the NCAA Tournament; fortunately, these were especially good results for the common opponent criterion since Villanova defeated Brown earlier this season and actually put up a fight against Denver out west but just let a series of untimely goals at the ends of periods get in the way.
Providence will, of course, have the huge home crowd advantage, however, so don't put a nail in their season yet. A split will only serve to make this more interesting. If that scenario were to occur, Villanova may be dependent on a host of other teams achieving desirable - and very possible - results. The next two weeks are critical and they begin tomorrow so to catch you up, here are the games you should be looking out for:
April 23: #13 Rutgers (9-3) @ #10 Penn State (10-2)
April 30: #8 (and rising) Ohio State (12-2) @ #13 Rutgers (9-3)
Uhhh, yes, you read that correctly. Rutgers (???) has a sports team that actually is doing decently. But we're going to make sure that changes tomorrow. A critical game for Penn State too, but the Nittany Lions may be able to sneak in as a 5th team from the Big Ten and has a road win against Villanova even if they lose. We definitely want Penn State to set Rutgers back here. Compared to Rutgers, we have the same bad loss (Delaware) and same decent win (Brown), but whereas we nicked an elite team (UMd) and lost to another mediocre one (Monmouth), they only have one other bubble win (Princeton) to show for it. Another slightly better win probably puts them over the top).
Better yet, if they can lose to Ohio State too and fail to make the Big Ten Tournament, we should feel awfully good that a team losing 5 of its last 6 will be squarely out.
[If Hofstra wins]: CAA Tournament Semifinal - May 4: Hofstra vs. Towson (Philadelphia)
Just as soon as Hofstra's first loss put Towson in the driver's seat in the CAA including a top 10 spot on the NCAA Tournament reveal, Towson suffered an inopportune defeat at the hands of Fairfield. While Fairfield is no slouch, the win puts them at just 4-9 on the season. The game also put Towson decimal points behind Villanova in the RPI rankings and likely the first team out. The season can still be saved, but with only a win against Hopkins and not much else, they will almost certainly need one vs. Hofstra, and lucky for them, they get two cracks at it. Best case scenario is that Hofstra takes both en route to a conference championship. Another frightening possibility is that of the bid stealers, and the CAA is just one of many opportunities for those to occur:
America East Tournament: Albany
ACC Tournament: Not UNC
Ivy League Tournament: Princeton or Yale?
Patriot League Tournament: ----
The first two are the most critical. Perennial power Albany has three teams with solid RPIs to fend off in their conference touranment but theoretically should still be a level above the competition after sweeping the regular season. As a top 5 team nationally, they are in regardless, so this is definitely a conference where a bid can be stolen.
The ACC may have lost its ironclad grip on the title of 'Best Conference' thanks to the rising Big Ten, but with three teams that should be seeded in the top 8 of the NCAA Tournament, it is very likely the sub-.500 Tar Heels will lose to one of them. Of course, they just lost their last two games against Syracuse and Notre Dame by one goal each so they may just need a little magic like last season's fairytale. To me, it's clear Syracuse is the one who has title to the magic this season, but watch out!
The other two are nowhere near as treacherous for our own chances, but the Ivy League finally has a top two who should feel good about their chances of getting in if they both get to the title game. I don't think we have reason to worry if the Ivy League is a two-bid league, and if Brown upsets Princeton, I have a bit of trouble seeing it become a three-bid league anyway. Penn can play spoiler, but if they somehow win, Yale's chances similarly drop like a rock.
The Patriot League also took a hit in the final few weeks, and there is trouble in seeing anyone get an at-large bid. Army, BU, and Loyola are all slightly behind us, and it is difficult to see any moving up ahead. If Army loses in the tournament final, we may want them to lose May 6 vs. Notre Dame as well. If they lose in the semifinal, that would be an utterly crushing fourth straight loss. If BU loses in the tournament, you may want to cheer against them against Duke on May 7, but the case for a BU (or Loyola) at-large is even tougher to make, talented as they may be. I don't see too much danger to be wary of.
Richmond's distant hopes of an at-large likely came crumbling down today, and the SoCon bid will go to the tournament champion.
Virginia will spend ACC Tournament weekend playing Penn instead, but I don't think anyone seriously believes they have a chance. A loss would officially kill it. Even if they win and all of the above happens - including a Princeton-Yale Ivy final - they are of little concern to us, and the PL runner-up is better positioned - unless Loyola loses in the semifinal. It would require the craziest of possibilities.
Win out, Hofstra!
Albany, take care of business
Beat UNC by one goal again, Syracuse (or Duke if necessary!)
And most importantly, let's take care of our own business and beat Providence like we ought to!
If things work out like they should, we may even find ourselves in a position to win an NCAA Tournament game. You can't tell me we can't beat a Big Ten team again after we already have once on the road. So hop on the bandwagon before it's too late!
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