The Maryland Men’s and Women’s lacrosse teams took the #1 overall seed in both tournaments on Selection Sunday this year, marking two straight years that both teams from the same school were the top overall seed. Of course, last year both teams were the top overall seeds as well and both teams ended up losing to the same team, North Carolina, in the championship game. Both teams got revenge in that loss as they handed UNC a regular season loss this year but the sting of losing the championship game still remains.
How did the women’s team get here?
The women’s team did it in convincing fashion, running the season undefeated while avenging last year’s tournament championship game to #2 North Carolina early on, defeating #3 Florida 18-8, and taking down #5 Penn State as well. It was a convincing run to the #1 overall seed and they enter as the resounding favorites. Penn State was the only team to really challenge Maryland, who narrowly escaped defeat in a 16-14 win in the regular season. The women’s team has a relatively easy path to the final four with Northwestern and Stony Brook as the only challenges within their bracket. Maryland has defeated Northwestern twice this year but the Wildcats are a perennial powerhouse in women’s lacrosse so they always pose a threat. Full bracket is here
How did the men’s team get here?
The men’s team needed until the end of the season to really lock down the number one overall spot, which was cemented with a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night. The Terps went 12-3 on the season with narrow losses to Villanova in OT, Notre dame in a cold, wet, and sloppy 5-4 performance, and Ohio State in OT late in the season. The top spot seemed to be cursed this season as there was a weekly upset that occurred for about a month straight for whoever occupied it but Maryland took it back late and the season and held it on their way to another Big Ten regular season and conference tournament title. They’ll face the winner of Bryant and Monmouth, who are the play in game of the last two automatic qualifiers to the tournament. If they get passed that game, they’ll take on the winner of Albany and North Carolina, which will be a hell of a matchup given North Carolina’s play as of late. My semi-bold prediction is the winner of this region will also be in the championship game on Memorial Day weekend given the weak play towards the end of the year on the lower left side of the bracket.
Full bracket can be found here.
What about the rest of the Big Ten?
As we’ve detailed in previous lacrosse updates by zuzu, on the men’s side of things the Big Ten has been very strong this year. Three different B1G schools have occupied the top spot at one point in the season and as many as five schools were in contention for the 16 team field. All five of those schools finished in the Top 12 of almost all advanced metrics rankings but with 9 automatic qualifiers making the 16 (17 with one play in game) field, there are only 8 at large spots to get in on. As conference tournament play started, all of Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, and Johns Hopkins were virtual locks for the tournament with rutger sitting squarely on the bubble.
Maryland ended up beating Ohio State to take the tournament but strong play throughout the tournament landed Ohio State as the #3 seed in the NCAA’s. Shockingly, Johns Hopkins looked like they were going to be a non-seeded at large bid but ended up with a 6 seed and in the Ohio State group of 4. Penn State took a 7 seed with their strong play this year and are rewarded with a first round game against Towson and get the winner of #2 Syracuse/Yale.
On the women’s side...only Maryland and Penn State have a chance. And to be fair, this is similar to women’s basketball where there is UConn, perhaps two teams that can challenge, and then a huge cliff to the rest. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who will predict anyone but Maryland, North Carolina, or Florida with a chance to bring home the title.
Can any of the Big Ten teams take it all?
Maryland has lost....9 championship games since 1975 and made the final four every year since 2011 barring 2013. They have the talent but can’t ever get over the final hump to take the title. This years team looks the part but they’ll need strong goalie play in order to make the run.
Ohio State could also make a run with their strong face off game to control possessions and a defense capable of locking down an opposing teams top scorer. It remains to be seen if they can make the sustained run but they’ve beaten Maryland in OT this year to give them their only conference loss so they’re capable of doing it.
JHU? Nah, probably not. They were rewarded for a very strong strength of schedule but it’s not as if they performed against it, finishing the season 8-6 overall. It was odd that they received one of the 8 national seeds but the committee seemed to value SoS again this year.
Penn State? Their offense could make some noise and they could go on a small run and perhaps get to the final weekend but I don’t think they can go all the way. They’ve faltered against strong defenses this year and were inconsistent at times so it’s hard to see them being able to shoot their way to a title.
On the women’s side, not to repeat myself but Maryland is the only team that has a chance. Penn State finished the season at #5 in the poll and arguably gave Maryland their best test of the year but the talent differential is too great between the Top 3 teams and the rest of the field to reasonably think someone else is going to make a run at the women’s title. Northwestern is in a down year this year and odds are it’s Maryland or Northwestern taking the title every year considering they’ve taken 17 titles combined since 1995.