After this weekend we are up to 8 spots that we are calling “locked-in” for the National Tournament. The SELC, CCLA, and LSA all handed out their AQs yesterday. The CCLA and LSA followed the chalk with the top seeds (Michigan State and Texas A&M) walking away with conference championships
The SELC saw a bit of drama with Virginia Tech knocking off undefeated South Carolina. We had both teams as locks before the game kicked off, but the VT upset will certainly affect seeding.
In addition to those 3 teams, we have 5 other teams that we consider “locks” for, at the very least, an AL bid. Those teams are:
South Carolina (SELC)
Conferences not represented by a locked team are PNCLL, PCLL, UMLC, and WCLL.
Add that up, and that leaves 4 At-Large bids still up for grabs.
We are going to reverse the order a bit and start with a look at the bubble and then get into seeding.
We started by making a list of all the teams that could be considered on the bubble. Here is the complete list:
(Note: we tried to cast a wide net here to make sure we didn’t miss anyone that would have a good case)
After a quick look at comparing the teams, there was a pretty obvious “second tier” group of teams. These are, for the most part, teams that don’t have enough opportunities to improve their case, and would be outside the top 6 of bubble teams right now.
Those teams are:
Eliminating those teams leaves us with 6 bubble teams for potentially 5 spots. Why 5 not 4? The PCLL still needs to give out it’s AQ. Unless Buffalo wins it (which certainly doesn’t seem out of the question at this point), it will go to one of the PCLL bubble teams.
So let’s rank those 6.
Total Ranked Wins: 3 (4, 12, 18)
Total Losses: 4 (3, 6, 9, 13)
Quality Win Score – 47 – Quality Win Score, QWS, is calculated by assigning a value to all ranked wins of (26-Rank of Team). So a win vs #4 Michigan State is worth (26-4) 22 points.
Marquee Win – Michigan State
Worst Loss – Connecticut
Liberty gets the first bubble nod, not in small part because after the polls update this week they will be the only bubble team with a Top 10 win. And it will actually be a Top 4 win. The Connecticut loss looks a bit worse after UConn failed to make the PCLL tournament, but the rest of their losses are to 3 of the MCLA elites.
At worst you could argue that Liberty should be neck and neck with the next closest bubble team, but the win over Michigan State will be a trump card that stands out.
Total Ranked Wins: 5 (10, 17, 18, 20, 25)
Total Losses: 2 (#6, #24)
Marquee Wins: Boston College
Worst Loss: Colorado State
This is where the debate starts to get interesting. Which do you prefer? Less quality wins, less volume of losses? Do you prefer losses to only “good” teams and a handful of good wins?
There is an argument to be made that GCU should be above Liberty in the bubble discussion, but for us, this order is clear (for now). With Boston College dropping a game to (currently) unranked Northeastern this week, the Eagles are bound to drop a few spots in the next poll. The Lopes have been riding on that BC win as their best win all year, and it doesn’t look as strong as it once did.
The Lopes have a great chance to get a standout win against Concordia. If they can beat those Eagles, they will lock a spot in Salt Lake and likely climb a few seeds.
Total Ranked Wins: 3 (13, 20, 20, 21)
Total Losses: 1 (1)
Marquee Wins: New Hampshire
Worst Loss: Chapman
We get to the portion of the bubble where everyone’s best win is a PCLL team. I’m not entirely sure what to think of Concordia yet. Their schedule didn’t offer enough opportunities in the regular season for us to get a good idea of their ceiling, but their game against Chapman told us they are probably good enough to run with anyone. But you can’t seed on potential, it’s got to be on results.
So far the Eagles have resounding wins over New Hampshire, UCSB (twice) and Simon Fraser. They still have something to prove.
The Eagles have a great chance to prove it against Grand Canyon. If they come away with a win against the Lopes, they will have a strong case to be the first bubble team in, regardless of the result of the SLC championship game.
They have lost one game by one goal to the number one team. This is a team I wouldn’t want to see in the first round if I were a high seed.
Total Ranked Wins: 2 (10, 13)
Total Losses: 4 (9, 12, 13, 17)
Marquee Wins: Boston College
Worst Loss: Georgia
This scenario is moot if Northeastern wins the PCLL championship. A reasonable assumption given what they did this past week, knocking off New Hampshire and Boston College in the span of 3 days. A dubious assumption given the unpredictable nature of the PCLL this year.
At this point of the bubble it feels like a clear division between #3 and #4, so we are really sorting out 3 PCLL teams. Much of the order will depend on how the PCLL tournament shakes out, but if we had to decide today, this is how we’d rank it.
If Northeastern can hold the #1 seeding and win the PCLL crown, there is a strong chance they jump all the bubble teams in seeding as a reward for being a conference champion. I don’t think an 8-seed Northeastern is out of the question should they win the conference championship.
Total Ranked Wins: 4 (12, 13, 13, 18)
Total Losses: 4 (1, 4, 7, UR)
Marquee Wins: Georgia Tech (12)
Worst Loss: Northeastern
The loss to Northeastern looked pretty bad at the moment. It will look “less bad” after the updated poll comes out and Northeastern jumps back into the top 20.
Either way, Boston College’s wins aren’t looking overwhelming. A win over Georgia Tech (who should drop out of the Top 15), a few PCLL wins, and a win over ASU isn’t turning many heads. But prior to the Northeastern loss, they had only lost to Top 10 teams.
They have a rematch against Buffalo in the first round of the PCLL tournament, a team they handled easily in the regular season. Should they win that game, I don’t really see a way the Eagles don’t find their way to Salt Lake, but if they want to make it at a competitive seed, they probably need the PCLL championship.
Total Ranked Wins: 3 (13, 20, 25)
Total Losses: 2 (8, UR)
Marquee Wins: Connecticut
Worst Loss: Buffalo
For the Wildcats, it could potentially be “win and in” in the first round of the PCLL tournament. They get a rematch with Northeastern, who they took down after a furious comeback earlier in the season. If they win the rematch, you’d have to give them the nod over the Huskies. Assuming no other conference upsets, the Wildcat’s prospects look good with a first-round win, regardless of who wins the crown.
The Wildcats will likely either be the last team in or the first team out.
Now we’ve ranked the bubble, let’s get to the bracket.
#1 Chapman (SLC AQ) 🔒
I feel less confident about declaring Chapman the consensus #1 if they win the SLC tournament this week. Mostly because of how Utah was able to beat #5 BYU, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
If I looked at it right now, I’d say that Chapman still has the edge. Looking at the tournaments, it is probably going to be a wash with the wins that Utah and Chapman have the potential to stack up.
If Chapman wins out they will add a Top 20 win over ASU and a top 10 win over GCU/Concordia. Utah’s game against CSU probably should be against an unranked Rams team, but it’s late in the season and they have a quality loss, so probably a 20-25 Rams team. They will then have a chance to add a win over BYU/CU.
If both teams are able to win out, I still think Chapman’s body of work is more impressive, but it’s going to be close and it may come down to who has an advocate with the loudest voice in the selection committee.
#16 Indiana (UMLC AQ)
I’m still feeling good about this pick. Especially after the Redd Rankings backed me up. But the Redd Rankings also missed the SELC tournament, so maybe my faith is misplaced. Either way, the Hoosiers have rattled off 7 straight wins and are still our pick to take home the UMLC crown.
#15 Texas A&M
#2 Utah (RMLC AQ) 🔒
If you had a question about how good the Utes were after barely sneaking by CSU, they answered all your questions in resounding fashion against the Cougars. In a game that probably wasn’t as close as the 8 goal margin, the Utes were better in every facet of the game. An 8 goal win over the Cougars might be the most impressive win of the year for any team in the MCLA.
The Utes have started to build a strong case for the #1 seed. Winning the RMLC tournament would certainly bolster that claim. As I mentioned above, I think from a body of work perspective Chapman still has an edge, but you can’t ignore how huge and definitive the win over BYU was.
Utah will get a chance to put to bed any questions about CSU and green kryptonite in the first round of the RMLC tournament. I expect they will come out guns blazing to drive home a point. They will then get a rematch with either BYU or CU.
If they win the RMLC crown they won’t be any lower than 2, which is historically the magic number for making a deep run. I wouldn’t be shocked if they ended up as #1.
#15 Texas A&M (LSA AQ) 🔒
A team that hung around the Top 25 for most of the year after an early season upset of Texas has punched their ticket to Salt Lake by winning the LSA title. The Aggies took down Oklahoma in run away fashion in the second half, winning 17-11. They will now prep for by far their biggest challenge of the season. Likely either Chapman or Utah.
#3 Michigan State
#14 Simon Fraser
#3 Michigan State (CCLA AQ) 🔒
After the Spartans locked down the CCLA title in relatively comfortable fashion I mentioned that it seemed like their floor was probably a 5 seed. Then South Carolina lost a few hours later. The 14-1 Spartans will likely be no lower than a 3 seed at this point. In addition to winning their conference, their early March win over Virginia Tech is looking real nice after the Hokies took down the Gamecocks.
On a positive note for the Spartans, sophomore stud Bennett Osterink returned from a shoulder injury that had sidelined him for several weeks. That should bolster the Spartans chances in Salt Lake.
Michigan State will likely pick up an AQ team from a weaker conference in the first round. If you aren’t the one seed, no game is going to be a layup in the first round, but getting a top 4 or 5 seed this year should help make day 1 a little more manageable.
#14 Simon Fraser (PNCLL AQ)
The Clan has locked down the 1 seed in the PNCLL tournament and will take on Oregon State after OSU and Oregon won a 3-way tie breaker with Idaho. They go into the tournament as a strong favorite and are still our pick to take home the AQ.
#4 South Carolina
#4 South Carolina (AL)🔒
This weekend was the first time I had a chance to watch USC play. They have some serious talent on the squad that I think will show well in Salt Lake. Despite dropping the Championship game to Virginia Tech, I still think the body of work the Gamecocks have put together will net them a top 4 seed.
If it were neck and neck, I’d give the nod to Virginia Tech for owning the conference championship, but it seems like there is a clear separation between the two teams.
I could see the selection committee dropping South Carolina a spot or two more depending on how the rest of the season shakes out. It’s interesting to note that all of South Carolina’s ranked wins have come against SELC teams.
I’m not sure how much that matters considering they still racked up 8 ranked wins, but it’s an interesting note.
#13 Cal (WCLL AQ)
Not much new to report with Cal. We wait for the WCLL tournament where they arrive as the #1 seed. WCLL will be a one-bid conference, and for now we can assume Cal will be the one.
#5 VIrginia Tech
#12 Boston College
#5 Virginia Tech (SELC AQ) 🔒
Mentally when Virginia Tech won the SELC title I thought “That should get them to about a 6 or 7 seed”. When I sat down and pulled up my poll voter tool and started comparing teams, it feels like it was pretty clear they should be around #5.
Should BYU/CU run the table and win the RMLC I think VT could drop to 6, but barring that, I think they will earn a top 5 seed.
If you assume BYU/CU will drop an RMLC game they will have a pretty similar resume to both BYU and CU, but the difference is they will be conference champions, which I think is a pretty fair tiebreaker to give them the nod in the seeding.
Watching VT in the SELC finals looked like a different team than we saw earlier in the year. They have steadily improved and they ended the season with 4 straight ranked wins, including a win over #3 South Carolina.
#12 Boston College (AL)
For the sake of bracketology the Eagle beat Buffalo and lose to Northeastern in the finals. Barring a loss to Buffalo, I still think they find their way to Salt Lake. Losing to Northeastern obviously wasn’t in their plans, but the Eagles probably don’t hate their PCLL tournament draw.
#6 Brigham Young (AL) 🔒
I follow the Cougars as closely as anyone. I still don’t really know what to think of this team. Last weekend they were in Denver taking home 2 huge conference wins, including knocking of CU at home, and the next week they look like a totally different team facing off against Utah.
Part of it probably had to do with the hype of the Utah game getting to their heads. The game’s atmosphere was electric, and it looked like the Utes had been ready for this game all year. Part of it was the same issues that have cost the Cougars earlier in the season. The defense wasn’t great. Tracking by hand at home I had the Cougars defensive efficiency vs Utah at about 45-50%. That means the Utes were scoring on almost every other possession. The Cougar had a pretty solid 30% efficiency on the offensive side of the ball, but between faceoff and clearing struggles, the Cougars didn’t get the possessions they needed to keep it competitive.
On a positive note, it looked like the Cougars started to figure out faceoffs in the second half vs Utah. If they can get by CU in the first round, that would go a long way in preventing 7 goal runs like the one Utah put together in the second quarter on Thursday.
First things first, they need to beat Colorado again. It’s rare that either team sweeps the season series between CU and BYU, but if the Cougars want a shot at playing on Saturday in a few weeks, they need a high seeding, and they need to beat the Buffs in the first round.
Their placement here in the mock bracket assumes they knock off the Buffs and lose to the Utes.
#11 Concordia (AL)
If you forced me to bet on the GCU/Concordia game, I’d put my money on the Eagles. For the sake of the bracket, I’m going to let the higher seed hold, but it’s one of the games I’m most looking forward to this week.
#10 Grand Canyon
#7 Colorado (AL) 🔒
I had tentatively planned to watch the CSU/CU game on Saturday. Some morning plans ran long and I tuned in during the second quarter. Colorado was up 14-1.
I can’t remember a Rocky Mountain Showdown that lopsided. The Rams found the net a few times in the second half, but CU was in cruise control and ended up winning 22-7. A 15 goal win over your ranked rival is a good day.
When CU played BYU in Boulder the Buffs mounted a late comeback to narrow the margin on a game that didn’t feel that close. But if you are the Buffs, you know that 4th quarter where you outscored BYU 4-1 is the lingering taste. Colorado will be coming to Orem with revenge on their mind, and both teams need the win for competitive seeding. It would be far from crazy to think that CU has the ability to upset the Cougars to get another crack at the Utes.
The Buffs still have one of the best resumes of wins in the league. If they beat BYU it will be tough to keep them out of the top 5, but for the sake of week 3 bracketology, we will let the seedings hold and work on the assumption that BYU advances.
Even with a loss to BYU, I don’t see the Buffs dropping much more than #7 or #8.
#10 Grand Canyon (AL)
If the Lopes can beat Concordia they will have locked in their spot in Salt Lake. In reality, they are probably close to a lock right now. My guess is Manny’s boys aren’t thinking about just getting to Salt Lake. They will want to return as SLC champs, and as a significantly higher seed than this.
#8 Northeastern (PNCLL AQ)
In order to snag this AQ they will need to avenge a loss to New Hampshire. I’m sure they feel like they let that one slip away, being up big in the first half. They seem to be peaking at the right time, so no sense picking against the #1 seed.
It’s worth a reminder that the Huskies are the reigning PCLL champs, so it’s not like this is an underdog story. The kings are back to defend their crown, and if they do it they should jump significantly in the seedings.
#9 Liberty (AL)
I’m tempted to put a lock here for Liberty. Some bubble teams are going to get in, we know that. It feels like they are leading the pack. Liberty trailed off a bit at the end of the season with big losses to both Virginia Tech and South Carolina, but we are talking about 2 top 5 teams. I’m not sure the Flames have enough in them for a deep tournament run, but they’ve done enough to have a shot.