February 14, 2014

#LMRanks Best Bets: 18-Team NCAA Tournament Field (MD1)

by Lacrosse Magazine Staff | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Lacrosse Magazine projects Jacksonville to earn the Atlantic Sun automatic qualifying berth to the new 18-team NCAA tournament. (Peyton Williams)

It's way too early for bracketology, you say? Nonsense. While this isn't an exact science just yet, Lacrosse Magazine projects who will makes the newly-expanded 18-team NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament field, either as a conference champion with an automatic qualifying bid (there are 10) or by way of one of eight available at-large bids.

This year, and again in spring 2015, there will be two play-in games featuring the four lowest-ranked automatic qualifying berth teams that will be played on a Wednesday, May 7. The play-in game winners will play the top two overall seeds in the first round either on Saturday, May 10, or Sunday, May 11.

Conference Winners

ACC: Duke
America East: Albany
Atlantic Sun: Jacksonville
Big East: Denver
CAA: Drexel*
ECAC: Ohio State
Ivy: Princeton
MAAC: Detroit
NEC: Bryant
Patriot: Loyola
*Penn State, ranked preseason No. 8 by LM, is ineligible for conference title by CAA decision

At-Large Teams

Syracuse (ACC)
North Carolina (ACC)
Notre Dame (ACC)
Maryland (ACC)
Penn State (CAA)
Virginia (ACC)
Yale (Ivy)
Johns Hopkins (Independent)

Bracket Buster

The Greyhounds have key seniors on offense (Justin Ward), defense (Fletcher) and in goal (Jack Runkel), with complementary players budding. It's easy to forget Loyola was a slim margin away from beating eventual NCAA champ Duke in the first round. It's the Hounds' first Patriot League season.

Sleeper Team

Air Force
The Falcons have 14 seniors and could push Ohio State for the conference title in a depleted ECAC. "They've been building for this year," one opposing coach said. They'll play inspired for coach Eric Seremet, whose wife was killed in a car accident in the fall. Air Force went 7-7 last season with one-goal losses to Ohio State, Denver and Fairfield.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks. 

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