Pioneers No. 2 overall seed, will play winner of play-in game

Photo courtesy of DU Lacrosse

In the end, the University of Denver Pioneers’ loss to the Marquette University Golden Eagles in the BIG EAST Championship didn’t affect their seeding in the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. Even if the Pioneers had won the BIG EAST Tournament, it is unlikely that they would have been the No. 1 overall seed ahead of the Maryland Terrapins.

Earlier on Sunday evening, the NCAA revealed the field for the national lacrosse tournament and despite the difficult loss to Marquette, the Pioneers were awarded the second overall seed. As a result of this seeding, Denver will play the winner of the play-in game between Colonial Athletic Conference champion Towson University and Northeast Conference champion Hobart University on Wednesday.

The winner of Towson-Hobart will travel west to Denver to face defending national champion DU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That’s not quite a favorable draw for either program, but in fairness, playing Denver in the first round wouldn’t be a favorable draw for any team.

Should heavily favored Denver top Hobart or Towson, they will travel to Columbus, Ohio to face the winner of Duke vs. Loyola. While the Pios’ first round matchup may not produce a close final score, the Pioneers will need to earn their way back to Philadelphia in the second round. Regardless of who wins the Duke-Loyola matchup, the Pioneers will certainly be tested in the second round.

Nick’s Championship Weekend Prediction™

Before I give my prediction for Championship weekend, here is an image of the 2016 NCAA Tournament bracket:

2016 lax bracket

For the first time in a long time, parity is rearing its beautiful head in college lacrosse. There are more than just a few teams that could make a run to Philadelphia this year. There is also a chance we might see the exact same Championship Weekend we saw last year (if Johns Hopkins turns things around at the right time, that is).

However, given the field and the way these matchups look to shake out, I don’t believe we will see a repeat of 2015’s Championship Weekend. Brown is a much better team than they were last year and Johns Hopkins, shall we say, is not. Navy can be a good lacrosse team at times, but it’s difficult to see them getting past a very good Yale team. That leaves Brown vs Yale for a trip to Philly in the bottom left bracket. After watching Brown against Harvard, there are too many question marks to justify picking the Bears to make it to Philly. I’m taking Yale.

In the left portion of the top bracket, it’s impossible to see anyone but Maryland make it to Philadelphia. Maryland might be the most complete team in college lacrosse this year. Syracuse has really come on strong late this year, but Maryland is just too balanced from top to bottom to be a victim of an early round upset. Maryland is going back to Philly this year.

The top right portion might be the most interesting grouping of this year’s tournament. Air Force, the hottest team in the sport, takes on Notre Dame in South Bend while Marquette, the team that shocked the world by beating Denver yesterday, will host North Carolina. Marquette’s No. 6 seeding is inflated and I think the moment will end up being too big for them in the first round. Notre Dame is just too good to get upset by Air Force. I’m taking Notre Dame over North Carolina in that quarterfinal matchup.

If the top right portion is the most interesting, the bottom right is the second most interesting portion. Duke-Loyola is a rematch of the 2013 first round game which saw a Loyola goal waved off before Duke scored in overtime to end one of the most thrilling playoff lacrosse games in recent memory. In this one, I’m taking Duke purely because of Myles Jones. The kid will probably win the Tewaaraton Award and could lead the Blue Devils to Philadelphia. However, given that Duke will probably see Denver (sorry Hobart or Towson, Denver is winning in the first round), Jones’ NCAA run is going to be cut short in the second round. DU’s loss to Marquette will fuel the Pioneers all the way back to Philadelphia.

For those of you keeping track, here are my matchups for Memorial Day Weekend in Philadelphia:

Maryland vs Yale
Notre Dame vs Denver

That’s right, Denver and Notre Dame are going to face off again with a berth in the National Championship game on the line. This time, however, that game likely won’t exactly determine this year’s national champion since a much-improved Maryland team is on the other side of the bracket.

There’s this year’s NCAA Lacrosse Tournament in summary. Denver has a shot at defending its 2015 National Title. Whether they will be successful at doing so remains to be seen. The team certainly has enough talent, but the Pios’ path to repeat isn’t easy.

Denver begins the home stretch of their title defense next Sunday at 1 PM MT at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium against either Towson or Hobart. If you can’t make it to the game, the matchup will be televised on ESPNU.