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Michigan's Jordyn Harrison

NCAA Bracketology: ACC, Big Ten, Ivy League Hog Host Sites

April 18, 2024
Jeremy Fallis
John Strohsacker

All season, the ACC, Big Ten and Ivy League have been dominant in non-conference action. And that theme continued with Penn’s upset at Loyola.

Now, all eight seed spots and 14 of the 29-team field are occupied by teams from those leagues. Knocking on the doors to those spots are yet more teams from those conferences. Let’s take a look.

Northwestern and everyone else

Northwestern is the clear-cut No. 1 seed. After that, a case can be made for seeds 2-7. Syracuse moves up to No. 2 because of its 4-2 record over top 20 squads. Its three losses are by a combined five goals, and it beat two other seeded teams on this list.

Maryland moves down to No. 3, and no further. Yes, the loss to Penn State is a shock and it’s the third such loss to a non-seeded team at home. But the Terrapins have the most wins over top 20 teams (6) including those over fellow seeded teams Syracuse and Michigan.

Notre Dame and Michigan remain Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Notre Dame’s RPI is low (9th), and it’s hard to justify the Fighting Irish being any higher than fourth (just one top 10 win). Michigan as No. 5 seems right – a No. 6 RPI, 20th in SOS and 3-1 against top 20 foes.

Yale and Penn show the Ivy League’s strength. Yale stays at No. 6 because its win is against the seventh-seeded Quakers. Penn has been explosive in non-conference play, boasting a 7-1 record with wins over Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Loyola. The Quakers have earned it.

And the final spot goes to Virginia after its win over Boston College. The Cavaliers (RPI No. 7) now have three wins over teams ranked 12th or better in the RPI and six total wins against the RPI top 20.

Other seed contenders include Loyola, Boston College, Johns Hopkins, Stony Brook and Florida. Changes are still possible, but there’s a clear line between the top eight and everyone else after Wednesday night’s games.

Penn State shrinks the bubble

The Nittany Lions did it again. Credit Missy Doherty and her team, which stormed back at Maryland. The victory clinched a .500 or better regular season record for Penn State and sewed up its at-large chances. This leaves three spots open for eight teams.

Drexel has one foot in, but it can’t take its chances for granted after falling to Stony Brook. USC and Brown are on shaky footing, both boosted by strong RPI. They can be overtaken by the likes of Duke, Colorado, Navy, Harvard or Dartmouth.

Duke and Colorado are closest – and arguably, it’s a numbers game. If Duke’s RPI is in the 20s, they’re in, but at No. 32 and several other at-large candidates in front of them, it’s hard to envision a selection committee jumping the Blue Devils that much. Same goes for Colorado, which has just one win over an NCAA team (Penn State). Duke can take some of those questions away with a rivalry win over North Carolina.

Harvard and Dartmouth have the chance to play spoiler on the bubble and throw the Ivy League into chaos as well. 

Notes: Records against the RPI top 10, top 11-20, significant wins and significant losses (over 40th) are based on performance against the current RPI rankings (as of games played through Wednesday, April 17), not human polls. First-place, NCAA tournament-eligible teams are listed as automatic qualifiers. In the event of a tie, the AQ goes to the highest rated team in the RPI. For the 2024 season, 15 automatic qualifiers will be granted. No play-in games will take place in the 29-team field.









Northwestern133-13-0Syracuse (3)---
Yale2162-02-1Penn (5)---
Syracuse342-22-1Virginia (7)---
Stanford10270-20-1USC (22)---
Loyola11171-22-0Johns Hopkins (8)---
Stony Brook13281-10-1Syracuse (3)---
Fairfield14630-00-0Drexel (21)---
Denver15241-31-0Stony Brook (13)---
Florida19351-02-2Maryland (4)---
UMass28600-00-2Saint Joseph's (41)---
Coastal Carolina36760-00-0Vanderbilt (55)3 losses vs. 40+
Mercer47700-10-1Coastal Carolina (36)---
UMBC63950-00-0Albany (43)3 losses vs. 40+
Sacred Heart691060-00-2LIU (82)3 losses vs. 40+
Central Michigan93540-30-0Eastern Michigan (107)7 losses vs. 40+

Northwestern is finally in sole possession of first in the Big Ten. The Wildcats have rattled off 11 wins in the last 12 games while outscoring opponents by 34 goals in the last four games … Yale took care of rival Harvard and rose to No. 2 in the RPI ahead of a tricky weekend where it travels to Cornell and goes to Philadelphia to play Denver at a neutral site … Syracuse is atop the ACC and can close out a perfect ACC slate against BC.

Stanford claimed top Pac-12 honors in a battle with USC. The Cardinal are a virtual lock for the tournament should they stumble in the Pac-12 tournament … Loyola missed its last good opportunity for a quality win by stumbling to Penn. There doesn’t seem to be a viable path to hosting duties … Stony Brook took a rivalry game against Drexel to cement its place atop the CAA.

Fairfield’s slow slide down the RPI continues despite the victories. Saturday’s game against Siena determines who wins the MAAC regular season title and tournament hosting rights … Denver has an interesting weekend – a road conference game against Villanova and a big-time non-conference game with Yale, a last gasp for a chance to host … Florida won the battle of The American’s best and will be the presumptive No. 1 seed should results go as predicted.

After starting 1-4, UMass has won nine straight entering the weekend … Another team that’s streaking is Coastal Carolina, a winner of its last seven going into Thursday’s game against Jacksonville … Mercer is on a five-game win streak and hasn’t been tested much in Big South play.

UMBC is our new entrant this week representing the America East. A win over Binghamton would clinch the No. 1 seed and hosting rights … Sacred Heart currently holds the tiebreaker over LIU in the NEC … The Chippewas won the battle of directional Michigans, as Central Michigan beat EMU for first place in the MAC.









Maryland413-23-1Syracuse (3)---
Penn562-21-1Maryland (4)---
Michigan6202-12-0Penn (5)---
Virginia792-13-1Notre Dame (9)---
Johns Hopkins820-42-1Stony Brook (13)---
Notre Dame9111-23-0Northwestern (2)---
Boston College12111-31-0Yale (4)---
James Madison16220-31-1North Carolina (18)---
Princeton1761-31-2Penn (5)---
North Carolina1881-31-2Virginia (7)---
Brown20340-20-1UMass (28)---
Drexel21290-20-2Penn State (23)---
USC22320-30-0Temple (29)---
Penn State23132-10-2Northwestern (2)Ohio State (56)
Navy24450-00-1Holy Cross (31)Saint Joseph's (41)
Clemson25210-30-2Duke (32)Louisville (44)
Colorado26300-30-1Penn State (23)---
Harvard27510-21-0Brown (20)---
Temple29490-20-1Saint Joseph's (41)---
Dartmouth30410-10-2USC (22)Cornell (40)
Holy Cross31500-11-0Fairfield (14)Bryant (42)
Duke32101-30-1Virginia (7)---
Richmond37820-10-1Saint Joseph's (41)---

Maryland bounced back with a mid-week win at Princeton in its regular-season finale. The Terps will wait to see what their seed will be in the Big Ten tournament … Penn’s outstanding non-conference form continued with a road win at Loyola. There’s still work to do in the Ivy League to assure its spot in the conference tournament starting with Brown on Saturday … A big opportunity exists for Michigan, as a win over Northwestern would clinch the Big Ten title — and maybe avenge that stinging loss in the NCAA tournament last year.

Virginia struck for a big win over Boston College and held on against a feisty Virginia Tech team to move back into our seeded group this week. The Cavs have five wins against top 20 competition … Johns Hopkins has a straightforward resume – 0-4 against the RPI top 10 and 10-1 against everyone else. A loss to Penn State in Thursday night’s game would have the Blue Jays on the road in the Big Ten tournament … Notre Dame has an interesting profile (No. 9 RPI, win over Northwestern) and remains the No. 4 seed for now. A slip up could jeopardize its seeding profile because of a lower-than-expected RPI.

Boston College missed a grand opportunity against Virginia. But in the ACC, the chance for signature wins always exist … James Madison joins the ranks of the at-large after falling to Florida … Princeton couldn’t nab that signature win over Maryland, but the Tigers should feel secure about their position overall.

North Carolina remains middle of the pack – top wins over Virginia and Florida sparkle, but the Tar Heels are 2-5 against top 20 competition … Brown’s high RPI (20) belies a bigger issue – the Bears’ season hinges on winning both its remaining Ivy League games and getting some help just to qualify for the conference tournament … Drexel is hanging on to its spot by a thread thanks a solid RPI (21), SOS (29) and wins over Penn State and Navy.

USC is our final team in this week’s bracket and is in danger of dropping out if its RPI slides again or if one of the other bubble contenders gets a surprise victory … Penn State clinched a winning regular-season record and its at-large bid by surprising Maryland in College Park … Navy is one of the first four left out of our projected field this week; the Mids will likely need to win the Patriot to get in.

Clemson just doesn’t have a strong enough profile (0-5 against top 20, significant loss to Louisville) … Colorado has punched above its profile just once – an early season win at Penn State. The Buffs are 0-4 against top 20 foes. Nevertheless, CU is the second team out … Harvard is in a slightly better position than Brown, but with similar urgency. Winning out over last place Columbia and Princeton would drastically improve its at-large resume.

Temple has two more swipes before conference tournament time against Ohio State and Florida. Two wins would propel the Owls firmly into the at-large discussion … Dartmouth seems done and dusted except for the fact it plays Penn and Princeton, two chances for big wins … Holy Cross dropped a heartbreaker to Army and must eye its chances in the Patriot League tournament.

The reason Duke (RPI No. 32) is our first team out is the number of teams (7) the Blue Devils would have to jump in the RPI to make this year’s field … Richmond’s RPI keeps dropping; it’s now 37th. The Spiders are 11-0 against teams ranked lower than 25th in the RPI.


Bracketing procedures:

  • The committee seeds the top 8 teams to host first- and second-round games. The top 3 seeds will receive byes into the second round. All other teams are unseeded and will be placed geographically, while keeping bracket integrity when possible.
  • Conference matchups must be avoided in the first round.
  • It’s possible a seeded team may not host due to factors such as facility availability. We anticipate each seed hosting and bracket them accordingly, but the committee may not have that option.
  • Schools located more than 400 miles from any host institution will fly to their assigned location.

Evanston, Ill.

Denver (BIG EAST) vs. Stanford (PAC-12)
Winner plays at (1) Northwestern (BIG TEN)

Charlottesville, Va.

Loyola (PATRIOT) vs. Drexel
UMBC (AMERICA EAST) at (8) Virginia

Notre Dame, Ind.

Central Michigan (MAC) at (4) Notre Dame
Florida (AMERICAN) vs. USC

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Coastal Carolina (ASUN) at (5) Michigan
Stony Brook (CAA) vs. Mercer (BIG SOUTH)

Syracuse, N.Y.

Princeton vs. Penn State
Winner plays at (2) Syracuse (ACC)

Philadelphia, Pa.

UMass (ATLANTIC 10) at (7) Penn
Boston College vs. Brown

College Park, Md.

James Madison vs. North Carolina
Winner plays at (3) Maryland

New Haven, Conn.

Sacred Heart (NEC) at (6) Yale (IVY)
Johns Hopkins vs. Fairfield (MAAC)

Last Four In: Penn State, Drexel, Brown, USC
First Four Out: Duke, Colorado, Navy, Harvard
Moving In: UMBC
Moving Out: Albany
Multi-bid Conferences: ACC (5), Big Ten (5), Ivy League (4), American Athletic (2), CAA (2), Pac-12 (2)