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NCAA Bracketology: Seed-Line Lurkers

April 11, 2024
Jeremy Fallis
Risley Sports Photography

As conference season stretches its legs in most leagues, and nears to completion in the ACC, some clarity has emerged amid the confusion of differing results.

Namely, the expected cream is rising to the top. Northwestern has found proper footing as the top team in the country; Yale has established itself, for the moment, as the top team in the Ivy League; and two teams — Syracuse and Boston College — are vying for the ACC’s top spot.

Northwestern jumps to No. 1, Yale joins seeded ranks

The Wildcats went to College Park and dominated Maryland 17-9. Northwestern’s RPI rose to No. 2, only behind Maryland. With that, the Wildcats are our top seed and Maryland drops to No. 2.

Syracuse is holding firm at No. 3, while Notre Dame saw a big numbers boost, rising to eighth in the RPI. The Fighting Irish are our No. 4 seed, while Michigan holds at No. 5 after avoiding an upset to Penn State.

Yale was one of the biggest winners of the weekend. The Bulldogs bounced back from their loss to BC with a commanding eight-goal win against Penn. At 10-1, with an RPI of 4 and a 4-1 record against top-20 foes, Yale is our No. 6 seed, followed by Loyola and Penn, which dropped five spots to No. 8.

Boston College, Virginia, Hopkins, Stony Brook lurk on the seed lines

Notably, Boston College’s RPI rose seven places to No. 11. The Eagles are close to hosting at this point, but overcoming a “low” RPI compared to those ahead of them will be difficult. That will change should BC get a win over fellow seed lurker Virginia on Saturday.

Johns Hopkins, which has beaten Stony Brook and James Madison, is a stylish win away from being able to pop back into the seeding conversation. The Blue Jays’ RPI is 6 and SOS is 5. Stony Brook has that notable win at Syracuse, but with an RPI of 14 and two losses to non-seeded teams, it will be hard for the Seawolves to overcome that.

Bubble talk: Brown, USC move in, Dartmouth, Duke move out

Brown (9-3) beat fellow bubble team Dartmouth this past weekend, moving up in the RPI to 18th and is now in our projected field. Joining the Bears is USC, whose RPI is at No. 20.

Duke dropped out because its RPI fell back into the 30s. The Blue Devils need another key win to boost their chances. In the Ivy League, Dartmouth fell to 0-4, and its RPI sits at 28th. Despite the Big Green defeating USC earlier this year, it’s hard to imagine the selection committee putting a last-place team in its field if it were to happen today.

Penn State also remains in this week’s field, but tough games against Maryland and Hopkins are ahead of the Nittany Lions. Other bubble teams now include Harvard, Navy, Clemson and Holy Cross. All need wins over teams ahead of them or some help (like Penn State failing to meet the .500 stipulation).

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 10), 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.









Maryland143-22-0Syracuse (3)---
Syracuse313-21-1Notre Dame (8)---
Yale4361-03-1Penn (7)---
Loyola9221-11-0Johns Hopkins (6)---
Fairfield12480-00-0Drexel (21)---
James Madison13120-31-0North Carolina (15)---
Stony Brook14341-10-1Syracuse (3)---
Stanford16210-20-1Holy Cross (26)---
Denver1790-32-0Stony Brook (14)---
UMass27620-00-2Saint Joseph's (38)---
Albany3670-30-4Bryant (45)UMBC (65)
Coastal Carolina46810-00-0Vanderbilt (54)3 losses vs. 40+
Mercer51590-10-0Coastal Carolina (46)---
Sacred Heart721020-00-2LIU (87)3 losses vs. 40+
Eastern Michigan911110-20-0Kent State (105)3 losses vs. 40+

Maryland remains the Big Ten auto qualifier for now only because the RPI is one place ahead of Northwestern … Syracuse continues to hold steady as the No. 3 seed … Yale was a big winner last week and can cement solo first place in the Ivy League with a win over Princeton.

Loyola is in the lower half of the seeding discussion but can pad it a bit over the next two weeks. Games against Penn and Holy Cross could boost its RPI and move it up the rankings … Fairfield is starting to drop in the RPI through no fault of its own — its schedule just isn’t that difficult. The Stags squeaked by Mount St. Mary’s last week … This is the week: James Madison and Florida play. The winner will almost certainly be the top seed in The American.

Another clash of first-place teams will take place when Stony Brook plays at Drexel in the CAA this weekend … Stanford and USC will meet for first place in the Pac-12 on Saturday. Both teams need that win to bolster an at-large profile should the automatic bid not work out … Denver takes time away from Big East play against Arizona State.

UMass enters the bracket this week as a co-leader in the Atlantic 10 with Richmond, but with a better RPI. The two don’t meet until the regular-season finale on April 27 … The America East is wide open. Four teams have just one loss, as UMBC surprised Albany. The Great Danes remain the AQ for now due to superior RPI … Coastal Carolina picked up a nice win over Vanderbilt this past weekend.

Mercer remains the top team in the Big South and the favorite to win … There’s a three-way tie for first in the NEC at 6-1, and Sacred Heart gets the nod … Eastern Michigan continues to hold first in the MAC.









Northwestern143-22-0Syracuse (3)---
Michigan5171-12-0Penn (7)---
Johns Hopkins650-43-0James Madison (13)---
Penn7182-20-1Maryland (1)---
Notre Dame8161-23-0Northwestern (2)---
Virginia1031-13-1Notre Dame (8)---
Boston College11111-21-0Yale (4)---
North Carolina1561-30-2Virginia (10)---
Brown18470-20-0UMass (27)---
Princeton19151-20-0Penn (7)---
USC20260-20-0Temple (32)---
Drexel21290-20-1Penn State (24)---
Florida22241-11-1Maryland (1)---
Clemson23300-20-2Duke (31)Louisville (44)
Penn State24141-20-1Northwestern (2)Ohio State (56)
Navy25500-10-0Holy Cross (26)---
Holy Cross26610-01-1Fairfield (12)Bryant (40)
Dartmouth28430-11-2USC (20)Cornell (44)
Colorado29430-11-2Penn State (24)---
Harvard30540-11-0Brown (18)---
Temple32460-20-2Saint Joseph's (38)---
Richmond34620-10-1Saint Joseph's (38)---
Saint Joseph's38350-10-3Navy (25)---

Northwestern is this week’s overall No. 1 seed. The Wildcats have four wins over the top 11 RPI teams in the country … Michigan’s win over Penn State was its fourth over an RPI top 25 team … Johns Hopkins’ profile is pretty straightforward — 0-4 against top 10 competition, 10-0 against everyone else.

Penn has fallen off since its surprising victory at Maryland. The Quakers are in a three-way tie for the fourth and final berth in the Ivy League tournament … Notre Dame has built an impressive profile and is riding a six-game winning streak … Virginia dropped out of a projected seeding placement for now but could re-enter should the Cavs beat Boston College on Saturday. The Eagles are steadily rising, and a win at UVa might get them a seeding spot.

North Carolina remains in the middle of the pack and firmly in the at-large picture … We covered Brown above, but Princeton’s visit will greatly impact both teams. The Tigers’ schedule is tricky down the stretch.

USC could really use a win against Stanford. It would solidify first place, but also be the best win on the Trojans’ resume … Drexel has a solid resume but is by no means a lock … Seeing Florida’s RPI at 22 is a bit jarring, even with wins over Maryland and Princeton. The Gators would love to take one from JMU … Clemson just hasn’t gotten that season-defining win yet … Penn State (7-6) plays Maryland this week and then must face Hopkins. Without a win in either game, the Nittany Lions would need two wins in the Big Ten tournament to be NCAA tournament eligible.

Maybe we were too quick to write of Navy? The Mids are 25th in the RPI, but without wins over any teams above 26th … Fellow Patriot League foe Holy Cross has that win over Fairfield, but nothing else … Dartmouth slipped to 28th in the RPI and 0-4 in the Ivy League. The Big Green must beat Princeton or Penn, but maybe both, to contend for an at-large berth.

Colorado is 3-1 in Pac-12 play with winnable games against Arizona State and Oregon remaining. The game on April 21 against USC is a big one … Harvard is knocking on the door. An upset at rival Yale would put the Crimson on the right side of the bubble … Duke falls out despite its win at Virginia earlier this year … Temple’s best win is against Saint Joseph’s … Richmond is another A-10 team who needs the AQ to get in.


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.

Florida vs. USC
Winner plays at (1) Northwestern

Philadelphia, Pa.

Boston College vs. Penn State
UMass (A-10) at (8) Penn

Notre Dame, Ind.

Eastern Michigan (MAC) at (4) Notre Dame
Denver (BIG EAST) vs. Mercer (BIG SOUTH)

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Coastal Carolina (ASUN) at (5) Michigan
James Madison (AMERICAN) vs. Stanford (PAC-12)

College Park, Md.

North Carolina vs. Fairfield (MAAC)
Winner plays at (2) Maryland (BIG TEN)

Baltimore, Md.

Albany (AMERICA EAST) at (7) Loyola (PATRIOT)
Virginia vs. Drexel

Syracuse, N.Y.

Stony Brook (CAA) vs. Princeton
Winner plays at (3) Syracuse (ACC)

New Haven, Conn.

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

Last Four In: Drexel, Brown, Penn State, USC
First Four Out: Dartmouth, Navy, Duke, Harvard
Multi-bid conferences: ACC (5), Big Ten (5), Ivy League (4), AAC (2), CAA (2), Pac-12 (2)