Rutgers misses out on NCAA Tournament for second straight year
What was once a dream season has turned to dust for the Rutgers men's lacrosse team, as the team was once again on the outside looking in as the 17-team field was announced for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAA_Lax) May 8, 2017
The No. 12 Scarlet Knights (10-4, 2-3) started the season 8-0 and rose to the No. 1 ranking in the country. Despite this, they stumbled to the finish line, losing four of their last six games, including an upset loss on the road to Delaware, a loss that possibly kept them out of contention for an at-large bid.
Rutgers did finish its season on a high note, upsetting then-No. 4 Ohio State in the regular season finale on "Senior Day."
Going into that game, head coach Brian Brecht was fairly confident in the Knights' chances at an at-large bid if they were to win.
"If we win and we take care of business at home on 'Senior Day,' on alumni day, yes, we'll have an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament," he said.
And after the game, his confidence level was just as high.
"There's no one's resume that is better than ours right now for an at-large bid. Our numbers, our win-loss record, strength of schedule," he said. "We have a body of work from the start of the season through April, we have two great Big Ten wins in the month of April. You wanna watch and see how good we are, you can turn on the TV. You wanna look at the numbers, the numbers are right there."
And despite being wrong, it's impossible to blame Brecht for believing in his team, especially because they should have been a NCAA Tournament team.
If Notre Dame won the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship game over North Carolina, the Tar Heels would've finished at 7-8 and not received a bid. Of course, UNC won and that bumped Rutgers down on the list of possible at-large bids.
But if Denver won the Big East Tournament — a conference in which the Pioneers have never lost a regular season game (21-0) — the Knights would have still locked up the last at-large bid. But Denver was upset by eventual conference champions Marquette in the semifinals and got in ahead of Rutgers.
The last glimmer of hope for the Knights was getting in over Duke, a team just two spots ahead of Rutgers in the RPI, and who had to play Boston on Sunday afternoon its regular season finale. If the Terriers upset the Blue Devils, a strong case could be made for the Knights over Duke. Naturally, Duke beat the tar out of Boston, 18-8.
Make no mistake, this was no snub. Each team ahead of Rutgers has a legitimate resume and deserves to be a tournament team. But there is a chance that the Knights are simply the most unlucky team in the history of conference championship weekend.