Bracket is here!
I'll break down each region as this week goes by, but first some initial impressions. The first thing that popped out was obviously the potential Sweet 16 between Emory and NC Wesleyan. Neither team can be happy about this. I got it right that Emory would travel to W&L, but I can't think they were expecting this. I found out in the middle of the day that TCNJ did not put in a bid to host, and when I heard that I figured NCW may be grouped with Emory. Their only other option was to meet a NESCAC team halfway, and there were a limited number of sites where that could happen. Emory's undefeated season is rewarded by having to play an incredibly dangerous NCW team who is ranked 12 in the country. They look at the bottom half of their bracket and see Kenyon hosting and having a potential Sweet 16 match with 25th ranked Mary Wash. This is an absolute dream draw for Kenyon. They couldn't have made it better themselves. Not only can they waltz through their regional, they also pulled the #5 overall seed and a potential quarterfinal with Wash U who is significantly weaker than the top 3.
In my opinion the 6 through 8 seeds got messed up, but I think the NCAA was trying to avoid conference matches in the quarters. That's the only explanation I have for Chicago jumping both Williams and Middlebury and grabbing the #6 overall seed. It doesn't make much sense, but after all I guess it doesn't matter a ton because I still consider the top 3 overall seeds just about even.
A unique scenario where Cruz is hosting but CMS is the top seed. The Slugs have to be careful not to overlook a dangerous round of 32 with a top 10 team in Pomona-Pitzer. Whitman got their wish and got shipped to St. Louis. They have a tricky round of 32 against Whitewater before a potential Sweet 16 clash with Wash U where I actually think Whitman has a decent shot at a win.
Obviously a Cruz-CMS Sweet 16 is great, but if I could pick, I'd definitely go to Williams for the potential Williams-Hopkins match. There's so much pressure on both of these teams. The host Ephs missed the Final 8 last year for the first time since 1996 under first year head coach Dan Greenberg. The rest of the nation gave Williams some weird looks when one of the most storied programs in D3 hired a 23 year old as head coach. Missing the Final 8 in his first 2 years as coach would not bode well for Greenberg. On the flip side, you have Hopkins who is notorious for their NCAA tournament meltdowns. This has to be in the back of their minds, but at the same time, they could get the monkey off their back with a win here. This will be a wonderful test for Hopkins, going on the road and beating a tough team. 2 of the last 3 years, Hopkins has lost in NCAAs when they were the favorite, so let's see if they can take advantage of the underdog role this year.
Top 3 Winners and Losers from this bracket:
1. Kenyon - a great draw for the Lords
2. Whitman - they avoid California
3. Middlebury - they avoid traveling to play NCW and get Bowdoin at home instead
Losers (excluding California because that's a given at this point)
1. NCW - a match with undefeated Emory to get back to the Final 8
2. Emory - they will have to sweat through regionals rather than taking it easy
3. MIT - a round of 32 against Bowdoin when they easily could have been the 2 seed in Amherst's region