McCarthy: UMass men’s lacrosse’s path to the playoffs

Minutemen are fifth in the CAA, top four teams qualify for postseason tournament

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Two games remain in the regular season for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team and major postseason implications ride on the results of not only UMass’ final conference games, but also the rest of the results around the Colonial Athletic Association.

All six teams in the conference are separated by one game; Fairfield, Drexel and Towson are 2-1 in CAA matchups, and Delaware, Hofstra and the Minutemen are 1-2. UMass’ final two games are against Hofstra —the team in last place in the conference — and the No. 2 ranked team in CAA standings, Drexel. It’s worth noting that the CAA determines who gets into the tournament first by conference record, and tie-breakers are decided by overall regular season record.

The league is still wide open in terms of who can make the top four and qualify for the CAA tournament, but there are three potential scenarios that can play out for the Minutemen in the next two weeks: they can win out, lose out, or split their last remaining games. Each of those options will lead to vastly different fates for UMass’ postseason hopes in 2022.

If UMass wins both games

This will be the ideal option for Greg Cannella and the Minutemen because it allows them to control their own destiny. If UMass goes 2-0, it will finish with an overall record of 8-5 and a 3-2 record in the CAA.

Those two records would assure a postseason berth for the Minutemen because multiple teams in the current top-four will play against each other in the final two weeks, making it impossible for four different teams to finish with a better conference record than 3-2. And even if 3-2 is the cut-off for sliding into the CAA tournament, which it very well could be, UMass’ win over Drexel in this scenario would guarantee the Minutemen a better overall record than the Dragons because both teams sit at 6-5 currently.

Where UMass ends up in the top-four depends entirely on the other matchups around the league; it could squeak in at No. 4 or rise all the way to No. 2. But regardless of positioning, the Minutemen will keep their season alive if they win out against Drexel and Hofstra.

If UMass goes 1-1

This is where the hypotheticals come into play. The Minutemen can still make the conference tournament if they only win one game, but they will need some help from other results around the league to get them there.

The key team to watch will be Delaware; the Blue Hens had high expectations for this season and are tied for the best overall record with Drexel at 7-5. But since the CAA’s first priority for determining the postseason field is not based on overall record, that impressive non-conference slate is almost irrelevant. Delaware holds a 1-2 record in conference and finishes up its season against Fairfield and Drexel, the top two teams in the league.

If Delaware loses both those games and the Minutemen win one, they will leapfrog over the Blue Hens and claim the fourth spot regardless of any other outcomes.

An alternative path for UMass would involve Towson losing both its remaining games. The Tigers have a tough opponent against Fairfield that they could realistically lose to, but then they close out the season with a matchup against Hofstra. If Hofstra were to pull off that upset over Towson it would pave the way for the Minutemen.

There are other less likely scenarios where UMass could make the CAA tournament by splitting its final two games, but the above outcomes are the most likely options. At the end of the day, though, the Minutemen cannot control their own destiny if they lose to either Drexel or Hofstra.

If UMass loses both games

This is a simple deduction to make: if the Minutemen can’t win either of their remaining games, they will be eliminated from playoff contention.

Because the league is so tight at the moment, there is no way for UMass to slide into the top four with a 1-4 conference record. The remaining matchups don’t allow for that to happen. So, the Minutemen can afford to lose one game if they must, but they cannot afford to drop both contests.

The easiest solution for UMass, of course, is to win. If they can string together two wins, the Minutemen will keep their postseason fate in their own hands. If not, they will have to closely monitor the final games of the season on April 30.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.