Loyola College, preseason co-favorite with Syracuse to win the NCAA lacrosse championship, is in a precarious position at midseason.
The Greyhounds could be left out of the NCAA playoffs if they lose this Saturday. And their opponent, neighborhood rival Towson State, is capable of beating anybody.
It no doubt pains Loyola fans to consider the possibility their team won't even make the playoffs. Last year Loyola went to the NCAA championship game and lost to Syracuse. Most of the players from that Greyhounds team have returned.
During the weekend Loyola suffered its second defeat (the other was to Virginia), squandering a 12-8 fourth-period lead and losing to Brown, 14-13. A third loss to Towson could doom Loyola.
Loyola's problem, in addition to the losses, is a weak schedule. Its ranked opponents are Brown (No. 4), Virginia (No. 5), Towson (No. 9), Delaware (No. 17) and Duke (No. 18). After this week the Hounds will face only Duke, UMBC, Delaware and C.W. Post. With no wins over top teams, Loyola probably would not make the 12-team playoff field.
Towson State failed to make the playoffs last year despite an 11-2 record. The problem: a weak schedule with too many Lehighs, Drexels and Lafayettes.
This year Towson's only setback has been a one-goal loss to Maryland when the Tigers' all-time scoring king, Glenn Smith, and starting midfielder Lindsay Dixon were forced to sit out. This year Towson has a new resolve.
"This year," said Tigers coach Carl Runk, "we're not going to be denied."
It should make for an interesting afternoon at Evergreen.
* Speaking of Loyola, a man who coached the basketball team there for years (and later coached Johns Hopkins) offers an insightful explanation for Duke's shocking, 79-77 win over Nevada-Las Vegas Saturday night.
The retired coach -- too bad, with his knowledge of the game, he's not still at it -- is Nap Doherty. The Duke player he feels keyed the upset is senior Greg Koubek, who scored only two points.
What Koubek did, though, was help to hold the Runnin' Rebels' Larry Johnson, college basketball's Player of the Year, to 13 points.
"Koubek was in there all night fighting Larry Johnson," Doherty said, "and that's a tough job, as strong and as good as Johnson is. That was part of Mike Krzyzewski's game plan. Krzyzewski definitely outcoached Jerry Tarkanian."
I had a feeling Coach K, with a week to prepare, would find a way to do what so many said was impossible and beat UNLV. Now that Duke has accomplished that, it's going to be hard to crank it up to that emotional level again tonight against Kansas in the NCAA title game.
* The Blast is unbelievable with its penchant for losing one-goal games. Saturday night it lost its sixth straight game by that slimmest of margins.
Losing 12 of the last 13 starts has not killed the enthusiasm of its supporters, however. There were 9,849 of them at the Arena Saturday to witness the 9-8 loss to Cleveland.
The Blast still has quite a grip on its young fans. Mike Gill, president of MacKenzie Associates, explains that in terms some fans of another era can understand.
"I grew up," said Gill, "wanting to be John Unitas. My 11-year-old son, Michael, wants to be Billy Ronson."
* Tony Seaman continues to astound the lacrosse world with his coaching at Johns Hopkins. This is a Blue Jays team from which little was expected this year, yet in the last two weeks it has beaten three-time national champion Syracuse and undefeated, top-ranked Virginia.
Seaman needed only two words to explain his team's 16-6 thrashing of Virginia: "Good goalie."
Scott Giardina is, indeed, a "good goalie." After his play these last two weeks no one will deny that. Giardina, a junior from Farmingdale on Long Island, made some spectacular saves at the right moment against Virginia. That tends to demoralize an offense -- even one that jumps off to a 3-0 lead, as Virginia's had. This week Hopkins again plays the No. 1 team, North Carolina, at Chapel Hill.