Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach Tony Seaman spent the other evening in the Carrier Dome, watching Syracuse crush defenseless Michigan State by a 21-goal margin.
What did he learn?
"That they score a lot," Seaman said. "They find the open man. They shoot well."
It is unclear how this knowledge, by no means fresh, will benefit Johns Hopkins when it entertains the three-time defending champions in the NCAA Division I quarterfinals Sunday. Seaman returned with the unsettling fact that Syracuse is scoring more than 19 goals a game and has won nine straight since its last defeat -- to Hopkins, 18-12, on March 23.
The state of Maryland has a team in each Sunday quarterfinal, including "three schools five minutes apart," as Towson State's Carl Runk observes. Only once in the previous 20 tournaments has the state had four teams in the quarterfinals. That was two years ago when Hopkins was joined by Loyola, Maryland and Navy.
"Fantastic," said Loyola coach Dave Cottle. "People in this area have been getting good lacrosse all year. It's showing now."
"People have been saying the southern teams are stronger than usual this year," Seaman said.
Only two state teams made the tournament last year and one, Hopkins, was bumped in the first round. The other, Loyola, marched to the final.
Seaman is the first to admit that Syracuse is a handful, and improving all the time, but he can't resist plunging in a needle.
"They talk well," he said. "They're sure they're pretty good. They're confident."
Seaman suspects Syracuse coach Roy Simmons is rankled that his team didn't receive a first-round bye for the first time since 1982. Further, Simmons is annoyed that Ivy Leaguers Brown and Princeton are seeded No. 2 and 3, respectively.
"Syracuse may have a lesser schedule this year, but it's not Roy's fault," Seaman said. "He's never backed away from anybody. Some teams don't want to play him. Roy is upset that Brown got rid of two or three tough teams -- including Syracuse. He feels that if he had stayed on Brown's schedule he'd have beaten them and gotten a bye."
Brown's quarterfinal visitor is Maryland. Terps coach Dick Edell is reluctant to say anything that could wind up on Brown's clubhouse bulletin board, but he is not distressed that it is the Bruins blocking Maryland's path to the Final Four.
The Terps tuned up for Brown with a win over Rutgers in the first round. They bore only faint resemblance to the team that was upset by unranked UMBC in the regular-season finale.
"The UMBC game woke us up in time for the tournament," Edell said.
Runk's 11th-seeded Tigers provided the first round with its most electrifying moment when they stunned No. 6 Virginia, 14-13.
"It was an important win for the entire Towson State community," Runk said. "Doing it in the tournament makes it special. I hope it helps recruiting. We want people, the young people, talking about Towson State."
Now Towson gets Princeton. Runk knows little about the No. 3 Tigers -- it's the first Towson-Princeton meeting -- but he knows that coach Bill Tierney knows plenty about Towson.
"Tierney and his whole staff were in Charlottesville for our game Wednesday," Runk said, referring to the Tigers' 14-13 triumph. "The way the game went, I guess Tierney didn't know which team to scout."
Loyola, which crushed Massachusetts in the first round, 20-9, is confronted by No. 1 North Carolina (13-0), led by first-year coach Dave Klarmann. The only rookie coach to go undefeated and win the national championship was Don Zimmerman of Johns Hopkins in 1984.
Although the Tar Heels, in their regular-season finale, slipped by No. 20 Penn by four goals, Loyola's Cottle draws little comfort from that. He points out that Carolina is the best riding team in lacrosse and the Greyhounds will have to devise a way to get the ball upfield.
"North Carolina plays at a higher level than everyone else," Cottle said.