Division I locked in hot faceoff

April 22, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

The regular season in college lacrosse is down to 16 days, and it's going to take every one of them to bring the fuzzy picture in Division I into focus.

The fight for 11 berths in the NCAA tournament -- Notre Dame probably will be the western representative for the fourth time in five years -- continues this weekend, and the long-term winners and losers won't be known until 6 p.m. on May 8, when the 12-team field is announced.

Tonight, Johns Hopkins goes to Navy and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament opens in Charlottesville, Va. Loyola's trip Delaware on Sunday means that eight of the top 13 teams in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association rankings will meet head-to-head this weekend, and the potential for movement in the eyes of the NCAA -- up or down -- is great.

Pencil in defending NCAA champion Syracuse and Princeton for two of the four first-round byes. Four others -- Loyola, Virginia, North Carolina and Johns Hopkins -- could be in the running for the other two byes if things fall their way. If they don't, a first-round game on the road is possible.

Behind them are a half-dozen teams -- including Maryland, Towson State and Navy -- capable of playing host to a first-round game. . . or not making the tournament at all.

"It's an amazing season," Johns Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said. "Teams ranked No. 1 or No. 2 could end up finishing ninth or 10th, and No. 9 or No. 10 could end up in the top four. We could end up [seeded] fourth, or 11th or 12th. Some amazing things could happen."

They already have. Virginia is top-seeded in the ACC on the basis of its second straight regular-season victory over North Carolina. The Tar Heels whipped Maryland. The Terps beat Duke. Then the Blue Devils defeated Virginia, which had been the hottest team in the country.

Loyola began the week as the only unbeaten in Division I. The Greyhounds' 16-10 loss at Syracuse Tuesday night likely will drop them below Princeton and Syracuse in the rankings that come out Sunday, and now they've got to maneuver a minefield to get a first-round bye.

The Greyhounds' next two opponents, Delaware and Georgetown, need to beat a marquee team to get into the tournament. Loyola finishes with Johns Hopkins on May 7, and the Blue Jays have a 30-0 all-time record against their Charles Street rivals. It's not as if Hopkins can look ahead to Loyola, either. Over nine days, the Blue Jays face Navy, Hofstra and Towson State.

Navy was supposed to be history after successive losses at Maryland and Georgetown, but its chances were revived with a last-minute goal that beat Towson State last week. It was the third one-goal loss for the Tigers. They can't afford another against UMBC tomorrow.

"I haven't seen a situation like this in a long time," said Towson State coach Carl Runk, whose 27 years with the Tigers is the longest tenure in Division I. "I think we're a pretty good lacrosse team, but look at what happened to us last year. We were ranked sixth or seventh when we played Hopkins. If we win, we're in the tournament. We lost, so we stayed home."

Runk is one of the 12 men who vote in the USILA poll, which has little influence on the eight-man NCAA committee that decides which teams will play in the tournament and the draw.

The committee gets opinions from an advisory group and weighs the customary factors -- records and strength of schedule. Right now, the committee won't even ponder the many possibilities.

"We were speculating during a conference call last week, but there's no sense dealing in what-ifs," said Willie Scroggs, an administrator and former coach at North Carolina who chairs the NCAA committee. "This year, after the top teams, all kinds of things could happen."

THE TOP 20

The top 20 teams in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Division I coaches' men's poll, which was released before No. 1 Loyola lost to No. 3 Syracuse on Tuesday:

Loyola

2. Princeton

3. Syracuse

4. Virginia

5. North Carolina

6. Johns Hopkins

7. Duke

8. Brown

9. Maryland

10. Towson State

11. Hofstra

(tie) Navy

13. Delaware

14. Georgetown

15. Massachusetts

16. Notre Dame

17. Dartmouth

18. Penn State

19. Harvard

20. Army

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