Terps' bubble bursts

Navy in

No. 1 Loyola slated to meet winner of Princeton-Syracuse

May 10, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Did anyone hear the "Twilight Zone" theme song playing in the background of yesterday's NCAA lacrosse selection show?

It would have been appropriate. The draw for the final NCAA men's lacrosse tournament of the millennium provided a series of bizarre seeding twists and unexpected pairings, prompting several questions about the selection criteria.

Princeton matched up with Syracuse in the first round? Maryland shunned by the selection committee for the first time in nine years?

Navy crashing the postseason party with a surprise invitation, becoming only the fourth team in history to make the tournament with a 7-6 record or worse? Delaware and Hofstra seeded ahead of Syracuse and Princeton?

"There's nothing to this field that makes sense to me from who's in it to where they're seeded," Loyola coach Dave Cottle said. "That's the truth of it."

Let's start at the top with No. 1 Loyola, the only undefeated team as well as the lone school with fewer than two losses. The Greyhounds (12-0) were rewarded with a quarterfinal date with the first-round winner of Syracuse and Princeton, two teams that have combined to win the past seven national championships.

If Princeton wins, Loyola will need to defeat the three-time defending champion Tigers at Princeton to advance to the Final Four. If Syracuse wins, the Greyhounds will have to beat the Orangemen, who have appeared in an unprecedented 16 straight Final Fours.

The announcement angered many of the Greyhounds, who are 5-0 against the tournament field.

"To be honest, we had a great regular season and deserve a better fate," Cottle said. "The good news is that either Princeton or Syracuse will be gone after the first round. The bad news is we have to play one of them."

Now shift down to the bottom of the draw, where Navy (7-6) grabbed the final at-large bid, bumping out Maryland (9-5).

Navy coach Richie Meade spent yesterday afternoon watching the national junior college tournament in Arnold, before saying to his wife 15 minutes before the tournament selection show would begin, "Maybe we should go home and watch this thing."

The Midshipmen, who lost to the Terrapins by a goal in the regular season, slipped into their first NCAA field since 1994 on the strength of an overtime victory over Georgetown. That win was magnified when the Hoyas beat Syracuse on Saturday, delivering Navy a victory over a No. 5 seed.

In the first round, the Midshipmen will face Hofstra, which beat them by a goal on April 16.

"The committee was looking for teams to win their way into the tournament," said Joe Boylan, Loyola athletic director and chairman of the NCAA lacrosse committee. "Head-to-head was an issue. But you boil it down and say who the teams' wins were over. Syracuse's win over Virginia was the biggest win. The next best win was Navy's win over Georgetown. By 4 p.m. [Saturday], that had a major impact."

Maryland, which gathered as a team for the selection show, turned off the television as soon as Navy was announced as one of the tournament teams. It ended the Terrapins' consecutive playoff appearances at eight -- the third-longest active streak.

Maryland appeared to be a tournament lock.

The Terrapins had the head-to-head win over Navy in their favor. They had a 2-1 record against the other bubble teams -- UMBC, Navy and Penn State -- while the Midshipmen were 0-2 vs. this group. Plus, they had just one loss to a team outside the tournament's top four seeds.

Yet Maryland's loss to UMBC combined with Georgetown's upset of Syracuse on the last day of regular season sealed the committee's decision.

As a result, Navy gained a berth and UMBC will see No. 6 Delaware in the first round. And the Terrapins, national runners-up three of the past four years, will sit home.

"A lot of heads dropped," Maryland coach Dick Edell said about his team's initial reaction. "We had the opportunity to control our own destiny and we didn't, bottom line."

In Division III, Washington College and Salisbury State received first-round byes and will play host to quarterfinal games on Saturday. The defending champion Shoremen (12-2) will meet the Middlebury-Oneonta State winner, and the Sea Gulls (14-1) will face the winner of Hampden-Sydney and Lynchburg.

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