Lacrosse suspense goes to end

Last-day games affect NCAA tournament field

May 04, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The work of the committee that selects and seeds the NCAA basketball tournament is pretty much done heading into the final day of the regular season and conference tournaments. Without those exclamation points, however, debate is a waste for the NCAA men's lacrosse committee.

"People really don't understand the process," Navy coach Richie Meade said. "It may very well be that Duke and Hofstra are in, but nobody on the committee is thinking about any of that right now. You can't figure out any of this until the regular season is over."

No. 13 Navy has an extremely long shot at an at-large bid. In order to hear their name announced over the Blue Devils or Pride when the NCAA tournament's 12-team field is announced Sunday, Meade and the Midshipmen need several games to go their way tomorrow.

No. 11 Hofstra and No. 9 Towson are in better position, but the loser of tomorrow's America East championship game must avoid a serious stumble at Minnegan Stadium that might turn off the committee. Navy's power rating would be aided if No. 3 Johns Hopkins, a team it lost to by a goal, beats No. 7 Loyola. The Mids have the only win over No. 5 Georgetown, and if the Hoyas knock off No. 2 Syracuse. ...

The conjecture will come to a close tomorrow afternoon, when Orange coach John Desko leaves Georgetown's Harbin Field and drives to a hotel in Bethesda, where he and four other men will decide the makeup of the Division I tournament. In between penciling in Princeton as the No. 1 seed and filling in Patriot League champion Bucknell as the weakest of the four unseeded teams, they have plenty to discuss as they select seven at-large teams and seed all.

Polls aren't weighed, so ignore the USILA ranking that has dropped Virginia to No. 14. Neither are Web site computer ratings, like's, that pegs Massachusetts at No. 4. The Ratings Percentage Index generated by the NCAA differs, as it considers only the 10 toughest opponents on a team's schedule.

Whereas the men's basketball committee pays attention to a team's last 10 games, lacrosse isn't concerned with recency. The 7-6 Cavaliers don't have a significant win since March, but they beat Towson, Johns Hopkins and Maryland.

That's why Virginia, which hustled Conor Gill back from a hand injury to eke out a win over Butler Tuesday that made the Cavaliers eligible for consideration, is regarded as an at-large shoo-in while 11-2 Massachusetts, which has no top-10 wins, questions the wisdom of watering down its non-league schedule.

While UMass has added Georgetown and Navy through its ECAC affiliation, in the last two years it has dropped Duke, Loyola, Notre Dame and Virginia. Hofstra, conversely, beefed up its non-league schedule, as the Pride's first five games were all to teams ranked in the top eight in the coaches' poll. The season-opener with Hofstra remains Massachusetts' only win over a team that will likely make the field; one is rarely enough to merit an at-large bid.

Besides Desko, the committee includes Virginia's Dom Starsia and Air Force's Fred Acee, and two athletic directors, Chappy Menninger of Mount St. Mary's and Hofstra's Harry Royle. New to the committee, Menninger will bring a fresh perspective to a group that has mandated that quality wins -- and losses -- determine at-large berths and seeds.

"If we've learned anything from the NCAA the last few years, it's the importance of strength of schedule," Loyola coach Dave Cottle said. "Even more relevant, is your record against the Top 10."

Ask Georgetown. The Hoyas went 11-2 last year, but their strength of schedule didn't impress the NCAA and they were unseeded.

Head-to-head competition is one of the six criteria considered by the committee, which could end up chasing its tail. Bucknell beat North Carolina, which is No. 16 in both the USILA poll and the ratings. North Carolina beat Virginia. Virginia beat Johns Hopkins. Hopkins beat Syracuse. Syracuse beat Princeton.

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