Key Questions

College Lacrosse Preview

February 22, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff

1. How is Big Man?

A coaching career that began with the Towson freshmen in 1968 came to a close last Labor Day weekend when Dick Edell decided he wasn't healthy enough to tackle a 19th season at Maryland and resigned. Edell suffers from inclusion myopathy, a muscular condition that affects his mobility. He has an open invitation at the Terps' lacrosse office, but he'll spend more time this spring watching the Delaware women, who include his daughter, Erin.

"Do I miss what I did?" Edell said. "With all of my heart. But I've come to grips with it, and I wake up thankful for what I have."

2. Why will the U.S. men's team be so young Down Under?

Major League Lacrosse wants its players stateside in July, when the world championships will be held in Perth, Australia. The green U.S. team includes eight current collegians and six sophomores and juniors who will return to school in the fall: Duke midfielder Kevin Cassese; defensemen Mike Howley of Maryland and Ryan McClay of Cornell; and three attackmen, Bob Benson of Johns Hopkins, Princeton's Ryan Boyle and Syracuse's Mike Powell.

3. Does AQ spell a dirty word for the big boys?

To bring lacrosse in line with the rest of Division I, any pre-existing conference with six teams will automatically qualify its champion for the NCAA tournament. For the first time, the America East and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titlists will play in the tournament. Toss in the Patriot winner, and that's three fewer spots for traditional powers with stronger computer ratings.

4. Is bracket relief coming?

Maybe. A proposal to expand the Division I tournament from 12 to 16 teams is passing through the NCAA bureaucracy. Three hurdles remain, and next month it will be reviewed by a budget committee that shot down expansion once before. If the proposal is approved, there will be no first-round byes.

5. Any byproducts of the AQ system?

With an NCAA berth at the end of the rainbow, athletic departments at lower-profile programs will take the sport more seriously. Binghamton accelerated its upgrade from club status when it joined the America East, which allowed that league to keep its AQ. Seventy miles south of Syracuse, Towson Hall of Famer Ed Stephenson is starting from scratch with his first head coaching job. The Bearcats debut March 9, against Siena.

6. Did Massachusetts alter its schedule?

"No," coach Greg Cannella said. "If we change, we're admitting we were wrong. We feel the selection committee was wrong."

Despite beating everyone on their schedule except Georgetown and Syracuse - both one-goal losses - the Minutemen were shut out of the NCAA tournament last year. The committee made a statement about strength of schedule, but Cannella cited extenuating circumstances.

"Virginia won't return the trip here," Cannella said. "Duke was a good series, but it did nothing for us recruiting-wise. We don't play Loyola anymore, because we've got UMBC, Georgetown and Navy in our league, and another game in that region makes no sense."

7. Is the CAA the best league in the nation?

Not so fast. After luring Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Towson from the America East, the Colonial Athletic Association looks loaded, but associate member Loyola's commitment to the new league was always shaky. The Loyola administration has informed the CAA that if scheduling proposals conflict with its rivalries with Johns Hopkins and Syracuse, it will bolt after this season.

8. How is planning proceeding for Baltimore's first final four?

Just dandy. Loyola, Hopkins, Towson and UMBC are slicing up the division of labor for the 2003 and 2004 championship weekends, which will be held at the stadium formerly known as PSINet. The vision of the joint venture remains the same - once college lacrosse settles into the best stadium in the NFL, it will not want to spend another Memorial Day weekend on a college campus.

9. Will rookie goalies be a factor this season?

Can Kyle Campbell shoot? All four of last season's final four teams have new goalies. So do Maryland, Duke, UMBC and UMass. The Terps' Dan McCormick, a freshman from McLean, Va., had a great scrimmage against Syracuse. The Retrievers are just as high on Tim Flanagan, a redshirt junior who played at Archbishop Curley and CCBC-Essex.

10. Is the ACC ready to rebound?

For the first time in the 31-year history of the NCAA tournament, the semifinals did not include an ACC team. Duke has a stud in Kevin Cassese, Virginia will be improved and Maryland dropped its resistance and bought into Dave Cottle's philosophy. John Haus is still rebuilding North Carolina. None of the four is a lock to get to Rutgers.

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