Who's Number Six?
That's the pertinent question in college lacrosse, as the last of the six at-large berths to the Division I tournament will be the sticking point for the NCAA men's lacrosse committee. It will announce the 12-team field tonight, along with pairings in Division II and III.
The Division I field will expand to 16 teams next season, a year too late for some quality teams that could have contended this year.
The perennial powers will probably exhale a sigh of relief if Maryland is not included. All four of its losses came by one goal, including an overtime setback at No. 1 Johns Hopkins, but the Terps lack a quality win - one over a team that is a lock to make the field - that other contenders have on their resume.
Six men gathered at a Bethesda hotel last night to discuss the matter. Phil Buttafuoco, commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, is the chairman of the NCAA committee, and its Division I members include two athletic directors, Chappy Menninger of Mount St. Mary's and Hofstra's Harry Royle, and three coaches: Air Force's Fred Acee, Syracuse's John Desko and Duke's Mike Pressler.
Pressler will have to recuse himself from the deliberation over the final at-large berth, as his team is one of four considered to have a shot.
The top four seeds, which will receive first-round byes, figure to be Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, automatic qualifier Princeton and Virginia. Georgetown and Hofstra, which handled Duke and North Carolina at the end of a nine-game winning streak, have probably locked up the fourth and fifth at-large berths.
Cornell, Duke, Loyola and Maryland are possibilities for the last at-large berth. Cornell beat Syracuse, and Duke beat Virginia, albeit in its second crack at the Cavaliers. Loyola coach Bill Dirrigl contends that his team should be chosen over Duke and even Hofstra, since it beat those teams in March. The Greyhounds have lost to Hopkins, No. 2 Syracuse and No. 5 Georgetown, but they've got the biggest black mark in the bunch, a loss at 5-8 Butler.
"We figure that there's one spot between Cornell, Duke and us," said Loyola senior Mike Sullivan. "Cornell beat Syracuse and we beat Hofstra, but Cornell lost to Brown and we beat Brown."
Maryland does not have a win over a Top 10 team. A March 9 victory over Towson seemed pivotal, but lost value as the Tigers dropped all of their big games.
"If you look back, all we had to do is win one of those games and we are not even in this scenario," said Mike Mollot, one of Maryland's leaders. "Three of the games were on overtime goals. If we would have gotten just one more goal. If, if, if."
In addition to Princeton, the roll of six automatic qualifiers includes Massachusetts, the ECAC champion; Fairfield, the Great Western winner; Stony Brook, the America East tournament titlist; and Manhattan, which beat Mount St. Mary's in the Metro Atlantic tournament final.
Army, Bucknell and Hobart finished in a three-way tie atop the Patriot League, but Hobart, with the higher ratings percentage index as determined by the NCAA, will get in.