Duke in, Hofstra, Loyola, Terps out in NCAA lacrosse

Hopkins gets top seed for first time since 1995

College Lacrosse

May 06, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The first response to the inclusion of Duke in the NCAA lacrosse tournament is to howl that coach Mike Pressler's presence on the men's lacrosse committee was the decisive factor in the Blue Devils' controversial selection.

That knee-jerk reaction doesn't hold up, however, because the group that selected the six at-large teams and seeded the field also included Harry Royle. He's the athletic director at Hofstra, the Long Island, N.Y., school that most bracket predictions had penned into the field, but which instead missed out on an at-large berth, along with Loyola and Maryland, when the Division I bids were announced yesterday.

No. 1 Johns Hopkins was awarded the top seed for the first time since 1995. The Blue Jays have to win one game at Homewood Field, on May 19 (noon), against eighth-seeded Massachusetts or Great Western champion Fairfield, to advance to the final four at Rutgers over Memorial Day weekend. If form holds, Hopkins' foe in the NCAA semifinals May 25 would be defending champion Princeton, the fourth seed.

For the first time since 1985, when the field was limited to eight, the state of Maryland will have just one team in the Division I tournament. The NCAA forced men's lacrosse to award automatic berths to qualified conferences, which trimmed at-large spots to six. Hopkins, Syracuse, Virginia and Georgetown were selected as expected, but sixth-seeded Cornell and seventh-seeded Duke, the last team chosen, got in over Hofstra (11-3).

"Hofstra deserved to make the tournament," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "How can they not? It's ridiculous. It's a team that played well at the end of the season, and it beat two ACC schools in a row. It's a shame Hofstra didn't get in."

Hofstra is ranked above Duke in both the coaches and media polls. In the NCAA's ratings percentage index, the Flying Dutchmen were No. 7 and Duke No. 9. On April 26, Hofstra beat the Blue Devils, 14-6, then beat North Carolina to finish the season with a nine-game winning streak.

"We're surprised," Hofstra coach John Danowski said. "I don't know what to say. Somebody's going to lose out every year. Last year, it was Massachusetts. This year, it's us. Our kids did the best they could do. They haven't lost since March 16, but I told them when we practiced Friday that there was no guarantee.

"With this whole `big win' factor, when the ACC gets another shot at each other, they've got a good thing going. To me, the message is to start playing home and home with the top four teams. It makes sense just to schedule the top four, five guys, and play them twice."

Duke's 7-6 record came against one of the top schedules in the nation. In effect, the Blue Devils played their way into the NCAAs when they used the home-field advantage to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, where they beat Maryland in overtime for a second time and avenged a five-goal loss to Virginia with a 14-13 win.

Critics outside the ACC contend the four-team tournament is a no-lose proposition, as it beefs up everyone's strength of schedule.

"We evaluated four teams for the final two spots," said Phil Buttafuoco, the chairman of the men's lacrosse committee. "Hofstra had what was the worst strength of schedule of the four. It also did not have a win against a top-five team in the country. When you evaluate Hofstra against Cornell, Duke and Yale, all three of those have wins against a top-five team. Hofstra did not."

Buttafuoco said Loyola (9-4) had the worst strength of schedule among the teams that were considered for the final at-large berths.

"We had ample opportunity," Greyhound coach Bill Dirrigl said. "I'm disappointed that we don't have a chance to play for the national championship. We have to work hard to make sure we have a chance next year."

The Terps' Cottle, who did not complain about his own team (9-4) being excluded, contended that the RPI - which gave Hobart the nod over Army and Bucknell in the Patriot League - and the selection process are flawed.

"Big wins are a factor, but it doesn't seem like losses matter," he said. "In the NFL, if you beat the Super Bowl champion but go 1-5 in your division, you're not going to make the playoffs. The significant win thing has gotten us all in at one time, and gotten us all out."

Men's schedule

Division II

May 18

Semifinals

(Times TBA) North Region LeMoyne at New York Tech South Region St. Andrews at Limestone

Division III

Wednesday

First round

(Times TBA)

North Region

Western New England College at Ithaca Clarkson at Cortland Eastern Connecticut State at Whittier New England College at Middlebury

South Region

Stevens Tech at Gettysburg Salisbury at Hampden-Sydney Widener at Washington & Lee Cabrini at Washington

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