Expanded field for NCAAs shifts focus to 'bad losses'

Defeat against weak foe could hurt bid chances

Baltimore may suit ACC

College Lacrosse

April 29, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Two years ago, it meant nearly everything.

You want to make the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament as an at-large selection, you better have a win over a Top 10 team.

The 2002 Maryland Terrapins didn't, and despite nine wins and four one-goal losses, the Terps failed to make the tournament.

Two years later, with the field having been expanded from 12 to 16 teams since 2002, quality wins still loom large.

But what do losses mean?

Teams will find out in 10 days when the men's lacrosse committee, chaired by Mount St. Mary's athletic director Chappy Menninger, meets and selects 10 at-large teams to join the six automatic bids from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Patriot League, the Great Western Lacrosse League, the Ivy League, the Colonial Athletic Association and the America East Conference.

"I think this will be the first year that losses really matter," said Maryland coach Dave Cottle. "Bad losses will matter."

That doesn't bode well for No. 18 Army (9-4), which beat No. 11 Rutgers, but lost to unranked Colgate and didn't make the Patriot League tournament. Notre Dame (7-4) has won five straight, but the Irish were drilled by Loyola (3-7).

Top-ranked Johns Hopkins, Navy, Maryland, Syracuse, Georgetown and Ohio State (already clinched the Great Western bid) all have beaten teams currently in the Inside Lacrosse media poll's top 10 and are virtual locks, but after them, few teams have top-10 caliber wins

But what about North Carolina (7-4) and Princeton (7-3), neither of which has a marquee win?

The fate of North Carolina and Princeton might depend on how impressive the committee views wins over Duke and Virginia. Both teams won't go to the tournament because they are below .500, but you'll get very few arguments that they are not Top 20 teams.

"Traditionally you have a big win and you're in, but everything is so messy right now and everybody is beating everybody," said Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. "There are arguments for so many different teams that the selection committee is going to have to scrutinize to the smallest of things."

ACCs headed to Baltimore?

After two years as host, M&T Bank Stadium is losing the men's final four to Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field in 2005 and 2006, but could be gaining the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Davis Whitfield, the director of championships for the ACC, said the league is close to finalizing a deal to play the men's and women's conference tournaments for 2005 and 2006 at the Baltimore stadium.

"We're getting close, but at this point, we can't commit to anything because we don't have a signed agreement with M&T Bank Stadium," Whitfield said. "There's still some things we feel like we can work through. I think it has a good shot, but I wouldn't want to guarantee anything."

Some eyebrows raised

As usual, the All-ACC teams, released last week, left some people scratching their heads.

Maryland was particularly displeased with the omission of senior defensive midfielder Paul Gillette and grad student goalie Tim McGinnis.

Cottle considers Gillette, who is second in the ACC with 57 ground balls, his team's best player, while McGinnis was undefeated against ACC teams and led the league in goals-against average (7.39) and save percentage (.622).

Even stranger was the absence of North Carolina senior midfielder Kevin Frew, who leads the ACC in faceoff percentage (.626) and ground balls (8.45 a game). In the latter category, Frew leads the nation.

Duke freshman attackman Matt Danowski, who had 21 goals and 34 points and was the ACC Freshman of the Year, did not make the team, but teammates and midfielders Peter Lamade (16 points) and Matt Zash (13 points, .471 faceoff percentage) did.

Ground balls

Pietramala commented on whether sophomore midfielder and faceoff ace Greg Peyser, who was benched against Navy for violating team policy, will play Saturday against No. 10 Towson: "We're going to keep that within our family here." ... Saturday's Division III showdown in Salisbury between the top-ranked Sea Gulls and No. 2 Washington College marks the first time in 35 meetings that the teams enter the "War on the Shore" undefeated and ranked Nos. 1 and 2.

NCAA tournament field outlook

The 16-team NCAA tournament field, featuring 10 at-large bids and six automatic qualifiers, will be revealed May 10. Here's a look how it is taking shape.

Already in

Team (Record) Comment

Georgetown (8-2) Hoyas have beaten everyone they're supposed to

Johns Hopkins (9-1) Barring upset, Jays will be tourney's top seed

Maryland (10-2) Will the Terps go south or head north for quarters?

*Navy (10-2) The Mids don't need the Patriot automatic qualifier

*Ohio State (11-2) The GWLL champs would've been in regardless

Rutgers (8-3) Upset of Syracuse might as well count for three wins

Syracuse (8-2) Is the Orangemen's final four streak at risk? Probably not

In good shape

*Cornell (8-3) Win vs. Brown on Saturday would give Big Red the Ivy title

North Carolina (7-4) Heels nervous, but strength of schedule pushes them through

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