NCAA men's lacrosse field faces unsettled situation

Bracket unveiled today with few teams in clear


May 10, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The criteria for selecting the 16-team field for the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament, which begins this weekend and culminates Memorial Day at M&T Bank Stadium, have not changed.

Wins over highly ranked teams are important. Playing a tough schedule is vital. And losses, no matter to whom, don't factor into the equation at all.

But the task of Chappy Menninger, the chairman of the committee that will unveil the 16-team bracket this afternoon, is anything but routine.

Traditional tournament-caliber teams Duke, Hofstra, Loyola and Massachusetts have faltered. Virginia finished below .500 and will become the first team since 1972 to win the tournament one year and not get invited back the next.

And on a selection day, when confusion typically reigns, there are still plenty more questions than answers.

"I think there is going to be a tremendous difference from past years," said Menninger, the athletic director at Mount St. Mary's. "No. 1, last year's champion is not in the tournament. And then if you scan the scores, you'll see a plethora of one-goal games, overtime games - I think more than any other time. It's going to make our job even tougher."

Menninger, along with his committee members - Butler associate AD Jon Hind, Princeton coach Bill Tierney, Duke coach Mike Pressler and Stony Brook coach John Espey - met yesterday in Indianapolis. They'll convene again early today to complete the field, which combines six conference automatic qualifiers with 10 at-large selections.

The results of the committee's labor will be known 24 hours later than usual - the field is usually set on a Sunday - to give the committee one more day to consider the weekend's conference tournament results.

In determining the 10 at-large selections, the committee will consider three factors: how a team fared against teams in the top five, the second five, and so on; strength of schedule; and the team's Rating Percentage Index, a factor that measures a team's record, strength of schedule and opponents' strength of schedule.

Those are the primary factors for selecting at-large teams, but in a year when few teams distinguished themselves with huge wins except for Johns Hopkins, Navy, Maryland and Syracuse, the committee may have to delve into secondary factors, such as head-to-head records and results against common opponents.

"As far as the top 10 teams, [the big wins] have been sprinkled very lightly, so we'll have to dig a little deeper with RPI and strength of schedule," said Menninger, who also said seedings could be altered slightly for travel considerations.

This much is certain: Albany (America East) Cornell (Ivy League) Navy (Patriot League), Ohio State (Great Western Lacrosse League), Towson (Colonial Athletic Association) and Providence (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) captured their conferences' automatic bids.

Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Georgetown, North Carolina and Princeton are locks for at-large bids. The Blue Jays will begin the tournament - most likely against Providence - as the No. 1 seed for the third straight year.

Navy, Syracuse and Maryland will likely be seeded 2 through 4, but it's anybody's guess as to who will be where.

Syracuse has the best RPI of the three, but the Terps lead in strength of schedule.

On the NCAA bubble

Twelve of the 16 available spots in the NCAA tournament appear to be set. Here's a look at seven candidates for the four remaining spots:

Team Best wins Key losses Comment

Army (10-4) Rutgers, Colgate, Hobart Hurt by missing Pennsylvania league tourney?

Brown (9-5) Dartmouth Harvard, Looking like odd Pennsylvania team out in Ivy

Hobart (9-6) Cornell, Army Butler Upset of Cornell probably did it

Notre Dame (7-5) Denver, Loyola Plenty of chances Dartmouth for big wins

Pennsylvania (7-6) Cornell, Brown, Yale, Army Rewarded for Villanova tough schedule?

Rutgers (8-5) Syracuse, Army Syracuse win Dartmouth probably enough

Villanova (12-3) Delaware Pennsylvania Great story, but lacks quality wins

- Jeff Zrebiec

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