Hopkins women bid for upset

Without a stunner, Jays' numbers might not add up to NCAA spot

May 03, 2006|By KATHERINE DUNN | KATHERINE DUNN,SUN REPORTER

After Saturday's loss to No. 19 Penn State, the Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse team is barely clinging to hope for a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Hopkins' only hope may be to upset No. 4 Georgetown on Saturday.

"It's whether or not we go, in my opinion," said Blue Jays coach Janine Tucker, of the final regular-season game at 1 p.m. at Homewood Field.

The Blue Jays dropped from No. 8 to No. 13 in this week's Inside Lacrosse poll. While they have an 11-3 record, they have beaten only one top 10 team, and that was No. 8 Princeton way back on March 4.

"I just feel we do not have a big win to fall back on," Tucker said. "Many teams across the country have losses that didn't help them, but they also have solid wins. Right now, we need a big win to sort of solidify that we should be there."

The pairings for the 16-team NCAA field will be announced Monday night. Three teams have earned automatic bids for winning their regular-season conference titles - defending national champ and No. 1 Northwestern (American Lacrosse Conference), Georgetown (Big East) and Princeton (Ivy League)

The other five automatic bids will be decided this weekend, four in conference tournaments and one in Saturday's play-in game between Patriot League champ Holy Cross and Metro Atlantic champ LeMoyne.

Automatic qualifiers make up half the bracket, leaving only eight at-large bids. The Atlantic Coast Conference has too few teams to receive an automatic bid, so No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Duke, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 6 Maryland, which have the four strongest schedules in the nation according to LaxPower, could take half of the at-large spots.

That leaves four spaces for perhaps a half dozen teams that likely deserve consideration, including Johns Hopkins, No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 9 Cornell and No. 12 Dartmouth. No. 14 James Madison, along with Boston University and Richmond, both tied with Cornell at No. 9, could be in that mix, too, if they don't win their conference tournaments this weekend.

"That's where the bubble gets tricky," Tucker said. "If some of these teams don't win their conferences, it could be trouble for the rest of us that don't have any super-duper wins."

Tucker, who is on the Mid-Atlantic regional ranking committee for the NCAA tournament, said the main criteria for selection are the Rating Percentage Index (a formula for ranking teams), strength of schedule and winning percentage against common opponents. Much of the selection is computerized.

Maryland is likely to receive a bid, but beating Princeton tonight could improve the Terps' chances of landing in the top eight and playing at home in the first round.

"A lot of teams, Maryland included, have helped themselves and hurt themselves [in different selection categories]," Tucker said. "This year's tournament, it's going to be like splitting hairs."

Towson and UMBC don't have to worry about those decisions. Both can earn automatic bids with victories in conference tournaments.

The Tigers, who made their first trip to the NCAA tournament a year ago, are the defending Colonial Athletic Association champs, but they will have to get by regular-season champ and tournament host James Madison in the first round.

The Retrievers won the America East regular-season title despite playing the last month without first-year coach Courtney Martinez Connor, who is pregnant with her second child and on bed rest.

Hosting the America East tournament, the Retrievers face New Hampshire, the only conference team to beat them this season, at 11 a.m. Friday. Then they likely would have to beat Boston University for a second straight time Sunday at 3 p.m. to earn the automatic qualifier.

Loyola will not make the tournament field this season, although the Greyhounds had an outside chance of winning the Big East going into Saturday's game at Georgetown.

Had the Greyhounds beaten Georgetown and Syracuse beaten Notre Dame, it would have been possible for the Greyhounds to slip into the automatic berth on a tiebreaker. But Georgetown's 9-8 overtime win ended those hopes.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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