Step 1: Make Virginia top seed

7 seeds, 10 at-large berths are up for grabs

could state go 7-for-7?

Men's notebook

May 03, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

You don't have to be clairvoyant to know that the University of Virginia will be the No. 1 seed in the coming NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.

The top-ranked Cavaliers (13-0) are the only undefeated team in Division I, and their RPI ranking is tops as well. With the exception of 14-1 Hofstra, favored to win this week's Colonial Athletic Association tournament and grab one of the tournament's six automatic qualifiers, every other possible team in the field has lost at least twice, and numerous likely participants have four losses.

By the time the NCAA men's lacrosse committee unveils the 16-team bracket Sunday night, its members will have crunched all of the numbers and combinations necessary to seed the top eight teams and produce 10 at-large bids. Those factors include, in order of priority, each team's record against top five, top 10, top 15 and top 20 opponents based on the opponents' Rating Percentage Index (a strength-of-schedule measure), strength of schedule based on opponents' RPI and each team's RPI based on its entire Division I schedule.

Navy (Patriot League), Cornell (Ivy League) and Denver (Great Western) are automatic qualifiers after winning their respective conferences. The CAA, the America East and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference also will fill automatic qualifier slots this weekend.

Among the scenarios that bear watching is the possible inclusion of all seven teams from the state of Maryland. The most that have ever made the tournament is five, which happened in 1989 and 1994.

Right now, Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Navy are in.

Towson, the reigning CAA champ, plays visiting Delaware in tonight's conference tournament semifinal. The Tigers (8-5) most likely need to win tonight to have a chance at an at-large invitation. Assuming Hofstra advances as the tournament's top seed to Saturday's title game, Towson, which lost in overtime at Hofstra last month, would not be intimidated going to Long Island to get the automatic berth.

UMBC (8-4) went undefeated in the America East in the regular season, will host the league tournament this weekend and is playing its best lacrosse at an ideal time. A loss to Binghamton in Friday's semifinal could be damaging. Reaching Sunday's title game might be enough to get the Retrievers in via the at-large route. UMBC has not been to the tournament since 1999.

Loyola (6-5) could get an at-large bid and make the tournament for the first time in five seasons, but the Greyhounds most likely need to upset Johns Hopkins on Saturday. Loyola has beaten Georgetown, but its recent loss to Fairfield hurt.

Mount St. Mary's needs to win this weekend's MAAC tournament -- the Mount is seeded second -- to get an automatic spot and earn the right to get routed by Virginia in the first round.

The absence of Duke from this year's tournament creates another at-large spot that a "bubble" team could claim, a team such as UMBC, Towson or 9-4 UMass, which has struggled late in the season but is the only team to beat Hofstra.

Keep an eye on the teams that end up in the "Virginia group." They'll be glad to be included among the 16 teams, but they'll be less than thrilled at the prospect of facing the Cavaliers shortly down the road.

The team that draws the No. 8 seed -- it could be Navy -- will have to win a game over a formidable first-round opponent before presumably taking on the best team in the country. And whoever lands the fourth and fifth seeds knows that the Cavs probably will be waiting for one of them May 27. That's the day the national semifinals take place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Rallying Tigers

The Towson Tigers might not be the most talented team, but they know how to take a punch and give it back.

The Tigers nearly rallied from four goals down to force overtime in the final six minutes at Hopkins on Saturday, before falling, 11-10.

Towson has done that before. In a 9-6 loss to Maryland on March 11, the Tigers went scoreless for nearly 2 1/2 quarters before putting together a five-goal flurry to tie the game at 5 going into the fourth. And they overcame turnovers and penalties for one-goal decisions over Loyola, UMBC and Drexel.

"Their personality is it's a 60-minute game, and they're going to hang in there," Towson coach Tony Seaman said.

Cavs aim for 17-0

A year ago, Duke lost to Hopkins in the national title game but won 17 games to set a single-season NCAA record. No. 1 Virginia is in position to do what no team has done -- win a championship by going 17-0.

"I guess now, we have to [think about 17-0]. If we lose, we're going home," Virginia senior midfielder Matt Poskay said. "That's our next goal. That's what we want."

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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