Experience matters

Led by Hopkins, programs with strong histories have taken their usual place in the quarterfinals

NCAA men's tournament Analysis

May 13, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

So much for the upstarts.

Traditionalists can rejoice as storied men's lacrosse programs with rich histories in the NCAA tournament dominated the first-round games this past weekend.

Seven of the eight teams that advanced to the quarterfinals in Annapolis and Ithaca, N.Y., have been there before - with No. 5 seed Johns Hopkins leading the way with 36 quarterfinal appearances.

In addition to the Blue Jays, No. 7 seed Maryland (28 quarterfinals), No. 2 seed Virginia (27), No. 3 seed Syracuse (27), Navy (18), No. 1 seed Duke (nine) and No. 6 seed Notre Dame (four) advanced to the round of eight for the third time since 2000. Only Ohio State is breaking the seal with its first quarterfinal showing.

Colgate and UMBC were the most promising challengers to tradition, but the Patriot League champion Raiders, who qualified for their first tournament, lost to Notre Dame in overtime, 8-7. The America East champion Retrievers' bid for their second quarterfinal appearance could not escape Virginia, which won, 10-9.

The lack of upsets did not shock ESPN analyst and former Army coach Jack Emmer.

"I think the way the regular season goes, it's not very clear who should be the top-seeded teams," Emmer said, indirectly referring to the questions surrounding North Carolina's No. 4 seed. The Tar Heels were beaten by the Midshipmen, 8-7, on Saturday night.

"So when an unseeded team beats a seeded team, I don't think it's that much of an upset," Emmer said. "Navy is a fine team. Same with Ohio State [which routed No. 8 seed Cornell, 15-7]. ... They're upsets by the seeding, but there's not much difference between those teams."

Here are some more observations about the quarterfinals:

Rematches are in vogue

Half of the bracket - the four teams playing at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday - presents intriguing games involving teams that have met during the regular season.

At noon, Virginia (13-3) and Maryland (10-5) tangle to see who can win the rubber match in a series that was split earlier this spring. Three hours later, Johns Hopkins (9-5) will attempt to defeat Navy (10-5) for the 35th consecutive time in front of what will likely be a pro-Navy crowd.

"It's not lost on us where we're going, how well [the Midshipmen] are playing, how hard they played [Saturday] night against what I think is a pretty good North Carolina team," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "We've got our work cut out for us."

Lacrosse track meet?

Don't be surprised if the game between Duke (17-1) and Ohio State (11-5) turns into an offensive buffet.

The Blue Devils lead the country in scoring with 15.2 goals per game, and the Buckeyes are fourth with 13.1 per game.

But don't sleep on the defenses. Opponents are averaging just seven goals against Duke, and Ohio State is limiting opposing offenses to 8.2 per game.

"I think everybody has conceded that Duke is the best team in the country, and I agree with that," Emmer said. "But if this Ohio State team can play at the level they played at last week, I think they can give Duke a great run. And that's going to be the most entertaining game because both teams are going to go at each other."

`X' marks the spot

Perhaps the most intriguing individual matchup involves the senior faceoff specialists in the game between Syracuse (13-2) and Notre Dame (14-2). The Orange's Danny Brennan ranks No. 1 in the country in win percentage (.673 on 165 of 245 faceoffs), and the Irish's Taylor Clagett is No. 2 (.645 on 198 of 307 faceoffs).

Brennan and Clagett have been instrumental in their teams' success. Syracuse ranks second in the country in scoring with 13.9 goals per game, and Notre Dame is fifth with 12.3 per game.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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