Maryland men deserved home playoff game

May 09, 2011|By Mike Preston

University of Maryland lacrosse coach John Tillman has a reputation of being positive, and it was never more evident than on Sunday night after the NCAA Division I 16 team-field was announced.

Maryland should have been one of the top eight seeded teams and hosting a first-round game. Instead, they have to travel to No. 8 North Carolina, a team they've already played twice.

That was a mild surprise because in the past the selection committee has tried to avoid league rematches in the opening round. Even more startling was that Denver (13-2) was the No. 6 seed and Virginia (9-5) was No. 7.

Denver?

The selection committee uses a lot of criteria in choosing the field such as strength of schedule, RPI, quality wins, head-to-head competition and travel. But the Pioneers had only one quality win all season — against Duke — and they lost to Syracuse and Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, Maryland plays in the toughest conference in college lacrosse and also plays Johns Hopkins and Navy as well as local rivals Towson and UMBC.

There a concerted effort across the country to spread the sport of lacrosse, but this was an injustice.

And how about Virginia?

Sure, they play in the ACC with Maryland, but the Cavaliers lost three of their last five games, including 12-7 to Maryland in a contest that wasn't close. Also, did the selection committee forget that Maryland was the ACC tournament champion, ahead of Duke, Virginia and North Carolina?

"We seem to have rallied on the road," said Tillman, trying to be optimistic. "I think that's going to be our approach. We're going to be together, and we've got a chance to spend some more time together. And I think when you're on the road, you have everybody in one area, in one place, and they can build some camaraderie."

Sometimes, Tillman is too nice.

Denver gets home game

Denver will host Villanova (11-4) Sunday and become the first school west of the Mississippi River to host a first-round game in the NCAA tournament.

While the game is spreading, it just goes to show that the good old boy network in lacrosse still exists with former Hopkins assistant and long-time Princeton coach Bill Tierney getting to play a home game with his new team in Denver.

"It really is good for the game of lacrosse to get Denver an opportunity to host out in the West for the first time," said Dermot Coll, associate athletic director at Air Force, who also chairs the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse selection committee. "It was pretty unique as we went through it.

"We have a two-flight guideline for the tournament and try to do no more than two flights in the first round. And we knew that with Notre Dame and Denver in the mix that we were going to have two flights right off the bat. It was a tough decision to do that, but Denver has certainly earned the right to host a home game. With only two losses and both to top-five teams in the RPI, it'll be great for Denver to get Villanova out there and host a game."

Tierney said: "As lacrosse continues to grow from east to west, we appreciate the opportunity to be a part of another 'first' in our sport. Our players, staff and university are looking forward to hosting Villanova, and we hope to show the lacrosse world what a special place Denver is."

UM's Cummings, Catalino to play?

Maryland probably dropped out of the top eight seeds after losing 10-8 to Colgate Saturday. The Terps were without their top two scorers, senior attackman Grant Catalino and junior midfielder Joe Cummings.

Both have 24 goals this season, and both are suffering from broken bones in their hands. Tillman has yet to declare if either will play against Carolina, but you can pencil Cummings in, and unless Catalino is in a full body cast, he will also attempt to play.

Clear path for Hopkins?

No. 3 Hopkins seems to have the easier draw of the top eight teams as far as getting to the final four.

The Blue Jays don't have another traditional favorite in their bracket. Hopkins plays Hofstra (13-2) Saturday before meeting the winner of the Villanova-Denver game the following week. Unlike Denver, which has one quality win, Villanova and Hofstra have none.

Maryland and North Carolina have the toughest draw. They split in two games earlier this season, and the winner Sunday most likely will face top-seeded Syracuse in the second round. Siena (13-4) is the Orange's first-round opponent.

UNC freshmen hitting wall?

The Tar Heels are playing six or seven freshmen regularly in the starting lineup, and a key for them will be how well the youngsters handle the postseason.

Freshmen usually hit the "proverbial wall" near this point as far as fatigue from the season.

"We've handled it well, and a lot of it has to do with treatment," said North Carolina faceoff specialist R.G. Keenan, a freshman. "Most of us take ice baths, and we believe they work. We continue to get other treatments as far as massages for our backs and legs. Plus, our coaches know when it's time to push off and when to ease off. We'll be OK."

Salisbury running it up?

It was strange seeing Salisbury All-American midfielder Sam Bradman still in the game midway in the fourth quarter Saturday with the Sea Gulls having such a big league in an eventual 17-3 win against Washington.

Bradman was still firing away with 7 minutes, 58 second left in the contest. Maybe Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman was trying to get Bradman more playing time because Bradman had missed substantial time earlier in the season with a concussion and leg injury.

Or maybe he was trying to run up the score on rival Washington. Regardless, Bradman played well and has regained his form from a year ago.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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