NCAA first-round victories no easy feat for several seeded teams

Four favorites trail in first quarter or at halftime before rallying to win

May 16, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

A week after the bracket for the NCAA tournament was revealed, the first-round outcomes appeared to validate the selection committee's seeding decisions.

Seven of the eight seeded teams emerged victorious this past weekend, and Maryland's 13-6 rout of No. 8 seed North Carolina isn't considered an upset in many corners.

But four of the favorites found themselves trailing in the first quarter or at halftime.

No. 6 Denver fell into a 7-5 hole against Villanova at intermission; Bucknell led No. 7 seed Virginia 4-1 by the end of the first quarter; and Hartford and Hofstra took leads of 3-1 and 2-0 against No. 2 seed Cornell and No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins, respectively.

Even top seed Syracuse led just 2-1 after the first quarter against Siena, and No. 5 seed Duke allowed Delaware to trim a six-goal deficit to a two at halftime.

"The theme was close games at halftime, and then adjustments and superior talent came through in the second half," ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-America goalie Quint Kessenich said. "That was the theme, and the reason for that, to me, was that the teams between nine and 16 are very talented. They were excited and amped up to play, and they came out swinging. When the favored team dealt with that first flurry and settled down, they made their adjustments, found their strides, and then got rolling. In all those cases, you saw those teams in the second half play their best game and the emotion was taken out of the equation."

Many of the programs that advanced to the quarterfinals are familiar sights at this stage of the tournament. Syracuse and Virginia (29th quarterfinal), Johns Hopkins (20th in past 21 years) and Maryland (14th) lead the way; only Denver is a rookie at this point of the tournament.

Kessenich said the dominance of the traditional powers has diluted talk of parity.

"Parity exists between teams 12 to 35 now," he said. "We could see upsets of the top teams, but 12 to 35 is absolute chaos. When a team like Siena can beat Rutgers, or Robert Morris can beat Bucknell, there's not much difference between teams 12 to 35. I still think this quarterfinal group has earned its separation from the pack, but beyond them, teams like Colgate and Harvard that didn't get into the tournament are at equal quality with the teams that lost this weekend."

Two Terps have surgery

After Maryland's thumping of North Carolina on Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C., Terps coach John Tillman said that both senior attackman Grant Catalino (broken hand) and junior midfielder Joe Cummings (right arm), a Loyola High alum, underwent recent surgeries for their injuries.

"I think our MVP might be Amelia Sesma, our trainer," Tillman said. "Those guys both had surgery in the last two weeks and it was up to game time to figure out whether Grant was going to play, and we were lucky to have him. So that was a big, big thing."

Virginia's R. Bratton in limbo

The status of Virginia senior midfielder Rhamel Bratton remains uncertain as the Cavaliers prepare for Sunday's a quarterfinal game against Cornell.

Bratton sat out the team's wins against Penn in the regular-season finale and Bucknell in the first round after the program suspended him indefinitely. His twin brother, Shamel, was dismissed from the team April 29.

"It's an ongoing discussion, and in a day or two, we'll probably have that figured out," coach Dom Starsia said Monday of Bratton, who has 17 goals and five assists this season.

Tewaaraton finalists named

The five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, given annually to the top college player, are Syracuse senior goalkeeper John Galloway, Orange senior long-stick midfielder Joel White, Army senior attackman Jeremy Boltus, Cornell junior attackman Rob Pannell and Virginia junior attackman Steele Stanwick (Loyola).

Several ESPN analysts — Kessenich, former Syracuse All-America midfielder Paul Carcaterra and ex-Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon — have said Pannell, who finished the regular season as the only player in Division I averaging more than five points (5.47) and ranked second in assists per game (3.00) and ninth in goals per game (2.47), is the front-runner.

"To me, the award runs through Rob Pannell," Kessenich said. "It's his for the taking. Steele Stanwick is maybe making a late run now, although Virginia would need to make the national championship game. And then John Galloway, if Syracuse runs the table and John Galloway stands on his head, I could make an argument for him. But to me, Rob Pannell, you may as well just start engraving his name on the trophy with what he's done this year."

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