Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

Former Johns Hopkins midfielder discusses, among other topics, the top seed in the NCAA tournament, the chances of Johns Hopkins and Lehigh getting first-round games at home and the paths for Cornell, Villanova and Syracuse to earn berths in the NCAA tournament

May 01, 2012|By Edward Lee

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon provided play by play for No. 13 Princeton’s 14-9 victory over No. 14 Cornell last Saturday and will offer analysis of the America East tournament final this Saturday. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via his account @Dixonlacrosse, opined on which team should be the top seed in the NCAA tournament, whether Johns Hopkins and Lehigh should get a seed and a first-round game at home, and what Cornell, Villanova and Syracuse have to do to stamp their tickets to the NCAA tournament.

Who deserves to be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament?

I think it’s an interesting question. Everybody has some positives on their resumes, and everybody has some negatives. I think when you look at UMass, which is the current No. 1 team, they can win the CAA [Colonial Athletic Association tournament] and go undefeated. But then you have to look at their strength of schedule which is somewhere in the mid-20s [25th according to Laxpower.com]. Their RPI is significant [second], but that strength of schedule could weigh them down. I always think of 2007 when Cornell was undefeated, and everybody thought, ‘Cornell’s going to be the No. 1 seed.’ But they were the No. 4 seed. Notre Dame, I think, will have an argument. Those guys have been playing some pretty good lacrosse. They have a decent strength of schedule at [No.] 11, and their RPI is [No.] 1. So you’ve got Notre Dame. Then you can also have Loyola if they win the ECAC [Eastern College Athletic Conference] tournament. Their strength of schedule [at 27th] will go up a little bit, and their RPI [at third] will be strong. But will the SOS [strength of schedule] be enough to warrant hat No. 1 seed. Then you have to start looking at your Dukes and your North Carolinas and your Hopkinses and Virginias. So what I’m trying to say is, it is wide open right now. I don’t think there’s any one definitive No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Based on Saturday’s 10-9 overtime win against No. 3 Loyola, has No. 8 Johns Hopkins cemented a seed and a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament?

If they don’t lose to Army [this Saturday]. I think that loss to Navy really hurt them in the NCAA metric criteria for the NCAA tournament. It dinged their RPI and that loss to Navy was their last game of the season. So I think if they beat Army at home on Saturday, Hopkins will definitely have a first-round home playoff game at Homewood Field. If they lose to Army, a lot will depend on what happens in conference tournaments and other action around the country. But if the teams that are supposed to win do win this week and weekend and Hopkins loses to Army, they could be on the road for the first round of the NCAA tournament.

By winning the Patriot League tournament and amassing a 14-2 record, has No. 12 Lehigh secured a seed and first-round game at home?

I do. That’s another team that took care of everything that was in front of them and now get their first ever NCAA tournament. I think Lehigh has played their way into a top-eight seed. But that’s just me. You’ve got North Carolina playing Michigan this weekend, Maryland at Colgate. Let’s say Maryland loses to Colgate again like they did last year. I think Maryland losing seals the deal for Lehigh to get a top-eight seed. When you look at a top-eight seed, you’re talking about UMass, Loyola, Virginia, Notre Dame, Hopkins, Duke. Then you’ve got Maryland, Lehigh, North Carolina and if Princeton wins the Ivy League [tournament] this weekend, I think they make a strong case to host a first-round playoff game. So I think Lehigh’s right around that [No.] 7 or 8 seed right now. If Maryland loses, they definitely get a home game in the first round. If Carolina beats Michigan, I don’t think you can give Carolina a home game and not Lehigh because of the head-to-head. [Lehigh defeated North Carolina, 9-8, on March 3.] When you look at the respective strength of schedules and RPIs, Lehigh right now has a stronger RPI [sixth vs. eighth]. Their strength of schedule really can’t match Carolina’s [29th vs. fifth], but I’m a big believer in head-to-head. Head-to-head has a lot of merit. Lehigh beat Carolina. So if all things remain equal, I think Lehigh has definitely given itself a chance to have a home game.

Do No. 14 Cornell, No. 16 Villanova and No. 17 Syracuse have to win their respective conference tournaments to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament?

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