May 9, 2010

NCAA Division I Men's  Bracket Breakdown:
Urick, Hoyas Smarting Again

by Patrick Stevens | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Lacking a signature win, Andrew Brancaccio and Georgetown were left out of the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

© Kevin P. Tucker

Hosting what will probably the most-watched NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament first-round game in history,

Virginia has earned the top seed and will play on despite the murder of women's player Yeardley Love allegedly at the hands of its own George Huguely

Here's a more in-depth breakdown of the bracket.

First-Round Games (May 15)

Winners meet in Stony Brook, N.Y.

No. 1 Virginia vs. Mount St. Mary's (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
No. 8 Stony Brook vs. Denver (Saturday, 5 p.m.)

Winners meet in Princeton, N.J.

No. 4 North Carolina vs. Delaware (Sunday, 5 p.m.)
No. 5 Duke vs. Johns Hopkins (Saturday, noon)

Winners meet in Princeton, N.J.

No. 3 Maryland vs. Hofstra (Saturday, noon)
No. 6 Princeton vs. Notre Dame (Sunday, 2:30 p.m.)

Winners meet in Stony Brook, N.Y.

No. 2 Syracuse vs. Army (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.)
No. 7 Cornell vs. Loyola (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)

LAST TEAM IN

Hofstra

The Pride sat back for the last week and watched the rest of the field wreck itself. Loyola lost twice. Drexel and Massachusetts bowed out in the first round of the CAA tournament. Brown and Yale did the same in the Ivy tourney. In the end, Seth Tierney's team earned a ticket to College Park on the strength of an early-season victory against Johns Hopkins. That was enough to make up for an ugly loss to Penn State and earn the Pride its fourth berth in five years. Sure, Hofstra didn't make the CAA tournament, but this isn't unprecedented; Army reached the 2004 tournament despite not qualifying for the Patriot's first postseason event.

FIRST TEAM OUT

Georgetown

The Hoyas fell into a trap similar to Loyola last year -- a strong RPI (10) and a sound strength of schedule (12). But the Hoyas didn't snag a truly notable victory along the way, and it would seem that's what vaulted Hofstra (beat Johns Hopkins), Loyola (beat Georgetown) and Notre Dame (beat Duke) into the field.

SNUBBED?

Georgetown

Undoubtedly, that would be the Hoyas, who missed the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. The most vexing situation for Georgetown was its victory over Notre Dame -- as well as defeats of Villanova and Rutgers, teams the Fighting Irish lost to -- and still
sitting on the outside in favor of its Big East brethren.

The committee's decision also had coach Dave Urick thinking of two years ago, when the Hoyas beat Duke in the regular season but was nonetheless excluded from the tournament. Quality wins, it would seem, meant more this year than then.

"I think the consistency or lack of consistency is the thing that is most difficult to deal with," Urick said. "Our RPI, it was my understanding it was very good, and they selected a team that had we had a conference tournament, Notre Dame would not have been in a tournament. Notre Dame has losses to two teams we beat. Head to head, we beat Notre Dame. It's disappointing to say the least. I feel most sympathetic to our seniors. I think these kids deserved a better result."

BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCHUP

Cornell-Loyola

No other game in the first weekend features a pair of teams that remained entrenched in the top 10 for nearly the entire season.

Cornell shared the Ivy League regular-season crown and forced Princeton to overtime before losing the conference final on Sunday. Meanwhile, Loyola started 9-2 before losses to Denver and Johns Hopkins to finish the season.

Best of all, the teams are fairly familiar. They scrimmaged nearly every year in the latter half of the last decade, though opted not to this year since Loyola was usually two or three weeks further along in practice than the Big Red.

"We know who Cornell is," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "We don't see them on a weekly basis, but you know they're right there in the Ivy League and right up at the top of the country. At attack, they've got [Rob] Pannell, who has 70 points. They've got some terrific
players and will pose challenges all over the field."

So, too, will Loyola, a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts team that finds unorthodox ways to score. One thing that will be crucial for the Greyhounds is the availability of defenseman Steve Layne, who missed Saturday's loss to Hopkins with a sprained knee.

UPSET WATCH

Duke-Johns Hopkins

Where has everyone heard this one before?

Maybe it was the 2005 title game? Or the 2007 title game? Or maybe the 2008 semifinals?

Duke looked, at least to some, somewhere between imposing and invulnerable in those games. And Hopkins still won all three.

"This is a different year," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "This is a completely different team and a much different situation as we go into it. The only similarity to our last game against Duke is that we're an underdog. I'm sure we're not going to get much of a chance in this one. But that's neither here nor there. The past is exactly that, the past."

Still, Hopkins uncorked its two best games of the season against Towson and Loyola to get back to .500 and into the tournament field. The Blue Jays are playing better, and won't be intimidated by the loaded Duke offense. This could be a fun one, for sure.

EASIEST TITLE ROUTE

Virginia

First-round opponent Mount St. Mary's did not beat a tournament team all season. If the seeds hold, the Cavaliers will meet Stony Brook -- a team whose lone victory over a postseason team came against Delaware -- in the quarterfinals.

The path to the final four is wide open for the top seed, assuming the tumult of the last week doesn't prove too great an issue.

FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS

1. How does Virginia respond?
The Cavaliers are a deserving No. 1 seed, having defeated six of the other seven seeded teams. But after the events of the last week -- midfielder George Huguely being charged with murder in connection with the death of women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love, and the death of coach Dom Starsia's father -- there is certainly a lot for Virginia to process.

There's no way to tell how the group will collectively handle the situation. Individually, some players will cope better than others. But whether it influences the course of on-field events -- for better or for worse -- remains to be seen.

2. Can Syracuse three-peat?
The Orange, whose only loss this season was an 11-10 setback at Virginia in early March, has the defense to win a third title in a row. Long pole Joel White and goalie John Galloway are both superb, and Syracuse always finds a way to get its offense working in May. Don't be too surprised if the Orange makes a victory lap on Memorial Day -- it's one of the things they do best.

3. Is this the year for a Carolina breakthrough?
Fourth-seeded North Carolina last made the NCAA tournament semifinals 17 years ago -- nearly half the life of an event that begins its 40th edition next weekend. The Tar Heels have fallen in five straight trips to the quarterfinals, including the last two years to Triangle rival
Duke. Guess who will be waiting in the quarters this year if the seeds hold? Yep, Duke.

North Carolina snapped an 11-game skid against the Blue Devils earlier this season, but first things first. The Tar Heels must contend with a feisty Delaware outfit before worrying about either Duke or Johns Hopkins. If Carolina makes it to M&T Bank Stadium, it will have earned
it.

4. Will Hofstra and Notre Dame support the committee's decision?
Two of the obvious bubble teams were Hofstra, which survived a harrowing week to earn a ticket to Maryland, and Notre Dame, which rode its early-season defeat of Duke right into the postseason. Now it's just a matter of making the selection committee's decision look good. Brown did just that last year, pushing Hopkins to overtime. If either Maryland or Princeton romps, there will be some folks on the Hilltop in D.C. even more frustrated than they are today.

5. Does Maryland have the goods to haul home its first title since 1975?
While Virginia and Syracuse seem like the favorites and Hopkins will take some attention just for slipping in, the Terrapins are a formidable No. 3 seed. Unlike some past editions of Maryland teams, this bunch is consistent and unlikely to simply give games away. Instead, anyone who knocks off the Terps will require a strong performance. That's not to say Maryland is invulnerable; Dave Cottle's team probably isn't as talented as Virginia, Syracuse and arguably Duke. But the Terps play well together, run a ton of midfielders to avoid weariness and have a stable veteran goalie in Brian Phipps who has the potential to get hot in May. That's a dangerous combination to possess entering the postseason.


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