April 24, 2009

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Ten to Watch: Conference Tournament Style

by Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

MD1: Patriot League Tournament (in Lewisburg, Pa., CBS College Sports)

Semifinal: No. 1 Bucknell vs. No. 4 Army - Friday, 3 p.m.
Semifinal: No. 2 Colgate vs. No. 3 Navy - Friday, 5:45 p.m.
Championship Game: Sunday, 3 p.m.

Hook: Remember when Navy ruled the Patriot League? Not so much anymore, and it's good for the sport that the rest of the league is pulling even on the field. Top-seeded Bucknell (6-0 PL) is the fourth team in four years to host the tournament, and it does so after a dramatic close to the regular season that saw fourth-seeded Army (2-4) claim that spot only after Lafayette obliged a tie-breaking formula and beat rival Lehigh by the necessary one goal - and one goal only - last week to send the Black Knights into the postseason. A few days earlier, Army rallied from a five-goal deficit to beat the Leopards. Third-seeded Navy (4-2) looks for revenge against second-seeded Colgate (5-1) in the other semifinal. To do so, the Mids must perform better against the Raiders' well-publicized duo of Brendan Corp and Kevin Colleluori - each of whom scored three goals in a 10-9 Colgate win in Annapolis.

If you want to see nerve-wracking lacrosse this weekend, then Lewisburg, Pa., is where you want to be. The Patriot League men’s championship features four really good teams that probably need to win the tournament to get to the NCAAs. Army needed a miracle, and got it, just to get in the conference tourney and now they’ll to win twice to keep playing. Army is only 6-8, but three losses came in overtime, including a double-overtime loss to No. 9 Hofstra. Host Bucknell is only 8-6 due to three one-goal losses, but went a perfect 6-0 in the league. Colgate also went through near misses early, falling by one to Duke and two to North Carolina, but has bounced back to finish the regular season 9-4. Navy has the best out-of-conference resume, with wins over Maryland and Georgetown, but its No. 11 coaches ranking is no guarantee of a spot without a league title in hand.

MD1: ACC Tournament (in Chapel Hill, N.C.)

Semifinal: No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 4 North Carolina - Friday, 5 p.m.
Semifinal: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Virginia - Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Championship Game: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.

Hook: Maryland must be breathing kind of heavy, don't you think? The Terps do have wins over North Carolina and Duke, which helped them earn the No. 1 seed, but a glance at RPI standings will reveal that they are not necessarily a shoe-in as an at-large participant. Another win over the Heels would do the trick, no? Speaking of UNC, will this be the platform on which it exorcises its ACC demons? For those keeping score at home, the Tar Heels have not won an ACC game since 2004. UVA will be out for blood tonight against the only team to knock it off its perch this year. But there may be no hotter team than Duke right now. Vintage ACC: locked, loaded, and totally unpredictable.

So we have a 1-in-4 chance of getting it right and a 3-in-4 chance of getting it wrong? Are we still either going to be 1-0 or 0-1? Dubious.

WD1: Atlantic-10 Tournament (in Philadelphia)

Semifinal: No. 1 Massachusetts vs. No. 4 George Washington - Friday, 1 p.m.
Semifinal: No. 2 Richmond vs. No. 3 St. Joseph's - Friday 3:30 p.m.
Championship Game: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Hook: It's been a heart-stopping campaign for the A-10, with seemingly every game down the stretch being contested down to the wire. Richmond has plenty of intrigue in its camp - what with longtime coach Sue Murphy being forced to resign amidst an 0-7 start and the discovery of an outside account providing funds to the team, a ceremonial figurehead and former soccer coach at the helm (kind of), lacrosse-savvy assistant Allison Nuzzi calling the shots on the field, and the Spiders' recovery to post a 5-2 mark in the A-10. They've won three of the last four A-10 titles.

WD1: Patriot League Tournament (in Hamilton, N.Y.)

Semifinal: No. 2 Lehigh vs. No. 3 Navy - Friday, 2 p.m.
Semifinal: No. 1 Colgate vs. No. 4 Bucknell - Friday, 5 p.m.
Championship Game: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Hook: Top-seeded Colgate (5-1 PL) hosts, but there's not much separation among the four participants, each of which won at least four league games. The Raiders will be tough to beat, boasting the league's highest-scoring offense (13.94 gpg), its defensive player of the year (Maddie Kearns) and coach of the year (Heather Bliss). Fourth-seeded Bucknell got off to a 4-0 league start but dropped its final two in the league and last four overall, including a 12-7 decision to Colgate. But if PL Goalkeeper of the Year Alyssa DeLorenz (just a sophomore) gets hot, the Bison will have a shot. Second-seeded Lehigh, the only PL team to knock off Colgate, beat third-seeded Navy in Annapolis during the regular season, 11-7. This matchup figures to involve more scoring. Mountain Hawk sophomore Lauren Dykstra was the PL Offensive Player of the Year with 4gpg, and Navy's Erin Rawlick is one of the nation's most complete threats, ranking fifth in the nation in points per game and seventh in assists per game.

WD1: ACC Tournament (in Blacksburg, Va.)

Semifinal: No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 4 Virginia - Friday, 4 p.m.
Semifinal: No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Duke - Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Championship Game: Sunday, 1 p.m. (Fox Sports Net)


Hook: Predictably, this six-team tournament is down to semifinal matchups of top-seeded Maryland (16-0 overall) vs. fourth-seeded Virginia (11-6) and second-seeded North Carolina (13-3) opposite third-seeded Duke (12-4). It's no secret the Cavaliers have struggled this season, but they could be rounding into form at just the right time following a near upset of Northwestern and a 13-5 drubbing of host Virginia Tech in the first round. Maryland won the regular-season matchup in Charlottesville going away, 17-11, but keep that in perspective - the Terps beat Virginia in the ‘08 regular season only to lose a rematch in the ACC final. The Blue Devils are glad they needed to wait just one week for their chance at a rematch against the Tar Heels, who won at Duke 9-7 last Friday to wrest away a first-round bye. UNC's play mirrors the surging temperatures expected in the Mid-Atlantic this weekend, as the Heels have won 10 of their last 11 games.

WD1: Big East Tournament (in Washington, D.C.)

Semifinal: No. 2 Syracuse vs. No. 3 Notre Dame - Friday, 5 p.m.
Semifinal: No. 1 Georgetown vs. No. 4 Louisville - Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Championship Game: Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS College Sports)

Hook: Fourth-seeded Louisville is the talk of the tournament, earning a postseason berth in its first Big East campaign, courtesy of a thrilling 13-12 victory over Loyola last week. The Cards will have their hands full with the top-seeded Hoyas, although they did give Georgetown a scare in a 15-11 loss on April 11. Syracuse-Notre Dame is the marquee matchup, a rematch of the Orange's thrilling 14-13 victory over the Fighting Irish on April 11 in which ND rallied from a 12-3 halftime deficit. Notre Dame's Jillian Byers leads the conference with 64 goals. Syracuse has won two straight conference championships, and four games in a row.

MD1: Notre Dame at Ohio State (in Ohio Stadium) - Saturday, 11 a.m.

Hook: A football matchup between these two would be a national event. Not quite in men's lacrosse, but expect a record crowd nonetheless for an NCAA regular-season game as these GWLL rivals meet in Ohio Stadium. The gate figure should be impressive, but so would a win by the Bucks (7-6) -- Notre Dame stands as the last unbeaten team at 12-0, yet somehow sits at No. 4 in the latest USILA coaches' poll. An OSU win and a Denver win over Air Force would give the unlikely Buckeyes the conference's regular-season crown.

Being in my traditional spot away from the top of the standings, I’m an obvious underdog to win this contest. So I’m taking the home ‘dogs in front of their big crowds in three men’s matchups. Why? Because big crowds fuel emotion in their squads, and when emotion eclipses logic, funny things can happen in sports. I like the Buckeyes to feed off of the 30,000-plus in the ‘Shoe. Massachusetts has won its last four against the Orange in Amherst and has too much to play for to lay down at the school’s football stadium, where the Minutemen hope to break their own attendance record. And I’ve been to Kibler Field when the Shoremen have appeared outmatched against Salisbury on paper, only to fight to the bitter end and then some.


MD3: No. 5 Salisbury at Washington College - Saturday, 1 p.m.

Hook: They aren't likely to suffer an emotional letdown against their archrivals, but the No. 5 Sea Gulls (14-3) could be at their most ripe for plucking in the War on the Shore in years. Unranked Washington College (9-5) hasn't taken home the Charles B. Clark Cup, given to the winner of this annual Eastern Shore of Maryland grudge match, since the cup's 2004 inception. The Shoremen have lost two straight and four of their last five outings and will need every bit of their home field advantage at contemporarily-cozy Kirby Stadium to pull off the upset.

The unthinkable almost happened in the Division III ranks this year – an NCAA Tournament without the Sea Gulls. After winning five of the past six national championships, Salisbury faced the very real possibility of missing the postseason for the first time in 22 years. But in a span of four days last week, the Gulls avenged two of their losses with wins over St. Mary’s and No. 1 Stevenson and claimed their league’s automatic berth for the 22-team championship field. The champ is back up off the canvas, but is there still some fight left? We’ll start finding out this weekend.

MD1: No. 3 Syracuse at No. 16 Massachusetts - Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (CBS College Sports)

Hook: UMass has been pushing all week to break its attendance record of 12,143 set in 1989. Apparently, the folks in Amherst think this is the game to do so. And why not? The two teams will play at McGuirk Stadium, UMass' football venue, the same place and same teams that set the scene in '89. This is also a pivotal game for the Minutemen, considering the ECAC could be a one-and-done conference. (UMass controls its destiny there, with an ensuing win over Rutgers ensuring them the conference title and automatic qualifier.) Syracuse holds a 27-8 lead in the all-time series, but the Minutemen have won the last four games played in Amherst.

WD1: No. 3 Penn at No. 1 Northwestern - Saturday, 7 p.m. Central

Hook: Hate. That's the hook. Hate. The enmity between these two teams reached fever pitch in the NCAA championship game, which Northwestern of course won, avenging its lone regular season loss in 2008. The Wildcats again come into this game unbeaten, although wounded, with Hilary Bowen trying to recover from a torn ACL in time for playoffs. A battle of wills should be expected. How patient can Northwestern be with Penn's possession-dominant approach? Can Penn pick up the pace enough to answer one of Northwestern's inevitable runs? Will Penn push NU into forced feeds and unnecessary turnovers? Can Morgan Lathrop continue in her run as arguably the nation's most underrated goalie? This is the game of the week, men or women.

I picked wrong in this game last year, but there’s no way the Wildcats drop it twice. They get up for Penn like they do for few other opponents after last season’s loss, and they’ve already had their traditional, late-season “Scared Straight” game when they eeked out an 11-10 win over Virginia.

 


Last Week 5-5 6-4 5-5
3-7 5-5 6-4
Overall 68-32
68-32 65-35
63-37 61-39 58-42
M: Patriot League Tourney
Bucknell
Bucknell
Colgate
Navy
Bucknell
Navy
M: ACC Tournament
Virginia
Virginia
Virginia
Virginia
Virginia
Virginia
W: Atlantic-10 Tournament
UMass
UMass
UMass
UMass
UMass
UMass
W: Patriot League Tourney
Colgate
Colgate
Colgate
Colgate
Navy
Navy
W: ACC Tournament
Maryland
Maryland
Maryland
Maryland
Maryland
Maryland
W: Big East Tournament
Georgetown
Georgetown
Georgetown
Syracuse
Syracuse
Georgetown
M: Notre Dame @ Ohio St.
Notre Dame
 Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Notre Dame
M: Salisbury @ WAC
Salisbury
Salisbury
Salisbury
Salisbury
WAC
Salisbury
M: Syracuse @ UMass
Syracuse
 Syracuse
Syracuse
Syracuse
UMass
Syracuse
W: Penn @ Northwestern
Northwestern
Northwestern
Northwestern
Northwestern
Northwestern
Penn

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