Spent an hour talking to the Lacrosse Guru this morning, a loyal reader who fervently believes he’s going to get to see a Maryland-Johns Hopkins rematch in the first round of next month’s NCAA tournament.
It’s certainly a possibility, especially if there’s a particularly chalky final week of the regular season.
That, of course, is a big if.
Crazy things almost always happen. Just look at last year, when nearly every possible crazy thing did happen in the first weekend of May.
By my count, there’s 10 things that could seriously change the way the tournament selection committee goes about its business this weekend. One of them is not Duke losing to St. John’s; not that it won’t happen (it is unlikely), but Duke will snag a seed and St. John’s will have a losing season.
But these 10 other possibilities (listed in an unofficial order of likelihood) would throw a wrench into matters:
10. Cornell loses at home to Hobart. Sorry, just don’t see this one happening. The Big Red is an exceptionally tough out in Ithaca, and have won the last five games in the upstate New York series by an average of 8.2 goals. Cornell has a chance at the last seed (along with Loyola and Hofstra), and it’s hard to see it frittering away the opportunity.
9. Maryland loses at Yale. Yes, the Terps are up-and-down, but they do have a habit of efficiently dispatching the weaker teams on their schedule. Yale, at 5-7, qualifies. Maryland will win its 10th straight regular-season finale and improve to 12-2 against the Ivies under Dave Cottle, thus locking up an NCAA tournament at-large berth. If not, the Terps might just be done.
8. Notre Dame falls in the GWLL tournament. The unbeaten Fighting Irish are a tough team to gauge, simply because their strength of schedule is poor. A partial culprit? A weak GWLL. Both Ohio State and Denver had down years, and Notre Dame’s average victory margin against the other three teams in this weekend’s tournament was 6.7. Lots of bubble teams are rooting for the Irish, who should pull through and secure an NCAA berth.
7. Massachusetts loses at Rutgers. The Minutemen are facing a win-to-get-in deal, and have the good fortune of meeting a team that has lost its last three games by a combined 20 goals. Yes, it’s on the road, but UMass should secure the ECAC title by beating a scuffling 4-10 Scarlet Knights bunch that simply looked dreadful at Georgetown on Saturday.
6. Colgate wins at Syracuse. Yes, it has happened the last two years, so it’s not entirely out of the question. Then again, how often do the Orange fall three straight times to the same opponent? The Raiders would own a credible at-large resume with a victory; at the same time, they can turn in their equipment when they get back to Hamilton if they lose at the Dome. Colgate had its chance at the Patriot League tournament, and it is hard to envision the Raiders upending a Syracuse team in the hunt for a No. 1 seed.
5. UMBC loses in the America East tournament. The Retrievers badly damaged their at-large hopes when they lost at Hartford a couple weekends back. Still, they throttled all three teams in the America East tournament field and have home field throughout that event. UMBC should hold serve and make it into the field as a nasty opening opponent for Virginia or Hopkins. Either way, it’s just a matter of trading teams out if the Retrievers somehow lose.
4. Hofstra loses in the CAA tournament. The Pride should be in the field regardless of what happens, so their results are of great importance to everyone else. But they’ve already reamed Villanova and Drexel at home, and nipped Towson on the road in the regular season. Hofstra is the best the league has to offer, and should win the league’s automatic qualifier.
3. Loyola wins at Johns Hopkins. Even if Loyola doesn’t win the ECAC (it needs UMass to lose at Rutgers), it can still secure a home game in the NCAA tournament. How? Just roll down Charles Street and knock off Hopkins at Homewood. No big deal, right? The Greyhounds are dangerous (they pushed Syracuse earlier in the season), and have quite a bit to play for. So too do the Blue Jays, who will probably slide into the No. 4 or No. 5 spot with a victory.
2. Brown beats Princeton. The Bears lock up the Ivy League title with a win; if not, they’re stuck hoping they get the final spot in the field. Strength of schedule doesn’t favor them, and upending Cornell at home is a good but not golden victory. A lot of drama is extinguished if Brown takes care of business. Princeton, meanwhile, has some seeding at stake.
1. The Georgetown-Penn State tossup. Since this game was moved to the end of the schedule in 2005, the Hoyas have enjoyed only one laugher (2007) and actually lost twice. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have won five in a row to earn a mention on the periphery of the postseason chatter. Penn State won’t have the profile to get in with a victory, but it can destroy Georgetown’s chances. It’s anyone’s guess who wins, and it’s a good thing the committee won’t convene until after the game is over.