The Washington Times - May 1, 2009, 01:04PM

The question was a simple one for Virginia lacrosse coach Dom Starsia, whose team has entered final exams and won’t bother with a game this weekend to close out the regular season.

Given where the Cavaliers are at )13-2, losers of two of their last three), it’s probably safe to assume they’ll be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

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Starsia wasn’t going to argue. Well, maybe just a little.

“We’re in a funny place,” he said. “We are a little chafed at how we feel and how we’ve played recently. But as a former member of the committee and knowing what the selection process is, it as likely we’ll be the first seed as anything.”

That’s because Virginia’s RPI/strength of schedule numbers will trump anyone not named Duke or Johns Hopkins. And realistically, those numbers might be downgraded a bit (the RPI in particular) simply because people have realized a 15-game sample just isn’t enough to come up with a fair metric.

(Just think about how valid basketball RPI data is on about Jan. 10, and that’s what you’re looking at here).

Anyway, the Cavaliers beat Syracuse on the road. They beat Hopkins on the road. They beat North Carolina in a neutral setting. They clobbered Cornell at home. They edged Maryland at home. All have to be considered likely tournament teams.

That’s a lot of good victories, including three money wins outside of Charlottesville. Duke, the other legitimate contender for a No. 1 seed, own a pair of victories over Virginia and North Carolina – all of them within 10 miles of Durham.

Still, there is that eyeball test, and the Cavaliers haven’t looked good down the stretch. The seven-overtime defeat of Maryland could have been a loss. The North Carolina win was by a goal.

And the two losses to Duke sandwich an uninspiring defeat of Dartmouth, during which the Cavaliers played one good quarter to secure a lopsided win that was nowhere near as good as the 13-6 score indicated.

“I don’t think we feel like the first seed,” Starsia said. “When you put it down on paper and look at it dispassionately, it’s hard to put all these other teams ahead of us. Frankly, we might be better served not being No. 1. I’m not going to lose sleep over it one way or the other. But when you consider the body of work, you can make the case we might be the No. 1.”

Certainly it could go one way or the other. But from the looks of things, the Cavaliers will rightfully earn a top-two seed – and a spot as far away from Duke on the bracket as possible.

Patrick Stevens