The Washington Times - May 6, 2012, 10:02AM

It looked like Saturday would carry plenty of weight in forecasting the NCAA lacrosse tournament field.

It did, just in an overlooked way.

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Stony Brook won the America East title game at home and remained in the bracket.

Syracuse completed its dominance of the Big East tournament and remained in the bracket.

Massachusetts wrapped up an unbeaten regular season in the Colonial final and denied plausible bid thief Drexel.

Johns Hopkins handled Army at home.

And Colgate won a toss-up game at home against Maryland that essentially ended any chance for the Terrapins to play a home game.

Those games, by themselves, probably caused only a flip of the No. 8 seed. That’s not chaotic in the slightest.

The most innocuous game of the day was North Carolina-Michigan. And the Tar Heels rather predictably rolled to a 19-5 victory, which was what was to be expected from a final four contender against a first-year Division I team.

But as a result of playing the 1-13 Wolverines, Carolina’s RPI fell from 8th to 11th (per LaxPower). That’s because opponents’ winning percentage is a major component of the RPI formula.

So that’s one less top-10 win for Virginia.

And two less top-10 wins for Duke.

And Carolina’s profile isn’t quite as strong, either.

So there was some juggling with the field, moreso because North Carolina simply played an overmatched team wrapping up its first Division I season than for any actual results.

Here’s the rundown (with full numbers coming in the afternoon projection after the Ivy and Metro Atlantic finals):

BRACKET PROJECTION

Annapolis

(1) ECAC/Loyola vs. AMERICA EAST/Stony Brook
(8) PATRIOT/Lehigh vs. Maryland

Loyola slides into the top spot ahead of Duke, but how much does it really matter in this balanced field? So long as those two teams are 1-2, there should be no complaints about either team. … Stony Brook wins the America East and will be the first team with a losing record to make the tournament since 2007 Providence. That should earn the Seawolves (7-9) a one-way ticket to the No. 1 seed – unless Canisius pulls off an upset in the Metro Atlantic final. … Lehigh edges Colgate for the last seeded slot. The Mountain Hawks hold slight advantages in RPI and strength of schedule, while the Raiders have an extra top-10 win (Maryland). North Carolina falling out of the top 10 helps Colgate, though the numbers are still tight enough that today’s games could push North Carolina ahead of Maryland as a collateral effect. Remember, North Carolina beat Ivy finalist Princeton back in March. … Maryland knew exactly what was at stake when it went to Colgate. It lost, and will almost assuredly be on the road next week. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Terps could be shipped to Virginia or North Carolina for the first round.

Chester, Pa.

(4) North Carolina vs. Denver
(5) COLONIAL/Massachusetts vs. BIG EAST/Syracuse

North Carolina owns the No. 1 strength of schedule and four top-10 wins (Johns Hopkins, Virginia, Maryland, Princeton), and three of those came away from Chapel Hill. Even with the crumbling RPI, the Tar Heels have earned a solid seed. … Denver’s defeat of Duke will give the Pioneers one of the last two at-large spots. It’s hard to imagine a team with an RPI of 13, a strength of schedule of 4 and a top-five win being excluded. … Massachusetts played a weak schedule to the point it didn’t face a top-10 opponent all year. But the unbeaten Minutemen nudge ahead of Virginia, whose lone top-10 win came against Maryland. … It was an unconventional route, but Syracuse is back in the tournament. Now can the Orange do anything? After teetering for much of the season, the Orange impressed in their last two games. Sounds a bit like 2010 Hopkins, doesn’t it? That didn’t end well for the Blue Jays.

Annapolis

(3) Johns Hopkins vs. Penn State
(6) Virginia vs. IVY/Princeton

Johns Hopkins is up to No. 3 in the RPI, and was a winner with North Carolina’s mathematical tumble out of the top 10. The Blue Jays will be hosting next weekend. … If not Penn State, then who? The Nittany Lions’ RPI (15) is fine, their schedule (No. 5) can’t be quibbled with and they own a top-5 win (Notre Dame). None of the other bubblers besides extreme longshots Villanova and Navy have even a top-10 win. Penn State’s profile will look better than Princeton’s as well should the Tigers fall in the Ivy final. … Virginia’s profile is evidence of what a weird year it’s been. The Cavaliers have defeated Cornell, North Carolina and Syracuse, and none of those count as top-10 wins. That will probably cost Virginia one seeding slot. … Princeton would be wise to beat Yale today. The Tigers will probably fall out of the top 10 of the RPI with a loss, their strength of schedule isn’t overwhelming (25th) and their best wins are against Cornell and Yale. The Ivy appears to be one-bid territory.

Chester, Pa.

(2) Duke vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Siena
(7) Notre Dame vs. Colgate

As mentioned earlier, Duke will be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Place them on the opposite side of the bracket from Loyola and go from there. … Siena shouldn’t be the de facto No. 16 seed thanks to the presence of any America East team in the field, though a trip to Durham isn’t exactly a huge reward. Still, the Saints must knock off Canisius to reach the tournament. … Notre Dame-Colgate would be an entertaining contrast in styles – the Irish’s superb defense against the Raiders’ potent Peter Baum-led offense. … Colgate would be the No. 9 team in the field, but the Raiders are moved down to avoid a rematch with fellow Patriot League member Lehigh.

Patrick Stevens