- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

The cancellation of the final half of Duke’s season last month affected nearly everything in college lacrosse.

It’s fitting, then, that one of the NCAA tournament selection committee’s biggest conundrums as it finishes selecting a 16-team field today is how much value to place on the victories Maryland and Cornell earned at Duke in March.

The Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 in the preseason and were 6-2 when their season was suspended in the wake of an exotic dancer’s rape accusations against three players. However, Duke’s six victories came against teams with a combined 26-58 record, and several replica models of the RPI place the Blue Devils around No. 20.

That number almost certainly would be higher had Duke played Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Virginia, as well as a game or two in the ACC tournament.

“It’s going to have to be subjective as we do the discussion,” said Butler associate athletic director Jon Hind, the committee chairman. “As a reality, Duke sits with an RPI as high as you would think it would have been. You’re trying to forecast what it would have been, but no one lives in that world.”

There are other logistics the committee will face. Albany coach Scott Marr, a committee member, will not make it to Indianapolis because his Great Danes are playing for the America East title today at Maryland-Baltimore County. The committee cannot finish bracketing the field until Marr calls in after his team’s game.

The committee is now officially permitted to send two teams on flights for trips of more than 325 miles in the first round rather than just one, and many teams seemed bunched together with few clear advantages over the others. Of course, that won’t stop the mild complaints from teams placed in the same bracket as unbeaten Virginia.

“There’s no doubt in our mind, certain teams would have rather driven 360 miles to play someone else, but because of certain parameters, we haven’t been able to pair teams that way,” Hind said. “This year, with teams being a lot closer to one another in ranking and strength, coupled with the fact we have that second flight, things should go smoother — I think. Of course, I might be calling you Monday saying ‘Holy cow, it all fell apart.’”

Here’s a conference by conference breakdown of the possibilities for tonight’s bracket announcement:

• America East (1-2): UMBC (9-4, RPI of 10 according to laxpower.com) is an at-large possibility if it cannot beat Albany (8-6) today. Stony Brook (8-7) is probably out.

• ACC (2): Undefeated Virginia is a lock for the top seed. Maryland (10-4) could be in line for its fourth consecutive No. 3 seed.

• Colonial (1-2): League champ Hofstra (16-1) has not lost since February and could be the No. 2 seed. Towson (8-6, RPI: 19) is on the bubble after losing in the conference semifinals.

cECAC (2-4): Georgetown and Massachusetts are both likely at-large picks. Penn State (8-5, RPI: 20) and Loyola (6-6, RPI: 27) missed great opportunities yesterday with one-goal losses to Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, respectively.

• Great Western (1-2): Denver (12-4) won the regular season and will make its first NCAA appearance. Notre Dame (10-4) has no overwhelming wins but an RPI of 11.

• Independent (2): Johns Hopkins and Syracuse overcame sluggish starts and are in line to play host to first-round games.

• Ivy (2-3): Cornell (11-2) earned an automatic berth, and Princeton (10-4) is in decent shape. Penn (10-3, RPI: 16) will rely heavily on its victory over Cornell.

• Metro Atlantic (1): Today’s Providence-Mount St. Mary’s winner will be first-round fodder for Virginia.

Patriot (1): Navy won the league tournament for the third straight year. Regular-season champ Colgate lost its last two games, and Army didn’t beat a team in the top 15 of the RPI.

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