Georgetown coach Dave Urick, a seasoned veteran of NCAA lacrosse tournament selection processes, tried hard for the last three weeks to buoy his team's spirits when it slipped below .500.
Still, all the encouragement he could muster doesn't change reality: The No. 18 Hoyas (7-6) need help entering the final weekend of the season besides simply upending No. 20 Penn State on Saturday.
"There's so many things that are going on in league championships," Urick said Wednesday. "We have to hope for the teams that won the regular season also prevail in the tournament."
Later that day, Georgetown received a crucial blow: Hofstra lost in the CAA semifinals, and the Pride probably will gobble up a berth the Hoyas might have secured with a victory.
While Georgetown's chances of reaching the 16-team field became tenuous at best, the Hofstra loss also tightened things for No. 14 Maryland. The Terrapins (8-6), who visit Yale on Saturday, own two superb victories (Duke and North Carolina) and played an impressive schedule.
Still, nothing is guaranteed with the selection announcement looming Sunday night.
"We have to win," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "You need a few of the favorites to continue to win. You'd like to see Notre Dame win their league, you'd like to see Hofstra win their league and you'd like to see UMass win their league. I think then it would be very difficult to keep us out of the tournament."
One of those already broke against the Terps, and there's little question Maryland will be rooting for Massachusetts and Notre Dame (among others) in the next few days.
Here's a league-by-league look at how those 16 berths might be divvied up once the five-man selection committee (of which Cottle is a member) convenes this weekend:
c America East (1): The winner of Saturday's Stony Brook-UMBC game will earn an automatic berth.
c ACC (3-4): Duke, North Carolina and Virginia will all be seeded. Maryland should be safe with a victory at Yale but is vulnerable to weekend surprises elsewhere.
c CAA (2): Hofstra, with its victory against Princeton, looks like an at-large choice. The Towson-Villanova winner also receives a spot.
c ECAC (1-3): No shortage of weird things can happen here. Massachusetts is in with a win at Rutgers, but it could be out otherwise. Loyola probably is in if it wins at Johns Hopkins. Georgetown needs a victory and a lot of help.
c GWLL (1-2): Unbeaten Notre Dame, despite its weak strength of schedule, would be difficult to exclude if it loses this weekend. That's the only way this conference picks up a second berth.
c Independents (2): Pencil in Johns Hopkins and Syracuse for home games in the first round.
c Ivy (2-3): Brown can win the league with a defeat of Princeton but would be a tossup if it loses. A Brown loss hands the title to Cornell, which probably makes the field regardless. Same goes for Princeton.
c MAAC (1): The winner of this weekend's conference tournament takes the league's berth. Siena is the top seed.
c Patriot (1-2): Navy won last weekend's tournament to clinch its sixth straight berth. Colgate has a slim chance but must win at Syracuse to remain in the picture.