- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2011

When Air Force associate athletic director Dermot Coll and the rest of the NCAA lacrosse tournament selection committee sequester themselves in a Baltimore hotel room this weekend, the participants will sift through RPI, strength of schedule and quality wins in an effort to concoct a 16-team field by Sunday night.

They won’t, as in the past, be held to a strict number of teams permitted to fly to their first-round site.

It’s an important development for both the flexibility afforded the committee and for the integrity of the tournament. While fiscal responsibility remains important and some teams still will be paired with geographic considerations, the removal of the flights issue gives the NCAA a better chance at a bracket most reflective of competitive considerations.

“With teams like Notre Dame and Denver, we’ve really gotten away from a specific number of flights,” said Coll, the chairman of this year’s lacrosse committee. “We’re more into trying to contain costs and to try to do the right thing. … We’re trying to protect the eight seeded teams and try to get as many teams within 400 miles [of their first-round opponent]. If we have three flights, then we have three flights.”

Coll’s five-man committee, which includes Towson coach Tony Seaman and Loyola coach Charley Toomey, has other issues to sort through beyond simply providing a geographically sensible bracket if possible.

One team whose placement will be scrutinized is Virginia (9-5), which dismissed star midfielder Shamel Bratton before its regular-season finale last week. The Cavaliers struggled in April but own a signature victory over Cornell and routed Penn 11-2 in their regular-season finale. Bratton’s absence won’t impact Virginia’s inclusion, but it could influence the Cavaliers’ seeding.

A league-by-league look at how the 16-team field might break down:

America East (1): Top-seeded Stony Brook (10-3) plays host to Hartford in Saturday’s title game. The Seawolves, an NCAA quarterfinalist a year ago, are talented but likely need a victory to ensure a return trip.

Atlantic Coast (3-4): Consider Duke, Maryland and Virginia all safely in the field and strong possibilities to play home games in the first round. North Carolina (9-5) probably will be an at-large pick as well, but the Tar Heels could be vulnerable if they lose Friday to Notre Dame and upsets unfold in conference tournaments.

Big East (2-3): Syracuse probably will be the tournament’s No. 1 seed after beating Notre Dame, which also will be invited. Villanova (11-3) owns a top-10 RPI and should be safe if it can win at Georgetown (6-7) on Saturday.

Colonial (1-2): Delaware (10-6) visits Massachusetts (10-4) to determine the league’s automatic qualifier Saturday. Hofstra (13-2) lost in the conference semifinals, and a poor strength of schedule leaves the Pride vulnerable to surprises in other league tournaments.

ECAC (1-2): Denver could earn a first-round home game for the first time in program history. It needs to win the ECAC tournament to do so. The Pioneers (11-2), who played Ohio State on Thursday in a game that ended too late for this edition, probably would snag an at-large berth if necessary thanks to its strong RPI (7) and victory over Duke.

Independents (1): Johns Hopkins will earn its 40th consecutive tournament berth regardless of how it fares Friday at Army.

Ivy (2-3): Cornell hosts the conference tournament this weekend, and the Big Red have earned a solid seed from the NCAA committee. Penn has quality victories (Duke and Bucknell) and schedule strength and probably will earn an at-large. Harvard and Yale probably need to win twice in three days to play on.

Metro Atlantic (1): Siena is the top seed in the perennially one-bid league and the favorite to earn its second NCAA berth in three years.

Story Continues →