- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

The lacrosse world could be in for an interesting geography lesson when the NCAA tournament’s 16-team field is unveiled tomorrow night.

Sure, quality wins and a strong schedule still mean a lot for overall selection. But the selection committee, chaired by Butler associate athletic director Jon Hind, is instructed to limit the teams traveling 300 miles to a first-round site to cut down on flight costs. That’s down from a 400-mile limit in recent years, a difference that could prove especially constraining.

“In a coach’s world, they want it to be a perfect grid of 1 to 16,” Hind said. “The reality of the situation is that it’s based upon what we’re left with. It gets pretty hairy when your flights limit who you can send where. You try to appeal as closely as you can to a sense of fairness.”

The committee will be stuck with at least one flight if Denver defeats Fairfield tonight to clinch the Great Western Lacrosse League. Though Hind declined to comment on the possibility, conventional wisdom suggests the Pioneers would be sent to Duke in a meeting of geographic outliers.

Other matchups are trickier thanks to the imbalance of strength toward the south. Cornell and Massachusetts are the only teams north of the Mason-Dixon line likely to earn first-round home dates (which go to the top eight seeds), meaning a few teams might have to travel from New York to the Baltimore-Washington area.

The committee will meet tonight and tomorrow to determine the field. Hind said the committee will pore over quality wins, strength of schedule and RPI — in no particular order — to determine the field.

Tomorrow’s Penn State-Georgetown game complicates their work, especially since the selection show was shifted from Monday to tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. for television purposes.

“I know the coaches are happier because it gives them the full week for the game,” Hind said. “Not knowing until Monday, they felt as though they had a lost a day. It will push us to be done. We have to be done by 5 or 6 in the afternoon.”

No one is completely certain who will be in the field, but here’s a conference-by-conference breakdown of the postseason contenders:

• ACC (3): Three of the top four seeds could come from the ACC. Duke (14-2) is the favorite for the No.2 seed, while Maryland (8-5) might have vaulted to No. 3 with victories over Duke and Virginia at the ACC tournament. Virginia (9-3), with its strong schedule and victory over Maryland, is probably the No. 4 seed.

• America East (1-2): Albany (9-5) could provide the biggest quandary to the selection committee if it doesn’t defeat visiting Stony Brook (10-5) in today’s conference final. The Great Danes own victories over Massachusetts and Dartmouth, which could be enough for an at-large bid even with a loss today against the Seawolves.

• CAA (1-2): Towson (10-4) visits Delaware (11-4) tonight in the conference final, with the winner ensured an automatic bid. The loser will be in the mix for at-large berths thanks to solid RPIs (Towson at No.10, Delaware No. 13)

• ECAC (2-3): Massachusetts (11-2) and Georgetown (9-3) are both safely in the field, but Penn State could be a spoiler. The Nittany Lions (8-5) have won six straight since a rocky start and could make a serious case for a bid if they win at Georgetown tomorrow.

• Great Western (1): The winner of tonight’s Denver-Fairfield game will earn an automatic berth. Denver (8-4), unbeaten in league play, never has reached the tournament.

• Independents (2): Johns Hopkins (11-0) is all but assured the No. 1 seed. Defending champ Syracuse (7-5) has a surprisingly empty resume, but the Orange have lost to five teams ranked in the top eight by a combined eight goals. Their strength of schedule should get them in.

• Ivy (1-2): Cornell (10-2) has secured an automatic bid. Dartmouth (7-4) boasts a win over Maryland, a victory that could offset the Big Green’s relatively weak RPI (No. 21).

• MAAC (1): Mount St. Mary’s (8-8) and Marist (7-7) meet tomorrow with an automatic bid at stake. Both schools are within 300 miles of Baltimore, meaning the winner will likely visit Johns Hopkins in the first round.

• Patriot (2-3): Navy (11-3) won the league tournament to lock up an automatic berth, and Army (11-4) is a decent bet thanks to its early defeat of Cornell. Bucknell (8-5) is in a tighter spot and must hope its March 5 victory over Navy can earn it an at-large berth.

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