May 4, 2009

DaSilva's Bracket Breakdown: Division I Men

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

The 2009 NCAA Divisions I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse tournaments were announced Sunday, with the standard fare of intrigue and drama surrounding the brackets. LMO's Jac Coyne, Matt DaSilva and Paul Ohanian play Monday morning midfielders with post-selection analysis.

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(First round games at higher seed)

No. 1 Virginia (13-2) vs. Villanova (11-5)
No. 8 Johns Hopkins (9-4) vs. Brown (12-3)
No. 3 Duke (13-3) vs. Navy (11-4)
No. 6 North Carolina (11-5) vs. UMBC (12-3)


(First round games at higher seed)

No. 2 Syracuse (12-2) vs. Siena (12-5)
No. 7 Notre Dame (15-0) vs. Maryland (9-6)
No. 4 Princeton (12-2) vs. Massachusetts (9-5)
No. 5 Cornell (10-3) vs. Hofstra (11-3)

* Printable Bracket (PDF)






Hard to call it a snub when Loyola's best win by RPI standards was Penn State, but losing by one goal each to Notre Dame, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins (double OT) -- and by two goals to Duke and UMass -- is nothing to sneeze at. There's sure to be some scuttlebutt about the Greyhounds' exclusion. Speaking of Duke and Notre Dame, both have snub-worthy cases if you look at the seeds. Duke pummeled Virginia twice in head-to-head meetings this season, but wound up with a No. 3 seed, the reward for which is a first-round game against dangerous Patriot League champion Navy. Notre Dame finished as the only undefeated team in Division I this year, but a relatively weak schedule dropped them to the No. 7 seed - warranting a first-round encounter with Maryland. Among the Irish's wins? A 9-7 victory March 8 over North Carolina, the team seeded ahead of them.



The fifth-seeded Big Red and unseeded Pride spent most of this season ranked in the top 10 of the USILA Division I poll. Playmakers with flairs for the dramatics abound - from Hofstra's Jay Card and resurgent Tom Dooley to Cornell's Max Seibald and John Glynn. Expect fireworks.


North Carolina

UMBC's Don Zimmerman, widely regarded as one of the best coaches in Division I due to his accomplishments at the relatively small Baltimore County institution, had an opportunity to leave for North Carolina, where he used to coach, when the school was hiring a head coach over the summer. He opted instead to sign a four-year extension with UMBC. Zimm's a motivational wiz. When the Retrievers' faceoff unit became a major weakness early in the season, he posted percentage rankings in the locker room, bumped do-everything middie Kyle Wimer to the wing, put a freshman (Justin Radebaugh) at the "X" and took the unit to task. And no one draws up a better extra-man offense. Said senior midfielder Alex Hopmann: "The fact that he didn't go down to Carolina really showed that he had a lot of confidence in this team." That confidence was unwavering, even after a regular season loss to Hartford and a double-overtime scare against Binghamton in the America East semifinals. Add a little execution and the experience of goalie Drew Blevins -- who has played in an NCAA quarterfinal -- versus UNC freshman James Petracca, and a first-round upset could be in the works.



The committee did a good job balancing the brackets. No one's got a cakewalk. But Siena and either Notre Dame or Maryland are the most beatable of the bunch.


How much "human element" factored into the selections?
The NCAA Division I men's lacrosse committee opened its tournament selection process to more subjective components, such as regional advisory rankings, to supplement the numbers. It seems the so-called "human element" might have factored in choosing Brown over Loyola for the last at-large berth. Why? Purely based on numbers, as LMO's Brian Logue noted prior to Sunday's announcement, Loyola would be your 16th team. The Greyhounds' strength of schedule far outweighed the Bears'. But Brown beat Cornell. Loyola had no such signature win. Brown also beat UMass, which beat Loyola.

Who's your hero between the pipes?
This field is saturated with terrific goalies. UMass' Doc Schneider, Villanova's Andrew DiLoreto, UMBC's Drew Blevins, Notre Dame's Scott Rodgers and Siena's Brent Herbst have had remarkable seasons. Johns Hopkins' Michael Gvozden - vexing as he can be sometimes - has a penchant for stepping up in meaningful games. Syracuse's John Galloway has a national championship under his belt. Surprisingly, the weakest crop of goalies probably comes from the ACC - how will UNC freshman James Petracca, for one, react to the bigger stage? Think of goalies who became legends in the NCAA tournament: Who is this year's Brian Dougherty, Tillman Johnson or Jesse Schwartzman?

Has Tony Seaman coached his last game at Towson?
The Tigers, of course, were not even under consideration for an NCAA bid. They finished 7-10 after a loss to Villanova in the CAA championship game Saturday. So why mention them here? Seaman hinted in an interview Friday that he has "been under some pressure from my bosses" and that "there would be some serious repercussions" if Towson did not get the CAA's automatic qualifier. This is big news in the Division I coaching ranks, where a shakeup appears imminent.

How will Maryland's Will Yeatman play against his former team?
Contrary to what some might think upon seeing these pairings, drama and good storylines are not among the criteria considered by the NCAA committee. It just so happens, however, that Maryland's man child gets a stab at the university that hung him out to dry following a couple of alcohol-related incidents last year - the second stemming from a controversial police raid of a party that produced no formal charges against him. Notre Dame reportedly blocked Yeatman's transfer to North Carolina because of scheduling conflicts with both football and lacrosse. Maryland was one of just a handful of Division I programs with which there were no conflicts and that would still allow Yeatman - a 6-foot-6, 260-pound attackman with NFL aspirations as a football tight end - to play both sports. Now, as it turns out, Yeatman gets a crack at the Irish, anyway.

Which host team has a better chance of advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals in its own house -- Hofstra or Navy?
Defense almost always prevails in the playoffs. Navy's defense responded in a big way to Tommy Phelan's return to the cage late in the regular season. It was also the biggest factor in avenging regular season losses to Colgate and Bucknell en route to the Patriot League championship as a third seed. When it came down to triple overtime against the Raiders, the Midshipmen did not buckle. They can slow down Duke; whether they can handcuff Ned Crotty's creativity behind the cage is a different story.

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