Commentary

Blue Jays look to improve tourney résumé with wins this week

Originally Published: April 28, 2008
By Quint Kessenich | ESPN.com

Mid-tier teams had a weekend to forget -- with last week's No. 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16 teams all picking up losses this week. Two of the 16 tickets to the NCAA tournament have been doled out already -- to Loyola (ECAC) and Colgate (Patriot). The other five automatic qualifiers will be given out this weekend (Ivy, America East, Colonial, MAAC and Great Western). The final at-large selections will be highly debated and scrutinized by the selection committee, and after this week's action, it's clearly a complicated task. The NCAA tournament selection show can be seen exclusively on ESPNU on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

1. Duke
Blue Devils will be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and is the odds-on favorite to take home the national title at this point. Keep in mind though, Memorial Day is a month away and there will be plenty more moments of adversity and speed bumps on the road to Foxborough.

2. Syracuse
Wow. The Orange pummeled UMass on Saturday, leading 9-0 at halftime and winning 16-3. Mike Leveille -- a lock for an invite to the Tewaaraton banquet -- scored six points and Steven Brooks added three goals. Syracuse plays Colgate this week; it's a revenge game for SU after an ugly loss a year ago. Barring a loss to the newly-minted Patriot League champ, the Orange should give Duke a run for its money looking for the top seed.

3. Virginia
The Wahoos avenged a regular-season defeat to Maryland in the ACC semifinals behind Ben Rubeor's four goals, but lost to Duke on Sunday afternoon in the final. From where I sit, the Cavaliers have earned the third seed and look to host an NCAA first-round game.

4. North Carolina
UNC lost to Duke, again. The Heels have five losses (including four of their last six games overall) with quality wins over Johns Hopkins, Denver, Cornell, Notre Dame and Hofstra. Carolina has a legitimate argument for the No. 4 seed because of those wins and a super strength of schedule rating.

5. Georgetown
The Hoyas beat Rutgers on Saturday in New Jersey, and they looked like a dynamite team in the process. Andrew Brancaccio scored a hat trick. Georgetown's strength of schedule has suffered because of a weak year in the ECAC. Quality wins over Duke and Navy should get them into the field of 16 -- but I'm not convinced they'll be a top eight seed.

6. Johns Hopkins
Hopkins has five losses, but wins over UMBC, Maryland, Navy and Princeton. I expect the Blue Jays to be seeded anywhere between fifth and seventh if they can dispose of Mt. St. Mary's on Monday (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET) and Loyola on Saturday (ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET). Last week's win over Towson last week was a turnover-fest for Hopkins. This Blue Jay team doesn't look like a championship weekend participant at this stage, but the Jays do have positive momentum on their side.

7. UMBC
An unimpressive 8-6 win at Vermont on Saturday didn't sparkle, but the Retrievers have won nine straight and posted their third consecutive 10-win season. This weekend's upsets strengthen the Retrievers' claim to a seed, with a lot of teams ahead of them (Army, Navy, Maryland, Princeton) suffering losses.

8. Maryland
The Terps have lost three of their last four games, the latest to Virginia in the ACC semifinals. Maryland's offense has gone dormant in April -- it hasn't scored in double digits in its last four outings. The Terps lack a charismatic playmaker on offense who can run by his defender and draw a slide. Quality wins over Georgetown, North Carolina and Virginia should be enough to secure a seed.

9. Cornell
Cornell beat Brown 11-7 on Saturday, clinching a share of the Ivy league title. The Big Red's best victories are against Navy, Army, Denver and Brown. Of the Ivy League teams, Cornell has the strongest résumé for an at-large bid, having beaten bubble teams Army and Navy. The Big Red play Hobart for the 130th time this Saturday.

10. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish took care of business on Sunday against Ohio State. ND has beaten the Buckeyes, Loyola, Albany and Drexel, but its low strength of schedule puts it on the fringe of the NCAA tournament. This weekend, the Irish will be the top seed in the first-ever GWLL tournament at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich., taking on Quinnipiac on Friday.

11. Ohio State
The Buckeyes lost to Notre Dame at South Bend on Sunday afternoon, but have still won eight of their last 10 games, including wins over North Carolina, Colgate and Denver. Kevin Buchanan has 35 goals and 23 assists, yet isn't a Tewaaraton Finalist? It's a ridiculous oversight and needs to be remedied. The Scarlet and Gray play Denver on Friday in the GWLL semifinal.

12. Colgate
The Red Raiders captured the Patriot League auto bid on Sunday by beating Bucknell, earning their fifth straight win. Colgate has five losses, to Denver, Ohio State, Duke, Army and Navy. This was a team that was highly touted during the preseason and appear to be playing its best ball of the spring.

13. Bucknell
The Bison have 10 wins, including victories over Army and Ohio State. Is that enough to secure an at-large selection? Tough call for the committee. How much will that loss to Villanova hurt down the road?

14. Army
The Cadets are clearly on the NCAA bubble, with quality wins over Hofstra, Colgate and Navy. The Black Knights are at Penn this week -- it's a must win. Army fans will be pulling for UMBC and Hofstra in their league tournaments.

15. Navy
The Navy ship is sinking fast after the Midshipmen lost four of their last five games, including a loss Friday in the Patriot League semifinals. With a win, Navy would have likely sewn up a bid, with or without the AQ. Instead, Navy's NCAA tournament destiny is in the hands of the committee. Its résumé includes wins over Bucknell, Ohio State, Maryland and Colgate. Navy fans will be rooting for UMBC and Ohio State this weekend.

16. Princeton
Princeton suffered a shocking loss to Dartmouth on Saturday with so much on the line. Three Ivy League teams have one loss in conference (Princeton, Cornell and Brown) and Princeton plays Brown this week. The Ivy League AQ tiebreaker is a coin toss, so Princeton has to wonder whether wins over Hofstra and Cornell will be enough to secure an at-large bid.

17. Denver
Denver has won nine of its last 11 games, including wins over Colgate, Notre Dame and Brown. The GWLL tourney starts on Friday in Michigan with Denver facing Ohio State -- a must-win from where I sit. The Pioneers are on the outer bubble right now and will have to make some more noise to gain entry into the NCAA tournament.

18. Loyola
The Greyhounds clinched an NCAA bid with the ECAC title last week, then promptly lost to Hobart. Loyola surrendered 41 shots on Saturday. Loyola has a quality win over Georgetown and inexplicable losses to Hobart and Siena. Charley Toomey's bunch hosts Hopkins on Saturday, which is always a spirited contest on Charles Street.

19. Drexel
The Dragons beat Villanova 10-7 on Saturday night, knocking Towson out of the four-team CAA tournament. The CAA automatic qualifier is Drexel's only ticket to the big dance.

20. Hofstra
The Pride hope to earn an NCAA bid via the Colonial tournament this week. Action begins on Wednesday as top-seeded Drexel hosts Villanova, while second-seeded Hofstra entertains Delaware. The winners will meet Saturday at the site of the highest remaining seed. Hofstra's most impressive wins are over Johns Hopkins and Brown (Bears currently my No. 21 team).

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN. He can be reached at quint@insidelacrosse.com.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.

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