Of the 60 teams play Division I college lacrosse, 41 teams have hopes of making the NCAA big dance (either as an at-large selection or as an automatic qualifier) with three weeks to go. For many teams, this week is an outer bracket NCAA tournament game. Win and stay alive; lose and go home.
The nation's lone unbeaten team was Virginia, but the Cavs lost at home to Duke. North Carolina survived an upset scare by Robert Morris and chaos defined the week in the Colonial. Johns Hopkins, Navy and Hofstra lost key games while Loyola, Yale and Towson continued to find ways to grind out wins.
Gotta love this time of year.
The Orange earn the tepid No. 1 nod based on the fact that they lost to UVa on March 7 on the road, and by only a goal. Syracuse's defense is the best in the nation anchored by John Lade, Matt Tierney, Brian Megill, Joel White and goalie John Galloway. The offense looked pedestrian Sunday at Rutgers and has run into some hot goaltenders this spring at Army, Hobart and Cornell. My guess is that if Cuse wins out, it will be the No. 2 seed in the tourney behind the ACC champion.
The Wahoos consistently struggle with Duke. The Cavs sprinted out to a 3-0 lead bolstered by a sellout crowd of more than 8,000 at Klockner Stadium, but turned the ball over five times in the second quarter and lost 13-9. Virginia, which leads the nation in ground balls per game, lost the battle to the Blue Devils, 31-23. Duke also won the faceoff game (17-8) including all six in the decisive third quarter. Virginia plays Duke on Friday in the ACC tournament.
3. North Carolina
The battered Heels are looking very vulnerable entering the ACC tournament after allowing Robert Morris to score two touchdowns Saturday. Tewaaraton front runner Billy Bitter chipped in six points and senior Gavin Petracca had a career night with eight points. UNC squares off against Maryland in the ACC tourney on Friday night in College Park. The league does not receive an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament because only four institutions sanction Division I men's lacrosse.
The Terps fell behind 3-0 in M&T Bank Stadium in the Day of Rivals, but rallied behind a strong extra man unit to beat their long-time nemesis Johns Hopkins on Saturday in front of more than 20,000 fans. The attack of Grant Catalino, Travis Reed, Ryan Young and Will Yeatman filled the box score. The ACC is 35-1 out-of-conference. Terps have home-field advantage this weekend in the ACC tournament. The winner likely will earn No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Coach John Danowski improved his April record at Duke to a stellar 18-0, as the Blue Devils continued their mastery of Virginia. Duke's senior class is special; Ned Crotty, Parker McKee and Max Quinzani may be first-round selections on June 6 in the Major League Lacrosse draft.
Love to see a team bounce back from a loss the way Princeton did this week, with a 16-2 shellacking of Dartmouth. Jack McBride scored seven points and freshman Mike Chanenchuk tallied five. Chanenchuk has 22 for the year, a huge number for a rookie midfielder. Defender Chad Wiedmaier hounded Dartmouth attackman Ari Sussman as Princeton dominated all phases of the game. The Tigers play at Harvard on Saturday.
The Greyhounds delivered a near-perfect third quarter (4-0) on Saturday, disposing of Georgetown 11-6 at home. This team is playing precision lacrosse right now, winning faceoffs, making saves and clearing the ball with supreme efficiency -- all signs of a well coached team that is focused and hungry. But this isn't the time for the Hounds to rest on their laurels with games at Hobart, at Denver and then a May 8 game against Johns Hopkins that could seal the Blue Jays' fate. The new Ridley Athletic complex is gorgeous, a spectacular small venue to watch lacrosse, and when they solve some parking problems, Loyola will have a unique and cherished home.
The Big Red nearly pulled the upset of Syracuse on Tuesday night, losing on a last-second goal by Chris Daniello. Cornell had a bye this past weekend and tackles Brown and Princeton (May 1 on ESPNU) and then the Ivy League tournament. Jeff Tambroni's team has beaten Army, Yale and Harvard.
The Hoyas have pocketed wins over Harvard, Delaware, Navy and Notre Dame. There's still tons of work to do as the Hoyas play UMass in a critical game at Rentschler Field in Hartford on Saturday (ESPNU, 1:30 p.m. ET), followed by games with Rutgers and Villanova.
Don't look now -- the Bulldogs are 9-2 and have won five games in a row, the latest a 14-11 win at Brown. Yale sits in third place in the Ivy League -- that's bubble city. Yale faces a dangerous Bryant team on Saturday, Harvard on May 1 and then perhaps a berth in the inaugural Ivy League tournament. Yale may have a low strength of schedule and RPI rating; we'll find out on April 26 when the NCAA selection committee releases their preliminary data.
The Wildcats currently reside in third place in the Big East conference behind Syracuse and Georgetown. Wins over Fairfield, Delaware, Drexel and Notre Dame have them on the inside of the bubble, for now. Lehigh, Rutgers, Providence and a key tilt against Georgetown on May 8 await coach Michael Corrado's troops.
12. Stony Brook
The Seawolves are 3-0 in the America East and will likely need to take the conference AQ in order to qualify for the NCAA postseason party. Wins over Towson and Delaware probably won't be enough on their own.
After playing the nation's most rugged February and March schedule, coach Tony Seaman's team has blossomed, winning four straight contests. Towson has held each of its last four opponents in single digits. Three of the Tigers' five wins have been by a one-goal margin. The Tigers play Penn State this week and Johns Hopkins (April 28 on ESPNU) and Hofstra the following week. If Towson can take care of Hopkins, the Tigers players may carry Seaman off Homewood Field on their shoulders.
The Stags won a 4-3 pitchers' duel at Air Force to keep their NCAA hopes alive. Fairfield plays Denver, Maryland and Quinnipiac over the next three weeks. The Denver matchup is an elimination game, played at Rentschler Field (home of UConn football) in East Hartford, Conn., on Saturday (ESPNU, 11 a.m. ET). The ECAC does not have a conference tournament; their AQ goes to the regular-season league champion.
The Dragons suffered a one-goal loss to Towson on Saturday. Drexel clings to wins over Notre Dame, Hofstra and Lafayette as playoff ammunition. Coach Brian Voelker's squad finishes up the year at Delaware and UMass, then the CAA tournament.
16. Notre Dame
The Irish finish up the year at St John's and then host Syracuse on May 1 in a monumental game for midwest lacrosse. It's a sold-out game that'll be televised on ESPNU. The Irish own wins over Duke and Loyola which may gain them entry into the NCAA tournament, but their losses to Drexel, Fairfield and Villanova hurt if they are sitting on the bubble with those teams.
The Pride suffered a huge loss this weekend to Penn State in overtime. Hofstra's wins over Brown and Johns Hopkins have lost value, and the Pride are likely to be watching the CAA tournament from Long Island unless they get some help.
It's been a rollercoaster season for UMass, now 2-2 in the CAA. UMass has lost in back-to-back weeks against Delaware and Towson. With wins over Brown and Hofstra, the Minutemen must build their résumé in games against Georgetown, Drexel and then potentially in the CAA tournament.
The Cadets are a perfect 4-0 in the Patriot League and play Lafayette this week. Army has played four overtime games this season and its last three wins have all been by a goal. The Patriot League is 22-27 out-of-conference and in my opinion only the AQ will advance to the NCAA's. Not to take anything away from Army's win but Navy scored an apparent game-tying goal, only to have the officials incorrectly rule the player was in the crease. This is the exact reason that the NCAA must use video replay in tournament games. Video evidence would have gotten it right. College basketball and football use video technology -- why not lacrosse?
The Pioneers have won six straight games for first-year coach Bill Tierney and are 4-0 in the ECAC. Their most impressive nonconference win was against Stony Brook. With an anticipated low RPI and SOS, it's imperative that Denver wins out in games with Fairfield (ESPNU), Loyola and Air Force. This team isn't dead yet, this Saturday's game is crucial.
Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN family of networks and welcomes your opinions at email@example.com.