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Friday, May 9, 2008

Methods to the May-hem

So on the eve of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, before the first face off, before any of my told-you-sos can be rendered invalid and any of my out-in-left-field thoughts can be disproven, I wanted to take a moment to weigh in on what I feel are the injustices of this year's tournament field.

First and foremost, not necessarily because it's the most egregious, but because I'm a UMBC alum and a shameless homer, the Dawgs got hosed. The polls currently have UMBC as #5 in the nation. They are currently in the midst of an 11 game winning streak, and have been 12-1 after dropping the first two to Delaware and Rutgers. They hold quality wins over College Park, Ohios State and Denver, and yet not only do they miss a seeded position, but they get what is the logical equivalent of a 15 seed by being matched up against #2 UVA. Not only is this unfair to UMBC, but it's no walk in the park for UVA either, who get "rewarded" for their #2 seeding by a matchup with a quite tough team. Perhaps one poster on Inside Lacrosse got the lack of outrage captured properly with the following statement: "No one'll say anything--it's just UMBC."

What I feel is THE most egregious injustice is the fact that Georgetown was left out in the cold. They dropped the season closer to Penn State, and as college football has oft taught us, it's just as much when you lose as it is that you lose and to whom you lose. Unfortunately, G'town's loss was the perfect storm--last game of the season, to a Penn State squad who was already planning their summer vacation. The result is the Hoyas watching the tournament on TV, but I still believe they should be in. Of course, to be fair, if I'm going to pull someone in, I've got to take someone out as well. More on that later.

Notre Dame is underrated.

Thought you'd never hear that about the Domers, huh? Well while it may never be true in football, is surely is this year in lacrosse. The pundits will tell you that the decisions made above (G'town being left out, UMBC being unseeded) were based on RPI. How then, do you justify a 2-loss, #4 RPI Fighting Irish squad as a six seed? I'd love someone to break that one down for me.

Johns Hopkins is overrated. The sins did no occur in the seeding of this tournament, but rather throughout the season that led up to it. Based on where Hopkins is in the rankings, their 5 seed is entirely warranted. The problem? They probably realistically shouldn't be where they are. The disconnect came at about mid-season, in the heels of a 5 game losing streak, when the Blue Jays were 3-5 and still #15 in the rankings. There's no way that should have been the case. "Ooh, but look at their strength of schedule! Look at the elite teams they played!" Perhaps, but the game doesn't stop at scheduling tough. The onus is then upon you to win them. I mean, hell, if Hopkins is that tough because of who they didn't beat, that should knock UMBC up another peg or two, right? I mean we played (but didn't beat) Hopkins!

And finally, you remember how I said earlier that for Georgetown to be in, someone else had to be out. Well, we drew straws, and Denver, it looks like you're it. Seriously, no slight to Denver, but I don't think they stack up favorably to Georgetown or the rest of the field (save some AQs, but they're in anyway). And honestly, three teams from the Great Western Lacrosse League? Psst... NCAA: your alterior motives are showing.

And now, for some constructive criticism. What would I like to see become of the tournament? First of all, I'd like a legitimately seeded tournament, not seed the first 8 and use the buddy system. In doing so, it would be necessary to get rid of the two-flight rule (which they bent this year anyway) and send teams where their seeds indicate, but honestly, I don't think the NCAA's hurting for money--a packed house in Foxborough in two weekends'll hammer that one home. An expansion of the field, may be in order. Perhaps to 20 or 24, with a portion of the field getting a bye. I wouldn't double the field to 32, which would give bids to over half of the schools playing NCAA lacrosse, but I think it needs to go up from 16: Consider this: There are currently 7 autobids from the AQs. This will become 8 in the next few years when the Big East starts fielding lacrosse. Add to this total all 4 ACC teams and Johns Hopkins, all of whom are likely to get in, and there are realistically only 3 at-large sports available. As the sport continues to grow, so must the field.

Now that I've put forth all this griping let it be known that I will be faithfully in front of my television this weekend and each of the next two until a champion is crowned. Happy May!
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