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Sunday, April 12, 2009

No Respect at all

What follows is actually not the post I intended to write. What I wanted to talk about I may or may not get to in this post, but in my quest for facts for the originally intended post, I came across a fact too noteworthy to ignore: UMBC has fallen in the media poll from #6 to #8. This is after a convincing win over a ranked conference foe in the Albany Great Danes. This, of course, is a travesty and a miscarriage of justice.

OK, to be fair, we weren't exactly dropped, merely leapfrogged. Our point total actually went up from the previous week. The trouble lies in the two teams that leapfrogged us. The issue began with Duke (doesn't it always?) The Blue Devils defeated then #1 UVA. As remiss as I typically am to give them any credit, I've got to hand it to them--they've got UVA's number and have for some time now. The Blue Devils were one of the teams that jumped us. The other team who overtook us is a little harder to follow. With the Wahoos falling, Princeton stepped up to fill the void at #1. The Tigers have one blemish on their record: A defeat at the hands of the Hofstra Pride. It was that Pride squad who overtook the Retrievers, even though their victory this week was a one goal defeat of a Towson squad we beat handily.

Regardless of the numbers, the fact remains: UMBC is hot right now. Consider this: Four lacrosse teams lay claim to all of the Division I national championships since 1992: Hopkins, Syracuse, UVA, and Princeton. Our only two defeats this year came at the hands of current #1 Princeton and Hopkins. For that matter, all of our losses in well over a year have come to one of those four elite squads, adding UVA to end last season and Hopkins last season, our last loss before rattling off an 11 game win streak.

This leads me to the question at hand (and the original topic for this post): Can UMBC attempt a run at a national championship? I hesitate to speak it for fear of jinxing it, but it's been whispered (and louder) in two separate blogs I read, and truthfully, at least the possibility of making it to Foxborough for the Final Four has danced in my head quite a bit. Let's look at a few things:In addition to the aforementioned performance, UMBC has been convincingly winning games it should win: The last four games were 15-7, 13-4, 14-4, and 14-8 over Albany, Binghamton, Towson, and Stony Brook, respectively. Three of those were taking care of business in-conference; one (Albany) was ranked with another (Towson) receiving votes.

One of the best predictors of potential future success is how we get treated by the tournament committee. The biggest imperative is becoming one of the eight seeded teams in the tournament, securing a first round home game. Last year we were snubbed for such a spot and were rewarded with a trip to #2 UVA for our troubles. The committee will take a look at our body of work, which includes a number of quality wins and the aforementioned "good losses" to Princeton and Hopkins. What should also be considered, however, is the fact that the team that played in those two losses isn't the same team the Retrievers are fielding now. Faceoffs were extremely hard to come by in those days, and it seems we have shored things up at the X in games since.

Should UMBC emerge victorious from the first round, the second round game will likely go to a neutral site at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. Win that, and it's off to Foxborough. The reality is this: Barring epic collapse, we will make the tournament. Once we're in the tournament, 4 wins means a national championship. And I'm convinced that these Dawgs can play with anyone.

Should we make it up to Foxborough, though, I'm inclined to wonder: Will our fans make a decent showing? I was pleased with how we turned out last year for the NCAA tournament in Raleigh. Still, that was several hundred for the most popular tournament in college--and probably all--sports. We'll likely be up against teams who will bring several thousand. And the Final Four isn't until after school is out for the summer, so there may not be the reliable contingent ready to hop a bus, save for the few mighty die-hards.

Luckily, one thing I don't have to worry about: When we debate attendance over on the USF boards, at least in football, it's a topic that has a direct effect on whether or not our team will be invited to future bowl games and the caliber of those games. The only thing that will get us in or keep us out of competition in this one is the merit of the team itself, and that's a group I'm certainly ready to put my faith in.
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