Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Rankings more telling than seedings
By Christian Swezey Inside Lacrosse
We delayed the polls until Tuesday so as not to detract from Inside Lacrosse's Warrior May Madness launch and the unveiling of the NCAA tournament fields.
Not surprisingly, Loyola (Md.) was the highest-ranking team in both polls not to make the NCAA tournament. Penn State and Bucknell followed.
The Greyhounds (9-5) were ranked ahead of Maryland (9-6) in the Nike/IL Media Poll.
Nike/IL rankings versus NCAA seeds
The NCAA tournament's ostensible 8-9 game is Johns Hopkins against Brown. It may be instructive, however, for those looking for upsets in their brackets to consider the following: The game between teams closest in the rankings is the one that is looking to be a classic -- No. 10 Hofstra at No. 8 Cornell (ESPNUHD, Saturday at 5 p.m. ET).
The other game between teams very close in the rankings is No. 9 UMBC at No. 6 North Carolina (ESPNUHD, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET).
If the NCAA selection committee went strictly by rankings (by no means saying it should, just a "what if?"), the games would be Penn State-Syracuse; Massachusetts-Notre Dame; Maryland-Duke; Loyola-Virginia; Princeton-Brown; Navy-North Carolina; Hofstra-Johns Hopkins; UMBC-Cornell.
Harvard's active coaches
Congrats to Harvard on being ranked No. 20 in the Nike/IL poll and No. 18 in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll. The Crimson (8-5) started two freshmen on attack -- Jeff Cohen (34 goals) and Kevin Vaughan (five goals, seven assists) -- and because of numerous injuries sometimes had to suit up assistant coaches to have enough players for full-field clearing drills.
Penn State (9-5) is ranked No. 16 after ending the year on a six-game winning streak. Before that, the Nittany Lions had lost consecutive one-goal games.
Their strong finish came despite being without two starting attackmen, one for the entire season and one for the second half of the year. Among the players expected back are sophomore Chris Hogan (29 goals), redshirt freshman Jack Forster (22 goals, 12 assists) and junior Brian Shea (eight goals, seven assists).
Wonder whether longtime coach Glen Thiel suited up for practice to help with clearing drills? He's only 63.
Bucknell (9-7) is ranked No. 17 in both polls. The Bison will return an extremely talented attack unit next year: Juniors Austin Winter (17 goals, 32 assists) and Tim Brandau (19 goals) are expected to be joined by freshman Charlie Streep (25 goals, seven assists). Streep played midfield this year.
And Stony Brook (9-6) is ranked No. 20 in the USILA poll. Not bad considering where the Seawolves started -- with a 20-10 loss on Feb. 21 to the team formerly known as Unbeatable Virginia.
Georgetown (7-7) is not ranked in either poll, and it looks as though it will end the year unranked for the first time since 1991. The Hoyas were ranked No. 5 after a victory over Maryland in late February. Their decline was steeper than that of the newspaper industry, minus the lifelong stigma of a journalism degree.
My top five
In between the jaw-dropping majesty of Loyola's rally to send the game against Johns Hopkins to overtime and calculating the ratio of dollars for each punch that Ricky Hatton landed (all 18 of them) in that pay-per-view fight Saturday night, I formulated a top five.
Duke proved itself by beating Virginia. Twice.
1. Notre Dame. The swagger the team showed in beating Ohio State in the Horseshoe a couple of weeks ago was impressive. That was a big-time atmosphere (30,000-plus fans and the OSU marching band), and the Buckeyes jumped to an early three-goal lead. The Irish responded with an 11-1 run. With its season on the line, Ohio State's chance for revenge Sunday was undone by six goals from IL.com super blogger Ryan Hoff.
2. Duke. Mostly because in the current issue of the Inside Lacrosse magazine, I maligned Duke's chances in 2009. "Last year was clearly [Duke's] year," I wrote. That sentence is the equivalent of the Oakland Raiders' NFL draft: misinformed, vaguely insulting and overall something best forgotten.
3. Virginia. A bye week will give the team a much-needed rest. But will the confidence return?
4. Syracuse. Can't remember my logic at the moment, but I'm sure it was stellar.
5. Princeton. An aggressive offense and defense and a nice swagger for a team out for redemption. The five teams that beat Princeton last year and were on the schedule this year were beaten. Pretty remarkable. I also think the Tigers have the best draw to get to Foxborough.
Silver lining to the end of the regular season
Other than the obvious -- the NCAA tournament -- I'm hoping that Loyola's P.T. Ricci and Colgate's Brandon Corp make an MLL roster so we can see them play again soon. I'll never forget what a high school coach told me earlier this year: "I once drove two hours each way to watch Brandon Corp play." Hope to see Penn State goalie Drew Adams play again, too.
Nike/IL Media Poll by conferenceACC: 4 Ivy League: 4 Patriot League: 3 ECAC: 3 Independents: 2 America East: 2 CAA: 1 GWLL: 1 For more on college lacrosse, check out Inside Lacrosse.