The NCAA men's lacrosse committee sent out a stringent message: beat the best and be rewarded.
From the top seed to the 12th and final selection, this guideline provided several surprising turn of events yesterday, giving the tournament a look unlike any other.
Start at the top, where Loyola received its first No. 1 seed. Then scan the top four which doesn't contain an Atlantic Coast Conference school for the first time in the 28-year history of the tournament.
Now welcome in UMBC and Hobart as they both make their debuts in the Division I field. And there's the return of North Carolina, which has broken new ground as the first team to get into the tournament with seven losses and just the second with a non-winning record.
But the series of shocking moves began with the selection of the top seed. Although Princeton, two-time defending national champion, ended with an 11-1 record, 12-1 Loyola nabbed the top seed as a result of being the only team with two victories over the top five.
"We thought after what happened on Saturday that they would look at Princeton and us for the top seed," Loyola coach Dave Cottle said. "We felt like we had a chance but we didn't know if they would evaluate the past or this year."
On the other end, Maryland was the only team at the top without a win over a top-five seed.
However, that statistic got underscored after the Terrapins were upset by UMBC. Maryland plummeted from earning a potential top seed to playing in the first round against another NCAA tournament newcomer, Butler.
So the committee placed Syracuse ahead of Johns Hopkins and Maryland on the logic that the Orangemen defeated the Blue Jays, who in turn topped the Terps.
"We had our chances Saturday to claim a high seed and we didn't take advantage of it," Maryland coach Dick Edell said. "You just have to take what they have designed now, and we're just looking to get back on track. Butler has beaten North Carolina, so they have our attention right away."
UMBC got the attention of the selection committee in the final weekend. The Retrievers delivered in a must-win situation with an upset of the Terps, springboarding them from a fringe team to the No. 8 seed.
In addition to that upset, UMBC distinguished itself from the
unseeded teams with a quality win over Georgetown, its first-round opponent. None of the remaining at-large teams had more than one credible win.
"We're real happy. The win over Maryland propelled us to play our best lacrosse when it counts," said UMBC coach Don Zimmerman, who won three national titles and made NCAA tournament appearances every year as coach at Johns Hopkins from 1984-90. "Saturday proved we can play with anybody. We're in here to win it all."
The clearest selection involving strength of schedule came with the announcement of North Carolina. The Tar Heels, who missed the tournament last year to end a 18-year run, used the nation's toughest schedule to offset their 7-7 record and edge past Hofstra and Harvard for one of the final tournament spots.
The North Carolina bid is the most controversial when considering how the Tar Heels avoided a 6-7 finish. In late March, North Carolina added Ohio State as its season finale to end the year with a .500 record, one of the requirements of qualifying for the tournament.
"The first thing you have to look at is ourselves," said John Parry, chair of the NCAA men's lacrosse committee. "We made the policy of teams had to be at .500 to qualify. We didn't put any restrictions on it. It's not an issue now. Perhaps, we'll change it. But it's not appropriate for us to use it in the process."
In Division III, Salisbury State received a first-round bye in the newly expanded 12-team tournament field. The Sea Gulls, who won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1994-95, will play the winner of Cortland State-Gettysburg.
Washington College was the only other state school to make the field and will play at Roanoke in the first round on Wednesday. The Shoremen have won more tournament games (18) and have been in more championship games (seven) than any other team in Division III.
1. Loyola: Winner of school-record 11 straight games, the longest streak in the nation.
2. Princeton: Has won six straight NCAA tournament games.
3. Syracuse: Won national titles in 1993 and '95 as the third seed.
4. Johns Hopkins: Makes its 27th straight postseason appearance, the longest active streak of qualifying for the NCAA tournament in any Division I sport.
5. Maryland: Is 3-2 in first-round games in the '90s.
6. Virginia: Playing in a first-round game for the first time since '94.
7. Duke: Looking for its first consecutive quarterfinal appearances in program history.
8. UMBC: Makes first tournament in 18th season in Division I.
Butler: First Midwest team other than Notre Dame to play in the tournament since Michigan State in 1991.
Georgetown: Receives its second NCAA tournament appearance.
Hobart: 16-time Division III champion gains entry into first Division I tournament.
North Carolina: Second team without a winning record to gain an NCAA tournament berth.
Pub Date: 5/04/98