And the 13-0 Cavaliers, who have the nation's most prolific offense and begin their postseason by hosting Notre Dame on Saturday, might have to go through several state teams to win their fourth national championship and first since 2003.
Four Maryland teams - Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Navy and UMBC - made the 16-team, single-elimination tournament, which concludes with the NCAA title game on Memorial Day at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the site of the tournament's final four weekend for the second straight year.
The fourth-ranked Maryland Terrapins, who rode a strong strength of schedule and several quality wins to a 10-4 record, received the No. 2 seed. The Terps open against visiting Denver, the winner of the Great Western Lacrosse League, and could meet UMBC in a quarterfinal matchup. The Retrievers, back in the tournament for the first time after a seven-year absence, travel to face seventh-seeded Princeton in a first-round matchup Saturday.
Then there's defending national champion Johns Hopkins (8-4), which regrouped from an 11-4 whipping by Maryland to win its past three games, each by one goal, to earn a No. 4 seed and a possible quarterfinal rematch with No. 5 seed and rival Syracuse - if it gets past Pennsylvania in the first round. The Quakers, coached by former Hopkins player Brian Voelker, finished 10-3 after going 2-11 a year ago.
Hopkins could see Virginia in the national semifinals, where the Cavaliers could have the chance to avenge last year's last-second, 9-8 defeat to the Blue Jays in that round. Should it get that far, Maryland, a two-time loser to Virginia and searching for its first national title since 1975, could meet the Cavaliers in the championship game.
And Navy (11-3), the Patriot League champion that beat Maryland but also suffered a lopsided home loss to Georgetown and a heartbreaking 9-8 defeat to Hopkins in Annapolis, had to settle for an unseeded berth. The Midshipmen have a first-round rematch at No. 8 seed Georgetown, with the chance presumably to face Virginia in the quarterfinals at Towson on May 21.
"You hope you're going to play your best lacrosse at the end of the year," said Maryland coach Dave Cottle, who has watched his offense improve in recent weeks after a sluggish start that dragged into midseason. "Since the Hopkins game [on April 15], we're scoring in double digits a little more regularly. We're a lot more pleasing to the eye right now.
"Right now, I don't know a lot about Denver. That's the scary part."
The Terps have been to two final fours in the past three years and have failed to reach the final each time.
Hopkins, which was seeded No. 4 in 2001 before becoming the tournament's top seed for the next four years, secured its 35th consecutive berth, mainly due to its strength of schedule and a high Rating Percentage Index. The Navy victory was huge.
"I know there were a lot of people counting us out," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "I'm proud of our kids for the way they battled back."
The surprise winners in the NCAA lacrosse committee's selections were Notre Dame and Harvard, with the Crimson rounding out a four-team block from the Ivy League, the strongest-rated league. Harvard (6-6) made its first tournament in 10 years. Notre Dame's wins over Brown and Dartmouth - both competitive Ivy League teams - were enough to edge out Loyola (6-6) and Towson (8-6).
According to Towson athletic director Wayne Edwards, a member of the selection committee, Loyola's losses to Towson and Fairfield offset its big win over Georgetown. And Towson's weak strength of schedule - the Colonial Athletic Association is rated seventh among eight lacrosse conferences - and failure to beat either Maryland, Virginia or Hopkins, while losing to Delaware and Binghamton did in the Tigers.