The Maryland men’s lacrosse team getting the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Division I tournament was a slight surprise. But the biggest stunner of Sunday night’s announcement was the presence of Loyola Maryland.
A little more than 12 hours removed from withdrawing from the title game of the Patriot League tournament due to a member of the team’s Tier 1 personnel testing positive for the coronavirus, the Greyhounds were awarded one of the last at-large berths in the 16-team field. They edged out conference rival Army West Point (7-4), which had split two meetings with Loyola, but lost, 11-10, on Friday night in a Patriot League tournament semifinal.
Loyola (9-5) — which will make its fifth consecutive appearance in the NCAA postseason — will travel to tangle with No. 7 seed Denver (12-4) in a first-round matchup scheduled for Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
The university’s athletic department issued a written statement shortly after the team’s inclusion in the tournament was announced.
“Following notification of a positive Covid test on Saturday afternoon of a Tier 1 individual as part of the Patriot League Championship on-site testing protocols, Loyola immediately began conducting a contact-tracing process within its team,” the department said. “While that process can take some time to complete, Loyola felt it was in the best interest for the safety of both championship teams to withdraw while they completed the full process. At this time, Loyola has completed a significant portion of that process. As the team is minimally impacted by the results of the contact tracing at this time, the Greyhounds look forward to competing in this year’s NCAA Championships.”
Tim Leonard, who chaired the selection committee, said the group leaned heavily on the advice of North Carolina coach Joe Breschi and Hobart coach Greg Raymond and a 10-coach regional advisory committee (RAC) to help decide between the Greyhounds and the Black Knights.
“The coaches took care of the eye test for us, and we really asked a lot of questions this year – probably more so than we’ve ever done,” Leonard, who is the athletic director at Towson, said during the ESPN broadcast of the selection show. “And it helped having Coach Raymond and Coach Breschi on the committee. Those two were tremendous in helping us determine, ‘Let’s look at the eye test. We’ve got data, but now let’s look at the eye test and see how that compares.’ So I think we felt pretty good about everything. It was just that Army one was so tough.”
The Terps (12-0) — who will host America East Conference regular-season and tournament champion Vermont (9-4) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. — are the only undefeated team in the field and captured Big Ten regular-season and tournament crowns. But they slipped in the seedings behind No. 1 seed North Carolina (11-2) and No. 2 seed Duke (12-2) because they were limited to a Big Ten-only schedule that cast doubt on the strength of their overall resume.
“It was tough to be able to say, ‘Hey, here’s an undefeated Maryland team with one of the best players in the country, yet we’re going to say they’re No. 3,’” Leonard acknowledged. “It was really tough to be able to say that, but when you looked at what North Carolina and Duke did, they really went out there and had some tests and did a tremendous job with it. And again, a lot of the coaches on the RAC call were saying those same things, and everybody seemed to be giving a very, very slight edge to Carolina over Duke mainly because the last time those two teams played, Carolina won. So that’s really why we gave the nod to Carolina. Duke was a close second because if you’re giving Carolina [No.] 1, then you’ve got to look at Duke as that second team. And then Maryland, great team, great team, but just hard to tell how good they were based on the schedule that they played.”
Terps coach John Tillman did not fault the selection committee for making his team the No. 3 seed.
“The committee has a really tough job, this year especially with not having some of those crossover games,” he said. “So I think those people, they rely on a lot of information from coaches, and I think everybody is on the up-and-up and everybody is just trying to get it right. When you can’t do it on the field, you’re at the mercy of some subjectivity. I have all the faith in the world that the right things were done and they feel like they did things right. Whether we were 1, 2, 3 or unseeded, we’ve just got to make sure that we are appreciative of the opportunity to play. We get to play a home game, we get another week together, and that’s really what I’m most thankful for. And again a year ago at this time, we couldn’t see any of this. We weren’t sure what was going to happen. Even in the fall and even in the spring, were we going to get through this season? So I love this team. I’m just thankful for every day with them. So another week with them is awesome.”
Tillman also did not blame the Big Ten for limiting teams to conference-only schedules this spring.
“We’re trying to do sports in a pandemic,” he said. “I think the people at the top are doing their very best to try to keep people safe. I love Maryland, and Maryland is a part of the Big Ten, and if the Big Ten makes some decisions that impact us, we’re going to follow it. It is what it is. Life is just so much easier when you look at things that way. Things like that are out of my control. I know how hard our schedule was. I know how good our conference is. Year after year, there are no easy games.”
The presence of Maryland and Loyola helped avoid the state failing to place at least two representatives in the NCAA tournament field for the first time since it was expanded to 16 teams in time for the 2003 season.
College Park will be one of four pre-determined sites to host first-round games. In addition to the Terps-Catamounts game, Maryland Stadium will feature a game between No. 5 seed Georgetown (12-2) and Syracuse (7-5) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The other three sites are Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium, which will host No. 6 seed Notre Dame (7-3) against Drexel (10-2) on Saturday at 5 p.m.; North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium, which will host No. 1 seed North Carolina (11-2) against Monmouth (8-2) on Saturday at 12 p.m. and No. 2 seed Duke (12-2) against High Point (8-5) on Sunday at 5 p.m.; and Virginia’s Klöckner Stadium, which will host No. 8 seed Lehigh (10-1) against Rutgers (8-3) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and No. 4 seed Virginia (10-4) against Bryant (9-3) on Sunday at 12 p.m.
The quarterfinals will be played on May 22-23 at Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York, and Notre Dame’s Arlotta Family Lacrosse Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
Championship weekend is scheduled for May 29 and 31 at Connecticut’s Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The semifinals will take place on May 29, and the title game will be played on May 31.
NCAA MEN’S LACROSSE TOURNAMENT
(at Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Monmouth vs. No. 1 North Carolina, noon
(at Charlottesville, Va.)
Rutgers vs. No. 8 Lehigh, 2:30 p.m.
Drexel vs. No. 6 Notre Dame, 5 p.m.
(at College Park)
Syracuse vs. No. 5 Georgetown, 7:30 p.m.
(at Charlottesville, Va.)
Bryant vs. No. 4 Virginia, noon
(at College Park)
Vermont vs. No. 3 Maryland, 2:30 p.m.
(at Chapel Hill, N.C.)
High Point vs. No. 2 Duke, 5 p.m.
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Loyola Maryland vs. No. 7 Denver, 7:30 p.m.