College Lacrosse

Breaking down the conference favorites as lacrosse season nears tournament time

Let's spin around the country and take a glimpse at 10 league races. Teams are jockeying for position in their conference to qualify for the league tournament and then win the automatic qualifier (AQ) to the NCAA tournament. An NCAA field of 17 will include nine automatic qualifiers and eight at-large selections. There are four weeks remaining in the regular season.

Atlantic Coast (ACC)


The ACC is a five-member conference that does not have an AQ. The top four teams will play in the ACC tournament on April 28 and 30 in Durham, N.C., on ESPNU. Virginia, the fifth place team, will play Penn on April 29 as a consolation.

Syracuse (9-1) is the top-ranked team in the nation. The Orange are 6-1 in one-goal games, while operating at a slug's pace. Sergio Salcido and Nick Mariano have starred.


Duke (9-3) is a young team gaining momentum, as evidenced by victories in seven of their last eight games.

Notre Dame (6-3) has lost consecutive ACC games to Syracuse and Duke. The Irish are talented — with Sergio Perkovic, Ryder Garnsey and Garrett Epple — but too often all of the parts don't show up simultaneously.

North Carolina (6-5) salvaged its season with a win Sunday at Virginia (8-5). The Heels host Syracuse on Saturday (on ESPNU at 4 p.m.). Carolina needs to finish the year at .500 or above to be considered for the NCAA tournament.

The Cavaliers continue to struggle in the ACC and are locked into the fifth-place spot. They will not make the ACC or NCAA tournaments.

America East

Albany (9-2) is the clear front-runner and strong favorite to win the AQ. They are somebody's nightmare in the big dance, although their over-reliance on Connor Fields is troublesome. The Great Danes lost to Maryland, 12-11, on Wednesday.

Binghamton (9-1) has been one of the country's most improved programs for first-year coach Kevin McKeown. The Bearcats are at UMBC on Saturday. The Retrievers (4-6) are in a tussle with Stony Brook (5-5), Hartford (4-6) and Vermont (5-6) for the final two league tournament slots.

Big East


All signs point to Denver (8-2) capturing the title. Providence (8-3) has won four straight behind an airtight defense.

Villanova (6-5) is an enigmatic group with a win over Maryland but losses to Delaware and Monmouth.

Marquette (6-4), the Big East champs from 2016, must be respected with coach Joe Amplo at the helm. Milwaukee's best lost to Notre Dame on Tuesday, 11-10. The Golden Eagles play at Providence on Saturday and finish up with Duke and Denver.

Big Ten

Big Ten teams have gone a stellar 45-8 out of conference. Four or five teams will gain entry into the NCAA field.

Maryland (8-2) is in the driver's seat. Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Connor Kelly are a terrific offensive trio. Terps showed guts Wednesday at Albany.


Let's see how Penn State (10-1) reacts to their first loss in College Park. The Nittany Lions bring a high-scoring offense led by Nick Aponte and Grant Ament to Homewood Field on Saturday (ESPNU, 2 p.m.). Ohio State's win over Hopkins (6-4) assures the Buckeyes (10-2) a spot in the NCAA tournament. They play rival Michigan on Saturday in the Big House prior to the spring football game. The environment will be electric.

Johns Hopkins too often has lost the possession war this spring. The Blue Jays don't have a defense that can withstand that differential. If they get the ball enough against Penn State, the Jays will win. The resume of Rutgers (9-2) puts the team firmly on the bubble with work to do. Michigan (8-3) is the sixth-best team in the Big Ten, with a gaudy record inflated by wins over bottom-feeders.

Colonial (CAA)

Hofstra (10-0) is the lone undefeated team in the nation. The Pride have elite goal scorers in Josh Byrne and Ryan Tierney. A showdown at Towson (6-3) is looming on April 29. The Tigers may be more battle-tested, having played a stronger non-conference schedule, but I worry about their offense. Drexel (4-6), UMass (4-6) and Delaware (7-5) are in the chase for minor spots.


No Ivy League team has an at-large resume to qualify for the NCAA tournament. So only the league tournament champion will get an invite to the NCAAs. Yale (7-3) is the kingpin of the ancient eight. The Bulldogs got off to an atrocious start but are now hitting their stride behind Ben Reeves. They tangle with Brown on Saturday (ESPNU, noon).


Princeton's offense is formidable, with freshman Michael Sowers orchestrating. A Tuesday night loss by the Tigers (7-4) to Lehigh shows how far down the totem pole the Ivy has fallen. Brown (5-4) has resurrected their season after a poor start.

Cornell (3-7) Harvard (5-5) and Penn (4-5) seem a notch below. The Quakers were nationally ranked in February but have quickly fallen out of the top 20, losers of four of their last five. Once again, Dartmouth (2-6) is having a dreadful year.

Metro Atlantic (MAAC)

The MAAC appears to be a three-team race between Monmouth (9-3), Canisius (5-5) and Detroit Mercy (5-7). Monmouth has won six straight. The MAAC has a history of wacky finishes.

Northeast (NEC)

The NEC is wide open. It's safe to say Wagner (5-7) and St. Joseph's (3-8) will be the odd teams out. Robert Morris (8-3), Bryant (7-5), Hobart (5-6), Sacred Heart (6-4) and Mount St. Mary's (4-6) are fighting for league supremacy. This race is a dogfight and unpredictable.



Six teams qualify for the Patriot League tournament. Army (10-1) has had a fantastic season, putting itself in position to host that tourney. It plays at Navy (5-7) on Saturday in the game's greatest rivalry. Loyola (7-4) is lying in the weeds with playmaker Patrick Spencer. The Hounds need the league AQ to make the NCAA tournament. They will be playing elimination lacrosse. Navy's loss to Colgate last week was an eye-opener. After a 7-0 start, BU (9-3) is sputtering. It looks like Army and Loyola are the likeliest league champs.

Southern (SoCon)

Richmond (9-2) is the class of the SoCon. The Spiders own the nation's stingiest defense, and goalie Benny Pugh leads all stoppers in save percentage. Richmond has one-goal losses to Duke and Virginia. They've beaten North Carolina and Marquette and will be a handful if they land in the field of 17. Furman (5-6) knocked off Air Force (7-5) last weekend. The Paladins have won four straight for coach Richie Meade and have turned the corner.


Cleveland State, Hampton and NJIT will not be in the NCAA at-large tournament discussion. Cleveland State, in its inagural season, will benefit from an aggressive schedule that's had it play Michigan, Duke, Denver, Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia. Hampton is building slowly.


NCAA Selection Sunday is May 7 on ESPNU.