Sunday, May 3, 2009

Awaiting the Committee: Men's Lacrosse NCAA

Tonight the NCAA Tournament Committee will be releasing the men's lacrosse bracket for this year's contest. The state of Maryland will be well represented, however where will this year's teams land?
(all stats/games courtesy of Inside Lacrosse)

Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays always have a strong schedule and do well enough to earn a seed in the tournament despite being independent, and this year should be no different. Currently at 9-4 with their biggest wins against the entire state of Maryland, this will likely mean a low seed. But that has never slowed down the Hop, as the postseason always is game time for Dave Pietramala's team.

This year has been like most years, a slow start with a rousing finish. After starting the season 3-4, they have won their last six contests including three ranked foes, Maryland, Loyola, and Navy. Kyle Wharton (pictured) has led the way with 31 goals including four game winners and Michael Gvozden has been strong in the cage as has been tested for tournament play, as five of their games have been within one goal.

UMBC Retrievers

UMBC survived two scares during the America East tournament, needing overtime to defeat Binghamton and later defeating Stony Brook, but nonetheless Don Zimmerman's squad is locked into the tournament with the automatic qualifier. The 12-3 team's biggest wins are against Maryland and Colgate, and probably will not earn a seed in the tournament.

The key to this team is the senior-filled first midfield, and the team needs them to play well. Kyle Wimer (pictured), Alex Hopmann, and Peet Poillon are the three leaders in scoring, all having above 35 points. If this unit can play well with Jeremy Blevins defending the cage, this team could surprise a few people. Add to the point that this squad has a number of starting seniors that will be playing their last tournament.

Navy Midshipmen

Any game with Navy will be a hard fight to the end. The Mids are 11-4, earning the Patriot League automatic qualifier with two one-goal wins. They have wins against Maryland, Colgate, and Bucknell to their resume. Richie Meade has a strong squad that has had eight games within one or two goals, but also probably will not earn a seed. But if Navy can win their first game, then their quarterfinal game will be a home game as the regional is at Navy.

Tommy Phelan (pictured) has stepped up his game lately in the cage, and the offense is balanced with five players scoring at least 20 points this year. Any game with Navy will be a close one, and Phelan will give the Mids a good chance.

Maryland Terrapins

It has been a rough year for the Terps, going from #3 preseason to 9-6 on the year, but at the very least they will get a chance in the tournament barring something strange from the committee. Their biggest wins are against North Carolina and Duke. Dave Cottle's team has a lot of talent and has made a number of big games close. Maryland will have to be happy with playing their first game on the road, something they haven't done since 2002.

Maryland has plenty of young talent in the attack core, led by Grant Catalino, Will Yeatman and Ryan Young (pictured), plus the two-goalie system of Brian Phipps and Jason Carter may be employed. It'll be rough for Maryland, but they have taken some strong teams to the brink, so their talent could be dangerous.

Both Towson and Loyola had chances to make the tournament, but they will likely not make the bracket. Towson lost in the CAA final to Villanova and Loyola needed a victory against Hopkins, but the Greyhounds fell in overtime. But the tournament will be a great one, and with four teams the state will have a good shot to get a team to the Final Four in Boston. The bracket will be released at 9:00 PM tonight.

(Photo credit: JHU athletics (Wharton), Inside Lacrosse (Wimer), Navy athletics (Phelan), Maryland athletics (Young))

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