Next season, the 2010 NCAA Lacrosse National Champion will be crowned. And while it may very well be Syracuse, it won't count towards the 00's or the Aughts or whatever the hell you want to call this decade. For all intents and purposes, this one's over and it's officially time to tally up the past ten years and figure out who were the best teams over that time.
Using a highly scientific formula that involves me assigning arbitrary number values to what each team did in each season, the list is below. It is non-negotiable and non-transferable. Sure you know some of the big names and you'll see them near the top, but you might be surprised by some of the selections based on their longevity and ability to crack the NCAA lacrosse glass ceiling.
Now before we get to the Top Ten, let's make sure we hand out a couple honorable mentions.
Delaware - The Hens basically earned this spot when they made a Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2007. Upsetting #2 Virginia in the first round, Delaware met it's match in Johns Hopkins in the semis, but it doesn't deter from the accomplishment. Unfortunately for them, it was the lone highlight of the decade. Their only other tourney appearance was 2005 and that was over quickly.
Loyola - The Greyhounds were pretty decent when the decade started and pretty decent when the decade ended. Four tournament trips ('00, '01, '07, '08) isn't shabby, though they were only able to make it out of the first round once.
Hofstra - The Pride is nothing if not consistent. Six trips to the NCAA tournament ('00, '01, '03, '06, '08, '09). In 2001, they upset Virginia in the first round (I'm noticing a trend). A three seed in 2006, they came within one point of advancing to the Final Four.
Towson - You might not remember but Towson went to the Final Four in 2001. In fact, they were a pretty consistent attendee in the NCAA Tournament through the decade, going five times, though not since 2007.
UMass - A five-time tournament team but no appearance was nearly as memorable as 2006. Unseeded, they beat #6 Cornell in the first round, #3 Hofstra in the second and #2 Maryland in the Final Four. They met their match in the national title game against Virginia, but they're still the lone team outside this Top Ten to advance to the finals.
And now, let's get to the teams that distinguished themselves so much that they should be considered the ten best NCAA lacrosse teams of the 2000's.
10. Notre Dame - Between 2002 and 2005, the Irish missed out on the NCAA Tournament. Otherwise, they've been a fixture. A Final Four team in 2001, the Irish have been to the last four tournaments. They even reeled off an undefeated regular season this year though it was marred by their first-round loss to unseeded Maryland.
9. Georgetown - Notre Dame might have the Final Four appearance but Georgetown has a little something more...consistency. They missed out on the last two tourneys but between 2000 and 2008, the Hoyas were there. Seven times they advanced to the 2nd round and seven times they were beaten. One day, perhaps...
8. Navy - The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Navy lacrosse is the 2004 Final Four, when the #2 Midshipmen came within a goal of winning the national title. Syracuse played the villain (sorry) and Navy had to settle for 2nd place, but it didn't diminish a magical season. They've made the tournament all five seasons since, though they have been unable to duplicate that success.
7. Cornell - The Big Red jumped from an Honorable Mention team to the #8 spot with their recent run to the finals. And if not for that epic collapse at the end of the game, they'd be even higher with a national title to their name. As it is, they'll have to live with two Final Four appearances ('07, '09) and eight NCAA Tourney berths.
6. Maryland - The Maryland of the 2000's wasn't the powerhouse of years past, but it remained mostly consistent throughout. 9 NCAA Tournament berths and three Final Fours ('03, '05, '06), though the team was never able to advance to the national title game. The Terrapins face an uphill battle back to dominance now that their schedule is littered with much-improved ACC teams.
5. Duke - They've become the early 90's Houston Oilers of NCAA lacrosse. Always among the best in the game but never the one with the trophy at the end. They end the decade being best known for not being able to seal the deal. Oh and, you know, that other thing. Had it not been for the canceled 2006 season, Duke might have ended the decade on a five-Final Four-appearance streak. As-is, they went to four of them total ('05, '07, '08, '09). Advanced to the championship game twice. Even went into a couple tournaments as the #1 seed. Still, no titles.
4. Princeton - The Tigers and the Blue Devils have been on opposite sides of the same coin this decade. A powerhouse when it started, Princeton has struggled in recent seasons. It's been five years since their last Final Four appearance, an eon in lacrosse terms, but it's what they accomplished at the beginning of the decade that got them here. 4 Final Fours and three straight trips to the national title game ('00 - '02). They won their lone title of the decade in 2001, over hated Syracuse no-less.
Note: The Top Three were so far and away ahead of everyone else it's laughable. Parity be damned.
3. Virginia - Princeton's fall was the Cavaliers chance to reclaim it's spot atop the NCAA lax throne. They won it all in 2003 and 2006 and went to the Final Four seven times in all. Routinely a top-ranked team, they've turned in some memorable games against hated rival Syracuse as well as Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Maryland. They ended the decade by being either the #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament four-straight times.
2. Johns Hopkins - Hopkins has the same amount of national titles as Virginia (2, '05, '07) and the same amount of Final Fours (seven) but they get the edge for two reasons. They played in four title games to Virginia's two and they made the NCAA Tournament every single year, the only team to do so. You don't get much more consistent than the Blue Jays...
1. Syracuse - ...unless you're Syracuse. Five, count'm FIVE national titles in the decade ('00, '02, '04, '08, '09). 8 Final Four appearances, the most of any team. It's a testament to how dominant the Orange were that they're the best team of the decade despite their 22-year Final Four streak ending and missing the tournament altogether one season ('07). The Orange opened the decade as the most dominant team in the nation and they closed it just the same.