The best a team can hope for heading into the NCAA Tournament is to know that it has balance. To know that at any given moment, there's a member or line on your team that can step up and do their part, it gives you the confidence to go into battle with any opponent. If Syracuse's 13-7 victory over Colgate on Saturday is any indication, the Orange have hit their equilibrium at the perfect time.
11 different Orange scored on the day and not one of them scored more than twice. While the scoreboard wasn't the dominating indicator you'd hope for, it was typical 2009 Syracuse lacrosse all around, capitalizing on the opponent's mistakes early and often:
Syracuse dominated the pace of play from the start, outshooting the Raiders, 15-3, in the first quarter and grabbing a 4-1 lead. The Orange scored three unassisted goals to start the game, two of which came off Colgate turnovers.
Cody Jamieson netted his first goal as a member of the Syracuse Orange, a low shot that started the scoring in the 2nd half.
With the win the Orange finished the regular season 12-2, with their only two losses coming to Virginia and Princeton...nothing to sneeze at. Early Bracketology had the Orange penciled in as the 3-seed with Duke and Virginia ahead of them. But when the final seedings were announced, the Orange were named the #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Curiously, it's Virginia and not Duke at #1 even though Duke has more quality wins than anyone, a higher RPI than Virginia and beat the Cavs not once but twice. What gives? Apparently Duke was penalized more for the games they lost (Maryland, Harvard, Cornell) than the games they won. Seems iffy to me, especially after Duke pounced the Cavs in the ACC Championship 16-5.
That the Orange are ahead of Duke even seems stranger. On paper it would seem the Blue Devils clearly have a better resume even with the losses. Apparently location was a factor in this one though, and if the Orange were a #2 seed that means they go to Hofstra for the first round and Duke goes Annapolis. This negates the need for costly team flights. Consider the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament recession-conscious.
With the #2 seed, the Orange are looking at a very winnable road back to the Final Four. They will open the tournament on Sunday, May 10th at 7:30pm when they host the Siena Saints (12-5). The Saints won the MAAC Conference after starting the year 2-5. They've rattled off 10 straight wins, including two over future Big East member Providence. It's the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Win there and the Orange will either be looking at the 7-seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-0) or the Maryland Terrapins (9-6). The Irish are the great unknown of college lacrosse this season as the lone unbeaten though they haven't played many teams worth noting. The mighty Maryland program is in the midst of a down year.
Other tourney news and notes...
- Hopkins ends up an 8-seed and the world of common sense rejoices.
- Future Big East teams in the field include SU, Notre Dame and Villanova.
- Both Hofstra and Navy will be playing for the right to host a home game in round two.
You can check out the full bracket here. It's still terribly flawed and you can still argue a lot of the seedings and explanations but...it's not as terrible as I thought it might be. So...hooray for you, NCAA committee. You're not terrible. You can get some more discussion on surprises (Why Brown over Loyola?) as well. In the meantime, you've got a week to buy your ticket for Sunday's game. Don't let Rahme down.
And congrats to the women's lacrosse team as well. They earned a 7-seed in the Women's Tournament and will host Boston University in the Dome on Sunday at 3:30. Your Sunday is officially booked.