For the first time ever, the winner of the Big East Lacrosse Tournament will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
That's good news for the Syracuse Orange, who almost certainly have no other recourse for making the Big Lax Dance after losing 10-8 to the Georgetown Hoyas and dropping to 7-6 on the season with a game to go.
With 3½ minutes gone in the opening quarter and the Orange leading 1-0, junior close defender Dave Hamlin prepared to clear the ball. He was unguarded. As Hamlin prepared to pass the ball across the field he suddenly seemed unsure whether to flip it to goalie Bobby Wardwell or send it all the way across to fellow close defender Brian Megill. He did neither, instead passing the ball right to Georgetown attackman Travis Comeau in front of the SU cage. Comeau stuffed it home, and the tone was set for another ugly day of lacrosse before 4,806 fans in the Carrier Dome.
It's a crushing loss on multiple levels for the Orange. First, it was Senior Day, and these Seniors wanted to leave the Dome with some semblance of good feelings in spite of the down season. Second, it's only the second Big East loss ever for the Orange, both coming this season and it came to Georgetown of all schools. Third, the loss pushed a team already on the brink on NCAA Tournament at-large standing completely off it. Their RPI is sure to drop and the number of quality wins the team can claim stands at one (Princeton).
Here's where it gets even hairier. Because of this loss, the Orange now run the possibility of not even qualifying for the four-team BET. (Standings)
The only regular season game left for the Orange is an anti-climactic season-ender with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish clinched the Big East regular-season crown today with a 10-7 win over Villanova. If Syracuse beats Notre Dame, they'll finished with a 8-6 overall record and a 4-2 conference record, which will earn them the No. 3 seed and a rematch date with Villanova.
However, if they lose and fall to 7-7 (4-3), they could fall into a three-way tie with St. John's and Georgetown (if both win their final game) for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots. At that point it comes down to goal differential, and as Dave Rahme points out, the Orange do look good in that department, though there has not been an official confirmation from Big East officials just yet.
So in other words, the Orange will probably still qualify for the BET win or lose, but a loss all but confirms that they'll be playing the Irish back-to-back, assuming Georgetown beats Rutgers.
Anyway, these are all things that as Syracuse lacrosse fans we're not supposed to worry about, nor do we ever expect to worry about. It's been that kind of year for the Orange and I have a feeling it ends sooner than later this time around.