The NCAA selection committee kept the trend of turning the lacrosse world upside down with the field it put together for the 2013 tournament. Purists of the sport are screaming for expansion. They can’t wrap their heads around a field that doesn't include Johns Hopkins, Virginia or Princeton for the first time in history but, instead, includes Detroit. They also want to know why a North Carolina team that is ranked No. 1 in both polls is a five-seed while Ohio State is a 3 and why Cornell and Rob Pannell have to go on the road while a Penn State team that just lost to Towson is hosting Yale.
There is a simple answer for all of these questions. Math. The committee stuck to its criteria and its formula instead of being swayed by reputation, exposure and history. All you need to know about the zaniness of this season is that wins over Penn State, Denver and Loyola were, in the long run, worth more for Ohio State than wins over Johns Hopkins, Virginia and Princeton were for North Carolina. And that is why the Buckeyes get surprising Towson while the Tar Heels will have to dig in against a hot Lehigh team.
The parity that we saw across the country from the beginning of the season right up to Detroit’s OT win over Siena in MAAC title game had a major influence on the dynamics of the tournament and should set up an incredibly exciting postseason. Duke and Loyola both made it to the Final Four a year ago. Sunday evening they will play in a first round game. Maryland and Cornell were near consensus preseason picks to advance to championship weekend. On Sunday, the Terps and Big Red will meet in a first-round game.
Life will go on for one postseason without Hopkins, Virginia or Princeton. There does not need to be a knee-jerk reaction to one aberration of a year resulting in expansion of the postseason. Yes, if we could turn around a one-goal loss for Princeton to Penn or a one-goal loss for Virginia to Cornell or a one-goal loss for Hopkins to Carolina things would be drastically different, but that’s not how sports works. The games need to matter and if you make the field bigger the tradition-rich programs that play each other would qualify for the tournament before the first day of practice based solely on their schedules. We need to generate more excitement in the regular season, not make it irrelevant.
This was one of the most bizarre and entertaining regular seasons in recent memory, with classic games and huge upsets that played a major role in shaping the brackets. One can only wonder (hope?) if that is how the tournament will play out as well.