Sixteen of the top men's lacrosse schools in the nation are gearing up for a 16-day event that will decide the ultimate prize—the winner of the 2014 NCAA championship.
The NCAA men's lacrosse championship tournament begins May 10 and 11 with first-round matches and spans all the way to the championship game on May 26. The two semifinals will take place May 24 in Baltimore, with the winners competing for the title two days later.
No. 1 seed Duke and No. 2 seed Syracuse top the field of participating schools, but many underdogs are ready to put together deep runs. Given the Blue Devils' championship last year as a No. 7 seed, anything can happen when these teams take to the field.
Let's break down the complete NCAA men's lacrosse championship tournament schedule and highlight the top schools in action.
|May 10||Albany vs. No. 3 Loyola (Md.)||Noon||ESPNU|
|May 10||Harvard vs. No. 6 Notre Dame||2:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|May 10||Cornell vs. No. 7 Maryland||5 p.m.||ESPNU|
|May 10||North Carolina vs. No. 5 Denver||7:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|May 11||Johns Hopkins vs. No. 8 Virginia||1 p.m.||ESPN2|
|May 11||Drexel vs. No. 4 Penn||3 p.m.||ESPNU|
|May 11||Richmond/Air Force vs. No. 1 Duke||5:15 p.m.||ESPNU|
|May 11||Bryant vs. No. 2 Syracuse||7:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|May 17||Game 9: Loyola/Albany vs. Harvard/Notre Dame||TBD||TBD|
|May 17||Game 10: Cornell/Maryland vs. Bryant/Syracuse||TBD||TBD|
|May 18||Game 11: Duke/TBD vs. Virginia/Johns Hopkins||TBD||TBD|
|May 18||Game 12: Denver/North Carolina vs. Drexel/Penn||TBD||TBD|
|May 24||Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner||TBD||ESPN2|
|May 24||Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner||TBD||ESPN2|
|May 26||Championship Game (Baltimore, Maryland)||1 p.m.||ESPN2|
Note: All bracket information up to date as of May 7 and courtesy of NCAA.com.
Top Teams to Watch
No. 1 Duke
From start to finish, no school in the NCAA has been more in control of men's lacrosse this season than the national title-defending Duke Blue Devils.
They started the season 4-0, and after dropping two straight in Maryland to the Terrapins and Loyola, they rattled off eight straight—five against fellow NCAA tourney teams—before losing a close one to Syracuse, which they dismantled earlier in the year.
Offensive consistency has been at the helm of Duke's late-season dominance, as the squad has scored 15 or more goals in eight straight games. With Jordan Wolf and Josh Dionne both in the top 10 in goal scoring nationally, the Devils have been able to remain a force in the scoring department.
Wolf, the ACC offensive player of the year, according to the team's website, ranks third all time in Duke history and fourth in ACC history in career points. He is the team's unquestionable star.
Duke, which ranks second nationally in goals per game, faces the winner of Richmond and Air Force—a play-in game. But don't count on the Blue Devils' crown being seriously threatened until the later rounds.
No. 2 Syracuse
After starting its season 4-3 and coming off a 21-17 embarrassment at the hands of Duke, Syracuse didn't crumble under the pressure and now enters the NCAA tournament as perhaps the nation's top team.
Who will win the title?
Since that bad start, the Orange rattled off six straight wins in the brutal ACC and only have one loss—a 15-14 affair to Notre Dame—since March 23. They're peaking at the right time, as evidenced by their top ranking by the NCAA.
Despite being sixth in the nation in scoring offense per game, Syracuse is an unselfish team offensively. No player ranks in the top 25 in scoring individually. Senior attacker Kevin Rice ranking fourth in the nation in assists further shows how this team relies on spreading it around.
This team doesn't live to dominate the stat sheets. It just dominates games and has done so in convincing fashion as of late better than anyone.
The Orange will face Bryant in the first round, which slipped past Siena in a play-in game 9-8 for a chance to face the second-seeded team. But with the way that Syracuse is looking as of late, it will take a much more serious test to knock off this team.
Albany (New York) might come into this tournament without a seed by its name, but there's no doubting its ability entering a tough first-round affair.
This team led the entire nation in scoring offense—with an incredible 16.31 goals per game. A whopping 4.63 of them on average come from Miles Thompson, the senior attacker who tops the NCAA in goals per game by a considerable margin.
Some of those numbers might be aided by a weak schedule—Albany is the only team in the American East Conference in the top 30. But even so, 17-goal games against Syracuse and Penn State earlier in the season justify Albany's offensive ability.
The Great Danes face No. 3 seed Loyola (Maryland) in an opening-round clash that will peg the nation's top offense against the nation's second-best defense. The Greyhounds only give up 7.13 goals per game, so whoever can exercise their style best will likely come out on top.
Of course, Great Danes goalie Blaze Riorden—fourth nationally at 13.13 saves per game—will also have to be at his best. Loyola's offense joins Albany's in the top five, as it is fifth in the nation in scoring.
Note: All stats courtesy of NCAA.com.