Heels stuck with No. 5 seed
CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina received some motivation from the selection committee as it heads into the NCAA Tournament.
Despite being ranked No. 1 by both the media and the coaches, being third in the RPI, having the nation’s longest winning streak (nine games) and winning the championship in the No. 1 RPI conference, the Tar Heels (12-3) received the No. 5 seed Sunday. They will host Lehigh (12-4) in the tournament opener Saturday (noon, ESPN2).
“Very puzzling,” ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra said during Sunday night’s selection show. “You look at ACC lacrosse and equate it to SEC football. They ran the table down the stretch… they’re clicking on all cylinders. RPI, head-to-head, I don’t care. I trust my eyes. North Carolina is a top 4 seed, and a team I would not want to face.”
UNC was only 1-2 against RPI Top 10 teams and was 3-2 away from home.
ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said the committee relied too much on the numbers.
“There needs to be a little human factor – who’s hot now, who’s not hot now,” Kessenich said. “And as Paul said, right now one of the hottest teams in the country, who needed a bump up I believe in the seeding, would have been North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, Duke, seeded No. 7 nationally, also opens the NCAA Tournament at home. The Blue Devils (12-5) face reigning NCAA champion Loyola (Md.) at Koskinen Stadium on Sunday (5:15 p.m., ESPNU).
UNC’s strength of schedule was damaged because some of its normal rivals had down years. The Tar Heels went 4-0 against usual powers Virginia, Johns Hopkins and Princeton, all of whom missed the tournament this season. However, seeding isn’t as important in men’s lacrosse, since the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are played at pre-determined sites.
“I think that you go at it and try to predict and assume you’re going to be in some spot, there’s always going be some disappointment if you’re not where you think you are,” UNC coach Joe Breschi said. “We were hoping for a home game and we got one, which is fantastic.”
While the Tar Heels have the longest winning streak, Lehigh is second, having won seven in a row. The Mountain Hawks also won at UNC in its last appearance here in 2012. Both teams lost at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.
Duke already owns a 9-8 win over Loyola this season in a game played March 8 at Koskinen Stadium.
Despite that, Duke coach John Danowski expects the Greyounds (11-4) to play with an edge after losing to Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the ECAC Tournament.
“Loyola is the defending national champion,” Danowski said. “They are extremely well coached they are going to be hungry. You are going to see an experienced hungry team.”
Duke owns the nation’s No. 3 offense, which the Blue Devils had on display in Sunday’s 19-3 win in their regular-season finale at Marquette.
Duke is seeking its seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament’s semifinal round. The Blue Devils won the national championship in 2010 but haven’t been back to the national championship since that season.
Danowski said the 18-17 loss Duke suffered in the ACC Tournament semifinals at UNC on April 25 gave his team a chance to learn about overcoming distractions. The players had two reading days prior to that game in preparation for last week’s final exams.
“We learned some lessons from the week before,” Danowski said, “when we weren’t ready coming out to play against Carolina.”
This Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game will be played on the same day as graduation, which will be held at Wallace Wade Stadium that morning.
“I know our guys will prepare well,” Danowski said. “A little bit of a curveball this year is we have to play at home on graduation Sunday, which can be a distraction as well. We have to learn to handle that, learn how to balance that.”