The 2010 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: The Usual Suspects

Virginia, Syracuse, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Maryland and Cornell.

Every NCAA Lacrosse Championship ever handed out has gone to one of those schools.  That's seven teams in 39 years.  Parity is not one of college lacrosse's strong suites.

Sure enough, all six of those teams are back in the sixteen-team NCAA Tournament this year, including three of the top overall seeds.  The odds that one of them will win another title are pretty strong.  And so college lacrosse goes...

That's not to say it's all the same old story.  2010 was a year that saw transitions and changings of the guard slowly but surely starting to take place.  Former Princeton coach Bill Tierney shocked the sport by leaving the Tiger to coach the University of Denver.  He kept the shock going by getting the Pioneers into the NCAA Tournament in his first season.  Johns Hopkins, the Notre Dame football of the college lax world, barely eeked their way into the tournament despite a 7-7 record thanks to a strong SOS and more than likely a little historical preference.

Denver and Stony Brook and Mount Saint Mary's make for nice stories but it's Virginia, Syracuse and Maryland that sell tickets.  And the 2010 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament bracket certainly features its old guard quite well.

See the full bracket here.

The road to the Final Four in Baltimore on Memorial Day Weekend begins on Saturday, May 15th and Sunday, May 16th with the opening round games.  Let's take a quick look to see what to expect in the eight match-ups.

No. 1 Virginia (14-1) vs. Mount Saint Mary's (12-4) - May 15th, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU

Setting aside the events of the past week, Virginia would already be the team to watch in the tournament.  Far and away the best team in the nation, UVA beat every other team ranked in the top five this season and spent most of the year in the top spot.  Of course, you can't help but factor in the events of Yeardley Love's death and wonder how the team will be affected. It shouldn't cause them issues here but the intensity and spotlight will get bigger with each game.

As for Mount Saint Mary's, they got here by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference automatic bid.  They opened the season with a 15-7 loss to the Cavaliers and no one expects this one to be much closer.  Just making the tournament is their reward.

No. 2 Syracuse (13-1) vs. Army (10-5) - May 16th, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU

Some have wondered if the tragic events surrounding Virginia's season have catapulted two-time defending champion Syracuse into the driver's seat of the tournament.  The Orange's only loss came to the Cavaliers by one point and they'll be looking for the opportunity to avenge it.  First things first they need to get past the Cadets and they'll look to their strong defense, led by goalie John Galloway, to do that.

The Cadets are hoping experience playing the Orange in the Dome pays off.  They lost to SU 12-7 earlier in the year and are in the midst of an seven-game winning streak that carried them into the tournament.  Good luck, SU is 25-1 in the Dome since 2008.

No. 3 Maryland (11-3) vs. Hofstra (9-4) - May 15th, 12:00 p.m. ESPNU

Maryland hasn't been to the Final Four since 2006, played for the lacrosse title since 1998 and hasn't won it since 1973.  They'll have a good chance to rectify the situation this year.  The Terps came within one of beating Virginia in their first meeting and their only other loss came at the hands of No. 4 North Carolina.  They're fast, they're deep and they're hungry to reclaim their spot atop the lax world.

Hofstra is a bit of a surprise here after not winning their conference tournament.  Credit the Pride's potent scoring offense and quality wins over a bunch of tournament teams.  Still, they're going to need to put together a helluva game if they want to beat Maryland.

No. 4 North Carolina (12-2) vs. Delaware (10-6) - May 16th, 5:00 p.m. ESPNU

The last time North Carolina won a national title was 1991, their fourth NCAA title.  This might be their best shot in a long time.  The began the season 10-0 and rose to No. 2 in the rankings before running into No. 1 Virginia.  They finished the season losing two of their last four thanks to wear, tear and some unfortunate injuries. 

The Heels defense has looked porous and that's good news for Delaware's Curtis Dickson, who led the nation with 75 points.  Another good sign, the Blue Hens have experience with the first-round upset, beating Virginia in 2007.  The hero that day?  Freshman Curtis Dickson.

No. 5 Duke (12-4) vs. Johns Hopkins (7-7) - May 15th, 12:00 p.m. ESPN

Duke might be the best lacrosse program never to win a national title.  They've been ranked at or near the top of the polls almost every year this decade and at some point in the tournament the wheels always seem to fall off.  This year they've been no favors as they'll face what has to be the best 7-7 team in the nation.

Any other 7-7 team probably wouldn't have gotten the benefit of the doubt that Hopkins did as they eeked into the tournament thanks to a strong schedule and finish.  But this is Hopkins and what they lack in wins they make up for in experience and battle-testing.  This is, after all, their 39th-straight trip to the tournament.  These two tangled in the 2007 Title Game (Hopkins won 11-10) and in the 2008 Final Four (Hopkins won 10-9).

No. 6 Princeton (11-4) vs. Notre Dame (7-6) - May 16th, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU

The Tigers did well in year one of the post-Bill Tierney Era, winning the Ivy League and avenging an earlier loss to Cornell.  A blowout loss to Syracuse and curious upset by Harvard raises questions about the Tigers' stability.  They'll lean on their goalie Tyler Fiorito who has carried the defense late in the season.

Notre Dame is the most curious selection of the tournament. They barely won more games than they lost and their SOS wasn't as good as Georgetown's, who was snubbed. The early-season wins over Duke and Loyola are a big part of why they're here. The Fighting Irish has had its struggles but its the defense that's gotten them here (and gives them their best shot to move on).

No. 7 Cornell (10-5) vs. Loyola (9-4) - May 15th, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU

Last year Cornell could almost taste their first National Title since 1977 before giving the game away to Syracuse.  A win here and they'll get a chance at revenge.  They finished the season 2-3 but they've got the tools to advance.

They Greyhounds were the final bubble team to make the cut, limping into the tournament with losses to Denver and Hopkins.  Loyola's offense has a tendency to disappear but their defense is one of the best in the nation.

No. 8 Stony Brook (12-3) vs. Denver (12-4) - May 15th, 5:00 p.m. ESPNU

Stony Brook is the closest thing we have to the Butler basketball team in the tournament.  The American East Conference champs are on an eight-game winning streak and their three losses are to tournament teams.  One of which was a 13-12 loss to Denver.  Kevin Crowley leads one of the most potent offenses in the nation but their defense remains suspect.

Denver has basically been playing playoff lacrosse since early April.  After a 1-3 start, the Pioneers have rattled off eleven wins in twelve games and an ECAC title in Bill Tierney's first season at the helm.  They bring a strong offense as well in what we can expect to be a high-scoring showdown.

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