NCAA Men's Lacrosse Tournament First Round to Be Held at Four Sites


Both UMBC and Vermont are in a tight America East race for the conference's AQ.

NCAA men’s lacrosse committee chairman Tim Leonard wasn’t sure how many schools would be interested in hosting a pair of first-round tournament games next month — especially factoring in the willingness to host even if the school wasn’t playing, the size of the venue, the availability of enough local hotel rooms to house four teams and whatever local pandemic protocols were in place.

It turned out to be more than he, or anyone, could have realistically expected.

“It was probably a-dozen-and-a-half,” said Leonard, the athletic director at Towson. “We were pleasantly surprised.”

Four sites are expected to host two first-round games apiece as the NCAA continues to work on the logistics of this year’s tournament. It is uncertain if each site will host a Saturday and a Sunday game in the first round, a single-day doubleheader or if there will be a mix.

Leonard said he anticipates an announcement on the sites early next week.

“We’ve essentially made the recommendation, and now it’s all the legwork,” Leonard said. “We have to go back and confirm with the institutions: ‘We know you’ve said you can do this, but we’re going to say it’s yours, and once we say it’s yours, you have to own it.’ We have to make sure ESPN is on board and all those different things.”

Hofstra and Notre Dame will remain the quarterfinal sites as scheduled, as will championship weekend host East Hartford, Conn. There will be no play-in game this season with the Ivy League not sponsoring the sport this year, reducing the field to 16.

Do not be surprised if there is a geographic component to the site selection, with host schools spread out to ensure fewer teams have to travel far from campus for the opening round of the tournament.

Intriguingly, Leonard said fan access was not initially something the NCAA committee was heavily concerned about initially, but that it “did come into consideration at that point once we knew we had plenty of options.”

Those choices also moved the NCAA away from the possibility of contesting much or all of the tournament in a single state or metro area. The NCAA went that route for the just-concluded men’s basketball (Indianapolis) and women’s basketball (San Antonio) tournaments, and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments that begin later this month will be played entirely in North Carolina.

“That was certainly an option, especially early on when we had no idea if there was anybody out there was that was willing to do this,” Leonard said. “That was something we looked at. I thought it would have been pretty cool, to be honest with you, but I think the overall consensus of the committee was, ‘We need to reduce some of the travel as much as possible, and if we can make it as geographically friendly as we can, then that’s better.’”

While the framework of where the tournament will unfold is settled, exactly how the committee will sort out the selection and seeding process is another matter.

The committee will have five members; Denver deputy athletic director Brandon Macneill is expected to join Leonard, Loyola athletic director Donna Woodruff, North Carolina coach Joe Breschi and Hobart coach Greg Raymond. Macneill replaces former Utah deputy AD Kyle Brennan, who took the AD job at Illinois State late last year.

Leonard said weekly calls with the 10-coach regional advisory committee will begin next week, and those discussions will be especially valuable in a year when some of the tools used for bracketing the field can’t provide much (or any) insight because of limited nonconference schedules.

“I just don’t know yet how much of an emphasis will be placed on each criteria,” Leonard said. “We try to have an order of the things that we’re looking at and some of those we won’t even be able to use this year. … We always had a non-conference strength of schedule, non-conference RPI and the rest of those things. Some of those things won’t be the criteria we can use.”

It’s a process the committee will need to sort out over the next month leading into the May 9 selection announcement. And while there are elements that might not be as influential as part years, the consequences of the pandemic could make something usually not taken into consideration a factor in deliberations.

“In the past, we’ve really tried to stay away from looking at situations like, ‘Well, this team had a bad loss, but they were missing their best player,’” Leonard said. “We try to stay away from who was playing in the game and who’s healthy and who’s not. I say this now, but I would imagine it’s going to be hard to not have some of that criteria in there if you’re looking and [a team] is missing their three starting attackmen because they were out on COVID protocol.”

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