DURHAM/CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Triangle-area men’s college lacrosse fans probably watched Sunday’s NCAA tournament selection show with a little bit of trepidation.
At least they did up to the point when the top eight seeds were announced anyway.
Neither the Duke Blue Devils (11-7), nor the UNC Tar Heels (8-6) were part of the group led in succession by top-seeded Maryland, No. 2 Denver, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Yale, No. 5 Brown, No. 6 Marquette, No. 7 Loyola, and No. 8 Syracuse.
After various insights provided from ESPNU commentators Eamon McAnaney, Quint Kessenich, and Paul Carcaterra into the match-ups of the top four seeds with play-in teams and the early at-large bids awarded to Johns Hopkins, Navy and Air Force, the Tar Heels and then the Blue Devils were revealed as part of the field.
Following an atypical regular season in which both teams suffered losses not only to formidable ranked opponents, but to unstart unranked ones, both North Carolina and Duke will begin their quest for a national championship on the road.
The three-time NCAA Champion Blue Devils travel to Maryland Saturday to face the Patriot League-champion Greyhounds (12-3), a team they beat 15-6 earlier in the season while the Tar Heels pack an extra layer of clothing to meet the Big East-champion Golden Eagles (11-4), a fourth-year program that earned its first-ever seeding and privilege of hosting an NCAA Division I tournament game in the state of Wisconsin.
Duke will be on the road for the first time under head coach John Danowski and for just the third time in 20 tournament appearances, holding a 32-16 all-time record in NCAA postseason play and a 14-5 resume in first-round games.
It will be the third meeting between Duke and Loyola in the NCAA Tournament with the Blue Devils holding a 2-0 record.
They last faced off against each other in the 2013 Tournament which ended in a memorable 12-11 double-overtime victory for Duke over the defending 2012 champions.
The Blue Devils eventually won their second NCAA title that year.
The winner between Duke and Loyola will advance to the NCAA quarterfinals to take on the winner between Denver and either Towson or Hobart from the play-in game.
For UNC, the at-large bid marked the 31st time the Tar Heels made the NCAA tournament field since earning their first in 1977.
They are 29-26 all-time in tournament play, and are unseeded for only the fourth time in school history, and will travel on the road in the NCAA first round for the third time since the field expanded in 1995.
The UNC-Marquette matchup will mark the first-ever between the two teams with the winner advancing to meet the winner of the first-round game between Notre Dame and Air Force.