Duke begins chase for three-peat in NCAA men's lacrosse

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke followed one national championship in men's lacrosse by winning another.

Now it's time for the Blue Devils to try to do it again. The two-time reigning champions will look to take their first step toward a three-peat.

Duke midfielder Myles Jones says "the formula's the same" because the Blue Devils have the "same plays, same coaches. Just different guys filling different roles."

The men's and women's NCAA tournaments begin in full swing for most schools on campus sites this weekend. Both have a heavy Atlantic Coast Conference flavor, with teams from its past — Maryland's women — and present — Notre Dame's men — holding the No. 1 seeds.

The Blue Devils (12-5) won their first in 2010, picked up a second in '13 and made it two in a row last year.

With a retooled roster that coach John Danowski once wasn't sure was an NCAA Tournament team, the Blue Devils knocked off top-seeded Notre Dame in the ACC tournament before losing to Syracuse in the title game.

Now they'll try to reach their ninth straight Final Four and earn their fourth national title in six years.

"We lessened their expectations right from the beginning," Danowski said. "We told them, 'Listen, we don't know if you're a playoff team.' Very honest with them. That wasn't a coaching ploy.

"They have certainly exceeded our expectations that we had in August."

Both national tournaments look a lot like ACC Invitationals.

The ACC only fields five teams in men's lacrosse, but four of them received top-five seeds: In addition to Notre Dame (10-2) and the Blue Devils, there's No. 2 Syracuse (12-2) and No. 3 North Carolina (12-3).

The fifth team — Virginia (10-7) — is No. 7 and Maryland (12-3) — a charter ACC member which joined the Big Ten this year — earned the No. 6.

On the women's side, six of the top eight teams either are or recently were ACC members — including the top-seeded Terrapins (17-1) and the league champion Orange (14-7).

The Syracuse men's path through the bracket could lead through Virginia, North Carolina and then either Notre Dame or Duke.

"You're going to have to beat four traditional rivals," Orange attackman Kevin Rice said. "I think regardless of where we were put, we were always likely to play teams that we've faced before because of the schedule that we play and the nature of the ACC this season."

Some things to watch during the men's and women's tournaments.

SPLITTING HAIRS: It couldn't have been easy for the committee to separate Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Orange finished the year No. 1 in the RPI and won the conference tournament, while Notre Dame had a better strength of schedule. The tiebreaker might have been the head-to-head result: The Irish won 13-12 in double overtime on March 28. "Any type of motivation that we can get this time of year to help beat the next opponent will help," Syracuse coach John Desko said.

STAR WATCH: Both tournaments will feature a 2014 winner of lacrosse's version of the Heisman Trophy. Albany senior attacker Lyle Thompson — a co-recipient of the Tewaaraton Award last year with his older brother Miles — is one of 25 finalists this season and ranks second in the nation with 3.47 assists per game while leading the Great Danes against No. 8 seed Cornell. Among the women, Maryland junior midfielder Taylor Cummings is a candidate to repeat after leading the Big Ten with 4.56 points while helping the Terrapins finish the regular season undefeated.

TERPS ON TOP: It's no surprise that Maryland earned the top seed in the women's tournament. The Terps — who are in the field for the 26th straight year — lead the NCAA with 18 title-game appearances and 11 titles.

UPSET ALERT: Half of the top eight seeds in last year's men's tournament were upset in their opener. The most obvious candidate to pull an upset this year might be Johns Hopkins. Hopkins (9-6), unseeded but a perennial power in the sport, won the first Big Ten tournament and opens against a Virginia team that beat the Blue Jays 16-15 in overtime.


Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

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