Weak Left-Handed Shots is an opinion column by RyanMcD29. If you have any arguments about holes in my rantings and ramblings, you are more than free to comment about them in the comment section. Sorry, I don't have infographs to back up my arguments.
The past couple of weeks there's kind of been a panic going on about the state of college lacrosse in the northeast. The NCAA Lacrosse Tournament saw only 1 northern school make it to the quarterfinals (Colgate) and attendance at the Final Four was down as a championship site in Foxborough had nothing but Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern schools playing in it. UMass went undefeated in the regular season but got knocked out right away, Lehigh looked promising but lost a close one to Maryland, usual powers Princeton and Syracuse got knocked out (one much more competitively than the other), and northern tournament mainstays in Cornell and Hofstra both missed it altogether. What's worse, if Notre Dame doesn't lose to St. John's and Yale doesn't go on a hot streak, the Big East and Ivy League both look like one-bid conferences.
So what you're probably getting out of this is "I like a school that's north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I'm going to panic right now." Well, don't worry too much, because here's some reasons that will sort of make you feel better.
The Hotbeds Aren't Leaving Any Time Soon: Yes, talent goes other places. Just ask all the Long Islanders playing for Duke, UNC, and Virginia. But the fact remains that schools in the northeast will still be able to grab homegrown talent. It doesn't look like the lacrosse hotbeds of Long Island or Central New York or the Philadelphia area will be leaving any time soon, so lacrosse won't be leaving the fabric of the region at all. Furthermore, the New England lacrosse base has grown quite a bit, so at the very least there's no end to northeastern players being a crucial part of the game in sight.
There Weren't Many Championship Teams to Begin With: For all the talk of "Will we ever see a northeastern school win a title again with the expansion westward?" going on, one has to keep this in mind: Only 9 schools have ever won a national title at the D-1 level. Only Syracuse, Princeton, and Cornell have won the title from north of the Mason-Dixon line. Just throwing that out there.
The Patriot League: As much as the Big East and Ivy League had disappointing seasons, the Patriot League really rose up as one of the best lacrosse conferences in 2012. With Colgate and Lehigh leading the charge, the Patriot League had a good group of competitive teams with exciting players and made its dent in the national spotlight (Peter Baum says "Hi!"). With 2 bids this season, the Patriot League has become a player in NCAA Lacrosse. And with many northeastern schools being a part of the conference, we could see them making noise in the NCAA Tournament for some years to come.
There's Still Many Teams Who Got In: When I did the huge infographic for the NCAA Tournament, I counted how many teams per state had teams in the tournament. And out of the 16 teams in the tournament, 8 of them were from northern states. So there's really no real worry if northern schools are still getting in, even if it's from some of the minor conferences.
The Growth of the Game Still Applies Here: Yes, schools like Denver and Notre Dame are doing a great job of spreading the game out west. Yes, schools like Michigan and Marquette are joining the D-1 party. But at the same time, there's still room to grow in the northeast. Just ask Boston University and Monmouth, who will be playing D-1 lacrosse in a time not too long from now. There's also some schools that have recently started lacrosse that are beginning to make a dent in the NCAA Lacrosse landscape in the north. And hey, if a school like BC or UConn add lacrosse, the sky could be the limit for some of the northeast's major institutions.
The Major Players are Still Major Players: Let's face it, although new players have taken away success from the blue bloods, the blue bloods are still doing pretty good. Cornell and Syracuse had down years in 2012. However, they have still been in the top 5 for much of the years prior to that. The Big East had three teams ranked for the entire season with Villanova in the top 20 all year and the Ivy League got a boost from Yale, who usually isn't an Ivy contender. Mark that with UMass coming back to the national forefront, Princeton looking like a possible contender once again, Penn State just barely missing the NCAAs, and Lehigh and Colgate doing big things, it won't be too long before we might see another northern national champion. Loyola proved that anybody can win it, so any school that's struggling right now can make a huge impact very shortly. And even if there's some schools not doing too great right now, like a Hofstra or a Harvard, there's still time to recover nicely.
So all in all, while lacrosse is being dominated by the Mid-Atlantic, and, in the case of Notre Dame and Denver, the outpost schools at the moment, there's no real need to panic if you're a fan of lacrosse schools in the north. And hey, growing the game in different places is a great thing for the sport, so perhaps we're just looking at a new era of geographic variety rather than a time where northeastern schools are struggling. So just sit back and relax a bit while you wait for lacrosse to come back in February and try not to write on all the lacrosse message boards about how worried you are that Syracuse/Cornell/Hofstra/Princeton/etc.'s days have come and passed.