If this was two months ago, and someone said Wednesday's Towson-Johns Hopkins lacrosse game was going to provide some of the most riveting theater (at least from a storyline standpoint) of the season, they would have been laughed at.
Hopkins hasn't lost to Towson since 1996.
The Blue Jays routinely are rolling into their in-state cruise control at this stage of the season.
The Tigers were never over .500 in 2008 and 2009, and their biggest subplot coming into the season was coach Tony Seaman's job status.
And yet ...
Towson-Hopkins was a midweek treat the last two years, an opportunity to get one last look at the Blue Jays before the playoffs and perhaps get a sense of where the Tigers are with a week and a half before Selection Sunday.
This year, it's a must-see, and I'll roll into Homewood early for the festivities. Here's five subplots that will be worth monitoring throughout the evening.
1. Hopkins' line in the sand. There is no more wiggle room, no more what-ifs for Hopkins.
It needs to win its last two games to have any chance of reaching the NCAA tournament for the 39th straight year.
The next loss clinches not just the Blue Jays' first losing record since 1971, but the most losses in program history. Hopkins has dropped six of seven, the latest the school's first loss to Navy since Richard Nixon was clinging to his place in the White House.
A 7-7 Hopkins team --- and that would require defeats of Towson and Loyola --- would warrant consideration for an NCAA tournament berth. At 6-8 or worse, the Blue Jays would be ineligible for the tournament.
That alone makes this (and May 8 at Loyola) something worth being in the building for.
2. The Seaman storyline. As admitted before, Towson coach Tony Seaman is one my favorite people in the sport. He's brutally honest with reporters and generous with his time, and his track record says he's pretty good at what he does.
But long before he found himself in the final year of his contract this season, he had another dicey situation at a Baltimore school. Seaman spent eight seasons at Hopkins, and was ousted in acrimonious circumstances after the Blue Jays. He went 77-33, reached four final fours and won no titles. At Hopkins, it wasn't enough.
If distance makes the heart grow fonder, well, relocating a few miles up Charles Street nullified that possibility for Seaman. He's also 0-12 against the Blue Jays in his first 11 seasons at Towson, with last year's overtime loss a particularly wrenching setback.
Now, his team is in position to eliminate Hopkins from the postseason for the first time in nearly four decades. If the Tigers do win, Seaman's postgame chat with reporters could be downright epic.
3. Tigers untamed. Towson, with or without Seaman's job status, is one of the season's great stories. All but buried at 1-5, the Tigers have rattled off five straight victories and clinched the CAA regular season title.
Granted, those five wins are by a combined eight goals, and Towson's last loss was a 7-6 setback against Loyola. Tigers fans have had their share of ulcers this season.
But beating Hopkins would ensure this was a pretty sweet season --- arguably the program's best since a quarterfinal appearance in 2003.
Granted, nothing is secure. But Towson will go a long way to locking down an at-large NCAA tournament berth if it needs it if it can win at Homewood.
4. Extra-man pressure. It bears repeating this week. Hopkins is now 2-for-22 on extra-man in its last six games. The Blue Jays rank last nationally in man-down defense (20-for-35 --- or a goal yielded 42.9 percent of the time).
After a dozen games, Hopkins probably isn't turning into a juggernaut in either category. But Towson is midpack on special teams (31st of 58 teams in extra-man, 32nd in man-down), and might not exploit that weakness as much as other teams. The Blue Jays need to avoid a net negative in this facet in both of their last two games.
5. Senior memories. Despite solid play from Steven Boyle (28 goals, 18 assists) and Michael Kimmel (18 goals, 14 assists), there's no sugarcoating this isn't the sort of season they or their classmates hoped for just a couple months ago.
Their final game at Homewood has arrived, since the Blue Jays won't be playing host to a tournament game (or at least shouldn't even if they get to 7-7). Hopkins' problem hasn't been home play; it is 5-2 at Homewood and 0-5 everywhere else.
But here's a couple stats you probably won't see in the game notes:
* Hopkins last dropped a home regular-season finale in 1996, when it stumbled against Towson
* Hopkins last dropped a home finale in 1991, when it fell to Syracuse in the NCAA quarterfinals
* Hopkins last dropped a home regular-season finale in a year when it didn't play a postseason home game in 1969.
Beating Towson won't reverse the Blue Jays' recent slide. But it would ensure the tail end of this season isn't as sour as it could be for Hopkins' veterans.