Let's get a little humble pie out of the way. If there was any team I wasn't giving much of a chance to succeed this weekend, it was Army.
I got two up-close looks at the Black Knights, and while their hustle and scrappiness were impressive, they didn't look like the sort of team capable of pulling off a colossal upset.
Well, that's what Army did, winning an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1993 (and one on the road for the first time since 1984). Final margin: 9-8, double overtime.
So, yes, the Black Knights are better than I've given them credit for --- not to mention just about everyone else. This was an upset virtually no one saw coming.
But where to place it among the all-time tournament stunners? I'll give it a whirl, but no promises this is a perfect list?
10 (tie). Maryland 19, Loyola 8 (1998 semifinals); Syracuse 17, Loyola 12 (1999 quarterfinals)
These two games share a spot, since the Greyhounds earned No. 1 seeds in both seasons and imploded in spectacular fashion both times. The '98 edition waited until the semifinals before trailing 10-1 to the Terrapins at the half in an all-time Memorial Day weekend clunker. The 1999 loss was a bit more predictable --- who, in most years, beats Syracuse before the semifinals? --- and less embarrassing (the then-Orangemen led 7-6 at the half). But in the 40-year history of the tournament, the '99 Greyhounds are the only No. 1 seed that failed to reach the semifinals.
9. Massachusetts 8, Maryland 5 (2006 semifinals)
The unseeded Minutemen pulled off one-goal stunners against Cornell and Hofstra just to make their first final four, then ran into a Terrapin team with a loaded senior class. But Brendan Healy, Bill McGlone, Xander Ritz and Joe Walters combined to shoot 1-for-32 as Doc Schneider made 15 saves in the most jaw-dropping semifinal of the last 15 years. The good feelings lasted 48 hours, as UMass was trounced in the title game by 17-0 Virginia.
8. Maryland 13, Virginia 4 (1983 quarterfinals)
This one's relatively ignored by history, since the Terps promptly lost to Syracuse in the Orange(men)'s first national title run. But Virginia, the No. 3 seed, came in 10-1 and had won its previous six games by an average of 11 goals. That run started with a 17-8 rout of Maryland at home, but the Terps won the rematch in Charlottesville by blanking the Cavaliers in the first half.
7. Johns Hopkins 12, Duke 11 (2007 final)
Virtually ignored in their hometown while Duke --- a year removed from the near-extinction of its program --- drew hordes of national attention. Hopkins breezed past Delaware (see No. 6) in the semifinals, while Duke was exhausted in a gripping 12-11 defeat of Cornell in steamy conditions later that day. The Blue Jays pounced quickly, building a 10-4 lead before fending off Duke and spoiling an outcome many considered a fait accompli. Alas, they didn't account for the Petro factor --- or Jesse Schwartzman, who made 15 saves in his final college game to earn tournament most outstanding player honors.
6. Delaware 14, Virginia 8 (2007 first round)
Parity became a little bit more than a buzzword on May 13, 2007, when CAA champion Delaware marched into Charlottesville and throttled the defending national champions. Curtis Dickson --- yep, the same guy whose career just ended this weekend --- scored four goals and the Blue Hens held a 5-1 edge in the fourth quarter to leave the Cavaliers flabbergasted, not to mention out of the tournament before the quarterfinals.
5. Johns Hopkins 13, Cornell 8 (1978 final)
It wasn't that Hopkins --- which came in 12-1 with all of its victories by at least six goals --- wasn't good or even imposing. It was just that the Big Red had won 42 straight games, a record that still stands. Among those victories were meetings with Hopkins in the 1976 semis, the 1977 title game and the 1978 regular season, the latter a 16-11 Cornell win. The Blue Jays opened the fourth quarter with a 9-7 edge, then got a goal and two assists from Mike O'Neill to establish a five-goal cushion and all but lock up the title.
4. North Carolina 10, Johns Hopkins 9, OT (1986 semifinals)
The first true final four --- played in Newark, Del., --- featured two-time defending champ Johns Hopkins, a Syracuse outfit that beat the Blue Jays early in the season and a Virginia team that pushed the Hop in a 8-7 midseason loss. Then there was North Carolina, which absorbed a 16-4 drubbing in an early April visit to Homewood. But the Tar Heels regroup, earning a stunning victory before going on to beat Virginia in overtime by an identical 10-9 score. North Carolina remains the only team seeded No. 5 or below to win a title.
3. Maryland 16, Johns Hopkins 8 (1995 semifinals)
Tony Seaman's best Blue Jays team went 12-0 in the regular season and then dismantled Loyola in the quarterfinals. All that stood between the Hop and a spot on Memorial Day was Maryland. Or, more specifically, Maryland goalie Brian Dougherty, who made 23 saves. It matched the worst playoff loss in Hopkins history, a mark that would stand until 2009, and the Blue Jays had to wait 10 more years to win their first title since 1987.
2. Army 9, Syracuse 8, 2OT (2010 first round)
It would probably rate as No. 1 if it happened later in the tournament. As it stands, this will have to suffice as lacrosse's answer to Arizona-Santa Clara, South Carolina-Coppin State, Iowa State-Hampton and, yes, Syracuse-Richmond. The Black Knights were 0-3 against the tournament field, and the Orange had long made a late spring trip to the Carrier Dome an unwinnable situation. But even after Syracuse built a 5-1 lead, Army didn't wilt. It scored in the final minute of the second and third quarters, erased an 8-6 deficit in the final 10 minutes and got a goal from Devin Lynch with five seconds left in the second overtime to pull a titanic shocker. Next up: Cornell.
1. Johns Hopkins 13, Maryland 8 (1987 semifinals)
After simply a hellish year in College Park --- from the death of Len Bias to the departures of Lefty Driesell and Bobby Ross to simply an endless stream of bad news --- Maryland fans looked for something good. They got it in a seemingly impervious lacrosse team that blistered then-No. 1 North Carolina 16-6, hammered Virginia 12-5, demolished Navy 17-5 and dispatched Johns Hopkins 11-7 in a span of four weekends. The Terps rolled into the final four at 12-0, with an average victory margin of 9.5 goals. But Brian Wood had five goals and two assists as the Blue Jays both started and finished strong to deny arguably the best team in the NCAA tournament era not to win a championship.