As the 2011 NCAA Championships in men’s lacrosse get underway, last season’s NCAA Champions are very much alive in their bids to repeat, but they clearly have their work cut out for them. Duke, C.W. Post, and Tufts all enter tournament play on the heels of strong regular-season performances, but of the reigning champs in Divisions I, II and III, only the Pioneers can be considered a favorite to repeat.

Post completed the regular-season with a 16-1 record, and heads into next Saturday’s Division II semifinal against Mercyhurst as the No. 1 team in the US Intercollegiate Lacrosse Assocation’s Division II Poll. The Pioneers’ lone loss came some six weeks ago against ECC rival Dowling, a team that did not qualify for the four-team Division II tournament.

Duke, the reigning Division I Champion, enters the tournament with a 12-5 record. Only first-round opponent Delaware, Pennsylvania and America East champion Hartford lost more games while making the tournament. All of that said, however, one could argue that the Blue Devils have the rest of the country right where they want them. After all, Duke entered the tournament a year ago as the fifth seed, and defeated Johns Hopkins, No. 4 seed North Carolina, top seed Virginia and Notre Dame to win the school’s first NCAA Championship in men’s lacrosse. Conveniently enough, if the Blue Devils are successful against the Blue Hens, they could wind up taking on the Fighting Irish again. Notre Dame is seeded fourth overall, and hosts the Quakers in the first round.

Tufts had a long run at No. 1 this season in the USILA Division III poll, running its win streak to 19 games dating back to April 17 of last season. However, the team that started the Jumbos’ win streak, Endicott, proved to be the team that would end it, as the Gulls handed Tufts a 9-8 loss on April 12. The Jumbos took another loss just over two weeks later, in the regular-season finale against Bowdoin, but avenged that loss to the Polar Bears in the NESCAC Semifinals, and went on to claim the NESCAC Championship on May 8 with an overtime victory over Middlebury. The Jumbos received a first-round bye in the 26-team NCAA Division III tournament, and will open tournament play on Saturday against Union, a 15-7 winner over Nazareth in first-round action on Wednesday.

Need to Know

•  All eight Division I first round games will be televised live on the ESPN family of networks. Saturday’s game between No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins and Hofstra will air on ESPN2 (12 p.m. ET), No. 8 seed North Carolina’s game against ACC rival Maryland will air on ESPN on Sunday (1 p.m. ET), with the six other first-round games airing on ESPN U. In addition, all eight games will be streamed online at ESPN3.com.

• The East Coast Conference is guaranteed to have one team in the NCAA Division II Championship game, as conference rivals Mercyhurst and C.W. Post will play in a semifinal game on Saturday, May 21 at the Pioneers’ Hickox Field. Other than Dowling, which beat Post in overtime on March 26, the Lakers gave the Pioneers their toughest game of the season. In their regular-season meeting on April 9, Lakers goalkeeper Zach Nash made 14 saves on 18 shots to hold the reigning NCAA Champions to four goals, but Post keeper Mike Giordano made 13 saves on 16 shots, backstopping the Pioneers to a 4-3 victory. It remains to be seen whether Nash and Giordano will be able to reprise those performances when the teams meet again at Hickox Field, the site of the first meeting between the teams.

• After Denison, Ohio Wesleyan and Wittenberg tied for the North Coast Athletic Conference title, all three teams were selected for the NCAA Division III tournament, and the Big Red and the Battling Bishops were given a chance to battle for further NCAC supremacy in a first-round matchup at the Big Red’s Deeds Field-Piper Stadium. The Big Red bested OWU on the road, 12-6, during the regular season, but the game proved to be closer at their home field. The teams were tied at six goals apiece heading into the fourth quarter, and Denison’s Tanner Smith scored his 18th goal of the season with 1:17 remaining in the game, lifting the Big Red to a 7-6 victory. The Big Red now moves on to a second-round matchup with unbeaten RIT. The Big Red will look to tame the Empire 8 Champion Tigers on Saturday in Rochester. The NCAC’s Tigers, meanwhile ousted Adrian in the opening round.

Quick Hits

• America East champion Hartford undoubtedly has its work cut out for it in its first-round NCAA tournament matchup with Ivy League Champion and No. 2 seed Cornell (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU), but the Hawks will bring the Nike Player of the Week with them to Ithaca. Junior attackman Ryan Compitello picked up the honor from Inside Lacrosse scored three goals and assisted on two more in the Hawks’ 11-10 win over Stony Brook in the America East title game, completing his hat trick with one second remaining on the clock to lift the Hawks to victory.

• In order to advance to the NCAA Division II Championship game, Limestone will have to beat Adelphi when they meet at Saints Field on May 21, but the Saints are already gaining ground on the Panthers in the NCAA record books. The Saints will be making their 12th straight tournament appearance, and are chasing the Panthers – who will be making their 15th straight tournament appearance next weekend – for the most Division II tournament appearances in NCAA history.

• One of the highlights of Amherst’s remarkable turnaround this season was the Lord Jeffs’ first win over NESCAC rival Middlebury since 1988, and Amherst will need to repeat that feat if they hope to advance in the NCAA Division III tournament. The Panthers’ 24-7 win over Castleton on Wednesday set up a second-round meeting with the Lord Jeffs, who scored a 12-8 win over Keene State in their first-round matchup.