|Click photo to enlarge|
High Point (10-6) @ Towson (11-5), 5/6 - 7:30pm, Towson Sports Network
|Redshirt junior goalie, Tyler White, leads a stout Towson defense|
Bryant (8-9) @ Marist (13-3), 5/6 - 7:00pm, Red Fox Network
Expectations were high for Mike Pressler’s Bulldogs this year after going 16-5 last year, which included a first round upset of Syracuse in the NCAA tournament that some people even labeled “the greatest upset in DI lacrosse history”. Goalie, Gunner Waldt, received Third Team All-American honors by USILA at the end of the season and preseason 1st Team All-American honors by Inside Lacrosse at the start of this season. The sky was the limit for a team that returned Waldt in net (now a Junior), their top 2 scorers, an elite FOGO (Kevin Massa – also a 1st team AA), and a masterful head coach in Pressler. Who knows what happened because Bryant lost 7 of their first 9 games to start the season in 2015 and are the only team in the tournament with a sub-.500 record. Marist on the other hand came out of nowhere this season and actually sits at #20 in the USILA polls. Head coach, Keegan Wilkinson, has done wonders with this Red Fox program taking them to their 1st NCAA tournament since ’05 during his 3rd year on the job. Sure, they haven’t had as difficult a schedule as Bryant but they did take Brown to OT and their 3 losses are only by a combined 6 goals. Attackmen, J.D. Recor and Joseph Radin (65 points apiece), lead their attack and I think lead them to a narrow victory tonight at what should be a fantastic atmosphere up at Marist College. 9-8 Red Foxes in OT.
FIRST ROUND (TOP TO BOTTOM)
Towson (12-5)* @ #1 Notre Dame (10-2), 5/9 - 5:00pm, ESPNUTowson may hang around for a bit but I don’t think they have the offensive firepower to hang around until the end. As for ND, they will have a bunch of favorable matchups in this game. I’ll take the Irish, 14-5.
Albany (15-2) @ #8 Cornell (10-5), 5/9 - 12:00pm, ESPNU
|UA senior, Lyle Thompson, had 4 points in the February 28th|
meeting against Cornell which Albany dropped, 9-16
This might be the most intriguing game of the first round, and possibly the whole tournament, considering it has the possibility of being Lyle Thompson’s last collegiate game. These teams met at the start of the season on February 28th in Texas, which favored Cornell 16-9. HOWEVER, I think a lot has changed since then and I don’t expect the winner of this game to win that big or by a margin greater than +4. Cornell is an experienced group led by a lethal attack/midfield combo in Matt Donovan and Connor Buczek who average a combined 7.5 points per game. They are a well-coached and disciplined group but I think their Achilles heel is sophomore goaltender, Christian Knight, who’s save percentage is just .479. One of his best games of the season was against these Great Danes in which he stopped 14 of 23 shots (.609), but over his last 4 games (team record: 2-2) he’s been struggling (just 27/68 = .397) and for a young goaltender this is the absolute worst time of year to be cold – especially against the #1 scoring team in the nation. It’s not like they have much experience at the position either as their backup, Brennan Donville, has only played about 4% of the team’s minutes in goal (appearances in 4 games). You have to believe that Albany will come out pissed off that their not hosting a first round game and combine that with the desire of redemption from the first meeting this season and this game might have the possibility of getting out of hands for Cornell. However, I don’t think that quite happens. I like a determined Albany team to come out firing on this goalie and control most of this game. 14-11, Albany.
Ohio State (11-6) @ #5 Duke (12-5), 5/9 - 7:30pm, ESPNU
|Duke midfielder, Myles Jones, is the ultimate mismatch|
for opposing defenses standing at 6'4, 240 pounds
Brown (12-4) @ #4 Denver (13-2), 5/10 - 3:00pm, ESPNU
This is another captivating game. Denver’s won their last 9 games, and by an average margin of nearly 8 goals. They have a number of guys on offense who can score; the Cannizzaro brothers, Wes Berg, Zach Miller, Erik Adamson, Jack Bobzien… Ryan LaPlante is a talented senior goalie whose experience dates back to his freshman year when he took over for the injured, Jamie Faus. He’s a savvy southpaw who’s top 10 among D1 goalies in goals against average. You can’t go mentioning this 2015 Pioneer team without mentioning freshman phenom, Trevor Baptiste. He’s in the select group that’s taken over 350 face-offs this year but he’s dominated winning an astounding 72.5% of his draws (the 2nd closest in FO win % is nearly 5% behind). Not only that, but he’s proved he’s not only a “FOGO” as he’s tallied 7 goals and 5 assists. Baptiste is one of my finalists for the Tewaaraton award. Brown was a bubble team that made the tourney with their significant wins over Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell. They also happen to have the #3 scorer in the country in sophomore, Dylan Molloy (59 goals, 30 assists in 16 games). He’s a big part of why this Brown offense is #5 in the country in scoring. Jack Kelly holds things down between the pipes for the Bears. He’s top 10 among D1 goalies in terms of save percentage. So, who wins? I think Baptiste will dominate the draws, which will subsequently keep the ball away from Molloy. I like the Pioneers in this one, 11-7.
Colgate (10-5) @ #3 North Carolina (12-3), 5/10 - 5:15pm, ESPNU
|Senior attackman, Joey Sankey, is averaging |
4.2 points per game this season
Yale (11-4) @ #6 Maryland (12-3), 5/9 - 2:3opm, ESPNU
This is another game consisting of teams who’ve already met earlier in the season. On February 21st Yale pulled off an upset and won at home, 10-6. Maryland has always been a team that’s been prided on their defense. They’ve been top 10 in goals against average dating back to ’09 and were #1 this year allowing an average of just 6.6 goals per game. If you had told me they were going to be #1 in that stat coming into the year, I would have said you’re nuts, after the graduation of All-American goalie, Niko Amato, and the news that All-American defenseman, Goran Murray, was deemed ineligible. However, senior goalkeeper, Kyle Bernlohr, hasn’t missed a step and ranks #3 in the country in save percentage and #1 in goals against average. He’s got a talented close-defense in front of him emphasized by Casey Ikeda and deep group of two-way midfielders highlighted by Bobby Gribbin. If FOGO, Charlie Raffa, is available, it's just 1 more weapon in the arsenal for the the Terrapins. Offensively they have a collection of weapons. I’ll have my eyes on Matt Rambo, Joe Locascio, Jay Carlson, and Henry West. For the Bulldogs, attackman, Conrad Oberbeck, is the one who terrorizes opposing defenses. He had 5 points in their first meeting but I don’t expect him to reach that number this time around. Credit to Andy Shay, he’s done a fantastic job with this Yale program, but nothing about this 2015 team wow’s me enough to say they get past Maryland in the first round of the tournament, especially considering the game is at College Park. 10-7, favoring the Terps.
Johns Hopkins (9-6) @ #7 Virginia (10-4), 5/10 - 1:00pm, ESPNU
Again, 2 more teams that have met already this season. On March 21st, UVA escaped with a W at JHU in a 16-15 (OT) shootout that featured no defense. It’s safe to say that the Hopkins dynasty (2 National Championships, 2 more finals appearances, 2 semifinal appearances) from 2002-2008 is long gone as JHU hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament since ‘08. In 2013 the Blue Jays, for the first time in the Pietramala era, didn’t make the tournament and all hell broke lose. Last season they went 11-5 and reached the quarterfinals and hope was re-stored until they started this season 4-6. There’s no excuse
either as this team, as always, is
STACKED with talent. However, they’ve won their past 5 games and do find
themselves in the tournament so they at least have that to be amped up about.
And honestly, this matchup might be favorable for them. Personally, I think
this UVA team is a tad bit overrated and what better way to say JHU is back
than a first round upset win at Klöckner?
The Stanwick brothers (Wells and Shack) average over 6.5 points combined per
game. Junior attackman, Ryan Brown, is an absolute stud and I think this
tournament has the possibility of enhancing his status as a lead candidate for
the Tewaaratan award next season. Joel Tinney, Holden Cattoni, and John Crawley
are a talented group of offensive midfielders as well as Phil Castronova and
Drew Kennedy leading the defensive-minded midfielders. Michael Pelligrino was a
2nd team All-American last season and is the staple of this defense.
Goaltending has been a weakness and is the weakness for JHU. As a team, their
save percentage is just .466. Senior, Eric Schneider, has seen his numbers drop
from last season. His save percentage is sub-.500 and junior backup, Will Ryan,
has been called upon in 5 games (2 starts) but hasn’t fared much better (.452
save percentage). So that’s just JHU. You can see they have talent. As for the
Cavs, All 4 of their losses have come against the other 4 teams in the ACC
which tells me UVA can’t hang with the best. Their senior leadership lies
within a duo of midfielders in Ryan Tucker and Owen Van Arsdale. Their scoring
has been from within a duo of underclassmen in sophomore’s Ryan Lukacovic and
Zed Williams as well as junior midfielder, Greg Coholan. Defenseman, Tanner
Scales, tore his ACL at the beginning of the year and James Pannell (2nd
leading scorer last year) suffered a knee injury in the 6th game and was ruled
out from then on out. Basically what I’m getting at is this UVA team is banged
up and very young this year. I see an early exit this year but deep run next
season. All in all, 2 legendary programs will face off in an unappealing game
to me, which JHU will steal, and redeem, at Klöckner by
a score of, let’s say, 12-8.
|JHU junior, Ryan Brown, is 4th in the nation in|
goals scored this season (54)
Marist (14-3)** @ #2 Syracuse (13-2), 5/10 - 7:30pm, ESPNU
Interesting game because last year Bryant won the play-in game and then upset Syracuse in the first round which nobody saw coming. And if Bryant beats Marist they could find themselves in a similar situation. If Bryant were to win, I don’t think last year would repeat itself because Desko just wouldn’t let that fly. However, I don’t have Bryant winning the play-in game – I have Marist. I don’t think Marist contends with ‘Cuse whatsoever – 17-3 Syracuse. Hats of to Keegan Wilkinson, so 17-4, Syracuse.
SECOND ROUND (TOP TO BOTTOM)
#1 Notre Dame (11-2) vs. (game in Denver, CO) Albany (16-2), 5/16 - 3:00pm or 5:30pm, ESPNU
|Will Albany have an answer for how to defend the "Motor City Hitman"?|
For those of you that have somehow forgot, these 2 teams met in the 2nd round last year in a game that will go down among the greats, as it was the last game the Thompson trio would play collegiately together in that resulted in a ND win in a back-and-forth game, 14-13. This proposed matchup I don’t think would be much different from last years game in the sense that it would be back and forth and the winner might just be the last team with the ball. It pains me to say this, and while I’ll be rooting my ass off for Albany, I just think ND is too explosive for Scotty Marr’s Great Danes, especially coming off an upset win over Cornell already. In my eyes, this is the best attack line in the country in Notre Dame with Conor Doyle, Mikey Wynne, and Matt Kavanaugh, the latter being who I think is the most clutch player in the country. They have a deep midfield with Nick Ossello, Jim Marlatt, Jack Near, Will Corrigan, and of course Sergio “The Motor City Hitman” Perkovic who exploded onto the scene last postseason. They’re a ferocious defense lead by the physical play of Pat Healy and Garrett Epple. Sophomore, Shane Doss, has overtaken Conor Kelly as the starting keeper and done a steady job between the pipes posting a save percentage of .564. It’s a good situation for the Irish because if Doss is struggling, they have a veteran in Kelly on the bench (who took this team to the National Championship last year) who they can trust to come up big. Albany does have some other threats beyond Lyle. His partners at attack, Connor Fields and Seth Oakes, average 4.5 and 4.1 points per game, respectively. And junior keeper, Blaze Riorden, is one the most underrated goalies in the country. When he catches ablaze he’s hard to put out. In the end it’s going be about Lyle. I think the number he needs is 9. 9 points, a little less than 3 above his average, and the Danes win this one. He’s capable of it, but it’s for sure going to be an uphill battle as you know Kevin Corrigan will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at him. It’s hard to type this, but 14-13, Irish.
#5 Duke (13-5) vs. (game in Denver, CO) #4 Denver (14-2), 5/16 - 3:00pm or 5:30pm, ESPNU
|Freshman face-off specialist, Trevor Baptiste, has taken|
the lacrosse world by storm this season
#3 North Carolina (13-3) vs. (game in Annapolis, MD) #6 Maryland (13-3), 5/17 - 12:00pm or 2:30pm, ESPN2
Another rematch of a regular season game. On March 21st, Maryland beat UNC 10-8 in a game that was played in California. Once again, it just so happens that this game will be played in Maryland, a huge advantage for the Terps. This is a tough game for me to size up as UNC’s attack was stymied in their first matchup. But being that Bitter, Sankey, Tutton, and Chafee (the offensive studs) are seniors, I don’t seeing them being stymied again. In fact I see them busting open and exploiting this Maryland defense. I don’t think Maryland is as talented a team as they were in the beginning of the season and in many respects they are lucky that they have such a manageable matchup in the first round against Yale. Despite this being a home game in a lot of ways for UMD, I like the Tar Hells, 14-9.
Johns Hopkins (10-6) vs. (game in Annapolis, MD) #2 Syracuse (13-2), 5/17 - 12:00pm or 2:30pm, ESPN2
Yet another rematch of a regular season game. On March 14th, Syracuse beat Hopkins, 13-10, in the Dome. This game is also in Maryland which favors Hopkins. In this proposed matchup, Hopkins is coming off a big win over UVA and ‘Cuse a blowout win over Marist. I think that also favors JHU. Both teams are incredibly deep. I mentioned Hopkins prized players in the first round matchups so I’ll talk more about ‘Cuse here, because in the end I like ‘Cuse here. The Kevin Rice, Dylan Donahue, Randy Staats attack line I believe is the best line in the country. Rice is their leading scorer with 68 points. Donahue is more the quarterback in my eyes and leads the team in goals. And Staats is a Canadian finisher who’s really polished his feeding abilities. Their midfield might be the deepest in the country lead by Nicky Galasso (converted from attack), Hakeem Lecky, Henry Schoomaker, and Timmy Barber. Sophomore FOGO, Ben Williams, is a transfer from Holy Cross who is #2 in the country in terms of face-off percentage, winning nearly 68% of his draws. Defensively, Peter Macartney is a very talented LSM. Brandon Mullins is their best close-defenseman. He was a 2nd team All-American as a sophomore last year and I expect him to be a 1st teamer this year. Senior, Bobby Wardwell, is very steady in between the pipes and Warren Hill provides cushion as a backup. In terms of the matchup, I like Syracuse a lot better defensively and at the special teams. Ben Williams will control the x and ‘Cuse will control the game. 15-10, Orange.
THIRD ROUND (TOP TO BOTTOM)
#1 Notre Dame (12-2) vs. (game in Philadelphia, PA) #4 Denver (15-2), 5/23 - 1:00pm or 3:30pm, ESPN2
So in our first semifinal game I’ve got Notre Dame and Denver who currently sit #2 and #3, respectively, in the USILA poll. These teams met on March 7th in Denver in a game that Denver actually won, 11-10, in overtime. ND did not have an answer for Baptiste as he won 16/23 face-offs in that game but it was overshadowed by a poor performance in net from Ryan LaPlante (just 2 saves on 12 shots). LaPlante’s performance wouldn’t matter in the end as Zach Miller would eventually punch in the game-winner in OT on his way to a 6 point day (4 goals, 2 assist) that was matched exactly by Matt Kavanaugh. This game is very hard to size up. I think Denver has an x-factor in Baptiste but so does ND in Matt Kavanaugh. I think to predict this game, you have to look at it from the perspective that which of these teams has the “it factor” and that team to me is ND. I think they come out physical Kav works his magic in the end to lead ND to their 2nd straight National Championship appearance. 16-14, Notre Dame.
#2 North Carolina (14-3) vs. (game in Philadelphia, PA) #2 Syracuse (14-2), 5/23 - 1:00pm or 3:30pm, ESPN2
These 2 teams met twice this past season. Once in the regular season on April 11th in Chapel Hill, which favored UNC, 17-15. Then again in the ACC tournament in the Dome, which favored ‘Cuse, 9-8. I think this game has potential to be an explosive, gritty, classic. Bobby Wardwell was the difference from the 1st game to the 2nd for Syracuse. Warren Hill was actually called upon in that 1st game after Wardwell started 3/13. I like Wardwell a lot more than UNC goalie, Kieran Burke. I think Wardwell has a better defense in place as well. With that being said, Chad Tutton and Joey Sankey create tough mismatches for a defense. Joey Sankey’s one of my favorite players in the country so this is tough to say, but I think Syracuse is the better team up and down and if they make it this far they will be in the National Championship. 15-12, Syracuse.
#1 Notre Dame (13-2) vs. (game in Philadelphia, PA) #2 Syracuse (15-2), 5/25 - 1:00pm, ESPN2
|Hakeem Lecky is a player capable of breaking out in a|
Tournament Snubs: I have 2 real snubs in Stony Brook and Princeton and a minor case for a 3rd team in Harvard. Stony Brook (13-5) has quality wins over Princeton, Fairfield, and Marist. Their loss to St. John's in the beginning of the season really came back to hurt them. It would have been exciting to see Mike Rooney, the nations leading scorer with 112 points (for now, Lyle is 5 back but has at least 1 more game) play at the national stage because I feel he didn't quite get the exposure he deserved. Princeton (9-6) had wins over Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, and Cornell. Their 1 loss that I think came back to hurt them was against Lehigh (7-9). In the end, the Ivy's beating up on each really didn't help anyone and hurt Princeton in this case. Harvard (7-7) beat Cornell and Yale. But like Princeton, the Ivy not having a definite frontrunner hurt Harvard. They also lost to Dartmouth and Penn who both ended up with sub-.500 records.
* = Winner of Towson vs. HPU game
** = Winner of Marist vs. Bryant game