Just as we thought we could separate the true contenders from the early-season pretenders, Easter weekend happened. With a ton a big-time matchups across the country, the polls took another new look this week.
For some, Easter brought success through the opportunity to add a big win to the tournament resume. For others, Easter weekend saw tournament hopes crushed after losses that put them on the outside looking in.
Let's review eight things we learned after a wild weekend in college lacrosse. These are in no particular order but should provide an inside look at the Division I lacrosse landscape.
8. St. John's proved themselves as a legitimately talented squad
Topping the headlines this weekend was a huge win by St. John's over previously top-ranked Notre Dame. The Johnnies were able to travel to Indiana and pull off a huge upset that marks a huge step forward for the program as a whole.
Kieran McArdle put on an offensive show, proving that he can continue his player-of-the-year caliber play against top competition. Their remaining schedule has some small tests against Georgetown and Villanova, but McArdle and company have the potential to escape unscathed.
7. Virginia will have to try again next year
UVa had an opportunity to knock off ACC front-runner Maryland at home. The Terps were coming off of a tough loss to UNC, and they looked vulnerable for another tough loss. Virginia played a full game of hard-fought lacrosse, but the Terps finally prevailed in the fourth quarter.
The loss puts UVA at 5-5 on the year, trailing by a large margin within a tough ACC conference. Barring a triumphant ACC tournament run, I do not see Virginia on the bracket come tourney time.
6. The Ivy League is the toughest in the nation
With four teams still in the Top 20 and Brown just slightly outside, every game in the Ivy League is a must-win for those looking to keep pace with Cornell. Yale beat Penn in Philadelphia in overtime, with both teams now at 1-2 in the league.
Princeton moved to 2-1 in the Ivy with a convincing win over Brown. They hold the second position in the league behind Cornell. The Big Red demolished Dartmouth as they continue to look like a top contender for a national title.
5. Carolina is on a hot-streak
With a huge overtime victory over Hopkins, UNC showed that they are one of the most talented and deepest rosters in the country. Coming off of a big win over Maryland, Carolina is playing its best lacrosse in the heart of a tough schedule, something head coach Joe Breschi is very excited about. Their defense must improve, but their offense can win them games in the meantime.
4. Notre Dame has not played well lately
We all saw the loss to St. John's and realized that Notre Dame ran into a talented squad. What we forget is that this Notre Dame team barely escaped with a win at Rutgers last week, winning the game by a single goal. As other teams heat up, it seems that Notre Dame is having trouble putting teams away. If this continues, a win-or-go-home format in the tournament might not be what the doctor ordered for the Fighting Irish.
3. The new rules are awesome
Who doesn't like a ton of scoring? Unless you are a defensive coach, the new rule changes in 2013 have provided excitement, action and statistics we have never seen in college lacrosse.
With quick restarts, a phantom shot clock and no "keep-it-in" rule toward the end of games, the pace of play has flown through the roof. Offenses like UNC love the rules, while inferior teams are having trouble keeping up for a full four quarters.
2. Bucknell had an opportunity and messed it up
A week ago, the Bucknell Bison found themselves comfortably ranked in the Top 10 with an opportunity to move even higher with all of the upsets across the country. Instead, Bucknell fell victim to one of those upsets, losing in blowout fashion to Penn State. Bucknell lost by a score of 11-3 on their own turf, showing the country that they are not ready for the national spotlight.
With a Colgate loss to Army, Bucknell is still very much in the Patriot League race. They must get back to their early-season form if they hope to be a respectable tournament team.
1. Maryland is resilient
Maryland overcame an emotional loss to UNC by beating Virginia in Charlottesville on Saturday. The win brought UMD to the top of the national polls once again as they look to win the ACC regular season crown. UNC is playing great lacrosse (as I mentioned before), but Maryland's defense is far superior and makes them a better overall team when it comes down to it. Veteran Goalie Niko Amato wants a national championship, and the Terps are in the driver's seat to take one home this year.
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