2011 NCAA Lacrosse Championship: Previewing the Quarterfinals

Brian Spaen@SpaeniardContributor IIMay 19, 2011

2011 NCAA Lacrosse Championship: Previewing the Quarterfinals

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    There was a little bit of everything last weekend for every lacrosse fan.  Offensive shootouts, overwhelming defenses and great saves combined with close games, blowouts and an upset.

    It's your typical first round in an NCAA tournament.

    So maybe the only top seed to lose, North Carolina at No. 8, isn't a huge upset. I'd argue that Bucknell and Delaware's upset bid against Virginia and Duke respectfully weren't huge upsets either.  Bucknell played great down the stretch and dominated their conference tournament.  Delaware showed a lot of heart in their conference tournament to win it all and did it again at Duke where opponents usually get roasted in the first round.

    The tournament now moves to Hempstead, New York and Foxborough, Massachusetts this weekend.  The second and third seed will play their foes at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra on Saturday.  The first and fourth seed will play their challengers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

    All the games are very interesting over the course of the weekend.  The unseeded Maryland team will probably give Syracuse all that they can handle in the game that most fans are interested in, according to Inside Lacrosse.  Duke and Notre Dame provide a rubber match of the last two games they played against each other, one in last year's championship game and the other in an earlier game this season.  

    Cornell is riding high as Virginia continues to struggle and fall despite holding on against Bucknell. Finally, it may not be the best game on tap, but it will be interesting to see how Denver will play outside of their home and against northeastern teams like Johns Hopkins.

(2) Cornell vs. (7) Virginia

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    Saturday, May 21
    12:00pm ET, ESPN2
    at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY

    CORNELL (14-2) def Hartford 12-5
    Offensive Leaders: David Lau - four goals
    Faceoffs: Doug Tesoriero - 10 wins out of 21 opportunities
    Goalie: AJ Fiore - six saves on 24 shots

    VIRGINIA (9-6) def Bucknell 13-12
    Offensive Leaders: Chris Bocklet - five goals, Steele Stanwick - five assists
    Faceoffs: Brian McDermott - eight out of 29 opportunities
    Goalie: Adam Ghitelman - 11 saves on 47 shots

    Cornell got off on a slow start against Hartford but started to pull away in the second quarter limiting the Hawks to zero goals and holding a 7-3 lead at half.  Leaders Lau and Rob Pannell scored half of Cornell's goals and were very efficient once things settled down earlier in the game.  

    The defense stepped up as well only allowing 10 shots off the entire second half. Hartford gave Cornell way too many man up opportunities, allowing two of the six and not converting any of their three opportunities.

    Virginia struggled all game long and Bucknell attacked from beginning to end.  The Cavaliers were outplayed and if it wasn't for Steele Stanwick's goals and assists in the fourth quarter you wouldn't be seeing them here today.  Obviously the issues with the Bratton brothers remains a distraction for this team, and it will be interesting to see how much of an impact Rhamel Bratton will be.

    The Cavaliers have the edge in clearing, being one of the best teams in the nation at 91 percent and converting man up opportunities 54 percent of the time.  If they can get those opportunities they will need to convert.  

    Cornell is just slightly better on offense and if you take the inactive Shamel Bratton out of the equation, those stats improve.

    I didn't like what I saw in Virginia's inconsistent offense against Bucknell and their defense was terrible giving the Bison 25 shots.  Cornell is the better team on paper and video, and I believe this will be the most mismatched game of the weekend.

    Prediction: Cornell pulls away in the second half and Virginia gets half of what they scored last weekend.

(3) Johns Hopkins vs (6) Denver

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    Saturday, May 21
    2:30pm ET (approx), ESPN2
    at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY

    JOHNS HOPKINS (13-2) def Hofstra 12-5
    Offensive Leaders: Kyle Wharton - three goals, Chris Boland - three assists
    Faceoffs: Matt Dolente - 13 wins out of 21 opportunities
    Goalie: Pierce Bassett - nine saves on 25 shots

    DENVER (14-2) def Villanova 13-10
    Offensive Leaders: Jeremy Noble - four goals, two assists
    Faceoffs: Chase Carraro - 14 wins out of 27 opportunities
    Goalie: Jamie Faus - 13 saves on 37 shots

    I really liked my upset pick in the first half, but Hofstra fell off the map in the second half only shooting nine times as the Johns Hopkins defense stepped up in a big way.  All five goals by Hofstra in that game were converted by five different players.  Johns Hopkins poured it on as the defense frustrated the Pride and made them into a one-on-one team that lacked the fundamentals the rest of the game.

    The atmosphere was terrific in Denver and the crowd was in it from beginning to end.  The high-octane offense of Villanova showed up and created an exciting game throughout.  In the end, the Wildcats got penalized too much.  Denver had eight extra man opportunities.  Denver also started spreading out the defense and shot 20 more times in the second half compared to only 10 times in the first half.  As expected, Villanova began to fatigue.

    Denver will now have to bring its game east of the Mississippi River and face a juggernaut of the college lacrosse world.  It's an ultimate test to find out if they can break through.  On paper, these teams are solid and Denver has an offensive edge, even if it's a little skewed when you look at strength of schedule.

    Both offenses spread out their attack and don't just rely on one man.  If Denver can get someone like Jeremy Noble to step up and play with their lead men Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos, they easily have a chance to win. Having Todd Baxter back would be a huge plus as well with his 28 goals and 18 assists on the season.  Hopkins' Chris Boland and Kyle Wharton will be trying to shoot often and the Pioneers will have to focus on them, but that can open up other players with wide-open shot opportunities.  I think Johns Hopkins is a little more experienced and deeper and will succeed in a very close game.

    Prediction: Johns Hopkins finally gets to double digits and edges out Denver in the fourth quarter. 

(1) Syracuse vs Maryland

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    Sunday, May 22
    12:00pm ET, ESPNU
    at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA

    SYRACUSE (15-1) def Siena 10-4
    Offensive Leaders: JoJo Marasco - three goals, Tommy Palasek - four assists
    Faceoffs: Ricky Buhr - five wins out of 17 opportunities
    Goalie: John Galloway - seven saves on 22 shots

    MARYLAND (11-4) def North Carolina 13-6
    Offensive Leaders: Drew Snider - four goals, Ryan Young - three assists
    Faceoffs: Curtis Holmes - 15 wins out of 23 opportunities
    Goalie: Niko Amato - 13 saves on 32 shots 

    It didn't take more than the first quarter to realize how mismatched these teams were.  Syracuse had a huge amount of shot opportunities (18 to four) and even though they only converted two goals, you could tell this would wear out Siena considerably.  It did, and the Orange iced the game during the fourth quarter and picked up four more goals to make the score look lopsided.

    It's hard for me to bang on Syracuse when you have to face a team that you clearly have the advantage over.  They didn't play good, but Siena played worse.  It was pretty ugly, and I believe the Orange know they have to play far more efficiently to continue moving on, especially against a Maryland team that looked impressive last week.

    I'll be honest and admit I've overlooked Maryland.  They've played pretty well down the stretch and haven't had that many issues on offense if you look beyond the box scores.  The Colgate game seems to be more of a game they were just tired in after having to go through the gauntlet known as the ACC Tournament.  It's an overkill when not necessary, but that's a topic for a different day.

    The fans have it right, this is the best matchup all weekend.  Maryland weathered the storm from North Carolina when they shot 20 of their 27 shots in the middle two quarters and gave up only one goal in the third quarter after giving up three in the second.  This defense is good, and Syracuse will have to play smart and not overlook them.

    Syracuse, though, is simply better.  They are more clutch, and have handled the big stage with flying colors.  Maryland is a decent defensive team, but they are not Notre Dame.  With all due respect to the Irish, Syracuse exposed them.  Too many playmakers on the field and it's a more experienced team. Maryland shouldn't have a horrible time scoring, but coming up with something like the great hidden ball trick that they played last weekend would help.

    Prediction: Syracuse will hold on after both teams score in the double digits.

(4) Notre Dame vs (5) Duke

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    Sunday, May 22
    2:30pm ET (approx), ESPNU
    at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA

    NOTRE DAME (11-2) over Penn 13-6
    Offensive Leaders: Colin Igoe - three goals
    Faceoffs: Jake Marmul - 16 wins out of 23 opportunities
    Goalie: John Kemp - nine saves on 24 shots

    DUKE (13-5) over Delaware 15-14
    Offensive Leaders: Zach Howell - four goals
    Faceoffs: CJ Costabile - six wins out of 32 opportunities
    Goalie: Mike Rock - 12 saves on 40 shots

    Denver had the best atmosphere, but Notre Dame was a close second.  It felt like a party with fans grilling around close to the field and the crowd doing a good job supporting their team.  The team fed off the crowd early and if any game was going to be 20-0, it looked like this game as Notre Dame just drilled Penn with four straight goals and dominated on faceoffs.

    Penn held their own for a bit, but couldn't do anything offensively from the second quarter and on. Turnovers in the first half gave both teams excellent shot opportunities.  What we expected as an offensively challenged game proved to be much more, and it may not be so shocking if the Irish can score on Duke.

    The Blue Devils struggled to finish off Delaware and they usually dominate teams in the first round.  Like the Irish game, it felt like this game was going to be over early, but the Blue Hens stuck around until late.  They shot eight more times in the fourth quarter and almost completed a huge rally within the last three minutes, but it was probably too late to realistically expect them to win.

    Until the exposure of Notre Dame's defense to Syracuse a few weeks ago, I would have told you that this is a no-brainer for the Irish.  Now, it's all about tempo.  Duke is like that flashy hot girl that's more of a risk to have as your girlfriend.  While they look great on offense and score three more goals a game than the Irish, they have turned the ball over 118 more times this season and committed 34 more penalties.  If it's up-tempo and Duke is getting their shots, Duke could nearly rout this team.  If it's slowed down and you see both teams passing the ball around the goal multiple times, the Irish would have the edge.

    Prediction: Duke, based on how the Irish have played at the end of the season.