Washburn: Looking Back at February, Ahead to March
by Evan Washburn | LaxMagazine.com
|The Maryland offense is averaging
16.75 goals per game while shooting 41 percent in its first four
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
So, with February in the rearview and a weekend of March lacrosse now in the books, why not see where we stand?
Maryland is hands down No. 1
Through four games the Terps have played a complete brand of lacrosse that I have not seen in recent years. Gaudy numbers put up against lesser opponents early in the season have proven to be the norm for this team.
The offense is averaging 16.75 goals per game, while shooting a ridiculous 41 percent.
Despite the departure of defensive coordinator Kevin Warne (now the Georgetown head coach) this group is playing better team defense than in 2012 and has enough skill that a slide is rarely necessary.
Jesse Bernhardt and Goran Murray get most of the attention, but keep your eye on Michael Ehrhardt. The junior defenseman has been a difference maker not only guarding the ball but also sparking transition with 17 ground balls.
It is a short work-week for head coach John Tillman and company with UMBC visiting on Wednesday. The Retrievers upset the Terps last season.
But I expect Maryland to be 7-0 heading into their next ACC game against North Carolina on March 23.
Rob Pannell is back
Despite primetime matchups like Virginia-Syracuse, Johns Hopkins-Princeton and Maryland-Duke over the weekend, the game that intrigued me the most was Colgate and Peter Baum visiting Cornell and Rob Pannell.
Before I could even get the web stream hooked up to the TV, it was 5-0 Big Red. Cornell went on to win 19-3.
Baum was held to one assist and only three shots, largely due to suffocating defense by Cornell All-American Jason Noble.
While I didn't get the player of the year showdown I wanted, I did get to see that Rob Pannell is the leader in the clubhouse for the Tewaaraton Award as we head into March, and yes, I understand it is early.
But against Colgate, Pannell played a refreshing brand of lacrosse.
On the big stage and with obvious storyline of Pannell vs. Baum entering the game, Pannell only took five shots, scoring twice. More importantly, he had five assists, facilitating an offense that saw 10 different players score.
Through three games, the fifth-year senior has 20 points (nine goals and 11 assists) and I have Cornell ranked as the fourth-best team in the country.
Hawkins' suspension having an effect
Defending a title is always a tall order; try doing so without your best athlete who can change a game with one play.
Loyola All-American midfielder Josh Hawkins has yet to play a game this season, while he serves an indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules.
The No. 3 ranked Greyhounds are 5-1 and still have a roster full of talent.
The reality though is that they have only faced elite offensive midfielders once. No. 1 Maryland beat the defending champs at home 12-10, largely due to the fact that Loyola's short-sticks could not cover.
The Loyola defense is at its best when the poles are slow to slide.
Hawkins allowed this team to do a lot of things that were vital to their title run in 2012 and his services will be needed if they want to repeat.
How about some parity?
As I mentioned earlier it is clear that Maryland is the nation's top team but after that your guess is as good as mine.
This past weekend saw five top-10 teams lose.
The talent is rich this season, and the difference between the Top 5 and Top 15 is marginal at best.
March is a month where we always see some separation, but don't expect the picture to be that much clearer in April.
A lot of extra lacrosse
There is no question that the new rules geared toward quickening pace of play have made the game more exciting.
Thirteen overtime games have already been played this season, including two triple-overtime games this past Saturday.
Teams can no longer sit on a lead and manage their way to victory. With the depth of talent across the country, expect the trend to continue and games coming down to the wire each week.
Evan Washburn, the former Delaware defenseman and current CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network lacrosse commentator, will be providing a column each Monday during the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse season. Follow Evan on Twitter @EvanWashburn.