UnCensered: If College Lacrosse had a Trade Deadline
|Duke's Chris Hipps is a rangy
defenseman who could be just the type of elite athlete to help
© Mark Abbott
Anyone taking a look at my ad-libbed excuse of an NCAA bracket, following the fate of my fantasy football teams, or quickly scanning my DVR would immediately discover that I really only follow two sports: college lacrosse and the NBA.
While the two entities have more in common than one might expect, college lacrosse programs and professional basketball teams are still built very differently. To me, the NBA trade deadline might as well be a holiday. With just one move, any team can re-boot and initiate the rebuilding process; and hitting rock bottom is generally rewarded in the form of lottery position and cap space. On the other side, a playoff-bound team can trade for a player that may give it a post-season boost but offers less long-term potential.
College lacrosse teams, on the other hand, are the end result of the work of coaches on the recruiting trail. Yes, a few programs benefit from junior college players or NCAA transfers, but squads mostly play with guys who signed or committed during high school. This is, of course, how it should be, other than the kids committing as 14-year olds. College lacrosse is a non-revenue sport in which kids should be choosing, and then staying at a school picked more for its non-lacrosse merits (good luck figuring that out that in ninth grade). It doesn't take an ethicist to figure out that a Yale senior shouldn't be traded to VMI for a couple of players to be named later.
Nevertheless, in the deep, deranged recesses of my head, I sometimes imagine a college lacrosse world with a trade deadline in April. Teams would have to figure out whether to stand pat, detonate their season, or try to add some legs for a deep post-season run. If nothing else, it'd be fun to watch the Johns Hopkins faithful demand the Blue Jay brass make ridiculous trades to try to win now.
Thankfully, LaxMagazine.com has provided me the bandwidth to explore this alternate universe. When you consider how many Division I teams are incomplete, the landscape is ripe for some good ole' fashioned wheeling-and-dealing.
A couple notes: Last week I went 5-5 in my Division III pick 'em, 3-7 in LaxMagazine.com's 10-2-Watch staff pick 'em and spent almost 2,000 words waxing about why Hopkins would beat Syracuse. So it goes without saying to take whatever I say with a grain of salt. Second, in these fictional trades that will never happen, age matters. Jimmy Bitter has two and half more stop-and-go seasons left while Marcus Holman has two months. Finally, I excluded Maryland, Cornell, Notre Dame and Loyola because they are relatively complete teams and I imagine they'd stay pat. Maryland may try to deal for a veteran presence at the attack (Princeton's Jeff Froccaro would be huge). Cornell could look for some A.J. Fiore insurance in goal. If I were Notre Dame, I'd probably gauge interest in attackman Westy Hopkins. In Loyola's case, the Greyhounds have yet to play with their whole team. Considering last year, they should probably keep the band together.
Here are five trades that need to happen:
Jeff Froccaro, Princeton Sr. A/M/FO
Chris Hipps, Duke Jr. D
An impressive, if not predictable 10 days for the Blue Devils who shrugged off their typical February pitfalls and rode sophomore goalie Kyle Turri (55 percent) to a 4-0 week with huge wins over Loyola and Carolina.
Still, I'm not sure Duke has enough initiators and firepower at the midfield to get through ACC buzzsaw defenses. If I had to guess, John Danowski inserted Case Matheis into the starting attack to make the Blue Devils more versatile and give them another dodging option. Attacker Jordan Wolf isn't going to always be able to shoulder the load.
Froccaro, though, would be the perfect complement at his more natural midfield position. He's crafty and can handle a pole, run the two-man game, and when the time calls for it, muscle topside (ask Tucker Durkin). Trotting out Froccaro, Dave Lawson, Jake Tripucka, Josh Offit and Christian Walsh would immediately put the Devils in the title conversation. The Princeton senior could also provide a nice backup option at the dot, where workhorse Brendan Fowler has taken almost every one of the Blue Devils' faceoffs.
While Hipps would be a loss for the Dookies, Harvard transfer graduate student Dan DiMaria, Jimmy O'Neil or backup long pole Brian Dailey could be effective stopgaps.
As for convincing Princeton to ship Frocarro, a hard-nosed gamer who always brings it, I'd argue that the Tigers are built to win it all in 2014 when Tom Schreiber, Kip Orban and Tucker Shanley all return, and they are still in desperate need of some elite defenders and possession warriors. Hipps is one of those athletic, rangy praying mantis-types who are almost exclusively found in the ACC. If the Tigers could pry some young Duke talent like Dailey, Deemer Class or a Myles Jones in a deal too? All the better.
|North Carolina sophomore
attackman Jimmy Bitter and linemate Joey Sankey share similar skill
sets, enabling the Tar Heels to ship one away in Joel Censer's
© Cecil Copeland/The Athletic Image
North Carolina receives:
Brandon Benn, Johns Hopkins, Jr. A
Rob Enright, Johns Hopkins So. D
Ryan Brown Fr. M
Johns Hopkins receives:
Marcus Holman, North Carolina Sr. A
Trust me; it's painful to write it too. Holman may be my favorite player in college lacrosse. A kid who has gotten better every single year, is as clutch as they come, and who plays his heart out every time he's the field.
But I don't think the Heels are going to Philly for championship weekend. They've shown to have many of the same defensive problems we've seen over the past couple years. Hot-and-cold technician R.G. Keenan isn't replicating last year's faceoff numbers. Relying on a stable of freshman midfielders (unless their names are Rabil, Paul) is generally not a recipe for Memorial Day success.
So I'd probably start building for 2014. Benn would be a nice inside complement — he rarely ventures five feet from the crease — for the Jimmy Bitter/Joey Sankey dodgeathon. Enright is an athletic lefty defenseman who could, with freshman Evan Connell, form a hard-nosed foundation down low. Ryan Brown is a hyper-skilled extra-man savant who fits in well with Spencer Parks, Steve Pontrello, Jake Matthai and the rest of the Tar Heels' current crop of talented young offensive players.
Of course, the Blue Jays are a senior-laden squad who need to win now. Why not push all their Columbia Blue and Black chips to the middle of the table? At the very least, Holman, who is not a traditional dodging attackman, could calm guys down, add some Mid-Atlantic swagger, be super efficient finishing in unsettled situations, give Wells Stanwick the ultimate two-man-partner, and diversify and provide leadership to a turnover prone, one-dimensional offense.
Or there's always a counteroffer deal that might be more appealing to the Jays' long term future...
Johns Hopkins receives:
Jimmy Bitter, North Carolina So. A
Davey Emala, North Carolina Sr. A/M
North Carolina receives:
Lee Coppersmith, Johns Hopkins Sr. M
Brandon Benn, Johns Hopkins Jr. A
Jack Reilly, Johns Hopkins Jr. D
There's a lot of leaky parts at Homewood these days, as Syracuse exposed the Blue Jays' veteran defense and ho-hum offense in a 13-8 dismantling last Saturday.
Yet, Hopkins' biggest problem remains a dearth of attack dodgers. Getting a full-time initiator like Bitter who can draw a double whenever he wants would completely change the team's complexion. Not to mention Bitter is an aluminum magnet, drawing slashes and cross-checks better than any other player in the country. Can you imagine Hopkins' cold-hearted extra-man unit getting on the field every other possession?
At Carolina, Bitter and linemate Joey Sankey have somewhat redundant skill sets. Two lefty southpaws who work on the perimeter, like the ball in their sticks and need requisite space to break down their defenders. I'd argue Sankey is a bit better off-ball, while Bitter is a bit tougher with the ball.
But with Bitter suiting up for the Jays, North Carolina would have a more traditional attack unit with Holman and Sankey doing the heavy lifting initiating, and Benn tasked with the inside finishing. The Heels would also get an old hand veteran midfielder in Lee Coppersmith who would be the headliner for the first time in his career. The penalty prone Reilly gives the Heels some much needed athleticism at close defense and the confidence that they don't have to resort to a zone anytime they run into a Jordan Wolf type.
Chris Nourse, Georgetown Sr. D
Mark Leonhard, Penn Fr. M
The Quakers look ready to rumble and well positioned for the next few years in the Ivy League.
But if Penn has a weakness, it's that after close defensemen Maxx Meyer and Anthony Santomo there's a lack of playmakers and general moxie at the defensive end and between the stripes — especially with end-to-end phenom Zack Losco shouldering more and more of the offensive load.
Meanwhile, Nourse is a talented takeaway defenseman with an eye for offense. With the Hoyas currently going through some significant restructuring in Kevin Warne's first year on the Hilltop, the senior defenseman would be better served joining a contender. The Hoyas have struggled to get production from their midfield. Leonhard is an intriguing 6-foot-5 dodging midfield prospect who needs a bit of grooming but can create his own shot.
Jamie Faus, Denver Sr. G
Matt White, Virginia Sr. A/M
Tanner Ottenbreit, Virginia So. LSM
With Chris LaPierre expected to apply for a medical redshirt, it's official: the Wahoos are going to be an absolute bear in 2014. What we will find out over the next few weeks with Hopkins, Maryland, Duke and Carolina on the docket is are the Wahoos potential spoilers this May?
Regardless, Virginia has not been getting great production in goal (47 percent save percentage for the year) and has no shortage of hyper skilled, athletic defenders.
Two thousand miles west, Denver has been doing what they usually do: torching teams with their pick-friendly offense. How awesome is it that they set picks not by standing sideways but with their sticks pointing towards the goal? With Chase Carraro getting healthy, the Pios are about to get a huge boost in the form of unsettled offense after a faceoff.
Still, if Denver has issues it's at the defensive end where they have resorted to playing zone and relying on Faus and Ryan LaPlante splitting halves. This trade would solve the goalie competition while giving them Ottenbreit, a U.S. under-19 team alum and Colorado native who provides great stickwork in the middle of the field. White is a battle-tested veteran who could into Matt Brown's offense and headline Denver's second midfield.