McAnaney: Did That Just Happen? Bryant-'Cuse Finish Caps Wild Weekend
When the scoreboard clock on Sunday night finally hit all zeros I don't think Ryan Boyle and I were the only people inside the Carrier Dome who looked at each other and thought "Wait, that's it? It's over? Did that actually happen?"
Not so much that Bryant defeated Syracuse to end the season for the Orange. The Bulldogs were the better team and never flinched against the No. 2 seed. But we were more surprised that this Syracuse team did not pull one more rabbit out of the hat to force overtime. That's what the Orange has done so many times in the last two years.
The final 7.9 seconds was an amazing swing that really is unique to the sport of lacrosse. Bryant takes a timeout with a one-goal lead and the best faceoff man in the country on its side. You think to yourself, even if Kevin Massa loses this face off, he'll tie up Chris Daddio long enough so that Syracuse won't be able to get near the goal. Wrong.
You are thinking even if Daddio wins it he really isn't a threat to create offense in the time that Syracuse has left to work with. Wrong again.
So not only does Daddio win the face off, not only does he win it cleanly enough to create transition, he somehow gets it to the one teammate that every Bryant coach stressed in the timeout cannot touch the ball.
So here comes Syracuse attackman Dylan Donahue, the man who doesn't miss (52.4 shooting percentage), with the ball and, all of a sudden, more than enough time. Everybody wearing Orange and everybody wearing black and gold is probably thinking this is the Duke game in the ACC tournament all over again.
Donahue lets it fly in time. It would have counted but Bryant goalie Gunnar Waldt takes up enough space and the pipe does the rest. For the second time in the last three games a Syracuse attackman is turned away in the final seconds and the Cuse drops a one-goal game.
Now every coach of an underdog says "we're going to win" but trust me when Mike Pressler said that on our conference call with him last week you knew you were listening to more than coach speak. Last year Bryant went into the Dome with 10 losses. Sunday they took the field a 15-win team and they took it with a genuine sense of belief. And as coach Pressler said to us on ESPNU afterwards that feeling was everything for Bryant.
Other thoughts from first round:
No complaining about seeding
When I saw the scores from Ridley rolling across Twitter I thought there might be some complaining from the Greyhound faithful that the committee stuck them with a tougher game than they should have, but Albany was a fair matchup.
First of all, the gauntlet that Duke and Syracuse went through was simply tougher than Loyola's schedule. I get the argument that Loyola was a tenth of a second away from being undefeated and 2-0 against the ACC, but if they win that Virginia game are they just as hungry and angry when they play Penn State the next week? Loyola can play its 'C' game and escape Navy; if you bring your 'C' game against an ACC team you could get embarrassed. But here's the other thing about that argument. Did Loyola really get a tougher draw than Syracuse? This isn't hindsight. Bryant beat Albany and Drexel so you couldn't even say before Sunday night that the committee gave the Orange an easier path than the Patriot League champs.
Just how fragile is the glass slipper?
Keep the following in mind when discussing that Albany, Bryant and Drexel are still playing... Bryant had to gut out a 9-8 win over Siena in a play-in game Wednesday. Albany needed a goal with five seconds left in regulation against Stony Brook or else its season would have ended in the America East semifinals. Not only did Drexel have to score three straight goals in the final five minutes to force OT against Hofstra in the CAA final, before winning it in the third extra session, but the Dragons also trailed Towson by three in the fourth quarter of the CAA semifinals game. It was tied at 10 when a Towson shot at the buzzer hit the crossbar. Destiny anyone?
ACC cut in half
Getting a chance to call several league games during this "comet" of an epic ACC season left me wondering last week would the six teams be battle-tested or worn out? This would have been a much bigger storyline if Maryland did not rally to beat Cornell but one has to be surprised by how little resistance Virginia and North Carolina gave Johns Hopkins and Denver.
You don't want to take credit away from the Blue Jays and Pioneers but to see two big boy programs go out like that is puzzling. You have to figure Joe Breschi regrets the ACC creating the Showcase game for its tournament this year. If the Tar Heels stay home and practice that weekend they probably are a seeded team playing at home. Instead they get shipped out to Denver to play a top-five Pioneer team.
Ivy League overvalued
I doubt that I was the only lacrosse pundit who received texts from the 516 area code Sunday evening pointing out that the Ivy League was 0-3 while Hofstra was kept out of the tournament. I definitely thought Harvard had the better resume than Hofstra but it's much harder winning that argument today than it was a week ago, and I was shocked by the clunker Penn delivered at home. Penn had a high RPI all season long and mathematically maybe deserved the fourth seed but as one coach pointed out to me over the weekend maybe the formula for RPI needs to be re-evaluated to include only games against top 10 or top 15 teams because while the data may say the Quakers are a top-5 team the eye test says otherwise.
Lacrosse Magazine welcomed ESPN lacrosse announcer Eamon McAnaney to its stable of contributors earlier this spring. Look for more from McAnaney, a sports broadcasting veteran and former Notre Dame lacrosse captain, throughout the college season here at LaxMagazine.com.
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