Ten to Watch: May Madness Starts Early
by Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Each Friday, your crack laxperts here at Lacrosse Magazine Online try to handicap the upcoming weekend for the top 10 college games across all divisions. Follow here at laxmagazine.com all season long.
WD3: No. 7 Franklin & Marshall (11-2) at No. 3 TCNJ (12-1) - Friday 6 p.m.
These two programs are stinging from recent losses. Franklin & Marshall surrendered its primacy in the Centennial with its one-goal loss to Gettysburg on Wednesday while TCNJ still has to be scratching its head over the loss to Rowan last week. The Lions, via their wins over Gettysburg and Salisbury, are still in good shape to host one of the NCAA regionals, but a loss here would open up the door for a more northly site (like Hartford, Conn.). The defending champs need to get to work. The Dips will have to beat TCNJ on Friday and then turn around and knock off the Bullets in the conference tournament to have a shot. The pressure will be on during this Friday night in Jersey.
MD1: No. 20 Denver (9-4, 4-0) vs. No. 18 Fairfield (8-3, 4-1) (in Hartford, Conn.; ESPNU) - Saturday 11 a.m.
Everyone's got Loyola as the runaway favorite in the ECAC, but Denver might have something to say about that. Bill Tierney's Pioneers are riding a six-game winning streak and are unbeaten in conference play. Fairfield has had a solid season, but a 4-3 win over Air Force last week has to raise some questions about the Stags' offense. This game leads off the ESPNU Warrior Lacrosse Classic, yet another nationally-televised double header in the college men's lacrosse landscape.
MD1: No. 17 Johns Hopkins (5-6) at Navy (5-7) - Saturday 12 p.m.
Johns Hopkins started three freshmen in its one-goal loss to Maryland last week in the Smartlink Day of Rivals. Is it a sign of surrender? Maybe, but midfielders John Greeley (2g) and John Ranagan (1g, 2a) actually held their own, as has goalkeeper Pierce Bassett, the Arizona native who appears to have supplanted Michael Gvozden for good. Some suggest the Blue Jays, with their strength of schedule, can afford to finish .500 and still make their 39th straight NCAA tournament. Winning out in their last three games sure sounds better. "Our playoffs start this week," attackman Steven Boyle told the Baltimore Sun. "We can't have any slip-ups and we can't drop another one. We've got to come out and try to get a 'W.'" Navy is struggling just as much after losing to Army in the same event. It was just the Mids' second loss to their rival since 1998. For their part, such streak-busting might be nice this weekend. Navy's looking to snap a 36-game losing streak to Hopkins that dates back to 1975. Twelve of the last 24 games have been decided by two or fewer goals.
Ohanian: Johns Hopkins
Coyne: Johns Hopkins
Krome: Johns Hopkins
Logue: Johns Hopkins
MD1: No. 3 Stevenson (15-1, 6-1) at No. 1 Salisbury (17-0, 7-0) (CAC Championship Game) - Saturday 1 p.m.
Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene thinks if had his entire defense intact, things might have been a little different in the regular season meeting between these two schools. "We had our three best defensive players on the shelf for that game and I think that would have made a difference with some of the goals they scored," he said. "I'm not saying they wouldn’t have scored them, but it would have been a little tougher." Starting goalie Geoff Hebert was out with a broken hand, top shorty Jake Stocksdale was 50 percent with a pulled hammy, and shutdown pole Evan Douglass left the Salisbury game after six minutes with a bruised lung. So Cantabene may have a point, but do the Mustangs have enough even at full strength?
MD1: No. 16 Massachusetts (7-4) vs. No. 10 Georgetown (7-4) (in Hartford, Conn.; ESPNU) - Saturday 1:30 p.m.
UMass' once-promising season is on the verge of crumbling. It's been a rough initiation into the Minutemen's new conference. The Colonial Athletic Association has been about as predictable as a Brian Dougherty interview. What once appeared to be strong postseason footing has been undermined by back-to-back CAA upsets. Following consecutive wins over Providence, Brown, Hofstra and Penn State, UMass has stumbled to losses against Towson and Delaware. Where's the signature win? Hofstra? Even that doesn't carry much weight these days. The Minutemen's four losses have been by a combined six goals. In Georgetown, UMass gets to face an old ECAC foe, which would be a nice departure... if it wasn't Georgetown. The Hoyas' offense must be stir-crazy after getting the shackles in last week's loss to Loyola -- a game in which stud midfielder Andrew Brancaccio went scoreless (0-for-7 shooting). This is the second game in the ESPNU Warrior Classic double-header.
WD1: No. 8 Vanderbilt (11-3, 4-0) at No. 2 Northwestern (12-1, 3-0) - Saturday 7 p.m. Central
Gotta love Kelly Amonte Hiller. Down went Northwestern, giving up the most goals (18) to an opponent since going varsity in 2002 and snapping its 41-game overall and 58-game home winning streaks in a loss to North Carolina. Most coaches might be tempted to capitalize on that, make her players hungry by using a loss as proof that they are the hunters again. Not Amonte Hiller. "I don't think one loss changes much," she told LMO's Steven Russolillo. "We’ve won five consecutive championships -- I think our role as being the hunted is pretty secure. Every team that plays us wants to knock us down. Our team is definitely learning that now." The Wildcats thrive on that air of invincibility, which has taken a hit, but let's not forget how Northwestern has responded to losses in the past. (There's not that large a sample size.) The 'Cats trounced Penn State, 15-7, following a 2008 loss to Penn. In 2007, they followed a season opening loss to, yes, North Carolina with a 20-2 browbeating of, yes, Vanderbilt. The ALC regular season title is on the line.
WD1: No. 16 Hofstra (9-4, 3-1) at No. 10 Towson (10-3, 4-1) - Sunday 1 p.m.
For all of Towson's scoring prowess, the Tigers' defense showed its mettle in a 12-6 win over William & Mary, holding the explosive Tribe offense to its lowest scoring total of the season. What else can Hillary Fratzke do at this point? She's already the nation's top draw specialist. She leads Towson with 42 goals. She also leads the team with 26 caused turnovers. Against William & Mary, she guarded Grace Golden and held her without a point for the first time this season, snapping Golden's 28-gae point-scoring streak. Is a Tewaaraton Trophy in the works? Hofstra won't be an easy win. The Pride is fighting for its playoff life. (Both teams are in action Friday, with Towson against Drexel and Hofstra against Delaware.) While James Madison (4-0 in conference) and Towson (4-1 in conference) are on solid ground for CAA tournament berths, it gets murky after them. Hofstra (3-1), Drexel (2-2), William & Mary (2-2) and Delaware (2-3) all remain in play for the final two berths.
WD1: ACC Championship Game (in College Park, Md.) - Sunday 1 p.m.
Of course it means a lot to the teams involved, but to the greater public, is there any less meaningful conference tournament than the ACCs? Granted, seeds and first-round pairings might shuffle as a result of Friday's semifinals pitting No. 4-ranked Duke against No. 1-ranked North Carolina and No. 3-ranked Maryland against No. 5-ranked Virginia. But they are all quite clearly shoo-ins for the NCAA tournament regardless the results. Each LMO staffer picks one champ to win it all, with the championship game looming Sunday. UNC has to like the way Logan Ripley responded to adversity last week against Northwestern, the same team that made the first team All-American goalie look like swiss cheese in the 2009 NCAA championship game. She wasn't stellar, by any means, and was actually benched midway through -- but she returned to come up with three crucial free-position saves down the stretch of an 18-16 victory. That's got to build confidence. LMO's staff picks are for overall champ among the four.
DaSilva: North Carolina
Lochary: North Carolina
WD1: Atlantic-10 Championship Game (in Pittsburgh, Pa.) - Sunday 3 p.m.
As LMO's Justin Feil wrote Thursday, second-seeded La Salle is certainly the surprise team in the semifinal foursome. The Explorers, making their first A-10 tournament appearance, meet defending conference champion Massachusetts in one semifinal Friday; top-seeded Richmond and Temple meet in the other. The Spiders have responded well after a disastrous 2009 season saw them lose a longtime head coach, Sue Murphy, who was fired after she was found to have been using an outside fund to help support the program, and finish a dreadful 6-12.
MD1: ACC Championship Game (in College Park, Md.) - Sunday 3:30 p.m.
Again, seeds and first-round pairings could shift, but like the women, these four ACC teams are all among the top five in national rankings. No. 2 Virginia meets No. 4 Duke in one semifinal Friday -- a rematch of last week's 13-9 Blue Devils victory. Duke beat the Wahoos at their own game, snagging a 31-23 advantage in ground balls. Omnipresent long Parker McKee (6 GBs) and CJ Costabile (4 GBs) love using that to spark transition. The other semifinal pits No. 3 North Carolina against No. 5 Maryland. UNC won the regular season game, 9-7, without Billy Bitter. LMO's staff picks are for overall champ among the four.
DaSilva: North Carolina
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