Photo via @LaxFilmRoom. A must-follow account for lacrosse highlights and analysis.
Another week down and another week where absolutely nobody knows what’s going on in NCAA Division I lacrosse. Last weekend we saw 4 overtime games (read blog here). We had Notre Dame get a big ACC win over Virginia. Syracuse regains control of the rivalry against Hopkins. Down went Maryland in OT to Villanova. Princeton dominated Penn as they become the best team in the Ivy again. BU lost their first game. Hofstra is still undefeated. Penn State, Rutgers and Ohio State all stay undefeated as the B1G finally heads into conference play to even out the playing field. And speaking of Ohio State, that’s where we’ll start today. Because what we saw in Sunday’s 16-7 win over Denver wasn’t an upset. It was the total dismantling of a program that should not be taken lightly.
If you want a game plan on how to take down Denver, just re-watch the Ohio State game. I know that this is easier said than done but if you’re able to contain Denver’s dodgers 1v1 and don’t slide to them, they have nothing. Ohio State exposed the hell out of Tierney’s offense last week. It seemed like almost every Denver possession last week ended in a turnover or a give-up shot from deep. They couldn’t get inside, they couldn’t draw any slides, they couldn’t push the backside once they had the D moving. Like I said, it was a dismantling of a program. And then on the other end of the field, Ohio State was shooting the shit out of the ball and scoring at will.
The way the game was going they could have been shooting beach balls and they’d still end up in the back of the net. But when you have Tre LeClaire shooting the ball 100 mph with his hands free, it’s going in no matter who is in the cage. And that’s the game right there. No slides and shooting the shit out of the ball. Denver didn’t have any answer to it and even though the rankings pretty much mean nothing right now, Ohio State’s jump into the top 5 is extremely justified after that beatdown.
Rankings… for now….
Penn State is your new #1 team in the nation depending on who you talk to. The media poll has Rutgers at #1 with wins over Army and Princeton who are both in the top 20 currently. While Penn State’s biggest win has come against Penn who was top 20 at the time but losses to Michigan and Princeton since that Penn State game have them on the outside looking in. The biggest knock on Penn State this year has been their defense. They’re giving up 11.5 goals per game but here’s something that I said last week and I’ll say it again. The greatest defense is a lethal offense. So when I’m looking at teams who I think are legitimate contenders comes tournament time, I look for teams that have the most productive offense and then out of those teams I look at the teams who have the best faceoff guys.
Right now Penn State is scoring about 15.5 goals per game. Gerard Arceri is winning 68% at the faceoff X. So when you have a team who is able to score at will AND able to play make-it-take-it like that, you’re going to win games no matter what your defense looks like. If you win the possession game and you make the most out of each of those possessions, you score more goals than the other team. Simple as that.
We’ll break it down as basic as possible here. Say your team has 20 possessions and you limit the other team to 10 possessions. Say you’re scoring a goal on 75% of your possessions. That gives you Penn State’s 15 goals a game right there. Even if you have parking cones out there playing D and goalie and the other team scores on 100% of their possessions, you still win 15-10. Would Penn State’s defense worry me if they weren’t going nearly 70% at the faceoff X? Yes. But they play make-it-take-it lacrosse which is completely deflating to the opposing teams. Rutgers is good. They are definitely a top 3 team in the country right now. But Penn State’s offense+faceoff combo is more compelling to me right now than an early season win over Army and a win over Princeton in the freezing cold.
Same thing goes for a team like Albany. They’re scoring 16.5 goals per game right now and Connor Fields is one of the best players in college lacrosse. Here’s an example of Connor Fields being one of the best players in college lacrosse.
3rd in the nation with 43 points on the season and scoring at least 7 points in their last 5 games. Meanwhile, TD Ierlan is working with a 0.723 average at the faceoff X. Albany is a 1-goal season opening game against Syracuse away from being undefeated. They probably won’t see a huge jump in the rankings until they play that rescheduled Maryland game. But if they win that, look for Albany to be one of the toughest teams to play in the tournament.
Hofstra is still undefeated and they’ll get a win over St. John’s tomorrow. Fairfield could give them some trouble next week but. Delaware, Drexel and UMass don’t do anything for me. And then they close out the regular season at Towson. I don’t want to get ahead of myself here but Hofstra could run the table in the CAA and head into May with an undefeated record. Who in the fuck would have seen that coming in the beginning of the season? And seeing how at least 2 of the 3 undefeated B1G teams have to lose at least one game, Hofstra is sitting in a great spot.
Games Of The Week
All gambling odds via @LaxVegasLines. Throw them a follow if you’re into that sort of thing.
Depending on what time you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that Princeton v Yale is already going on. A nice little Friday 2pm Ivy League game featuring not only one of the most lethal freshmen in the country, but one of the most lethal players in general in college lacrosse. Michael Sowers is currently tied for 4th in the nation with 40 points after putting up 9 (5,4) against Penn last week in his homecoming to Philly. Heading into this season, I think everybody assumed that Princeton was going to be in a transition rebuilding year. But fuck a rebuild. Sowers has led Princeton to a 5-2 record to start the year and they’re the 12th best team in the nation. Their only losses are to 7-0 Hofstra and 8-0 Rutgers. Yale was struggggggling a couple weeks ago after taking L’s back to back to back against Maryland, Bryant and UMass. Then Fairfield took them to double OT and they finally got a cupcake game against Cornell. I think Princeton is just too good offensively to lose to this inconsistent Yale team so give me the Tigers + the points.
Syracuse vs Duke. Pretty standard March Madness match up here. I’ll be honest… Duke has surprised me this year. They opened up the year with a loss to Air Force and then got smoked by Denver. I thought for sure we wouldn’t see them get into full Duke mode until about this weekend. But after losing to Denver they beat Richmond, crushed Loyola and they’re 7-2 on the season. Syracuse is coming off a big overtime win against Hopkins at Homewood last week. Their one loss on the season was a 1-goal game against Army. As much as the B1G is taking over the rankings lately, the ACC is still going to end up with 1 or 2 teams playing Memorial Day Weekend. It’s just how it goes. Personally, I think Syracuse has a better chance of making it there than Duke just because I think Sergio Salcido is the most clutch player in the country. This game all comes down to how Syracuse can contain Justin Guterding. If you let the kid who is averaging 6 points per game have a field day then maybe your chances of winning are slim. But I like Syracuse finding ways to squeak out these 1 goal wins against big time opponents. They did it against Albany, they did it against Virginia, they did it against Hopkins. This team finds ways to win late in games, I think they do it again tomorrow.
Hopkins @ Virginia, Saturday March 25, 1 pm, Virginia (-1.5)
I said this before but I was extremely premature when I announced that Hopkins is back a few weeks ago. Since starting the year 4-0, it’s been a loss at Princeton, a loss at Towson, and then an overtime loss to Syracuse. Only reason I’m interested in this game is because it’ll be interesting to see if the Blue Jays are completely broken or if they’re able to finally have a bounce back week. A loss tomorrow and you can stick a fork in Hopkins. 4 losses in a row heading into Big Ten play? See ya next year. Their offense has completely disappeared but I’m going to keep a little faith in Pietramala here and say Hopkins gets it done on the road.
Personally the Ohio State vs Notre Dame match up is my favorite of the weekend. Game is in South Bend. Ohio State coming off a huge win over Denver. Notre Dame held on to beat Virginia in overtime. Another B1G vs ACC match up. And as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news here…. I think this is where Ohio State’s undefeated season comes to an end. I just think that Notre Dame’s offense is more multi-dimensional than Denver’s so OSU is going to have a tough time if they continue to be slow on their slides. If you don’t slide to Sergio Perkovic, he’ll bomb on you even though he’s been having a pretty quiet year. If you don’t slide to Ryder Garnsey, he’ll expose the hell out of you and dunk it right in front of your face. You have to slide to guys like that and then once you do, good luck trying to recover before the ball ends up in the back of the net. I’ll give Ohio State the respect they deserve and say they keep this to a 1-goal game. But give me Notre Dame giving the Buckeyes their first loss.
The last time these two teams met was Memorial Day when North Carolina sent Maryland back home with their 2nd straight loss in the National Championship game. Clearly this game has lost a bit of it’s draw considering neither team is playing very good lacrosse right now. UNC lucked out with Dartmouth on their schedule to end a 2-game losing skid to Hofstra and Richmond. And Maryland just got upset by Villanova in overtime last weekend as they still can’t find a way to get that goal in extra time. So Maryland is coming off back-to-back losses and they just don’t look like the same team from last year yet. With that being said, clearly this is a game that both teams circle when the schedules come out. Clearly there’s a little more to this game than just any other random Saturday. I guess the only real clear advantages I see in this game would be Maryland’s defense and then the revenge factor. Other than that, neither team necessarily has a dominant offense. Neither team is crushing it in the faceoff X. So give me Marylands defense + revenge to come away with the rematch W.
Jordie’s Picks (3-1 last week, 12-3 overall)
Last week’s picks were Richmond -4.5 over Jacksonville. They won 13-6. Princeton +1 over Penn, they dominated 17-8. Army -3 over Holy Cross. They won 10-4. And then Notre Dame -2 over Virginia. They won but didn’t cover in overtime. This week’s picks will be….
- Loyola -3 over Bucknell
- Hopkins +1.5 vs Virginia
- Ohio State +2 vs Notre Dame
- Albany -5.5 over UMass Lowell
High School Game of the Week: I’ll be down on the sidelines at Boy’s Latin this weekend getting the season started with Springfield-Delco (PA). Time to show Baltimore what Delco lacrosse is all about.
And before I leave you, here’s your must-watch video of the week.