In case you somehow managed to miss it, the 2018 NCAA DI Men’s Lacrosse Tournament got going yesterday with 4 games. 4 teams locked up their seat on the train to the quarterfinals. They are Yale after their back-and-forth game over UMass, Duke after showing the selection committee they made a serious mistake by letting Villanova into the tournament, Albany after shit pumping Richmond, and Loyola after knocking off Virginia at close to midnight after a weather delay pushed the start time back by 2 hours and 14 minutes. So yeah. It was a pretty wild day in the world of college lacrosse but it ended with all of the seeded teams showing why they were the favorites and moving on to play for a ticket to Memorial Day Weekend. Let’s recap the Saturday games real quick and then once we’re done with those, we’ll preview the other 4 first round games that are scheduled for today.
Yale 15 – UMass 13
Obviously Ben Reeves was the biggest name in this game. He’s a Tewaaraton Finalist and he’s been a Tewaaraton Finalist for the last couple of years. He had 2 goals and 4 helpers on the day. But the biggest star for Yale in this tight win against UMass? Sophomore Jackson Morrill who decided to snap off for 7 goals yesterday. 7 goals in an NCAA Tournament game. What an absolute legend. I said in my preview blog this week that big time players show up for big time games. Obviously Ben Reeves showed up with 6 points but Jackson Morrill stole the show with his 7 G’s.
Now as far as chaos goes, this one was probably the best game out of the bunch yesterday. A ton of goals in unsettled situations and I think unsettled is a pretty big understatement here. So I’ll just let a few of the highlights speak for themselves.
UMass kept it interesting the whole game. Any time Yale thought they could pull away, the Gorillas answered and would bring it back to a 2-3 goal game. But in the end, they don’t have Ben Reeves and Jackson Morrill on their team, and Yale does. So Yale moves on.
Duke 17 – Villanova 11
Villanova was obviously the biggest surprise of the tournament considering I don’t think there were many people out there who were considering them a bubble team. They lost to the eventual Big East champs Georgetown twice and got their dicks kicked in 22-6 by Denver. To me, that just screams that this team wasn’t ready for the tournament. But credit to the Wildcats, they were in this game early. But then Duke decided to show them the difference between Duke and Villanova. That difference is depth. Because yesterday it was Nakeie Montgomery putting on a show for the Blue Devils. This is a kid who only had 6 goals all season. He went off and had 3 yesterday in the first half of the game. Now, granted, they were all bounce shots and as we all know–bounce shots should really only count as half goals. But they went in nonetheless and Duke was able to cruise into the quarterfinals.
And oh yeah, Justin Guterding continues the hottest trend in the nation. College players who come on The Crease Dive have never once lost on the weekend after they come on the show. I can already hear the list of potential guests for Memorial Day Weekend starting to line up.
Albany 18 – Richmond 9
Ladies and gentlemen… the Albany Globetrotters.
Tehoka had nasty finish after nasty finish. And the thing I love the most about this kid’s game is he’s such an elite finisher that I’m positive he could just as easily score without throwing any fakes. But he always throws in a handful of them just for the style points and to make sure the goalie knows for certain that he never had a chance. The fact that we still get 3 more years of this kid is unbelievable. And while Tehoka was putting on a clinic, Connor Fields was proving that he is the biggest warrior in college lacrosse and that no injury is going to keep him from destroying defenses.
Hit ‘em with the Euro step right there. Listen, people. Connor’s knee is for sure fucked up. If he was anywhere near healthy, he wouldn’t have been playing off the ball so much. You can tell that Albany is trying to do everything they can to not have him carry the ball. But even at 50-75%, you see how much just having him out there on the field impacts the game. He makes everybody else out there on the field that much better and that’s the true sign of a dominant player. Also, with his 2 goals and 5 assists yesterday, he became the 2nd all time leading point scorer in NCAA Lacrosse history with 355. He passed Matt Danowski and Rob Pannell yesterday. Not a big deal. The only person ahead of him now is his old pal Lyle Thompson who finished his career with 400.
And oh yeah, last part about this game but we had Troy Reh, a longstick middie, score a hat trick in the first half yesterday. A Pole Goal Hatty. What a legend.
Loyola 14 – Virginia 12
The first game of the day had Ben Reeves. The second game of the day had Justin Guterding. The third game of the day had Connor Fields and Tehoka Nanticoke. The final game of the day had… well it had lightning that delayed the game from 7:15-9:30. But most importantly it had Patrick Spencer and, folks, it is impossible to describe just how good this kid is.
He will beat you by dodging to the cage with his size and power.
He will beat you off-ball with his understanding of the defense and always knowing the right spot to get in. Also this shot is fucking sick.
And then where he’s most lethal is as a feeder. Like the caption here says. Jay Drapeau deserves a ton of credit for this move in the crease.
It’s a savvy little fish hook for the wing. But what allows this play to work to perfection is the fact that Pat Spencer saw it coming at least 3 seconds before everybody else. His eyes are always up and if anybody is open by even an inch for just a split second, he’s going to hit the open man. There’s nothing on the offensive side of a lacrosse field that this kid can’t do and that is going to be a nightmare for any defense who has to go up against him from here on out. That job will be Chris Fake’s of Yale next weekend. The kid was the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. He is an absolute stud. But he’s also still just a freshman. Imagine playing in the biggest game of your career so far as a freshman and you have the task to try to shutdown Pat Spencer? Yikes.
So yeah. Yale, Duke, Albany and Loyola all punched their tickets to the quarterfinals next weekend. There are still 4 more spots up for grabs so let’s real quick talk about those games, shall we?
But first… BUY A SHIRT
First Round Games Day 2 Preview
Robert Morris @ #1 Maryland | 12pm | ESPNU
Alright listen. No disrespect to Robert Morris here. They’re a very solid team who won their conference and beat the shit out of Canisius in the play-in game. They deserve to be in this tournament. With that being said… well they’re going up against the reigning National Champions and the program who has been to Championship Weekend for the past 4 seasons. They’re going to be able to junk it up a little to keep this game from getting totally out of hand early. But they’re just going to be out-classed in this game.
They haven’t played against anybody yet this year who can come at you in waves like this Maryland team can. I know Robert Morris got a win over Penn State this year but it was a very down year for the Nittany Lions. I mean you look at the last 5 games of Robert Morris’ regular season. Hobart, Canisius, Cleveland State, Wagner, Saint Joe’s. They’re just not going to have what it takes to keep up with the #1 seed in this tournament.
The most important thing here for Maryland is just to keep everybody healthy. Connor Kelly has been playing a little banged up lately. I wouldn’t hate to see him only play in the first half or so of this game. You gotta keep Tim Rotanz going. He’s another kid on this roster who has never not played in the final weekend of the season in his career. Let the seniors guide the way here for the young kids and show them how to get to Gillette. You’ve got a couple of freshmen on offensive in Logan Wisnauskas and Bubba Fairman. It’ll be their first NCAA Tournament action of their career. Nobody knows how to tournament better than Maryland. Again–no disrespect–but the Terps have to treat this like a practice.
Denver @ #7 Notre Dame | 2:15pm | ESPNU
This is without a doubt the most anticipated 1st round matchup of the tournament. Two programs that regularly find themselves in the Final Four. This is a rematch of a March 10th game which Notre Dame won 11-9. It’s been an up and down year for the Irish as they’ve been dealing with some injuries and also just some bad play offensively from time to time. But now they’ve got a fully healthy squad with Bryan Costabile back in the mix. Ryder Garnsey has been en fuego lately. And in their last 3 games? They put up 14 goals against Duke, 17 goals on Virginia and 17 goals on Army. The Notre Dame defense has always been their strongest asset this season but the offensive is snapping. Which is going to be huuuuuge for this game. Why is that?
Well because they’ll be going up against the best who ever did it, Trevor Baptiste, in the faceoff X. When you go up against Baptiste, you just have to assume that you’re going to have 10 fewer possessions than you’re usually used to getting. Almost any time there is a faceoff, Denver is going to be getting the ball back. Which means that Notre Dame’s offensive is going to have to be extra efficient every time they get the ball to make the most out of the opportunities they get.
Now here’s why I’ll say I like Notre Dame in this game. The difference between today’s game and last year’s quarterfinal game which Denver won 16-4 is the fact that Denver’s offense just isn’t what it used to be. Don’t get me wrong. I think Ethan Walker is a filthy shooter. I think Austin French and Colton Jackson are great players. But they’re really missing a guy like Connor Cannizzaro. A guy who can really create for himself any time he wants to. We’ve seen the Denver offense this year go missing at times, especially against strong defenses. They only put up a combined 9 goals in two games against Georgetown this year. So when they have to go up against John Sexton and this Notre Dame defense? I don’t see them getting much more than 8 goals. Meanwhile Notre Dame’s offense has been scoring at will so yeah, give me the Irish.
Georgetown @ #5 Hopkins | 5pm | ESPNU
I really love this Johns Hopkins team. The offense might be as well rounded as any we’ve ever seen at Homewood. You’ve got Shack Stanwick who is the quarterback of it all. He’s got the lacrosse IQ, makes sure everybody is in the right spot, is always drawing attention to himself and opening up space for other guys. He’s probably the only guy out there who you really don’t have to coach and tell them to reel it in at times. After that you have the Filth Squad of Kyle Marr, Joel Tinney and Cole Williams. These guys are so exciting to watch, they play a fast and loose style of offense, and they know how to fill the back of the net. The four guys who I just mentioned all have a combined 188 points on the year. And it’s distributed almost completely evenly.
But like I mentioned before, Georgetown has one of the best defenses in the nation. So if they want to come out of Homewood with a win today, they have to figure out a way to slow down that Hopkins offense. The thing that is so tough about that is the fact that I just mentioned. All of those guys have either 48 or 46 points. So it’s not like you can just shut one guy down and the offense goes to shit. They have 4 guys who are going to put up points in this game and you just have to decide which one of them you’d rather not have kill you.
I think this game is going to look sloppy at times. I think Hopkins will probably find themselves getting into a little turnover trouble early in this game. But after a while they’ll start to dial it in and they’ll win by 2 or 3.
Cornell @ #8 Syracuse | 7:15pm | ESPNU
If you haven’t had the chance to really watch Jeff Teat play the sport of lacrosse yet, tonight is going to be a helluva night for you. The Ivy League currently has 3 of the top 5ish point scorers in the nation. They have Ben Reeves from Yale who has been one of the best attackmen in the nation for the last 3 years. They have Michael Sowers, a sophomore from Princeton, who is going to be a Tewaaraton Finalist at some point over the next two years. And then you’ve got Jeff Teat, the sophomore from Cornell, who could have easily been a Tewaaraton Finalist this year. He has 96 points on the year and will most likely get to 100 tonight, even if Syracuse tries to shut him off.
Now this is a game that I think is really going to come back to bite the selection committee in the ass. Cornell won the Ivy League Championship. They’re 12-4 on the year. They lost to Colgate in their season opener but as I always season, Ivy League teams always lose their season opener because they can’t start practicing until at least a week later than everybody else. They lost a close game to Albany which had a fully healthy Connor Fields and TD Ierlan went 100% in the faceoff X. They lost to Yale in the regular season and then dropped a tough one to Princeton to close out their regular season. With those being your only losses and adding on an Ivy League Championship on top of it all, that to me is a resume that should have you hosting a first round game. Instead, they’ll be taking the quick trip up to Syracuse because the selection committee loves the ACC and has a hard on for the Dome.
Syracuse, on the other hand, got fucking SMACKED by Albany. They lost to Cornell earlier in the season 13-8. They lost to Navy. They lost to Virginia in the ACC semis. The fact that they don’t have to travel today is just because they are Syracuse and they have the name recognition. So with all of that in mind and also taking into consideration that Jeff Teat is one of the best players in the nation, I think Cornell comes out tonight and takes the keys to the Carrier Dome. They have to feel disrespected right now. They have to be pissed. And unfortunately for Syracuse, they’re just in Cornell’s way at this point.
Make sure to follow @thecreasedive on Instagram and Twitter for full coverage of highlights throughout the rest of the tournament. And make sure to download/subscribe/listen to this week’s episode of The Crease Dive on iTunes.