NCAA Tournament Review + Predictions

The first round of the 2015 men’s NCAA lacrosse tournament is in the books, the history books that is. School and NCAA-wide records were re-established this weekend along with a slew of highlight reel plays that made their way onto SportsCenter Top Plays. We want to take a quick look back at the first round of action and what made it so special, but also look forward to the second round and Championship Weekend.

 

Albany

To kick things off, the Albany Great Danes traveled to Ithaca to take on the eight seed Cornell. The Big Red made their way into the tournament with an at-large bid after battling through a tough 10-5 schedule with wins over Albany, Ivy League Champs Yale and Princeton. Their previous success over the Danes did not help them on Saturday as Albany came out swinging from the start. Albany is known to be a high scoring team and this game was no exception with 11 different players finding the back of the net including their goalie, Blaze Riorden. Riorden not only made SportsCenter but he also came up with 19 stops on the day to hold Cornell to only 10 goals. Star of the team Lyle Thompson made his case to win the Tewaaraton Trophy as he notched three goals and six assists on the day.

Notre Dame

The game between the Fighting Irish and the Tigers was probably a bit too close for comfort for the Notre Dame faithful, who saw their team pull off a 12-10 win to advance. Towson had to deal with a quick turnaround, as they had bested High Point only three days earlier to earn their spot in the tournament. The Tigers rode the momentum of their previous victory by taking an early 4-1 lead over Notre Dame into the second quarter before the Irish gathered their composure and brought it within one goal at half time. From there, Notre Dame was able take control of the lead five minutes into the third quarter and didn’t look back. Towson scored the last two goals of the game, but this was not enough. The Irish advance to play Albany.

Maryland

Yale versus Maryland in the first round saw two teams testing their stingy defenses to see who could really control the pace of play. As the lowest scoring game of the first round, the top defensive unit in the country from Maryland proved worthy of that title holding Yale to seven goals overall and only one in the fourth quarter.  Tied with three goals each at the half,  Maryland’s four goals in the fourth quarter solidified their spot in the next round.  A top defensive squad, Maryland will be challenged further by the remaining teams, all top offensive squads.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes win over defending Champions Duke capped off the second upset on Saturday.  Evenly matched through the first quarter, Ohio State’s offensive onslaught totaled six unanswered goals before halftime. Duke rallied in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome a late seven point lead, and eventually fell 16-11. For the second time this season, Ohio State pulled off a major upset, the first being Denver, OSU’s opponent in the 2nd round.

Johns Hopkins

The familiar rivalry between the Jays and Cavaliers started the second day of the first round. During the regular season, Virginia topped Johns Hopkins in overtime and by the level of play, Hopkins was ready for payback. After an early 1-1 score, the Jays took control with an 11 goal run before UVA notched its second goal late in the 2nd quarter. The Jays offense was simply unstoppable, literally, as the Cavs starting goalie did not get a single save on the day. Their offensive wizardry was powered by eight different players capped off by a stunning hidden ball trick played to perfection by the Stanwick brothers. This was the second highlight to make SportsCenter’s Top Plays. The Jays will look to continue their hot streak into the next round when they face-off against another familiar foe, the Syracuse Orange.

Denver

The heralded offensive power from Denver was lead by Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Wesley Berg, who netted a goal and 2 assists against Brown. The Pioneers started strong, going into halftime with a 10-2 lead and looking unstoppable. The  Brown Bears came back with a much stronger second half of play but again it was a story of too little too late. Denver was never in danger, winning 15-9. The Pioneers have made a run for the Championship in the past few years only to be stopped just short of their ultimate goal. The Pio’s will look to get back to Championship Weekend but not before they seek redemption over Ohio State in the second round. Playing on familiar turf should help Denver but as Ohio State has been known to cause big upsets, this match up will be one not to miss.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels are a team known for a starting attack unit that puts up big numbers. The 19-12 victory over Colgate was no different, with the starting attackers responsible for ten goals. Luke Goldstock’s four-goal performance brings his total to 48, a new single-season scoring record.  The Tar Heels will need their offense to come out swinging in the second round as they are set to meet Maryland, the number one defense in the country. During the regular season the Terps handed the Heels their first loss in a close 10-8 game so UNC will certainly enter the match-up with a chip on their shoulder.

Syracuse

It is widely debated that Syracuse should have been granted the #1 seed in the tournament. Their performance against Marist certainly helps plead their case as they dominated the game from the very beginning. With 9 players on the Orange roster tallying goals including 4 from Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Kevin Rice, Syracuse easily handled Marist, 20-8, and is on track to make a big statement on Championship Weekend. Standing in their way is their storied rival, Johns Hopkins, who is coming off an explosive offensive performance of their own. Set to play Sunday at noon in Annapolis, the Orange-Jays game is set up to be an absolute shootout and one that any lacrosse fan will not want to miss.

 

Second Round Action/Predictions

Redemption is the theme for the second round as each match-up in one form or another has a story behind it and a team looking for revenge. With that added encouragement, each one of these 8 teams is certain to come out hungry to grab their spot in the finals.

 

Notre Dame-Albany

These two programs do not meet often but when they do, it’s for a spot in the final four. Last year this time, Albany was seconds away from pulling off an incredible upset over the Irish. That is until Matt “Mr. Clutch” Kavanagh scored the dramatic overtime goal that helped get Notre Dame to the Championship game. That game has been on the Great Danes’ minds all year, and if reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner Lyle Thompson, has anything to say about it, Albany will fight tooth and nail to get the victory they wanted so dearly last season.

Prediction: Notre Dame

Ohio State-Denver

The Denver Pioneers suffered only two losses this season, one to top-ranked UNC and the other to the then unranked Buckeyes. That loss and the Pioneers history of shortcomings in the NCAA tournament is certain to fuel the Denver squad to fight for a place in Championship Weekend. But the Buckeyes have a knack for winning in big games including their opening tournament game where they stunned the Blue Devils on home turf. OSU will have to travel to enemy turf foe, and this game is destined to be a battle.

Prediction: Denver

North Carolina-Maryland

There is no doubt that North Carolina is currently playing their best lacrosse  in years, but they have a troubled history when it comes to the NCAA tournament. It doesn’t help the Heels’ case that their first loss of the regular season came at the hands of the Terps. Maryland enters this game with the number one defense in the nation while the Tar Heels come in with one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The team that can set and control the pace of the game will likely be the one to walk into the next round but right now this game is a toss-up.

Prediction: North Carolina

Johns Hopkins-Syracuse

This is the rivalry that has defined the sport of college lacrosse. Johns Hopkins and Syracuse have a long storied history between the two programs including five National Title match-ups. Both teams are coming off incredible offensive first round games tallying 19 and 20 goals respectively. The Jays have dealt with some ups and downs this season but are playing their best lacrosse at the moment while the Orange have looked dominant from the beginning of the season. This quarterfinal contest is set to be another one for their rivalry history books.

Prediction: Syracuse

Final Prediction

To wrap it all up, the team here at LACROSSE.COM believes that it is the year for the Tar Heels. It has been over 20 years since UNC has made it to the finals but it has also been over 20 years since there has been a team so talented at every position. Their strong senior cast has come very close to Championship Weekend these past few years so they will do whatever it takes to come back to Chapel Hill crowned as 2015 NCAA Champions.