The 2012 NCAA Men’s College Lacrosse Championships are over, and what a crazy weekend it was! We saw two first-time champions crowned in Loyola at the Division 1 level and Dowling at the Division 2 level, and a tenth Division 3 championship was won by the Salisbury dynasty. Attendance was down (for the fourth year straight), and the Tewaaraton question was not unequivocally answered. There is a lot to discuss!
Loyola Wins NCAA Division 1 Title
The Loyola Hounds entered the 2012 season unranked, almost went undefeated, garnered the number 1 seed entering the NCAA Playoffs, and won their first NCAA Men’s Lacrosse title ever. Eric Lusby set an NCAA record for goals in the tournament, and Maryland lost in the title game for the second year running. The Terps entered the playoffs unseeded and tore through the tourney with mosh-pit passion to reach the finals.
I actually picked Loyola to win the whole thing last week… So, that feels good.
The difference maker in the national title game was Loyola’s team play, plain and simple. When the game was tight early, the Hounds stuck to their guns and ran off seven straight goals, just dominating all over. Loyola created space on offense and in transition, dodged well, and shot the lights out when they had chances against a very good Maryland defense.
Meanwhile, the Hounds’ defensive unit forced Maryland into predictable shots, and their keeper came up big time as he was able to set his feet for many of the shots he faced. Good team D will do that! Loyola also used some zone defense as well, and now it has been fully proven FALSE that “Division 1 offenses can easily tear apart a zone.” That is just 100% not true. Thanks Loyola and Virginia!
Dowling Takes NCAA Division 2 Title
I also picked Dowling to win the title, but I wasn’t shocked to see the game stay tight throughout. Limestone has some very talented scorers, and at times they seemed to score at will. Dowling also has talent, but to me, they just played a better team game on Sunday. They created some good looks from team play, and the game came down to who could score one more goal. Limestone almost had it, but when Dowling’s defense locked down one-on-one, the game was decided.
It was a fantastic, physical game to watch, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the NCAA Division 2 title game not being televised is a crying shame. The players are extremely talented (some will turn pro in the MLL and NLL), and it’s much more worthy of being aired on TV than reruns of college hockey or early round college baseball games.
Salisbury Wins Second Straight, 10th Overall NCAA Division 3 Title
This was the only game I missed all weekend. I picked Cortland here, and I’m still not really sure why. I thought the two teams matched up very evenly talent-wise, and I still believe that now. The difference would come down to preparation and coaching. I was right that it came down to that, but oh so wrong to bet against Coach Berkman. I’m sorry, Coach. That was silly of me.
Salisbury did not let Cortland pull a Tufts and push transition with their defensive midfielders. In the second half, players like Sam Bradman were routinely tracking all the way back on defense, and THEN subbing off with their D-mids. For a while, it seemed like Bradman never came off the field. Salisbury just took care of the little things, and they had the legs and conditioning to pull it off. It was an impressive effort, from an impressive group of players.
Cortland used a zone defense, but only rarely, and only late, which still baffles me. Salisbury has excellent outside shooters, and in order to limit that, an aggressive zone would have worked early in the game. Since Cortland obviously had it ready, I’m not sure why they didn’t use it. They could have known where the outside shots were coming from and focused more on the inside game, where SU killed them. The pick and roll down the middle and pop picks created constant problems, and I think a zone would have helped there too. Then again, I’m not a D3 coach, so what do I know?
Great game by two great teams. Cortland had a chance, but Salisbury proved why they are THE BEST.
Lowest Final Four Attendance in Years? Uh Oh…
Final Four weekend attendance was down for the 4th straight year, so you can’t blame Boston SOLELY for the poor showing. But here are some thoughts on it…
1) Quarterfinal attendance is way up. So overall, how are we doing? Why does the FF have to stand alone?
2) The Celtics were playing this weekend. High School lacrosse in Massachusetts is still going on.
3) Gillette Stadium is not in Boston. It is at least 45 minutes away.
4) Lax on TV is getting better. HD means the couch is more tempting!
5) More big lacrosse events every year mean less desire to get to the Final Four for the average fan.
6) Memorial Day weekend travel is expensive and taxing. Big City Classic weekend travel is not (for me, at least!).
7) What’s a Loyola? I learned about Loyola when Gavin Prout was there. Not everyone is so well versed in lax colleges, especially outside of the regular fans. This could have had an effect.
There are a lot of other ideas surrounding the attendance drop. I’d love to hear YOURS in the comments section!
Change The North-South Game, PLEASE!
I don’t know why they play the North-South game on Friday. Attendance is always low, it is NEVER promoted, and many of the best players don’t participate. So let’s change it up and make it special again. The NCAA Division 1 North-South game should be played before the National Championship game on Monday – at the same location. The losing teams in the Semis should be able to send kids to play in it as well.
It would lengthen the game day experience on Memorial Day and make the D1 Senior All-Star Game a more important event for all involved. The D2 Seniors should play the D3 Seniors, and this game should be played on Sunday before the D2 and D3 Finals are played, also in the same stadium. This would create a rivalry between each divisions, and a bond within the divisions to finish up the year. It’s pure lacrosse magic, I tell you.
More tickets sold for the Final Four, more concessions, more lacrosse, more community. NCAA powers that be, make it happen for the good of the game!
The Tewaaraton Conundrum
How does this award not go to Peter Baum? Simple, it goes to CJ Costabile. Or Mike Sawyer. Or Steele repeats. I think Manny is out. Chris Rosentall breaks down the issue a bit more than I will, but I will say this: all of these guys are great players and well-deserving. Still, HOW IS SAM BRADMAN NOT AN OPTION?!
Why even name Division 3 guys if they’ll never win the award? What more could he have done this year? 23-0, repeated as a NC, finished his MIDFIELD career with 304 points (WHAT?), dropped 99 points this year, had 7 points in the title game (6g, 1a), is the two-time National Championship game MVP and a three-time first team All-American midfielder. If there was ever going to be a year where an NCAA Division 3 lacrosse player won it, this would have been the year… and he wasn’t even a finalist.
Obviously I’m biased towards DIII lacrosse, but the point here is that the Tewaaraton still has wrinkles to iron out, and my minor gripe aside, Chris Rosenthall covers the big ones.