Less than a week ago, if you had asked me if we were going to see a new D1 men’s lacrosse champ in 2014, I would have said “unlikely, at best.” Five days later and my answer has changed to, “it seems incredibly likely right now, if not down right probable.”
Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan
That’s a rapid 180 degree change, but now that I’m thinking about it some more, the idea that we could see a brand new champ in D1 has some serious legitimacy. On its most basic level, FIVE of the eight teams left have never won a title, and two of the past winners play each other this weekend in the quarterfinals. The semifinals are GUARANTEED to have two teams who have never won a title, and could have as many as three teams that are title-less right now. It’s a recipe for newbie success!
Let’s through each of the games, and see who has a good shot at making history… or if a previous champ wins it again… MORE history.
Maryland Vs Bryant – Noon, Saturday
Maryland has won national titles, the last coming in 1975. The Terps made the finals in 2012 and 2011. Before that, they went to the finals in 1998. Bryant has now won two NCAA playoff games ever, and they both came this year, the latest coming over Cuse in the Carrier Dome.
Bryant has a real shot here. Maryland gets good action from face offs and Charlie Raffa, and Kevin Massa is going to give him fits. Maryland can also shoot the lights out of the ball when they’re hot, but they’ll have to be because Gunnar Waldt might be the best goalie in the country.
People might think of Bryant as a long shot, but if two key players can continue to dominate and the rest of the team continues to play team ball, they have as good a shot as anyone right now. Bryant clearly loves the big stage. They’ll get it on Saturday! The big downside for Bryant is that they have to play a little risky here and there. A truly good team will be patient and wait for that. Seeing as there are only good teams left, this is a valid concern.
Chances Bryant wins it all: 1/12 – They have an honest shot. As good as anyone!
Chances Maryland wins it all: 1/12 – The Terps are a strong contender, but not by any margin.
Notre Dame Vs. Albany – 2:30 PM, Saturday
Is Notre Dame favored in this game? You betcha. The Irish have looked athletic and disciplined on defense, and they seem to have really found their stride when it comes to scoring. ND will have to be physical with the Thompsons, but that won’t be enough. The Irish will also need to make them predictable or at least one-dimensional, and that’s a much taller order.
Photo Credit: Craig Chase
No matter what happens, a potential new champion will move on. Neither Notre Dame nor Albany has won a title before, and either program seems more than capable of making a run.
Albany needs its defense to show up again, and then continue to show up. Their offense can put up numbers, but possessions and confidence in their D will help. Blaze Riorden has a great outlet pass, so a lot could be decided by smart transition play. Albany was able to settle the ball down at times against Loyola, and if they do that consistently, they are a very dangerous team. The big knock on The Danes is consistency, while that is the hallmark of the Irish. Who can put together three more complete games?
Chances Albany wins it all: 1/12 – Consistency rules all. Do the Danes now have it?
Chances Notre Dame wins it all: 2/12 – ND is looking like a strong favorite. Of course I thought the same thing about Loyola so…
Duke Vs Johns Hopkins – Noon, Sunday
Both Duke and JHU have won titles in the last ten years. No one would be shocked to see either team win it all. Out of all the teams, Duke seems like the clear #1, but I’m not so sold that Hop doesn’t deserve that honor right now. I know, it’s a little crazy, but I’ve been a Hop fan all year. I think they have the right stuff.
Duke’s big strength is also their big liability. They have lots of guys who can get it done, but their true star potential is a little think depth-wise. Thankfully, Duke’s top talent is truly top level, so if those guy show up, the Blue Devils will be in superb shape. Hopkins, however, has the ability to shut down key players at times, and if they can do it in this game, Duke could be in trouble. Hop has less top talent, but they also have more depth in my opinion. If the game comes down to second line middies, I like Hop.
The Blue Jays are still my dark horse to win it all, but both of these teams have a truly legit shot at a title in 2014. Whoever wins this game is probably the favorite to take it all, at least in my book.
Chances Duke wins it all: 2.5/12 – Big players show up in big games. If this is true, Duke is the favorite.
Chances Johns Hopkins wins it all: 2/12 – I prefer depth over stars. If this is true, Hop has a really good shot.
Denver Vs Drexel – 2:30pm, Sunday
The final game of the weekend is Denver – Drexel, and we see two more teams without a title in men’s lacrosse go at it for a spot in the Final Four. Denver comes in as the favorite to win this game, and is looking tough as they can win games with offense or defense. Denver may need that defense to step up as Drexel can gain a lot of possessions with their D and through face offs.
If Drexel wants to win, they need to combine some aspects of run-n-gun lacrosse with longer possessions. Denver has a talent edge, but quick goals and then long possessions can force them to change their game plan, especially if they are down. Man up chances could play a huge role in this game.
While neither team has won a title, if Drexel can continue to score and gel, or Denver can continue to improve on both ends of the field, you have to give either team a shot. Denver is still my favorite here, but don’t count out Drexel. That would be silly. If it’s a pretty game, I’m going Denver. If it gets grimy, it’s anyone’s game.
Chances Denver wins it all: 2/10 – Denver plays a slightly different style of lacrosse, but this year they seem to have an added level of control and composure. Along with ND, they are the strongest contenders for new programs because of their potential consistency at both ends of the field.
Chances Drexel wins it all: .5/10 – Drexel is my lowest rated team, but this has more to do with their match up with Denver than anything else.