The first week of the season might seem like little more than ceremonial to some people. Not every lacrosse conference is playing. Most of the top 20 doesn’t want to play each other yet and THERE’S STILL SNOW ON THE GROUND! But me, I love it. This part of the season is what really sets the stage for May. Yes, I’m already thinking about how these game will affect the tournament selection field.
The reason I do this is I think it’s fun to talk about how certain conferences compare to each other. Conference have become increasingly important as the parity increases. There are now very good teams being left out, and cleaning out their lockers a week or two early. The other big reason is that as conference play begins and teams eat each other alive at every given chance, you need to keep in mind how good conferences are relative to the rest of the country. If the Big Ten loses two games out of conference all year, then winds up with everyone losing three or four games inside the conference, it’s a bit of a sign that they should really be all taken seriously. Likewise, a conference that is abysmal against everyone else, but produces two teams that pretty much only lose to each other (*cough*RMU*cough*St. Joseph’s*), then they likely won’t be producing multiple NCAA teams.
So as we take a look at the first few games so far this season, we can see how some conferences are beginning to shape up. This post each week is also where I’ll take a deeper dive into some of the individual games that went on as well.
2019 Conference Comparison:
Obviously, we expect the Big Ten to come out to a strong start. Gaining wins over Villanova and Bucknell are big and important. It’s great to see strong programs willing to start out with difficult games. The ACC did not do that. Duke – Furman and UNC – Mercer were hardly expected to be major challenges. The Ivy League teams are also in a big of a delayed start, as always.
I did have a chance to see Yale and Syracuse scrimmage this past weekend. TD Ierlan was just as dominant as he was in 2018. While the first quarter was supposedly more even, he barely lost in the second and third. And he almost never needed his wings.
Coach Desko On Syracuse – Yale Scrimmage
On offense, everything was running through Jackson Morrill at attack, and his ability to find shooters, especially Matt Gaudet, was deadly. That’s not to say the Syracuse defense was doing a bad job given the sheer amount of defense they had to play, but Yale’s offense was pretty crisp. They also never stop moving. Ever. The biggest problem they gave the Orange defense was just tracking off-ball options and having recovery slides ready. It was less about individual matchups as it was finding an open shooter.
Tyson Bomberry On Syracuse – Yale Scrimmage
Defensively for the Bulldogs, Chris Fake was an eraser. Their starting close defense more or less took the attack out of the game. When they subbed off, things changed entirely and Syracuse was scoring almost at will. But when it was starters against starters, it was not the same game. BIG QUALIFIER TIME. This was a scrimmage. Lineups were being tinkered with, not everyone was available, and not every set was being run. What we could take away from this one is that Syracuse is a good team and has a ton of talent. But, Yale is not only better, but they looked like the number one team in the country. They are ready to defend.
Enough about that, let’s take a high-level view again. Looking at the last two seasons, the big correlation you’ll notice is postseason bids compared to win percentage by conference. The only asterisk to apply here is with regards to bid stealers. The Big East did not have three of the best team in the country last year. They had 1-2. Then, the third won their conference tournament and the Big Ten only sent two teams. The ACC on the other hand was back on top with the best percentage and sent the most teams. See how magical that is? And they don’t even have an AQ.
2018 Conference Comparison:
2017 Conference Comparison:
The conferences you’ll see really fighting it out for those multiple bids are the Big East, Patriot, and Ivy. That’s why wins like BU over Providence this past weekend are so important. Providence’s season should not have to rely on beating Denver. BU’s should not have to rely on beating Loyola. But, if they want to build that resume, winning games like this are absolutely critical. The other thing that’s great about this game is that it’s turning into an annual season-opening ritual. They play when it’s usually freezing out and it’s basically always a close game involving overtime. This year’s 8-7 win by BU lived up to the billing. I would try to call it the battle for I-95, but that would really upset Harvard, Brown, Yale, Fairfield, Manhattan, NJIT, Rutgers, Penn, Drexel, Delaware, UMBC, Richmond, and probably some other teams I missed.
Geez. That has to be the most important highway in lacrosse.