NCAA lacrosse is back! With the light open last weekend and the grand opening this weekend, we are officially underway for the NCAA men’s DI season. So that means the DI Rundown is back! This will be your weekly stop once the week of games is over to see what happened and what’s come up next.
Denver on Display: Week 0 DI Rundown
Bellarmine 9 v Mercer 7
Utah 8 v Denver 9
Denver 10 v Duke 12
Lenoir-Rhyne (DII) 4 v Mercer 17
Utah 12 v Bellarmine 7
Towson 11 v Virginia 20
Denver 13 v North Carolina 24
Robert Morris 12 v Duke 16
This is the section of the rundown to keep track of how conferences are doing against each other. This year especially is going to be really weird. Teams are loading up on conference games, some teams aren’t even playing, and the non-conference slate has changed entirely. So, always take this with a grain of salt, but definitely do that this year.
*Note here I am not counting the Bellarmine vs Mercer game, because they are in the same conference. I am also not counting Mercer’s game against Lenoir-Rhyne, because they are DII.
This weekend was all about Denver and all about the ACC. The Pioneers have now played three games before most teams have even played one, but two of those were this weekend against Duke and UNC.
So, what do we know about the Pios? To start: their defense definitely needs some work. That feels odd to stay since they were so close to beating Duke, but Utah last week and UNC this week really exposed some issues for them tracking players off-ball. They were better against Duke, but they also were in that game largely due to time of possession and faceoffs. Once Duke actually started getting offensive possessions, the scoreboard was no longer their friend. The good news? Their head coach is Bill Tierney, and it isn’t even Valentine’s day yet. They have plenty of time to figure things out. Offensively, I was much more concerned in the Utah game, but it felt like the Denver I wanted to see against Duke. The Pioneers were still able to put up 13 goals on UNC, but they were also forced to dig themselves out of a hole pretty early on.
The Tar Heels looked nothing short of phenomenal. It felt like they couldn’t miss the goal for awhile. Their ride was vicious, and even when Denver did clear it, it was a struggle to do so. For teams facing UNC, you better make sure your defenders are willing to cradle and run. Offensively, UNC was exactly the team we saw at the start of last year, and it did not lose a step. This team is fast, aggressive, and will find any opening given to them.
Relative to expectations, UVA impressed me the most. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from how UVA ended its 2020 season. The Cavs just weren’t the defending champs they were supposed to be and were definitely missing Ryan Conrad. But against Towson, UVA was impressive across the board, and its addition on new players like Charlie Bertrand and Connor Shellenberger on offense is paying instant dividends.
Duke is still a monster on paper, but a paper tiger in the first quarter. Seriously, its two first quarters were terrible. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, there is much more lacrosse after those first 15 minutes. They still have ridiculous potential, but watching Duke on either offense or defense is not making anyone feel great about things right now. The fact that the team has had to switch goalies in both games so far right in the beginning of the game underscores its defensive issues. The shots the Blue Devils were giving Denver and Robert Morris early on were high percentage and left their goalies hanging. If you threw UNC’s offense against this defense right now, things would get ugly. They still won their games, which is the most important part, but there is a lot of work to do in Durham.
Also, since we are now into another season, we have new faceoff rules to deal with. The result so far? If your goal was to prevent a player or team from dominating possession via faceoff, it was a pretty big fail. If your goal was to prevent tie-ups and create a fast ground ball, it’s been a resounding success. LSMs are getting heavily involved in that initial possession like we have not seen in years, and these ground ball scrums are definitely a change from the tie-ups. It remains to be seen as the season continues if certain players really still take over as one-man wrecking crews. It’s definitely still possible.
Nobody so far! I’ll be using this section to keep track of which games are postponed as the season goes on as that information will easily get lost in the shuffle. If this season is anything like college basketball, some of the reschedules may never happen, but we will see. Also, why not keep track of games played overall while we’re at it?
Games scheduled: 8
Games played as scheduled: 8 (100%)
This Week’s Games
Bellarmine v Jacksonville (SoCon)
Cleveland St v Marquette (Ind v BE)
Air Force v Denver (SoCon v BE)
Mercer v Duke (SoCon v ACC)
Jacksonville v UNC (SoCon v ACC)
Providence v Bryant (BE v NEC)
Saint Joseph’s v Towson (NEC v CAA)
Army v UMass (Patriot v CAA)* To be rescheduled per UMass health protocols
Robert Morris v High Point (Ind v SoCon)
Sacred Heart v Stony Brook (NEC V AE)
Mount St. Mary’s v VMI (NEC V SoCon)
St. John’s v Hofstra (BE vs CAA)
Loyola v Richmond (Patriot v SoCon)
Villanova v Delaware (BE vs CAA)
Army v Virginia (Patriot v ACC)
What to Watch
Air Force v Denver: Air Force could be interesting, but I am more intrigued to see how Denver responds after its nightmare of a weekend out in North Carolina. The Pios dropped a winnable game against Duke and were run out of the state by UNC. This is a great chance for them to regroup and focus on playing the lacrosse they want to play.
Robert Morris v High Point: High Point is right up there looking to take the conference by the end of the season, and this is its debut. Robert Morris already has a game under its belt from Duke, but that was hardly expected to go its way.
Loyola v Richmond: Two possible NCAA tournament teams, but with slightly different expectations. Even though Loyola is going to be favored in this one, that does not mean Richmond is a pushover. The Spiders give everyone a hard time and love being an underdog (underspider?). The coaching tree between these two being intertwined always makes it a fun matchup as well.
Villanova v Delaware: These are both schools that are not favored to win their conferences, and they are both not happy about that, either. They are relative neighbors, which creates a bit of a pseudo-rivalry.
Army v Virginia: We have a new game! With UMass postponing, Army called up UVA to get this game added when it would have been playing the Minutemen. It’s a great chance for the team to still play another top-20 opponent in its opener. Given how fast both of these teams love to play, this should be a good one.