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Four ACC Men’s Lacrosse Teams in the NCAA Lacrosse Semifinals?!

We knew the ACC was going to be the best conference in Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse this season, as it has been for a number of years now. The resurgence of Syracuse lacrosse has solidified this viewpoint even more, as now the Orange are actually competing for a national championship, which has not been said for nearly a decade. The Big Ten and Ivy League fluctuate year by year in terms of how many teams can compete on a national scale with real national title hopes in mind, but not the ACC. The conference typically sends at least two teams to Championship Weekend, but there is a realistic chance of the conference sending four teams to the semifinals this season.

Last year was truly remarkable as the top three seeds in the tournament were Duke, Virginia, and Notre Dame, all coming out of the ACC. The conclusion of the NCAA Tournament featured an ACC championship matchup between Duke and Notre Dame, in which the Fighting Irish came out on top. The ACC is getting better every year, and it seems like the other conferences can’t keep up. Notre Dame has looked like the best team in the country since the start of the season and handled their business last weekend against Albany in a surprisingly close game at halftime. Duke throttled Utah in a game that never felt like the Utes had a chance. Syracuse played a competitive game with Towson, but after halftime, you could tell the Orange were going to run away with it. Virginia played a closer game with Saint Joseph’s for the majority of the game, but you always knew the Cavaliers were going to secure the victory.

With the way the bracket is currently set up, there is a legitimate chance that we see four ACC Men’s Lacrosse teams make the Championship Weekend semifinals. Normally, there are a couple of first-round upsets in the tournament, but not this year. For the first time since 2004, all eight seeded teams advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals. Notre Dame, Duke, and Syracuse are all the higher seeds in their upcoming quarterfinal matchups, with the exception of Virginia. It was extremely rare not to see an upset in the first round; it would be almost even more rare not to see an upset in the quarterfinals.

Looking towards the weekend, Notre Dame takes on Georgetown, who is the only team to have beaten them this season in an overtime thriller late in February. While Georgetown has proven they can beat the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame has gotten better and better every week, and it is extremely difficult to beat a team twice. Duke has to get through Maryland in order to advance, but that seems like an easier task than in years past. Many people were surprised to see Maryland even make the tournament and even more surprised to see them throttle Princeton in the first round. Duke has only really struggled against other ACC opponents this season, and it would be very surprising to see them fall to the Terrapins, even with Maryland’s impressive win against Princeton.

The toughest matchup, in my eyes, is Syracuse versus Denver. The Pioneers looked red hot in their game against Michigan, and Coach Brown has his boys ready to compete when it matters most. Syracuse’s high-flying offense will look to make the game an offensive battle, in which I don’t think Denver would be able to keep up. No. 6 Virginia takes on No. 3 Johns Hopkins in what would be the only “upset” needed in order to see a four-team ACC Championship Weekend. I’ve been really high on the Blue Jays all season long, but they have struggled recently. Close regular-season victories against Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, and Maryland aren’t very convincing, especially when followed up by a Big Ten tournament loss against Michigan. I can make the same argument for Virginia, however, with ending the regular season and conference tournament on a four-game losing streak before their NCAA tournament victory against Saint Joseph’s. I trust Lars Tiffany’s ability to get his team ready more than I trust Peter Milliman’s.

With all of that being said, there’s a realistic chance that we see four ACC Men’s Lacrosse teams make Championship Weekend semifinal appearances. This would be truly astonishing and would require other conferences and Division 1 men’s teams to step up, as having one conference dominate in this fashion is not good for the overall growth of the sport.