Game Of The Week: Notre Dame Vs. Villanova
Last week we had Maryland Vs. Johns Hopkins as our Game Of The Week and it didn’t disappoint one bit. I said I liked Maryland by a goal or two, and they won by three. Pretty sure I hit the margin of error on that one. Cha-ching. So what is The Game Of The Week this time around?
Villanova vs Notre Dame!
Check out our Lacrosse On TV 2012 Post to see how you can watch the game if you’re not going in person!
Here are FIVE things to watch for in this highly anticipated battle:
Big East Battle:
With Syracuse struggling big time this year, the top stop in the Big East is up for grabs. Villanova and Notre Dame are the two top teams fighting for the number one spot. Both teams are undefeated in conference play and are ranked in the USILA poll. Notre Dame is having a stellar season, and have only suffered one loss so far, a 4-3 OT upset at the a hands of Penn State. Villanova had some early season struggles but since then has been hot. These two teams are going to come out guns blazing this weekend, and there should be some fireworks.
Offense vs Defense:
A key story line for this game is going to be Villanova’s offense against Notre Dame’s defense. The Fighting Irish defense is one of the best in the country – a defense that allows less than 30 shots per game and only allows 6.57 goals per game. Not to mention they have one of the best goalies in all of college lacrosse, if not the best goalie. John Kemp is saving over 60% of the shots he faces. Notre Dame’s defense is going up against an offense that is red hot.
Villanova’s offense is firing on all cylinders coming into this match up. They are putting up the third-most shots on goal per possession in the nation. The Wildcats are scoring on nearly 50% of their man-up opportunities. On the opposite side, Notre Dame has snuffed out all but 5 man down opportunities. It literally is going to be a clash of a high powered, efficient offense against a very stingy and physical defense. If Villanova can shoot the ball well and get on Kemp early, it is possible to put up big numbers on Notre Dame.
The stingy Notre Dame defense is anchored by senior captain Kevin Randall. Randall’s stats are nothing to marvel over, but he is a beast of a man, He is The Irish’s go-to shut down defender. Every week he gets the toughest assignment and often guards the opposing team’s top scoring threat. Randall has constantly rose to the challenge and shut down attack men week in and week out. He isn’t a flashy defender that is going to throw fancy takeaways, but he will do everything in his power not to let his opponent score. He is an upstate New York guy, who is an old fashioned, blue collar, meat and potatoes defender.
I would like to see Randall on Cunnignham and have the top shots fight it out. No doubt a tough assignment for Randall but it should make for a great mini battle inside a stellar lacrosse match up. Winner of this battle might dictate the out come of the game.
Speaking of Cunningham… Preseason Big East offensive player of the year Kevin Cunnignham will look to lead the attack against Notre Dames defense. He is the leading scorer for the Wildcats this year and the back bone of the offense. Will Casertano and Jack Rice compliment Cunnignham well. This trio are the biggest threat to Notre Dame.
Randall and his squad will have to shut down Cunningham in order to win. However, Cunningham and the Villanova offense is so dynamic it is hard to stop. They play fast and get goals in transition, and they might even throw in a new wrinkle to throw off the defense. It also will be a part of their man up against ND’s man down. Should be a great battle.
Offensive Threat for ND:
My biggest question is “who will step up offensively for Notre Dame?” Jim Marlatt is the leading scorer for the Irish, and he only has 20 points. These numbers aren’t going to scare anyone, and if the offense stalls Notre Dame could be in trouble. Sean Rogers is the next leading scorer and he has been putting together a solid season so far.
Then there is my boy Westy Hopkins, who I thought would be putting up bigger numbers but hasn’t so far. Hopkins only has 15 points so far this year. I expect to see one of these three players step up this game, and am excited to see who it is.
Great game this weekend to watch on ESPNU. Going to be a back and forth battle on the lower end scoring side, but all the 50/50 battles are the best to watch. I would like to see Villanova come away with this one, I think they’ve earned it. They traditionally play great lacrosse down the home stretch. Let us see what happens!