Just because the regular season is over doesn’t mean the rundown is! The first round of the NCAA Tournament is behind us, with unseeded Rutgers and Loyola advancing, Virginia and Notre Dame narrowly escaping, Georgetown trouncing Syracuse and more.
So, let’s dive into this past weekend of games to see what happened and what’s next on deck.
Georgetown Dominates Syracuse in First Round – DI Men’s Rundown Week 14
Monmouth 4 v #1 North Carolina 16
Rutgers 12 v #8 Lehigh 5
Drexel 8 v #6 Notre Dame 10
Syracuse 8 v #5 Georgetown 18
High Point 10 v #2 Duke 16
Loyola 14 v #7 Denver 13
Vermont 11 v #3 Maryland 17
Bryant 11 v #4 Virginia 13
During the regular season, I was tracking the non-conference records of each conference here. Now, we’ll just see how each is doing in the tournament.
*Independents & Ivy League have no teams in the tournament.
After going the entire season with a conference-only schedule, the Big Ten opened with two wins after both Maryland and Rutgers advanced. The ACC, which had a single loss all year (Syracuse to Army), now also has just one loss (Syracuse to Georgetown). This tournament so far is really just those two conferences. What’s crazy is there’s a real chance at an all-ACC final four. Will it happen? Probably not. But it could.
This was not a great weekend if you wanted upsets. Only two unseeded teams won at all, and the seeds they beat were No. 7 and No. 8. That’s also not particularly unusual; it’s the same thing that happened in 2018. In that year, unseeded Cornell beat No. 8 Syracuse by one, and unseeded Denver knocked off No. 7 Notre Dame by two. Neither of those teams would win, sending the top four seeds to Championship Weekend, with No. 3 Yale topping No. 4 Duke. You have to go back to 2016 to find UNC as the only unseeded team to win it all. But since 2006, there have been five cases of unseeded teams making the championship game. So, Loyola and Rutgers still definitely have some hope.
The biggest headline game of the weekend was Georgetown’s dominating win over Syracuse. The Hoyas scored on their first possession, a mere 38 seconds into the game, and never looked back. They also did not allow a single Orange goal for the entire third quarter.
Statistically, the Hoyas won in nearly every category. Shots were 43-33, shots on goals were 33-18, man-up goals were 3-0, ground balls were 33-23, turnovers were 8-13, caused turnovers were 9-3, and clears were 100%. The only top level stat the Orange did not lose was faceoffs, which were 50%. There’s a lot that can be written about this Syracuse team as a post-mortem, but that will be for a different time. For now, it’s just a simple fact that Georgetown showed up and outplayed Syracuse in every way possible.
The only true upset of the weekend was Loyola over Denver. And what’s the story here? The save.
Loyola had the win for most of this game, but Denver did not go down without a fight. Loyola had a few chances to try and kill clock at the end of the game, but there was no running around in a circle or empty net goals. Denver forced a turnover and got a final last-second shot right on top of the crease to initiate overtime. Instead, Loyola’s Sam Shafer had the save of a lifetime.
Drexel’s near upset of Notre Dame is one of the other games worth mentioning. While Drexel did have an early 2-1 lead over the Irish, Notre Dame slowly pulled away until the fourth quarter when Drexel tied it up, 8-8. The story in this contest was the Drexel defense and goalie play of Ross Blumenthal. The Dragons were able to hold Pat Kavanaugh to zero assists and just three assisted goals for the Irish all day. The Irish starting attack as a whole only accounted for just three goals despite 18 shots. Blumenthal walked away with 15 saves, good for 62.5%.
The other close call was Bryant and Virginia. UVA had a three-week layoff to end the season and had the major potential of developing rust. Bryant had been playing in must-win games that entire time, and it showed. While UVA is known as the up-tempo team, the Bulldogs were the ones who led in the shot category, 47-38. Where UVA made up for that was by having the edge in caused turnovers, clearing, and ground balls. These stat categories were majorly impacted by the fourth quarter when UVA had to come back from being down 10-9 to get the win.
All the other games were not as close but also not remarkable blowouts. Rutgers over Lehigh may have been the most notable, but when it was announced right before the game that Lehigh would be without starting attackman (and First-Team All-Patriot, team leading scorer) Tommy Schelling, the entire dynamic of the game changed. One does not simply replace their X attackman right before playing Rutgers.
For next weekend, here is what’s on tap:
Game 1 – #5 Georgetown v #4 Virginia | Saturday at 12 p.m. EST, played at Hofstra
After Georgetown’s demolishing of Syracuse, it gets to face the team that got Syracuse into the tournament field in the first place. If Georgetown plays like it did against the Orange and UVA plays like it did against Bryant (or Syracuse), this will not be much of a game at all. At times this season, the Cavs have looked like a true championship contender, and they’ll need to recapture that. They have the offense that can figure out Georgetown’s defense, but their key will be finding the right matchups early.
Game 2 – Rutgers v #1 North Carolina | Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST, played at Hofstra
This is our first look at an ACC/Big Ten crossover game with a trip to Championship Weekend on the line. UNC looked every part of the No. 1 seed in its opening game against Monmouth. If my expectations for this game can be boiled down to just one word, that word is “fast.” You have two top-five scoring offenses, and Rutgers is averaging nearly 45 shots per game while UNC averages almost 51. It’s a fair assumption that this will be a bad day to be a goalie.
Game 3 – #6 Notre Dame v #3 Maryland | Sunday at 12 p.m. EST, played at Notre Dame
This game is a heavyweight bout. Maryland is bringing its undefeated record into South Bend in Act II of the weekend’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It’s safe to say the Terps haven’t had to deal with a defense like what they’ll see with Notre Dame. What will be fascinating is to see how much that matters. With as unguardable as Jared Bernhardt has been this year, we’ll see if he really can be just as effective in this one. What’s on Maryland’s side? It’s not a one-dimensional offense. As good as Notre Dame’s defense is, Maryland has all the tools to beat it.
Game 4 – Loyola v #2 Duke | Sunday at 2:30 p.m. EST, played at Notre Dame
The final game of the weekend will see the preseason favorite face the biggest surprise of the postseason so far. The Blue Devils will definitely be favored in this one, but the way Loyola has been playing since the end of April may make all the difference in the world. The common cliché this time of year is talking about how teams need to “peak at the right time.” Loyola is the embodiment of that right now.
Catch Up on the DI Rundown
This is the 15th DI Rundown of the season. If you want to see what you missed earlier in the campaign, you’ve come to the right place.