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Quint Kessenich’s Top 20: April 29th, 2024

My Top 20 presented by SPIRE Lacrosse, always a treacherous exercise.

Quint Kessenich’s Top 20 presented by Spire

1) Notre Dame

Fresh off an 11-9 win at Virginia, the Irish (10-1) turn around and play the Cavs again, this time in Charlotte in the ACC semifinals on Friday at 5pm. 

Rudy stifled UVA on Klöckner 11-9, forcing the Cavs into fourth quarter turnovers while playing with the poise of a champion. Pat Kavanagh notched four points and triggered a game ending 3-0 run. He became the school’s all-time points leader.  His production plus competitive grit and fire, make #51 a viable top 3 PLL draft pick and one of my favorite players to watch. 

Irish are (30-3) in their last 33 games. The three losses are to Virginia (2 times) and Georgetown (OT). The offense had been humming under the eye of OC Chris Wojcik and assistant Ryder Garnsey. 

I get the feeling that ND is a lock for the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of this week’s results. 

The ACC championships can be seen on the ACCNetwork with semifinals on Friday at 5pm and 8pm and the title game on Sunday at noon, live from Charlotte, NC. 

Looking forward to May Madness and the bracket reveal on Sunday night May 5th. According to Anish Shroff – since tournament expansion in 2003, a #1 seed has NEVER lost a first-round game. #2 seeds have lost five times. (Georgetown ’22, Denver ’16, Syracuse ’14, Syracuse ’10, Virginia ‘07). 

2) Johns Hopkins

Hopkins (10-3) face-off productivity is a leaky roof with storms brewing. That and a sluggish pace-of-play metric will be fascinating to track as the Jays seek their first championship weekend since 2015. They are playing at a snail’s pace in the Big Ten, the data confirms that notion, JHU owns the slowest pace-of-play rating in the league. Against more potent opponents, Hopkins will need to generate goals outside of the standard 6 on 6.

A March loss to Navy and overtime win at Ohio State seemingly forgotten by giddy fans. “We Want More” will play Michigan at Ohio State on Thursday night at 6pm on BTN with Mark Dixon and Joe Beninati or Jack Kizer on the call, dependent on the Washington Capitals playoff path. 

3) Syracuse

#HHH (11-4) owns RPI Top #5 Wins over Johns Hopkins and Duke. RPI Top #6-10 Wins against Virginia and Top #11-20 Wins over Colgate. They have no ‘outside the Top-20 losses. Orange should host an NCAA playoff game.  

After 15 games, SU has seven players with plus 25 points. Joey Spallina (29,47), Owen Hiltz (33,21), Christian Mule (25,17), Michael Leo (23,9), Finn Thomson (21,11), Jake Stevens (13,15) and Sam English (19,6).  FOGO Mason Kohn is (6,7) and defender Billy Dwan III plays has seven goals. Defense letting up 10.3 goals per game, a number that’s down from 12.1 a year ago when they were torched by ACC competition. 

SU enjoyed the tranquility of an off weekend. Up next: ACC tournament in Charlotte on May 3 and 5.  SU plays Duke on Friday. Anish Shroff and Matt Ward will be in the Queen City for all the ACC Network television action. Charlotte North and Drew Carter will be handling halftime and between game segments. 

4) Duke

(11-4) Blue Devils had owned the recent Tobacco Road series with North Carolina until Saturday. The breathtaking Tar Heel three-goal spurt in 20 seconds prior to halftime, highlighted Duke’s inconsistency.  Any Duke momentum gained from a win over UVA on April 14 was squandered during a bye week. 

The improbable 15-12 upset has no residual impact because Carolina let a 15-6 fourth quarter advantage dwindle into a three-goal win and failed to qualify for the ACC tourney based on scoring differential. Was the staff aware of the ACC criteria at stake? 

Season over. Heels finish (7-7) and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year. At least it was a respectful and positive send off for seniors like Collin Krieg, Logan McGovern, Andrew Geppert, Lance Tillman, Alex Breschi and Maxwell Cooney. 

Meanwhile Duke was confused by UNC zone defensive tactics against the midfield party starters early in possessions. Credit UNC DC Dave Pietramala. Blue Devils ball handlers scurried into adjacent double teams. 

Duke plays Syracuse in Charlotte, NC on Friday in the ACC semis, with a chance to wipe the memory of a dome disappointment. This tournament is odd because the five-member league doesn’t offer an AQ. What are we playing for? The ACC would benefit enormously from the addition of Boston College, Wale Forest, Georgia Tech, Miami or an affiliate member for men’s lacrosse. 

5) Virginia

Wahoos (10-4) sloppiness and careless turnovers contributed to an 11-9 home setback to Notre Dame in front of an overflow crowd. Failed clears, limited face-off success and uncharacteristic turnovers allowed ND to dominate the fourth quarter, as the Irish nailed the last three goals of the game. 

Cavs are now losers of three straight and rematch with ND on Friday in the ACC semifinal in Charlotte. 

6) Penn State

“We Are” dispatched Rutgers, while advancing to play Maryland in the Big Ten semifinals in Columbus. The winner of this league semifinal is logical to host an NCAA first round game. 

Nittany Lions goalie Jack Fracyon was once again magical between the pipes. Penn State ranks #5 in overall efficiency and Maryland is #33. Terps won at Panzer 13-11 on March 31, erasing a 9-6 deficit with a 7-1 run fueled by face-off dominance and transition while outshooting PSU 16-3 in the fourth quarter. 

7) Denver

Pios (11-2) handled Marquette 15-9 on Friday night in pouring rain as Cody Malawsky was assertive scoring four goals. JJ Sillstrop had a career high of 5 assists and Alec Stathakis went 15-23 at the dot. 

Denver was thunderstruck, waiting out a two-hour and fifteen-minute lightning delay that featured 190 lightning strikes within an 8 mile radius of Barton Stadium. 

The Big East tournament is at Villanova, a pre-determined site. DU squares off with an injury-riddled Wildcat squad. First year DU coach Matt Brown and his defensive personnel have held all 5 Big East opponents to single digit goals. The Big East final will be televised on CBS Sports Network with Brent Stover and Steve Panarelli on the mic. 

8) Cornell

We are going to Ithaca!  Cotter, Carc and I will be at Cornell (9-4) for the Ivy League tournament on Friday night and Sunday at 1pm. (ESPNU)

“Hardhat 21” took care of business at Dartmouth 15-10 to wrap up their regular season. Cornell’s offense was led by senior CJ Kirst who had seven points while freshman Ryan Goldstein added five points. Goalie Wyatt Knust, suddenly on fire, made 18 stops. 

For my money, Pat Kavanagh and CJ Kirst sit atop the Tewaaraton race entering May. The pack chasing this duo includes Matt Brandau, Liam Entenmann, Evan Plunkett, Brennan O’Neil and Connor Shellenberger. This award takes care of itself and parallels a team’s climb to Philadelphia. 

9) Maryland

Maryland hoped to engineer a productive bye week, perhaps adding voltage to the midfield offense. Terps play Penn State in O-H-I-O on Thursday night at 8:30pm. (BTN). I ran this game through the computer simulator, and it comes up with a score in the 11-10 range. 

10) Georgetown

Hoyas (10-3) extinguished Villanova on Friday night on the Main Line. GT has limited eight opponents to less than 10 goals. Close defensemen Wesley Chairs, Ty Banks and Seamus Foley line up in front of freshman goalie Anderson Moore. 

The Big East Championships will be televised by CBS Sports Network from Villanova on Thursday night and Saturday.  Swamp Dogs need to keep winning. They, and Ivy League #2 and #3 comprise the NCAA bubble. Providence is next. 

11) Army

Black Knights (11-2) claimed their first Patriot League regular season title since 2010 by defeating Loyola 13-11 in Baltimore on Friday night. Army sits at #14 in the RPI, outer bubble territory, with wins over UNC and Syracuse. 

Army will host the Patriot League Tournament. Lehigh gets a bye as the two seed. Loyola plays at Navy on Tuesday. The Hounds defeated Navy 12-10 on April 19.  BU and Colgate play each other again in Boston on Tuesday. The semis and final will be shown live on CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan and Evan Washburn in the booth. This duo is outstanding. Evan was my guest last week on the Quintessential Podcast and he spoke about his NFL work, March Madness, coaching his son and Patriot League lacrosse. 

12) Princeton

Coulter Mackesy scored five goals and Michael Gianforcaro made 16 saves as Princeton topped Yale 15-8, spoiling Senior Day at Reese Stadium. Gio is heating up. Some goalies prefer the warmer weather. The Tigers won 21 of 27 faceoffs, had a 43-22 edge in ground balls and a 51-37 edge in shots. 

13) Yale

Bulldog ball-watching defense staggered to a 15-8 loss at home to Princeton. Matt Brandau eclipsed Rob Pannell’s all-time Ivy League scoring record. The loss ends a seven game win streak. FOGO Machado Rodriguez did not play, and Yale lacked possessions. 

The young Tigers and Yale do it again on Friday night at 6pm on ESPNU in a critical Ivy League semifinal. Yale is #10 RPI and the Tigers are #13. 

14) Penn

(8-5) and coming off a bye weekend, the Quakers play Cornell on Friday night in Ithaca (ESPNU). They own a win over Cornell on March 30 11-10 in double overtime. I would think they’ll be 2 goal underdogs for the rematch on enemy soil. 

15) Towson

At (11-3) the visiting Tigers claimed the top seed in the CAA tournament with an 11-10 victory at Delaware, winning a scrappy game for their seventh consecutive victory.

Bode Maurer had the game-winning goal with 1:31 to go for the Tigers who got three goals and two assists from Joaquin Villagomez. Nick DeMaio added three goals and an assist. Drexel is on deck on Thursday in the CAA semifinals.

16) Saint Joseph’s

That’s 10 consecutive wins for the Hawks, after defeating Richmond 10-9 over the weekend. Hawks (RPI #15) have now won 25 consecutive conference games. 

They face UMass in the A10 semifinal in Amherst on Thursday. Tricky spot. 

17) Delaware

Delaware (8-4) will meet Fairfield in Thursday’s second semifinal at Towson.

Delaware football has made the move to Conference USA effective 2025. The athletic department has yet to declare where the lacrosse team and other non-revenue sports will play in 2025. 

CAA Men’s Championship

Thursday, May 2 – Semifinals

Towson vs. Drexel – 4 p.m., Lacrosse TV

Delaware vs. Fairfield – 7 p.m., Lacrosse TV

Saturday, May 4 – Final

3:30 p.m., Lacrosse TV

18) Richmond

Spiders (9-5) tangle with High Point in Amherst, Mass on Thursday at 6pm in the A10 semifinal (ESPN+).  Richmond is (5-0) on the road this spring. 

19) Michigan

Here we go again. Can Michigan duplicate their 2023 run to the NCAA quarterfinals? The Wolverines (8-6) season comes down to a B10 semifinal against Johns Hopkins. FOGO Justin Wietfeldt holds the keys to the upset. They held serve against Ohio State at home this weekend, casting their rival to an early off season. 

20) Boston

Terriers (8-6) orchestrated an eight-goal comeback, down 10-2 in the second frame, defeating Colgate 13-12 on Friday night. I caught parts of this game on ESPN+ while flying to RDU. Great game. Louis Perfetto had eight points and now has 77 on the season. Vince D’Alto has 64 points. 

BU plays Colgate on Tuesday at 6pm (ESPN+) in the league quarterfinals. 

A theme has emerged – Late season regular season games that are in close proximity to league tournament rematches. When two rivals who just played each other – now meet again in short order. 

What’s critical in rematches? 1) attitude. Create a clean slate and new motivation. Find a chip. 2) Make subtle adjustments to existing schemes 3) add a new wrinkle 4) for regular season losers – the presentation of the scouting report is critical – this is a sales pitch on how the team can morph an earlier loss into a win. 5) regular season losers tend to make more changes than winners. Don’t fall into this trap if you won the previous game. Always keep evolving. 

America East Tournament

The America East championship game is Saturday at 3pm on ESPNU with Kevin Fitzgerald and Don Zimmerman. 

ASUN Tournament

All games on ESPN+

Tuesday, April 30 (Quarterfinals, at Air Force)
No. 4 Bellarmine vs. No. 5 Cleveland State, 11 a.m. MT
No. 3 Jacksonville vs. No. 6 Robert Morris, 2 p.m. MT

Friday, May 3 (Semifinals, at Air Force)
No. 1 Utah vs. Winner No. 4 vs. No. 5, 11 a.m. MT
No. 2 Air Force vs. Winner No. 3 vs. No. 6, 2 p.m. MT

Sunday, May 5
11 a.m. MT Championship, at Air Force

MAAC Tournament

The MAAC tournament is set. Jay Alter and Jules Heningburg kick off Selection Sunday at 11am on ESPNU. 

Thursday, May 2 (Semifinals)
Siena at No. 1 Sacred Heart
Manhattan at No. 2 LIU

Saturday, May 4 (Championship)
11 a.m. on ESPNU

The MAAC champion has never won an NCAA playoff game (0-22). 

NCAA Tournament

NCAA Tournament field consists of: 9 Automatic qualifiers and 8 at-large selections 

The two lowest-ranked AQ’s will meet in a play-in game on Wednesday May 8. The rankings will be determined by the committee and not specifically by the RPI.

The NCAA tournament selection show is on Sunday May 5 at 9:30pm on ESPNU live from Bristol, CT. Chris Cotter, Paul Carcaterra and I will reveal and breakdown the 17 team men’s D1 bracket. 

  • Notre Dame
  • Johns Hopkins 
  • Duke 
  • Syracuse 
  • Denver
  • Maryland vs Penn state winner 
  • Virginia 
  • Ivy champion

In my opinion, these are likely to comprise the top eight seeds (not particularly in order), but what seems logical and fair right now. They would be the round one hosts on May 11 & 12.  This past weekend didn’t have much impact on this group. The bubble may have expanded a tad. The results from the weekend ended any miracle bid by UNC and kept hopes alive in Princeton. 

There are 38 teams alive and competing for an AQ this week. There are four teams from the ACC who are playoff worthy. That’s 42 of 76 D1 teams that have a path alive to the NCAA tournament. The elimination games start on Tuesday in the Patriot League. 

About Spire

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