You did NOT want to be a number one seed this week/weekend. Not one bit. Arizona State beat Michigan in the MCLA D1 semis, MCLA D2 saw the 2 and 5 seeds play for the ‘ship, #1 RIT got beaten by Tufts 16-12 in D3 action, Mercyhurst beat #1 CW Post AND Adelphi beat #2 Limestone in NCAA D2 and every single higher seed (#1-4) lost in NCAA Dvision 1 action. Yup, Syracuse, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Notre Dame ALL lost. This year’s final four will now feature a total of exactly FOUR Cinderella stories. Someone get ready to strike an inspirational sports movie deal.
Last week was a different story as Onondaga Community College beat Essex 12-9 to take the NJCAA title with a perfect 19-0 record. Congrats to the Lazers on another National Championship, their third straight and 5th in 6 years! Those baby blue O helmets are special. Congrats to these guys! JUCO lax gets no love. Looks like I need to start looking for another blogger!
3 of the 4 teams in the Men’s D1 Final Four are still ACC teams. Duke, Maryland, and Virginia might not have been the top seeds, but they are all storied programs, and I don’t think anyone is shocked to see them where they are. BYU and Arizona State were both in the top echelon of MCLA lacrosse, and the same can be said for Davenport and St. Thomas. Tufts won the NC last year, and Mercyhurst has been knocking on the door for a couple years now.
Now it’s not like the world has ended. Denver is obviously a huge story, but Bill Tierney is their head coach, and when he got there, the cupboard was far from bare. The fact that they have made it this far in only one year is nothing short of amazing, but everyone saw it coming in the next year or two. Denver got real, fast. I wonder how hard USC will pursue Tierney if/when they add a men’s program. Seems like he’s digging Devner pretty hard though. And he stayed at Princeton for a LONG time. If Denver takes care of him, and the program, I could see him sticking around for at least 5+ years, then maybe even taking an assistant role their someday. Some guys are just like that, and although I’ve never met the man, Tierney somehow comes across that way. Or I’m crazy.
Both Virginia and Duke are big stories for different reasons, but they are talent heavy teams from the top tier of lacrosse. UVA sans Brattons is interesting to an extent, but lacrosse is a team game, so I just don’t know how well that line will play with people. Unless the story is how the team came together, I’d really rather not hear about it. Duke making a return to the Final Four would have shocked some people at the beginning of the season, but by the end, I think a lot of people were believers. They improved and grew into new roles quickly and are playing confident lacrosse. At this point, they are probably the favorite, although their 5 seed doesn’t help them, at least if the trend continues.
Maryland was unseeded, beat UNC, beat Syracuse (Big Cat scores the biggest goal of his life to win it), and seems to be playing as if they are possessed by the lacrosse devil. But in a good way. They’re pushing it, they look comfortable with each other out there, and they look like they’re having fun. For Maryland, this might be just exactly what they need. They’ve exceeded expectations already, are playing loose and hard, and don’t seem to be slowing down one bit.
Denver is a total darkhorse. They play a different style of lacrosse than any of the other teams in the Final Four, which makes a lot of sense. They play out West, have more Canadians, run circle offenses at times, love pick and rolls, are more than willing to dodge through doubles, they use one hand, make passes underhand regularly and break all kinds of “fundamental” rules. But they still manage to play fundamental lacrosse. What I mean by this is that their movements are not mechanical, they are fluid, and harder, at times, to predict. Their team approach is still quite fundamental. They see opportunities and create chances. Sometimes it’s with feeds, sometimes it’s with dodges. They keep other teams on their heels. And while they might not have the size of Duke, Maryland or Virginia, the roster is littered with athletes, and a ton of tough, high-skill players.
I can see how anyone would pick Duke, Virginia or Maryland. Any one of the three seem like good choices for different reasons. But I like Denver to win it all in somewhat shocing fashion, especially if they can get by VIriginia. UVA has shown no quit this year, so I like it to be a good game, but I think Denver can pull it out. Duke-Maryland seems like a total toss up to me. It might not be a 1-goal game in the end, but it should definitley be an intense game with some huge emotional swings. I’ll go with Maryland in the toss up game though… they just seem to have it right now.