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Wilson’s Wheelhouse: Weekend Edition

While last weekend was a huge lacrosse weekend, what with the Big City Classic and all the rest of the games going on, this weekend just might surpass it in terms of big games with even larger implications.  There are also some rivalry games that might not mean as much on the national scene this year because of how these teams are doing overall, but these games always deliver when it comes to intensity.

Army-Navy exemplifies the importance of rivalry games even if neither team is considered a contender.  For a long time, Army (USMA), which is located in West Point, NY and Navy (USNA), which hails from Annapolis, Maryland would get a lot of the best players in the country.  Guys like Jimmy Lewis (USNA), John Walker (USMA), Jeff Long (USNA) and a laundry list of others played for these two fine institutions and they were some of the best to play the game.

Jimmy Lewis is considered by many to be the best lacrosse players ever and from what I’ve heard, I think I would have to agree with them.  He’s also credited with being an integral part of making smaller sticks more popular.  Before he came around (using a smaller, box-like stick), field lacrosse spoons were pretty enormous.

So you can basically thank Jimmy Lewis for the modern game of lacrosse.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Jimmy’s brother, the late-great John Lewis, was my coach in HS and I really consider myself very lucky to have been taught by a coach, player and man of that quality.  So you could say I’m a bit biased.  Then again, that doesn’t make it false.

Back to the game at hand, I like Navy in this game by 2 goals.  Their offense has really come together and new guys are stepping up to replace their injured star attackman, whose been down for most of the season.  In true military institution fashion, it’s a team effort.

The difference maker for Army is their goaltending.  If Tom Palesky can play lights out, the Black Knights can beat pretty much anyone.  He was the difference maker against Bucknell last week but he’ll need to step his game up another level to beat Navy.  The game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium so while it isn’t really a home game for Navy, it more or less will be.

Like Army, Duke is also on the road facing a stiff challenge.  Unlike Army, Duke is playing the number one team in the country in Virginia at home, at 8:30pm.  The game will be on ESPNU and it should be a good one but no matter how well the Duke attack plays or how well the Duke D steps up, I just can’t see Dan Wigrizer coming up with the 27 saves it’s going to take to stop Virginia’s trigger happy midfield.

It’s not a knock on the kid at all and I’ve been very impressed with his play this year, but I just don’t think he’s quite there yet.  I guess we’ll see and this is as good a game as ever to have an insane coming out day but I like Virginia by a bunch.  That being said, Wigrizer has the potential to be an absolute brick wall at Duke for 3 more years if it doesn’t work out in 2010.

Georgetown at Loyola should be a good game as both of these teams must be petrified of being on the bubble, especially Loyola if they don’t get the AQs for their conference, so they are both in need of a high quality win.  Georgetown’s only hope is an at-large bid as the Big East does not have an AQ this year.  Some games later in the season are just so much better than any of the early games; there’s just so much more on the line for the teams still in it.

Johns Hopkins is another one of those bubble fearing teams and they could really use a big win over Maryland right now.  That game is also being played at M&T Bank Stadium in Maryland as part of the Day of Rivals and the crowds will pack the stadium for this one. HUGE.

I like Maryland in a tight one because they have quite a few seniors who seem to really want to get it done this year, whereas Hopkins is just one game removed from what could be seen as their first offensive explosion of the season against Albany.  I don’t fully buy the Hop rebirth, because it was against Albany and while I think that program is headed in the right direction 100%, they have been a consistent disappointment this season.

To me, the biggest game in either Division II or Division III NCAA lacrosse is Notre Dame de Namur heading down the California coast a bit to take on Whittier.  That’s pretty big when you consider there are 65 men’s D3 games on Saturday.  Although this game doesn’t really have any implications whatsoever for either team’s NCAA hopes but the fact that two NCAA schools from Cali are playing each other is huge.

The game is spreading and while the MCLA is absolutely amazing lacrosse, it’s also nice to see the sport break into the NCAA because it means schools are supporting their teams officially and including them as part of their plan and programming.  Personally, I think there is room and need for both.

The best D3 game of the weekend in terms of quality of the teams playing has to be Tufts and Connecticut College.  The Jumbos and the Camels.  The Brown and Baby blue (seriously.) vs the blue and white (zzzz).  The game is up at Tufts but there is a track meet (and the Tufts turf field is inside their track (so HS btw) so the game will most likely be played on grass.

It might rain, although that is looking less likely but the Conn College zone should still prefer the grass and Tufts has struggled in that kind of weather before.  I like Conn to pull this one out as they’ve done all year and silence the doubters.  Or at least they’ll keep it close.  Please keep it close.  Should be a good one!

Wesleyan takes on Williams and both of these teams need to keep winning if they even want to make the NESCAC playoffs.  This is a Little 3 (Amherst, Wesleyan, Williams) game so it means that much more and Williams usually does a pretty solid Spring Homecoming so the crowd should be pretty solid and mostly shrouded in horrific purple.  Wesleyan by 2.  Please?

In MCLA land, we’ve got 35 games going on.  Not too shabby!  Arizona State travels to Arizona to take on the Laxcats and ASU will roll.  The Sun Devils are a legitimate contender this year.

Arkansas is pulling a double duty move playing Nebraska at noon and then taking on Iowa at 4pm.  I have no idea about who will win any of these games but props to Arkansas for the “play anyone, anytime” attitude!

Boise State travels to Idaho to take on the Vandals in what guarantees to be a good game.  You can check out Krieg Shaw‘s Vandal Photo posts on this very site to gain a little more insight!  We feature the rest of the best MCLA games (and you can get our full take on the top NCAA games as well) in the Crystal Ball Challenge so make sure you check it out!


About the Author: Connor is a life-long lacrosse player who doesn’t know when to give up on the game.  He played and coached at Wesleyan University and now plays for the Southampton LC in NYC.  Connor lives with his fiance in Brooklyn and thanks her for allowing him to keep the dream alive.

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