The ESPNU Warrior Classic makes its debut in the Tar Heel State on April 14 with No. 17 Syracuse facing Rutgers and No. 9 North Carolina playing Hofstra. The college lacrosse doubleheader will take place at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Both games -- featuring six returning All-Americans and two teams that combined have won 14 national championships -- will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Syracuse-Rutgers (11 a.m. ET)
The Orange entered the 2011 NCAA championship tournament as the top-seeded team with 15 wins and one loss. But after rolling over Siena in the opening round, they were upset by unseeded Maryland in the quarterfinals, ending their hopes of winning the program's 11th national title. The Scarlet Knights got off to a 5-1 start but lost eight straight before winning their last game of the season, against Providence. They finished with a 6-9 record that led to the dismissal of coach Jim Stagnitta.
Syracuse key players: JoJo Marasco (Jr., M); Tommy Palasek (Sr., A); Bobby Eilers (Sr., M); Derek Maltz (So., A); Ricky Buhr (So., M/FO); Matt Lerman (So., GK); Brian Megill (Jr., D)
Rutgers key players: Scott Klimchak (So., A); Will Mangan (Sr., M); Duncan Clancy (Jr., A); Mike Diehl (Sr., M); Nick DePaolera (So., A); Jacob Fradkin (Sr., D); Rudy Butler (Jr., GK)
Syracuse 2012 projection: As usual, Syracuse is one of the favorites to win the national championship. Even though the Orange lost three first-team All-Americans from their defense -- John Galloway, John Lade and Joel White -- they'll simply reload.
Marasco tied for the team lead in points last year (41), and will team with Palasek (35 points last year) and Eilers to form the heart of the Orange offense. Defensively, they will lean on Megill, a returning starter, and Lerman.
Rutgers 2012 projection: Although last year was a struggle, Rutgers appears poised for a bounce-back season under the direction of first-year coach Brian Brecht. It returns virtually all its key players, including its top five scorers, two starting defenders and goalie.
Clancy and Klimchak highlight the Scarlet Knights' offense and will do most of the scoring, along with Mangan, Diehl and DePaolera. Defensively, they are led by Fradkin, Nick Contino and Butler, who split time in net last year but is now the full-time starter.
Syracuse matchup to watch: Marasco versus Rutgers' long stick midfielders
Marasco, an honorable mention All-American attackman in '11, switched to midfield -- his position in high school -- during the offseason and will be the focus of every defensive midfield line he faces.
Rutgers matchup to watch: Clancy and Klimchak versus Syracuse's defense
Clancy (13 goals, 29 assists) and Klimchak (27 goals, 13 assists) were the Scarlet Knights' top two scorers last year and will try to take advantage of Syracuse's revamped D.
North Carolina-Hofstra (1:30 p.m. ET)
The Tar Heels had a roller coaster 2011 season, highlighted by regular-season wins over Notre Dame, Maryland and Princeton. But in the NCAA tournament opener, the eighth-seeded Tar Heels were upset by Maryland a month after losing to the Terps in the ACC tournament. The Pride started the season 13-1, with wins over Princeton and UMass. But after the hot start, they were upset by Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinals and followed that with a seven-goal loss to Johns Hopkins in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina key players: Nicky Galasso (So., A); Jimmy Dunster (Sr., M); Marcus Holman (Jr., A); R.G. Keenan (So., M); Charlie McComas (Sr., D); Kieran McDonald (Jr., D); Jimmy Bitter (Fr., A); Joey Sankey (Fr., A)
Hofstra key players: Andrew Gvozden (Sr., GK); Ian Braddish (Jr., M); Adrian Sorichetti (Jr., M); Brad Loizeaux (Sr., M); Lance Yapor (So., A); Cody Solaja (Jr., D); Corey Caputo (Jr., D); John Antoniades (Jr., M/FO)
North Carolina 2012 projection: With three All-Americans returning and virtually the entire defense back, this could be the year the Tar Heels win their fourth national title and their first since 1991. Galasso, who led the Tar Heels with 56 points last year and was a third-team All-American, is recovering from surgery on a broken foot and won't return until the spring. Dunster, Holman, Bitter and the two freshman attackmen will lead the offense until Galasso returns.
Hofstra 2012 projection: Even though the Pride's three leading scorers graduated, they have the returning talent to earn an NCAA tournament berth and compete against the best in the nation. Their strength lies in the defense, where Gvozden, a returning honorable mention All-American goalie, is back in net, protected by returning starters Solaja and Caputo. Braddish recorded 33 points last year and will lead the offense, along with Sorichetti and Yapor.
North Carolina matchup to watch: Holman and Bitter versus Solaja and Caputo
With Galasso out of the lineup, Holman, an honorable mention All-American last year, and Bitter, a true freshman who is one of the top young players in the nation, will lead the Tar Heels' attack. They'll also need to create opportunities for others to get past Solaja, Caputo and Gvozden.
Hofstra matchup to watch: John Antoniades versus R.G. Keenan
Antoniades was an honorable mention All-American last year, winning 64.2 percent of his faceoffs and nabbing 84 ground balls. Keenan was a third-team All-American, winning 59.5 percent of his faceoffs and scooping a team-high 109 ground balls. Whoever wins this matchup could determine the outcome of the game.