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Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Will UVa lacrosse channel the Madness?

By Kyle Harrison and Brett Hughes
Special to ESPN.com

Another week, another college lacrosse debate. But this week, resident experts Kyle Harrison and Brett Hughes have the same thing on their minds as everyone else -- the conclusion of March Madness. With North Carolina defeating the men's tournament field in dominating fashion after a strong season and the UConn women going 39-0 en route to a national title, it begs the question …

Will Virginia go undefeated like the UConn women, or fare more like the UNC men?

UVa

Brett Hughes: Can I say both? I mean, I am seeing one of the best traits in the world in a team with this year's UVa squad. The Cavaliers win big, they win tight and they know how to fight back. They are simply determined. Virginia plays Duke on Saturday (ESPNU and ESPN360, 4 p.m. ET) and then will still have the ACC tourney to get through before it can even think about an NCAA title run. I believe the one thing that is being overlooked is the Cavs are getting better and more confident. Last year's departure of Ben Rubeor and others left room for leadership roles to be filled, and you can tell players are starting to pick those up.

Kyle Harrison: Glad to see you're sticking with your former team and you're confident, but I honestly don't see Virginia going undefeated. There are a lot of good teams out there, and with one-goal wins over UNC, Maryland (which is streaky), Johns Hopkins (4-4) and Syracuse, the Cavs are cutting it too close to go unbeaten. Keep in mind, it's tough to beat a team three times in a season, and with the ACC tournament, that's the least they'll have to do to go undefeated. If I were a betting man, I'd bet they'll win the national championship -- but they'll definitely take a loss sometime in the next month and a half.

BH: I do know how hard it is to go through the regular season and jump into the ACC tourney. But these boys are coached well and realize that each game is the one they have to get through. Dom Starsia and the Cavs are aware of the special season they're having, and I think they will win out simply because they can. Bob Knight had a great quote: After a loss once, he said someone told him, "Well, you can't win them all," and he politely replied, "It doesn't say that in the rule book." These guys are too mature -- if they were going to lose, I think someone would have clipped them earlier in the season. By now, they know how to win close games.

I think UVa is going to pick it up in May, no matter what happens. This weekend at Duke will be a hurdle; the Blue Devils have a great defense and are the hardest team to beat when you are slated to defeat them. But sooner or later, teams are going to pick up on the fact that no matter whom you short on UVa's first line, that player is going to burn you.

KH: As I said, I do agree that these kids have what it takes to win a championship; they've been in a number of great games, so they've been tested. However, they've got a few young guys playing huge roles on their team in Steele Stanwick and Shamel Bratton. They've relied heavily on both thus far this season, and while neither has showed signs of slowing down, they haven't dealt with the types of pressure they'll start to feel if they're without a loss come ACC tournament time.

Quick Pick

Penn State or St. Johns?
KH: St. Johns. I like the Red Storm this year.
BH: Penn State is good for me. The Big Ten isn't a lacrosse conference, but I'm from Ohio, so any Penn State team is considered Big Ten to me!

Kyle, the loser between us has to take a picture in the other's Major League Lacrosse team jersey while doing the dishes. And Ty Lawson, if you're not doing anything until the NBA draft, grab a lacrosse stick.

Brett Hughes is the lacrosse editor of ESPNRISE.com, ESPN's high school sports site. Check out his blog.