Friday, May 8, 2009
Tourney openers have much to offer
By Quint Kessenich
It's a full slate of eight games -- four each on Saturday and Sunday -- in the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament's first round, so we asked ESPN/Inside Lacrosse analyst Quint Kessenich to share his thoughts on each of the games with us. Here's his take on the Saturday slate, which runs from noon ET through approximately 9:30 p.m., all on ESPNU (with bonus ESPN2 coverage of the Hopkins-Brown game).
Brown at No. 8 Johns Hopkins
Noon ET | Homewood Field -- Baltimore
ESPN2 and ESPN360.com
After watching Brown on tape, the Bears seem extra vulnerable in transition and off faceoffs. They have outshot their opponents by only three shots total for the entire season. In their latest loss, to Princeton, they shot 14 percent and won only 8 of 22 draws.
Brown will quickly fire at a bad invert matchup with a pole. The Bears set up in a diamond or a box behind the fire man. Hopkins will play from a 1-4-1 set often and cut the high crease to the ball, while the low crease rolls off behind to become the outlet man. Hopkins' wing shooter, Kyle Wharton, may have a field day against Brown's invert tactics. Defender Peter Fallon will try to match steps with Steven Boyle.
The Blue Jays are allowing 13.5 goals against in four spring losses. Brown's dodgers are opportunistic. If you overplay the perimeter, they're savvy enough to change gears and run past you to the goal. If you sag, they'll possess.
Brown goalie Jordan Burke is the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, and he'll have to have a career day because Brown is not a good faceoff team. Burke is left-handed and plays on a relatively high arc. He likes to crouch down low when shooters set their feet. I've seen him beat high more than low from in tight.
Brown's Reade Seligmann is a bull at the midfield; stick checks don't get the job done. Sixty-three percent of Brown's goals have come via an assist, while only 48 percent of opponent goals are assisted. Thomas Muldoon took 15 shots last Saturday at Princeton; he'll have the attention of Hopkins in all recovery situations.
UMBC at No. 6 North Carolina
2:30 p.m. ET | Fetzer Field -- Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Tar Heels are the nation's toughest team on the ground, scooping up 46 loose balls per game. They'll try to inject tempo into this game by pressing UMBC in the middle of the field and by utilizing their 10-man ride when possible. The Tar Heels want as many faceoffs as possible. Shane Walterhoefer sits at 63 percent while UMBC rookie Justin Radebaugh has improved to 49 percent on the year.
UMBC does not have the defensive personnel to cover Billy Bitter, Ben Hunt and Sean Delaney. The Retrievers will have to support and recover and hope UNC isn't willing to make the extra pass. And UNC doesn't have the defensive midfield to guard Peet Poillon, Alex Hopmann and Kyle Wimer. Expect UNC to double-pole the first midfield. A cool day would benefit the Retrievers as they run that first midfield group into the ground.
Carolina can't foul -- UMBC has a scary extra-man offense group, clicking at 52 percent in 2009.
Hofstra at No. 5 Cornell
5:30 p.m. ET | Schoellkopf Field -- Ithaca, N.Y.
To beat Cornell, you have to match its intensity, experience and power in the middle of the field. Max Seibald and John Glynn are the nation's best one-two midfield punch. Glynn scoops up 6.5 ground balls per game after winning 60 percent of his faceoffs, and Seibald is a Tewaaraton finalist. They won't go down without a fight.
Cornell is No. 2 in the country in scoring offense. Ryan Hurley has 38 bangers and Rob Pannell has 33 helpers. They are slick down around the goal and scrap for second-chance riding goals. Will Hofstra double-pole the Big Red?
Matt Moyer, who sat out last week's Hobart game with an undisclosed leg injury, is a one-man band on defense for Cornell. Hofstra's Jay Card and Anthony Muscarella must get shots. The Big Red haven't been receiving championship-level goaltending this spring, but that might be offset by Hofstra starting a freshman on the road.
Navy at No. 3 Duke
7:30 p.m. ET | Koskinen Stadium -- Durham, N.C.
Duke has the team speed and poles to harass Navy ball carriers in the middle third of the field. Can Navy run through pressure?
Navy will invert Duke to death on offense and attempt to minimize the damage that Ned Crotty can dish out. He's averaging 4.06 points per game and will be covered by Andy Tormey. Duke's offense will be tested by a Navy defense that slides to all dodgers. Duke is accustomed to playing in the ACC against athletic defenses that aren't as quick to double-team. If Duke is ready to make the extra pass and spin the rock, it will penetrate Navy's defensive integrity for midrange shots. If not, the Blue Devils will rack up turnovers.
Navy's endless circular passing on offense will test the patience of Parker McKee, Ryan McFadyen and Mike Manley. A Navy upset hinges on its midfielders' ability to dodge and finish on the run, Duke's overall hubris after its ACC triumph and Navy's counterattacking Duke's transition.
Duke has the edge in faceoffs with Sam Payton (57 percent) and CJ Costabile. The Blue Devils may need the extra possessions because Navy has the better goalie in Tommy Phelan. He's 5-1 as a starter and his high arc can be quirky.
This game features two of the nation's best specialty units with Duke's E.M.O. clicking at 46 percent and Navy's extra-man defense stopping foes 85 percent of the time.
Enjoy the games on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com.