Johns Hopkins has moved all the way up to 3rd in the polls. How much improved have they been up to this point?
From a year ago, they've radically improved in three key areas: faceoffs, where Matt Delente is one of the nation's leaders; goaltending, where Pirce Bassett is a top 5 goalie; and in ground balls, as a team Hopkins is faster, tougher and they've learned how to win.
Hey Quint, is Syracuse the only school who plays indoor matches? Do you like indoor matches at the collegiate level? Thanks.
Notre Dame plays indoors. Penn State plays indoors. I think that's it. Those are schools who benefit from big time football facilities. The Syracuse Carrier Dome is a unique venue. Very challenging to the opponent, because of acoustics, sightlines and a rabid Orange fan base.
Is the stick technology getting too sophisticated?
Yes. Ball retention is too easy. The sticks are too narrow and too deep and make dislodging the ball difficult for the defense. This has led to more isolation based offenses, more conservative zone defenses and more violent checking.
How different of a team is Virginia without Bratton?
Their coach Starsia has said that offensively it's much more difficult without Shamel. With Shamel, he can penetrate easily and force the opponents to double team. That opens things up for his teammates. He is Kemba Walker with a lacrosse stick.
Which matchup this weekend is the most interesting?
North Carolina at Virginia, ESPN, noon ET on Saturday. That's a very important game. Denver-Duke will be revealing. I will be in Charlottesville for that first game. Virginia coming off back to back losses. A young UNC team on the road in a hostile environment. It should be a great crowd.
Can anyone beat Cuse?
Yes and no. They have been less than dominant at times, with OT wins against Georgetown and Johns Hopkins and a one-goal win over Villanova. They clearly know how to win, but sometimes appear to play to the level of their opponents. They should get tested against Cornell on Tuesday.
How big was that win by Maryland over Virginia?
Humungous. The Terps had their backs against the wall and needed a quality win. It was a gut check time for the Men in Mustard and it should set up a potentially blockbuster month of April with Navy, Johns Hopkins and the ACC tournament looming.
Who would get your vote for rookie of the year?
Nickey Galasso of UNC over Jordan Wolf of Duke. But I'm not ready to hand out the award yet with five weeks to go in the regular season.
What is the most important position on the field?
I'm biased, being an ex-goalie. The way the game is being played nowadays, your faceoff and goaltending battles are critical. But I like attackmen who are versatile like Rob Pannell. He can pass, shoot and dodge and make his teammates better.
Which teams ahve work to do before the tournament?
Villanova, Hofstra, UMass, Delaware, Denver, Loyola, Penn and Princeton would be teams who need more wins to garner an at-large bid. Many of them are competing for their automatic qualifiers that goes to six league champions. The NCAA tournament has 16 teams, 10 at-large and 6 auto-qualifiers.
Predictions for who will be playing Memorial Day weekend?
My preseason picks were Virginia, Maryland, Syracuse and Notre Dame. Right now, of those four, Virginia looks the most vulnerable. I could see Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Denver or Hofstra sneaking in. But I'll stay with my preseason picks for at least another week.
You said Cuse had some issues right now. So who would you say is the hottest team?
I'm not sure what issues you're referring to. They're 8-0 and have beaten 8 ranked opponents. Defender John Lade injured his ankle, but otherwise, the Orange are rolling. Hot teams right now, Notre Dame, still unbeaten; Colgate, playing well; Delaware, 3-0 in the CAA; and Cornell, unbeaten in the Ivy League.
How big of a problemis winning at the "X" going to hamper Syracuse's run at a 12th title?
Good question. Because 3-4 weeks ago, I loved their faceoff specialists. Jeremy Thompson is a proven commodity and coach Desko was rotating some young new faces with success. But all of a sudden, faceoff wins aren't coming easy. Ultimately, when you have winners like Joe White and Jovan Miller, I think Syracuse will be OK in this department.
There are 30 D-I games this weekend, with a handful televised on the ESPN networks. 7:30, Friday night on ESPNU, Albany-Johns Hopkins. Saturday, on ESPN, I will be at UNC-Virginia. At 4 you can watch on ESPNU, Syracuse-Princeton. And on Sunday, Notre Dame-Georgetown at noon on ESPNU for some bonus coverage. With basketball over and the weather getting warmer, it really is the best time of the year.