Welcome to the first NCAA lacrosse chat of the 2012 season with Inside Lacrosse and ESPN. We've got a full slate of games this weekend, lots of intriguing storylines and plenty of excitement coming.
Most of the staff will be around to take questions this afternoon: Editor-in-Chief John Jiloty, Managing Editor Terry Foy, Associate Editor and head of all the recruiting coverage, Geoff Shannon, and staff writers Zach Babo and Casey Vock. ILWomen.com Editor Danielle Bernstein can answer questions about the women's game, and I will moderate everything.
Throughout the season, we'll be bringing you different players each week. Hit us up on Twitter @Inside_Lacrosse and let us know who you want to chat with all season.
What's up IL - who do you guys predict will make it to Memorial Day weekend this year?
The first question of the first chat every year...and for good reason
Denver, Virginia, Duke, Johns Hopkins
I'll say Duke, Denver, Virginia and Cornell.
If the whole staff were to make a prediction, my guess is you'd get about 12 different schools mentioned by seven or eight people. Among the consensus picks are certainly Duke and Virginia. There's a lot of talent and a lot of experience on both those teams and coaching staffs. The Cavs have shown they've got a tournament-tested offense led by Steele Stanwick and Colin Briggs, and the Blue Devils were so explosive last year with Rob Rotanz, Justin Turri, Dave Lawson and Jordan Wolf that it's hard not to like those two. Next up is Cornell, not least because when you have the best player on the field (which Rob Pannell will be in nearly all, if not every, game), your chances of getting to Championship Weekend are high. I'd say beyond that, Denver, Hopkins, Syracuse and Carolina have similar odds, then there's a drop off to the next group.
I'm going with Virginia, Duke, Hopkins and Denver. Both Virginia and Duke have tons of talent. Hopkins has a lot of weapons as well, especially first-team preseason All-America goalie Pierce Bassett. And Denver showed 1) how good Mark Matthews is but also 2) how much else is around him in that OT loss to the U.S. Team in January
Though I hate to write off Maryland and Syracuse, because I think those teams are going to be much better than people expect following their 2011 graduation losses.
I'm on the Denver train and want to see them get there, but I feel like it's so hard to get back two years running. I'll say Virginia and Duke, I think they are well built teams. I like Cornell or Johns Hopkins too. I think we might get one nontraditional in there like Notre Dame. And I've learned that every year I think 'Cuse is a shoe in, they misstep, and every year I think they might struggle they exceed my expectation, so I'll say they make a run. So that is my six potential Final Four teams, kind of a cop-out I know.
I'm going to be the one who says Syracuse is going to make it. They might struggle early, but as Zach Babo said in an office conversation earlier in the week, the underclassmen might be so motivated to prove everyone wrong. Syracuse, Virginia, Duke and Denver. Though, it pains me to not have Cornell in there, especially after the reports from this past weekend on how well Connor English played.
For the women's, I'm going to go with two obvious choices in Maryland and Northwestern, two locks to make it to memorial day weekend. After that, I think North Carolina has looked strong so far and is a favorite to make it to the final four. Lastly, I'm going to take Florida. I think the Gators can build on last year's quarterfinal finish and make a run in 2012.
How many CAA teams make the tournament?
I really, really want to say two teams, but I'm going to have to say one. There will be a team that wins the CAA and gets the AQ, then another team that can make a case for a tourney berth but then gets passed over. It's not that Delaware, Hofstra and UMass won't put together compelling cases to get in, because they will. But there will just be one too many teams ahead of the team that's not getting the AQ, and the high profile of a non-CAA school will get in. I'd love to be wrong on this.
Thoughts on potential Freshman of the Year candidates?
Wells Stanwick earned a starting spot on Johns Hopkins' attack, so he'll have ample opportunity to earn Frosh honors. Also like Lyle Thompson at Albany, might have a big early impact. Could also see some unheralded player step up as well, as mid-level schools need to throw their freshmen into the fray earlier.
Which freshmen have a shot at the FOY? is literally one of the most difficult question to answer prior to any games being played. Yes, there's some information about which freshmen have made nice impacts and which have sustained injuries or are looking like they'll redshirt, but before the season starts, there's little difference between the recruiting rankings and the "preseason freshman of the year" rankings. That said, there are some freshmen who have gotten some nice impacts and deserve a nod after flying under the recruiting rankings radar. Three that come to mind are Cornell's Matt Donovan, who might be their third starter on attack; Denver's Wes Berg, who will probably run on the second midfield line with Patrick Rodgers and looks like he could put up 30 points; and Duke's Kyle Keenan, who's running on their first midfield line. Of course, one guy who didn't fly under the radar, Albany mdifielder Lyle Thompson, IL's No. 1 recruit, looks like he's all he was cracked up to be.
Looking at the scheadule (and not counting the IL events, which will be events not to miss) what game's would I be kicking myself about if i didnt go?
Well obviously you have to start with Syracuse @ Virginia on March 4. Little Sunday matinee game. It'll be live on ESPN but last time these two teams played in C-ville, the place was jammed and the atmosphere was electric. Two up-tempo, deep, talented teams are always fun to watch.Denver-Cornell on Long Island 3/20, UNC@Duke on 3/16, Ohio State @ Michigan (in the Big House) in 4/14 and of course Maryland @ Hopkins 4/14 (where we'll likely see some sweet new gear)
For this weekend, I think Hartford-Maryland will be a big game to watch, solely for the fact that the Terps are young and beat up and I have them on upset alert. I'm going to steer clear of the big-time programs for this question, because I think those are all big games you won't want to miss. Navy at Army on April 14. There are lots of doubters about both programs this year, and I think they're both going to overachieve and surprise us all. Of course the rivalry is always intense, but this year it is two programs who need to make statements.
I think two of the best games on the women's end of things are both going to be played in Evanston, Ill. as Northwestern hosts both North Carolina and Florida in April. The Wildcats and the Tar Heels played one of the best games of last season in a semifinal that came down to the wire and these two teams always play fast, physical game that's really fun to watch. Florida and Northwestern exchanged blows last year with the Gators taking the regular season contest and Northwestern winning in the conference championship. Again, a tough matchup with some of the fastest and toughest players in the game. A definite must-watch as the makings of a rivalry continue to grow between these two.
Will Rutgers get into the picture with coach Brecht?
I sure hope so. Rutgers seems like one of those programs that should have been a bigger player than it ever was. It is a big state school with fantastic facilities, right in the nexus of the mid-Atlantic region, tri-state area lacrosse scene. I think Brecht could build the program into a formidable foe in less than five years, but I don't know if they will be a huge leap this year. Let him get a few recruiting classes in there and maybe figure out how to market the program better, and he could really build something. Of course the eventual dissolution of the Big East is not going to help. Having a set game against the likes of Syracuse, and to a lesser extent Notre Dame, Villanova, and Georgetown, are big sells to recruits. Losing the Orange, and possibly the rest eventually, might put a snag in things. Of course if he builds a great out of conference schedule, it could all cancel out.
Lots and lots of questions about Michigan being asked....here are a few.
This being Michigan's first year at the DI level, do you see them making any noise this season or are they still a few years away?
Michigans chances of going defeated?
What can we expect from Michigan year one? How about from year five?
Expect to see a stark difference for Michigan from year one to year five. The Wolverines were probably better off starting in 2013 like originally proposed, but some circumstances led them to start this year. With few players recruited for DI, don't expect many wins this season. In five year's they'll be competitive talent-wise at the ECAC level, though I'm intrigued to see if they win some big recruiting battles in the hotbeds, and how coach John Paul's coaching works at the Division I level. Both are factors that might keep Michigan from making the jump to elite program in five-years time.
Michigan this year and Michigan year five are going to be two completely different teams. While I only saw them once in the fall, playing Towson in the HEADstrong Colleluori Classic, what was concerning is that Towson had a better player at pretty much every position on the field, or at least a more athletic, DI-looking player. That could lead to a long year for Michigan, but that should be expected graduating a club program. You are bringing in a club roster. Now in five years, with everything Michigan has to offer, plus the number of talented high school kids out there, and the chance to build a new tradition, I'll be shocked if the Wolverines don't get in a few strong classes, each better than the next. And in college sports, it's one part scheme and two parts talent, at least, so once you have the right horses in the barn, you're going to start winning a lot of races.
Michigan Team One is going to struggle. At this point, some predictions have the Blue going winless, and Mercer looks like their best shot for a W. That said, I'm not going to bury Michigan's ability to pull a relatively stunning upset just yet for two reasons. First, I think Detroit is a good team that had played two tough games to prepare for Michigan, and losing that game to the Titans doesn't mean what some fans think it means. Second, unlike most "expansion" teams, the Wolverines are a veteran group with a winning tradition. They don't have the talent of most, if any, teams they play will, but I think they have the character to make up for that talent deficiency at least once or twice this year.
Terry wrote our big cover story on Michigan, and he broke the news that they were moving to DI in the first place. He visited them in Michigan, and he saw them in fallball along with Zach and I.
Do you see a shot clock in the future, in College lacrosse ?The excitement of transitional play, gets stymied with midfielder situational player subs. Fastest game on two feet ? Not until the situational subs become less. Let's run & gun ! Pass it, catch it, shoot it ! More fun for players and the fan/consumer.
I think the writing's on the wall in terms of a shot clock, but the nuances are still in play. From reports from this fall, sounds like the 60 second running clock from the Ohio State-UNC game played out the best in terms of pushing transition and athleticism. Look for more decisions/research this summer and fall.
There will be at least one significant change after this season. I'm just not sure what it will be. I suspect it will be some form of a shot clock, probably 60 seconds. Just seems with all the experimenting done last fall and the fact that no changes could have been made this year, this summer the NCAA rules committee will take a harder look at some serious alterations and we'll see something for the spring of 2013.
I completely agree playing a little faster and looser would be a lot of fun to watch, but this is a situation that is not caused by one thing, and won't be solved by one thing, so saying it's just subs, or just a shot clock, is a bit wishful thinking. But if the underlying idea of what you're saying is it should be more run and gun, and letting kids play, than the easiest way to do that may be revising the schedules. Teams should still play 17 games, hell, maybe even 17+, but change the time frame. How much fun is college basketball when you know you tend to have two to three games a week? If lacrosse actually tried to be a spring sport and not let teams play until March 1 at the earliest, but otherwise kept the schedules the same, you would cut two to three weeks from the schedule.
Next, if 17 is the maximum games you can play, make 15 the minimum, so everyone has to fill up that schedule. That will mean more midweek games, and it could help some of the teams that struggle for good competition to suddenly find a few big programs willing to make a date work. So why cram more games into less time? LESS GAMEPLANNING. Teams scout so well now, that they have set gameplans against certain opponents, often ones that emphasize the need for specialization. Players have enough time to work in practice and study film that they can neutralize a lot of what another team does. What is fun about run and gun is that it's two teams coming out and saying, "this is what we do well, this is what you do well, let's see who does their thing better." If teams played two and three games a week on two or three day turnarounds, coaches would have to focus more on creating an identity for their teams, and not gameplanning so much for their opponents, which could lead to looser play. It would also lead to interesting streaks of momentum, potentially bring more drama to those "trap games" for big time programs that they tend to sneak into midweek games, and it would keep me from freezing my butt off in the cold weather covering a lacrosse game, a SPRING SPORT, on Feb. 11th.
Lots of questions about UNC as well...
Will UNC finally take the step to making it to Memorial Day weekend? They definitely have the tools to do it.
I see none of the analysts chose the Heels. What does the panel see as the main ingredient lacking in Chapel Hill? By all accounts the talent is there.
Is this the year the Tar Heels get over the hump and advance to the Final Four?
Like most of these things, I want to buy in, but it is hard to believe until I see it. I think UNC has an incredibly talented team, and a great coach. I think it's a great place to play ball. I think they looked great at points last year, and they can certainly play or beat anyone. But they haven't done that consistently enough, and on the big enough stages to suddenly say, "this is the year of the Tar Heel."
I didn't have them in my Final Four (see the picks earlier in the chat), but after watching PSU-North Carolina last week, I've got higher hopes for them than I did a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure how all the new pieces would fit, but McBride and Emala looked solid in the win against Penn State, and that score was worse than the score even reflected.
And, that was without Nicky Galasso. Yeah, they're legit. I honestly don't know if there's one thing the team lacks that's keeping them. But specifically, I think they were out-coached against Maryland in the tournament last year.
I already put this on Twitter, but I'll throw it on here too...Albany had a down season last year - you think they'll be able to get back to the NCAA's with the #1 recruit and a potent offense?
What's Albany's ceiling?
I think Albany has the potential to steal the America East this season. Though I think the Danes defense could be a big question mark, I think they have the horses on offense to still carry them to the AE conference tourney and then win it. It's just a matter of the Thompsons and Resetarits getting into a groove and making use of the other talented players on that roster that might get overlooked.
What are Syracuse' chances for the title this year?
I don't know what to make of Syracuse this year. I love their attack right now, and I think that Syracuse always have a few middies that preseason you say, "well who is that guy," and by late April you're saying, "wow, who is THAT GUY." It seems wide open out for them. They could struggle in the Big East and barely make the tournament, or they could run all the way to the Final Four. With so many unknowns on the team it's hard to get excited, but I have a little faith in the pedigree of the program, and the way they so often reload.
Short answer: A lot better than most people think
I put them in the Final Four. I think going under the radar is the best thing that can happen for this young program. And, I think unlike last year, the offense won't get complacent and it will know it has to score goals. So these young guys will put up a lot.
Jordan wold is a complete stud
I assume you mean Wolf, but yes, you are correct. Know who's a stud? The entire Duke midfield. As good as the attack is, that midfield is much better.
Any freshman of the year picks for the women?
Duke's Taylor Trimble was our No. 1 recruit and has played her way into the starting lineup for the Blue Devils. She has a lot of potential as a great two-way player. But I've been really impressed with one of her teammates, Kerrin Maurer, who has already tied Duke's single-game record with three goals and five assists in her collegiate debut and through three games leads Duke with 14 points on six goals and eight assists. Also keep an eye out for Nora Barry at Florida and Mikaela Rix and Covie Stanwick at Boston College.
Do any of you think UVA could be slightly overrated coming into this season? Their postseason success came after a seemingly forgotten down regular season, for UVA standards and a near escape vs Bucknell in the first round. They're a good team, but the only good defense they played was in a zone that I'm sure coaches have found solutions to over the offseason along with the possible lessened efficiency from a less experienced goalie in the cage. Are they number one because of how talented they are or because of the greater offseason attrition rates for other contenders?
Is Virginia overrated as the preseason No. 1? I don't think so, but I ranked them No. 1, so that should be obvious. Do you think they're overrated because they aren't as good as other recent preseason No. 1s, or because you think the teams ranked behind them are better? When it comes to the flaws you outline, sure they exist. In fact, their zone defense was going to be a huge problem this year regardless of whether opposing staffs properly adjusted how to prepare for it because of the loss of Adam Ghitelman. His skillset allowed UVA to be successful playing zone. Period. That said, Duke seems unsettled in goal and only scored four times against Maryland in the semifinals last year; have they solved their offensive problems? Cornell's pretty similar in their deficiencies. Hopkins has injury concerns in their defensive midfield and have to replace their face-off guy. Denver's replacing their entire defense. Every team has question marks; I happen to think Virginia's are fewer and less significant
As I said about Michigan, college sports are won by talented rosters more often than not, and the Cavaliers just ooze athletic talent. In terms of being overrated, I mean they are number one, so they certainly can't be underrated. The only place to go from there is down. And rankings tend to be a projection of who we think could win the title today, not always who we think could win a game. Duke struggles early every year, so I won't suddenly undercut them in the polls if teams that I think can't hang start stronger.
And zone defenses are hard to beat, look how many good teams and great coaches struggled against them last year. UVa brings back so much, you just can't ignore that depth, the pedigree of the program, and having possibly the best player in the country on your roster.
I don't think there is a question of whether they're overrated or not as much as: Is there a team right behind them that's underrated? As Zach says, they have possibly the best player in the game in Steele Stanwick (at least one of the top 3). But what if, as many of you have pointed out, people are unnecessarily harsh on UNC? What if Denver's defense isn't an issue at all? What is Syracuse just reloads? Virginia is certainly one of the most talented teams in the country, but if a few question marks on other teams become clear...they might have some company and not be a cut above everyone.
And for the record, I put them at No. 1 in our media poll.
Also for the record, I'm a Mark Matthews fanboy.
Even during Virginia's start to the 2011 season, no one questioned their talent. And in fact I've talked to a few people who didn't think that the Cavs deserved to be called an underdog in last year's Final Four because of all that talent. Last year's issue was just chemistry, and Dom Starsia did what a good coach does and fixed that by making some personnel and strategic changes.
Losing Nick O'Reilly for this season to suspension hurts the attack but it sounds like Owen Van Arsdale has more than stepped in there. And either way, Virginia has more offensive weapons than they know what to do with, so they'll be fine. Their big question is replacing Adam Ghitelman in net. To your point about attrition, it is hard to look around and see many "untouchable" teams that don't have any holes. So this year should be interesting.
Now that I've graduated, How will Stony Brook do without me?
Can anybody really replace you, Kevin?
Umm, since I haven't even thought about Stony Brook this offseason that might be the biggest clue to how they'll do. Luckily they play in the America East, which can be anyone's league any given year. I think Albany might be the most electric team in the league, but I haven't seen nearly enough of them to say they'll win it. So Stony Brook might get themselves an AQ, but without it, they spend May enjoying Montauk and Long Island's other beachfront communities.
Will this finally be Cornell's year to win the national title?
I feel like for a few years running here I have felt that this is the year for Cornell, expecting a drop off the next season, and I have yet to see that drop off, though I have yet to see the ring too. This is definitely as good of a year as any, and I think they have the pieces to do it definitely. I think the addition of Connor English is going to be huge because he could be the No. 1 attackman on another team, so playing off of Mock and Pannell is just a deadly line. If they get consistent goaltending and strong play in the middle of the field, they'll be able to ride that attack line for a while.
Terry mentioned earlier about how every team has one question mark heading into the season. I left Cornell out of my Final Four prediction, because goaltending is my question mark.
Who do you see getting the automatic bid out of the big east?
Notre Dame is formidable, and Villanova is a lot of fun to watch, but until someone proves me wrong, the Big East has a big Orange flag planted in it.
Grr tough call. Notre Dame to win the Big East, then Syracuse to use that motivation and go farther in the NCAA Tournament. Gotta love Gerry Byrne and his defense in South Bend. No coach consistently has a system down like he does.
I'm also curious as to Hop is so low in Quint's ratings. Have they looked terrible due to the factors that come with playing in scrimmages (holding out studs to keep them healthy, rusty stickwork, injuries) or are they simply not meshing as a team on one side of the ball? They are one of few teams who are retaining most of their studs, so I figured experience would keep them top at least for the beginning of the season.
I am not sure why Quint isn't high on Hopkins, and I certainly won't attempt to get inside that man's head right now. He is a Hopkins alum, and sometimes the tendency is to be a homer or a hater for the place you know so dear. I will say that I too was alarmed by how Hopkins looked in some of their scrimmages. For all the talent on offense, they seemed to struggle to produce at times, and for how cohesive the defensive should be, they didn't seem there yet. All the factors you mentioned of scrimmages play a part in this obviously, but you call 'em like you see 'em, and the Blue Jays have looked flat in their scrimmages. But the big programs have a habit of that sometimes. When they line up for real on Friday against Towson, that will be how I judge their early season prospects.
Switching gears back to that Big East question from a few minutes ago...I'm not as high on Villanova as other analysts are, but, I'm reserving judgment because the fall scrimmage I saw them at was an out-of-character bad performance.
Don't want to speak for Quint specifically, but I can see where question marks and concerns slam together for Johns Hopkins. Midfield depth becomes a question mark with Eric Ruhl gone and Phil Castronova sidelined for the season, and John Greeley still returning from an ACL tear. There are new faces and responsibilities on the attack unit. Defense is strong but they're going to experiment with Jack Reilly at LSM and there's still an inkling of doubt, not by me but by some, about goalie Pierce Bassett, despite earning preseason first-team All-America honors. People like dominating groups, and Hopkins looks once again like a team who'll string a dozen one-goal victories together to get to the playoffs. Not a sexy group, and there are question marks, but I call them for the final four built on a run of close wins.
Also, forgot to mention face-offs. Huge question for Hopkins heading into 2012.
How do you guys see the ivy league shaping up? One or two teams in the NCAA's this year?
The Ivy League reminds me of the Big East in college hoops, in that it is so competitive from top to bottom, and teams beat themselves up so much in it, that they can struggle in the postseason, and the rest of DI might not realize how tough it is to play in there. Cornell is going to make it out, either by a bid or the AQ. As for the rest, that is tough. Yale and Harvard should both see their stocks rise this year. Princeton is a wildcard coming off their down year, but I think they will bounce back big. Penn I can't read. For all the hype about them after last year, they were only 8-7, got smoked by Virginia to end the regular season, and beat Duke in February, which is different than beating Duke in May. I think Cornell will find themselves fighting Princeton in the Ivy tournament for the AQ, but there will be at least two Ivies in the tourney this year.
Cornell is the best, no doubt. Princeton will be a force, though. Tough D, and there's no way they get more bad luck than they've already had. Some good fortune for them this year, and they'll be an at-large pick.
How close is college lacrosse to being a regularly televised sport on ESPN or ESPN2 instead of being on ESPNU or ESPN3. It is about time for a national spotlight. After all our National Championship weekend has some of the best attendance numbers for all of college athletics.
I think lacrosse is still a ways off from regularly bumping a lot of the programming that's on ESPN or ESPN2 off the air. First of all, ESPNU exists to broadcast college sports, like lacrosse, so it almost doesn't make sense to move college programming to ESPN/ESPN2. Instead, you see the showcase games on the marquee networks that traditionally get more eyes used as an enticement to bring viewers to ESPNU. Secondly, with the massive increase in distribution ESPNU's experienced over the last two years, I don't think lacrosse games being exclusively on the U is as big of a deal as it was in 2009 when people weren't able to see games because they didn't have the channel. And lastly, unfortunately there isn't a huge correlation between Championship Weekend attendance numbers and what gets broadcast on television. For instance, what NCAA sport has worse attendance but better broadcast exposure? What determines networks like ESPN's programming choices is ratings and revenue. Lacrosse doesn't rate incredibly well on TV, but it does have a lot of corporate interest that make broadcasting games financially viable. I remember a time when there were fewer than a handful of games on TV at all; I'm not taking for granted how good lacrosse fans have it now.
Is John Jay one of the best higschools for producing NCAA prospects? Every year they seem to be adding 2-3 quality D1 players.
They and Yorktown are proven commodities out of the Hudson Valley definitely, along with Somers (IL's Ryan Rabs in the house) and a few others up there. Recruiting hotbeds tend to be of a regional culture though. Hudson Valley's probably behind Long Island, Baltimore, Upstate but on part with the New England pockets, D.C., Philly and Jersey.
How significant is the role Dom Starsia plays at UVa. Its appears year in and out they have some off the field, out of the coach's sight problem. Just how impressive is the job Dom Starsia does being that father figure- type coach to get all you need out of your players both athletically and their maturity. Is there any other coach who matches what he has for the development of this sport and the players involved?
I think it's very, very difficult to properly analyze the job any coach does in developing his players off the field without really getting to know the inner-workings of the program and the players involved. I've gotten to know Dom and lots of his players moderately well, but I wouldn't call them close friends. That said, I think Dom's style, which is relatively laissez-faire and requires a lot of personal and team accountability, rubs some of his colleagues the wrong way, and doesn't work for every player he's coached.
However, there are far more examples of the approach's success than its failures. As for whether there's another coach what he's done for the sport's and players' development, I think there are a lot of guys who match it, but not many who exceed it. Dom is a unique coach, and from the 04 collapse after the 03 title to the harrowing title run last year, his teams have manifested themselves that way over his tenure.
That's going to be all the time we have for this week. We'll have a bunch of live blogs this weekend and check our scoreboard for scores as they happen.Thanks for participating in a great first chat. Let us know on Twitter @inside_Lacrosse who else you want to see.