Lacrosse's longest game on the brain
5 Burning Questions can't help but discuss the epic UVa-Maryland matchup
One-goal games were the theme of the weekend, as Colgate, Syracuse, Vermont, UMass, North Carolina, Providence and Scared Heart all won by a goal. But one very long game led the way.
In case you missed all seven overtimes of Virginia and Maryland's epic game Saturday, the 85-minute saga became the longest game in NCAA lacrosse history. As a TV commentator for the game, it was bizarre to be a part of -- an extra hour and a half on air, and each OT was defined in its own right.
So, coming off a game that is comparable to the six-overtime Big East basketball tournament semifinal between Syracuse and UConn on March 12, here are your 5 Burning Questions on men's lacrosse.
1. How strong is Virginia's ranking coming out of the weekend?
The Cavaliers are clearly No. 1. They're one of two undefeated teams, and they have won at Syracuse and Johns Hopkins and at home against Maryland and Cornell. But Virginia showed some vulnerability Saturday. Its offense is powerful and talented but lacking complexity. Opponents are starting to catch up with the Cavs, and now everyone is going to be giving them their best shot. To UVa's credit, it found a way to win three very thrilling games: The 13-12 win against the Orange at the Carrier Dome in front of more than 16,000 was a classic; Hopkins was throwing haymakers all night in the Cavs' 16-15 win March 21; and Saturday's game was the longest in college lacrosse history.
2. Where does Maryland stand now?
Like a lot of the pack -- everyone ranked between No. 3 and No. 20 -- Maryland is capable on its best day to beat anyone in the Top 20, and capable on its worst day to lose to anyone in the Top 20. Saturday's game at Virginia was Maryland's best effort of the year -- the offense, the defense, the energy and emotion. The Terps' coaching staff had them well-schooled.
A game like that can be a huge positive for a team, or heartbreaking. Maryland should have finished its plays and it could have had an insurmountable lead. Either way, the Terps have to get over it emotionally because they play Navy on Friday night, and the Midshipmen are desperate to get a quality win.
3. How do coaches adjust during a seven-overtime game?
I think for the coaches, it's kind of a catch-22: When they have the ball on offense, they obviously want to score to get the game over with. But there's certainly a conservative approach because if the team turns the ball over, it mustn't be exposed on the defensive end.
Both teams took the conservative approach to attacking the net Saturday; at times, because of fatigue and approach, players seemed to be just standing around. For a coach, that's the time when he needs to trust his team's conditioning and really extend himself in the confines of his offense and be smart.
Listening in on the huddles Saturday, it appeared the coaches were trying to stay positive because that game had the most tension I've ever seen in a non-NCAA playoff game. The buildup of the game, the back-and-forth nature of regulation, the late-arriving, standing-room only crowd -- everything about the game just built and built to the last chapter. The fans were almost in disbelief.
4. What can we look forward to this week?
Saturday's inaugural Big City Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (ESPNU, noon and 2:30 p.m. ET) will be a big event. Its three matchups feature some of the top teams across the board: Virginia and North Carolina lead off at noon, followed by Princeton and Syracuse -- the signature game of the week -- at 2:30 p.m. and then Hofstra and Delaware at 5 p.m. The event has already sold 15,000 seats.
5. As teams step into league play, which are the conferences to keep an eye on?
The Ivy League will be a terrific race to watch in April. Cornell is 2-0 in conference play while Princeton, Brown and Harvard are all at 1-0. And the ECAC should be great to watch, as it's wide-open with Fairfield, UMass, Georgetown, Rutgers and Loyola.
Neither the Ivy League nor the ECAC has a conference tournament, so their games in the coming weeks will mean a lot.
Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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