Commentary

Predictions for the lacrosse season

Updated: February 17, 2010, 7:13 PM ET
By Kyle Harrison and Brett Hughes | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Each week, 2005 Tewaaraton winner and four-time Major League Lacrosse All-Star Kyle Harrison and former Virginia Cavaliers All-American and MLL All-Star Brett Hughes will use this space to debate college lacrosse's biggest storylines.

Shamel Bratton
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesShamel Bratton is poised for a breakout season.

Which teams will we see playing on championship weekend?

Hughes: I'm looking at Virginia and Syracuse. I think UVa is stacked this year, and I keep hearing good things about Rhamel Bratton, which is dangerous, and when that young attack jells, they will be tough to beat. No matter what happens during the regular season, Syracuse has enough talent that when the Orange hit the playoffs, no one will want to play them.

Harrison: Weird, you think UVa will be there? Didn't see that one coming at all! Unfortunately, I agree that UVa and Cuse will both be there in the end; they both have too many weapons on both sides of the ball not to be. I've got a feeling the boys over at Johns Hopkins could be in the mix as well with a talented (and experienced) senior class to lead a group of big-time freshmen. Duke has a serious senior class as well, so I see the Blue Devils at the Final Four as well.

Who are your favorites for the Tewaaraton Trophy?

Hughes: North Carolina's Billy Bitter, Duke's Ned Crotty and Virginia's Shamel Bratton. They have to be on everyone's list. It all has to do with which team gets hot. Bitter reminds me of former Syracuse star Mike Powell; whoever guards him will need help. He'll see a lot of double-teams this season. Crotty is the quarterback everyone wants, and junior Shamel Bratton is poised to blow up this year and might be the most exciting player -- along with Bitter -- in the country to watch.

Harrison: I'm on the Bitter bandwagon, clearly -- I feel as though I talked about him on every post last year. He'll be in the mix in the end. I wish I could argue with some of your picks, but they're right on. The only guy I'd add to the mix is middie Michael Kimmel. If Hopkins has a big year, it'll be with him leading the way.

Who are the freshmen who could make an immediate impact?

Hughes: Virginia's Connor English, Matt White and Chris LaPierre could all make an instant impact this year. Cornell's Jack Doyle is going to be huge; I thought he was the most polished player coming out of high school last year. John Greeley will be the midfielder Hopkins has needed; he could be the next in a long line of amazing Blue Jays middies. Watch for the two Gilman School (Baltimore) boys at UNC, Greg McBride and Marcus Holman. Both should make an impact and could benefit from the attention Bitter will be receiving. And Duke's Josh Offit is off to a crazy start with three goals against Team USA in last month's scrimmage, making the young gun a pretty large target now. Crotty will enjoy playing with this kid.

[+] EnlargeChris LaPierre
ESPN RISELook for high school star Chris LaPierre to make an instant impact at Virginia.

Harrison: This one is a bit unfair, since you know all about these kids. But I got to coach LaPierre, English and White a few years back at an NELC camp, and I can only imagine they've gotten better since the last time I saw those cats play. Out of the three, I'd keep my eye on LaPierre, as his ability to play on both sides of the ball makes him pretty special and will allow him to have an instant impact. I've heard nothing but good stuff from the Hopkins crew about Greeley. I was actually coached by Offit's father in college for a few years, and he was a great coach (and face-off man in his day), so it doesn't surprise me that his son is out ballin'. Again, as much as I'd like to argue with you here, you made some good picks.

Which teams could surprise us this season?

Hughes: I think Georgetown is going to be very tough this year. The Hoyas are always good, so it may not be much of a surprise, but they have not made the tournament for two years, and I think they can make a huge jump to a Final Four appearance. The other team on my radar is Hofstra. Coach Seth Tierney is just a special coach, and his teams always have the ability to play with anyone. If he can get his boys to win all the games they are supposed to and steal a couple of big games, the Pride could be dangerous in the playoffs as well.

Harrison: I'd love to see Georgetown make a play for it this year as I'm a big fan of coach Dave Urick (and his son, assistant coach Scott Urick), but I'm just not quite sold there yet. I definitely agree that Hofstra has got to be on the radar as well, and I'd love to see them break into the Final Four with a young squad. The one to watch out for is UNC. Billy Bitter is going to have a huge year and lead them to the Final Four. (Sorry, I tried not to talk about him this post.) I know everyone every year wants to say it's the year UNC will be back, but I actually believe that it could happen in 2010.

What will be the impact of the Big East?

Hughes: I think its great to see Notre Dame, Syracuse and Georgetown heading a league up. It should be cool to see how some of the other teams start recruiting even harder as people start seeing Villanova, Providence and Rutgers in a new light. Cuse should dominate that conference, but Scott Rodgers and the Irish may be a speed bump, and if Georgetown stays healthy, it will make a run for that title as well.

[+] EnlargeBilly Bitter
Peyton Williams/Icon SMIBilly Bitter could lead North Carolina to a Final Four appearance.

Harrison: Notre Dame making a title run? Interesting stuff. While I don't agree with that, I definitely agree that it would be great if Nova, Providence and Rutgers started to get after teams a bit. Unfortunately, this year I think we'll see one Big East team in the Final Four, and it's the same team that's there every year.

Pop quiz

Each week, Kyle and Brett will extend their debate to the world of pop culture. This week's question: What's on your iPod? Each one is weighing in with his picks for the bus ride, warm-up and the ride home.

Hughes: For the bus ride, has to be "You & Me" by Dave Matthews Band. It calms me down and puts me in a good place. Pregame: "A Star Is Born" by Jay-Z gets me jacked up but has a good beat, so I'm not all over the place. Ride home: "Lift Me Up" by Kate Voegele; it's just a freaking amazing song that always helps me reflect and figure out what's next. Bonus -- when we get back to the locker room or out that night, Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA."

Harrison: For starters I'm not thrilled with your Miley choice there, nor do I appreciate whenever the song comes on how everyone (including pro lacrosse player Anthony Kelly) screams, "OMG that's my song!" If you had said some old-school Britney, I would have been on board. Bus ride: "I Made It," Kevin Rudolf, featuring Birdman and Lil Wayne. It's a solid song to get things going, without a doubt. Pregame: "All I Do is Win," DJ Khaled, enough said. Ride home: "Closer," Kings of Leon. It helps to settle me down.

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