- Quint Kessenich, ESPNU
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We're nearing the midway point of the 2010 season and surprises still lurk around every corner. Virginia continues to roll up victories to hold on to the top spot, but a huge ACC battle against fellow unbeaten Maryland lurks this weekend. Syracuse looks primed for a big run, while Johns Hopkins has struggled and has Virginia and North Carolina up next. Mid-majors are making noise and things are still wide open in every conference race, but teams are going to start making their moves for a bid to continue playing in May over the next few weeks.
The Cavs pasted Vermont and Towson this week. On Sunday, Virginia put 31-of-37 shots on the goal against Towson, a team the Cavs have now beaten 10 straight times. Chris Bocklet scored four times to increase his season total to 25 goals. Virginia shoots overhand, and as a group has the best shooting technique I've seen. Virginia host Hopkins on Saturday (ESPN2. noon ET).
The Orange handled Hopkins 10-7 on Saturday night in a game that really was never in question. Syracuse built an 8-1 lead into the third quarter and silenced the 6,504 fans in attendance. The Orange had advantages in shots (37-26), groundballs (36-25) and faceoffs (14 of 20). The two-time defending champs can get on a roll against Hobart, Villanova and Albany during the next two weeks.
3. North Carolina
The Heels topped Princeton by a goal Tuesday night, then steamrolled Dartmouth on Friday. Carolina takes on Maryland this Saturday in a battle of unbeatens (ESPNU, 2 p.m. ET) . After eight games, UNC has four players with more than 20 points apiece -- Billy Bitter (27), Sean Delaney (26), Thomas Wood (24) and Gavin Petracca (22) -- that's excellent balance. Goalie Chris Madalon is yielding only 6.03 goals per game and their EMO is clicking at 56%.
The Tigers played in a pair of one-goal games this week -- dropping the first to UNC and then beating Penn in overtime Saturday. Princeton can score this year, averaging 38 shots and more than 12 goals per game. Mike Chanenchuk has 19 points after sitting out last spring and freshman midfielder Jeff Froccaro has found the net 10 times and won 53 percent of his faceoffs. The Orange and Black face Yale on March 27.
Grant Catalino had four goals and three assists as Maryland beat UMBC 13-7 on Saturday. He now has 29 points after six games and must be included in all Tewaaraton discussions. The Terps are shooting 34 percent as a team, their extra-man offense is 12-for-20 (60 percent), and most importantly, they are +7 ground balls per game. The Terps travel to Chapel Hill this weekend in a huge game against North Carolina.
The Pride have beaten Brown, Hopkins and Sacred Heart and faceoff against St John's and UMass this week. Only an opening loss to Princeton separates Seth Tierney's squad from a perfect record as the season nears the midway point.
The Hoyas won two games this week, tripping up Delaware 13-11 and Providence 14-4. The Hoyas' offense is dangerous and can keep them in every game. Georgetown has beaten Harvard, St John's, Delaware and Providence -- so they still have work to do in order to secure an at-large NCAA bid.
The Dragons own wins over Vermont, St Joe's, Binghamton, St John's, Notre Dame and most recently Albany. Drexel is holding teams to 6.9 goals per game. The Dragons square off against Villanova and Lafayette this week.
Brown won a critical game Saturday 13-11 over Harvard. Coach Lars Tiffany's squad jumped up 6-1 and held off a late Crimson rally. The Bears average 14 goals per game and rely heavily on lefty Andrew Feinberg and midfielder Reade Seligmann. Areas of concern include faceoffs (43 percent) and goaltending, where they are saving just 48 percent so far in 2010.
The Leopards' amazing climb continues. From a team perspective, they are the biggest story of 2010. The senior class was 11-28 over their first three years. The program has never made the NCAA tournament, and now they are leading the Patriot League, unbeaten, and scoring goals at a ridiculous pace -- more than 14 goals per game.
The Blue Devils ran Penn State into the ground 20-11. Duke has three losses to UNC, Maryland and Notre Dame and must continue to win games out-of-conference. The ACC is now 24-1 out-of-conference.
Big Red sports are on a roll -- men's basketball made its first-ever Sweet 16, women's ice hockey made a run to the NCAA finals, the wrestling team finished second last weekend in the NCAA tournament -- alot of credit goes to athletics director Andy Noel for building these programs the right way.
13. Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays fell at home 10-7 to Syracuse, and now travel to Charlottesville to challenge the No. 1 Wahoos. Hopkins' offense has been MIA the last two weeks, managing a total of 13 goals in two losses. The Jays are looking to find playmakers not named Stephen Boyle and Michael Kimmel.
Crimson lost to Brown 13-11 on Saturday. Harvard is surrendering double digits on defense but getting offensive production from Dean Gibbons, Jeff Cohen, Terry White and Kevin Vaughan. The schedule remains challenging with games against Duke, Princeton, Cornell and Penn, which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it.
15. Notre Dame
The Irish won twice this week -- taking out their old league rivals Denver and Ohio State in overtime. Zach Brenneman, Neal Hicks, Grant Krebs and David Earl are doing the heavy lifting on offense, but a run to the NCAA tournament through the Big East is dependent on defenders Mike Creighton and Kevin Ridgeway.
16. Stony Brook
Denver beat Stony Brook this week coming back from an early 6-1 deficit and a 12-8 late Seawolves lead. It was the type of game that could be a springboard for the Pioneers and potentially derail Stony Brook. The Seawolves have wins over Siena, Delaware and Towson and losses to Denver and UVa.
The Greyhounds held serve over Air Force 18-3. Collin Finnerty (20 pts), Matt Langan (19 pts) and Eric Lusby (13 pts) look good as Cooper MacDonnell recovers from an injury. John Schiavone has won 58 percent of his faceoffs and Loyola's defense is only giving up 28 shots per game.
The Bison are the hard luck team of 2010 with one goal losses to Duke, Lafayette and Navy. Somewhere along the line you have to win your one-goal games if you hope to play in the postseason. This team is better than their record. That's a statement of little consequence when NCAA bids are handed out.
Coach Mike Pressler has done wonderful work up in Rhode Island building this program. They've won three straight games. Even great work can't get them to the NCAA tournament this year, the school is in the final year of reclassification from DII to DI and won't be tournament eligible until 2011.
General Douglas MacArthur said, "There is no substitute for victory." He didn't address quality losses. Quakers have dropped games against Duke, Lafayette, Maryland and Princeton. Don't be shocked to see Penn upset a heavy hitter in the Ivy League this spring.
Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN family of networks and welcomes your opinions at email@example.com.