Commentary

Ivy up for grabs; Virginia unbeatable?

Updated: April 1, 2010, 10:46 AM ET
By Kyle Harrison and Brett Hughes | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Each week, 2005 Tewaaraton winner from Johns Hopkins 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.

Virginia S.Bratton
Courtesy of Virginia Athletics CommunicationsShamel Bratton and Virginia have made it through the first half of the season unscathed.

Can anyone beat Virginia?
Harrison: Well, as much as it pains me to say this, the Cavs are looking great thus far. They've got a ridiculous number of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and shut-down defensemen on the defensive side of the ball. I watched them beat up Johns Hopkins last weekend, and they appear to get better every week. Things could get scary come playoff time if the Cavs continue to improve.

Hughes: Virginia looks great, and they are just getting healthy. Goalie Adam Ghitelman is starting to play a little more consistently and the offense is great. It's different than a normal UVa offense because of the crazy amount of firepower coming through the midfield. The young attackmen -- Steele Stanwick, Chris Bocklet, Connor English and Matt White -- are getting time to grow and jell while the guys up top do the work right now. Can they be beat? Yes. We had this same discussion last year, and they got beat a few times. However, the improved play of Ken Clausen, who has settled down, is the change. I'm looking forward to the ACC road for UVa. Four out of the top 5 teams in the country are in the ACC. It will be a great four weeks. But there are a few teams I could see knocking off the Cavs if they have a bad day on defense.

What position is the most important on the field?
Harrison: Tough question, and I'm pretty sure we've had this argument a bunch of times over the past four years or so. I'd have to go with a solid faceoff man. If you've got a guy who can get you the ball something ridiculous like 75 percent of the time (like Delaware's Alex Smith), it can take a very average team and put them right in the Final Four. A great offensive player needs the ball to be successful, a great goalie needs to be shot on, a great D guy needs to be dodged against, so I'm going with a dominant faceoff man.

Hughes: I would agree that faceoff is as important as any. However, a great goalie (or a bad goalie) I think can be the most impactful player for your team. A goalie not only stops the ball but also commands the defense, and really everything runs through that guy. So I may lean toward goalie, but I couldn't say you are wrong.

What are you hoping to see in April?
Harrison: I'm hoping to see UNC continue to play well. I think it's great for our sport that the Heels are playing so well and heading in the right direction. I'd like to see them make a run at the ACC championship and make some noise in the tournament. I'm always interested in seeing how some of these big-time freshmen play come crunch time toward the end of the season. Will the Hopkins freshmen step up and push this team deep in the playoffs? Will Chris LaPierre, White and English continue to play at a high level down at UVa? Should be interesting.

Hughes: I want to see what Lafayette does here in the next month. We will find out what the Leopards are made of when they're faced with some adversity. Let's see if Syracuse continues to improve and Notre Dame gets geared up for a tournament that it could make some noise in. The development of LaPierre and Hopkins' John Greeley will be fun. I noticed that Greeley is starting to dodge more because Steven Boyle and Michael Kimmel get all the attention. This freshman could be the next K18, Paul Rabil, A.J. Haugen or Adam Donager to come through Baltimore, and I think he is realizing he needs to force the issue for the Blue Jays to improve. Right now, LaPierre is my vote for rookie MVP. It will be fun to watch him develop with that stacked midfield.

Which is the best team in the Ivy League?
Hughes: No idea. It's a hard league to understand. Princeton's new style is pretty fun to watch. Honestly, it will come down to the league tournament. Cornell's Rob Pannell is the best player, but he isn't going to do everything for that team. Really hard to make that call.

Harrison: As much as I hate agreeing with you on things, I'm stuck here as well. Cornell is so well coached that it will always be in the mix, and I love how Princeton is playing these days (putting up a lot of points), so I'm assuming the Tigers will be in the hunt as well. If I had to guess one, I'd probably have to go with Princeton right now, but I'm not 100 percent sold on that yet.

[+] EnlargeStefan Bauer
Lafayette College Athletic CommunicationsStefan Bauer and Lafayette are climbing in the rankings.

Is one-loss Lafayette being overlooked?
Harrison: It's difficult to win week in and week out, so hats off to them for a solid first six games of the season. With that being said, Lafayette took their first loss Sunday to Drexel, and looking at the teams they beat for the first six games, I wasn't all that impressed. If "overlooked" means they should have been ranked higher, I don't think so because of the quality of teams they beat.

Hughes: Lafayette is a great team, and it's fun to read about what the Leopards are doing, but I honestly think you need to be 10-0 to really catch the eye of people when you are a team on the rise. I think everyone is so focused on the top 5 right now because they have clearly separated themselves from the pack. So it's more that the intrigue is top-heavy, not so much that anyone is overlooked. I just couldn't put them in with Syracuse or those ACC teams.

Pop quiz
Which men's basketball team will bring home the championship Monday?
Hughes: Are we both on the Butler bandwagon? I love watching Butler play. They remind me of a scrappy team that makes the NCAA tournament in lacrosse, and you just don't want to run into them. The way they win is so impressive because they just keep coming. Maybe it's because "Hoosiers" was partially shot at Butler?

Harrison: I'm embarrassed to say that I've been so busy lately that I've caught only one tournament game. Not a Duke fan or anything, so I'm going to have to say I hope Butler somehow figures it out and runs away with this thing.

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