ACC, Syracuse among title contenders
Editor's note: Each week, each week 2005 Tewaaraton winner, 4-time Major League Lacrosse All-Star, and current LXM pro player Kyle Harrison and former Virginia All-American, Major League Lacrosse All-Star and current LXM pro player Brett Hughes will use this space to debate college lacrosse's biggest storylines.
Which team has the toughest road to the championship? The easiest road?
Hughes: Virginia has to have the easiest road. I guess that's the idea behind the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers will face teams that don't match up well with them or are new to the idea of being a contender. And the teams on the bottom half of the bracket will be scrapping. There is a lot of pride in the bottom half of that bracket, with three all-time great lacrosse programs (Syracuse, Princeton, Maryland) and a team in Delaware that can absolutely surprise you. It's funny that three of the four ACC schools are on one side. I was hoping for a chance at an all-ACC final four.
The toughest road has to be Duke or Princeton. Duke has to beat a bad (by Johns Hopkins' standards) JHU team that always brings it in the tournament. And then the Blue Devils would have to play a team they are all too familiar with in UNC, then Virginia, which they have already seen twice this year. The Blue Devils are going to have a tiresome run to get to the final, and will have to make one of the better runs any team has made in a while. Princeton, on the other hand, is a good team, but as the sixth seed, the Tigers will have to work really hard just to get to the final four. My guess is they will see Syracuse, who made them look a bit slow and young earlier in the season. Princeton has a ton of tradition and a smart style of play, but the Tigers will have a bunch of serious athletes standing in the way of a trip to the finals.
Harrison: You have to go with UVa for the cleanest road to the championship. But, as you said, the Wahoos took care of business in the regular season, so they deserve the No. 1 seed they received. I've got to go with UNC having the toughest road. The Tar Heels have to play a hungry Delaware team, then jump in the ring with the winner of Hopkins-Duke just to get to the final four. For a team that had a solid regular season and proved it has the weapons to compete with anyone, it looks like the Tar Heels have a rough road to the championship game.
What was the biggest surprise? Biggest snub?
Harrison: Hofstra didn't even make its own conference tournament. I feel that should be an absolute must to get into the NCAA tournament. The Pride played a tough schedule, but they have not performed the way they should. On the flip side, I'd say Drexel got snubbed. The Dragons made their conference tournament, which Hofstra could not, and they beat "Strah" as well as Notre Dame. It just seems like this may be a cry for an expansion.
Hughes: Clearly, a lot of people are complaining about Hofstra and Hopkins getting in, and I think strong arguments can be made why neither team should be in the tournament. I'm clearly a fan of both squads, so I'm happy to see them in the tournament. I've got to agree with Hughey on the snub of Drexel, though I didn't like the abbreviation of Hofstra as "Strah."
Which teams will be playing in Baltimore? Who will win the championship?
Hughes: I am sticking by Virginia. The Hoos have the schedule, the seniors and talent. Obviously, there is a lot going on in Charlottesville right now, but I just know this team will be ready to play. I think Maryland is going to make a run -- the Terps are playing great, they have a fantastic defense, which I believe gets you to the finals, though the offense needs to step up when you get to that last game -- and we may see an ACC rematch for the national title. I'm not counting Syracuse out, I just think those teams have been playing at a high level and Maryland matches up pretty well against the Orange. However, Syracuse's John Galloway holds the key to another Orange run.
Harrison: Tough question! I'm going with Virginia, Hopkins, Syracuse and Princeton! Yup, I said Hop -- my pride won't let me leave the Jays out, sorry. But, at the end of the day, I see the UVa boys walking away with the title this year. With a big-time goalie, solid defense and entirely too many weapons on offense, I don't see anyone stopping the Cavs.