Tourney's biggest surprises, players
Editor's note: Each week, 2005 Tewaaraton winner, four-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.
1. What were the weekend's biggest surprises?
Harrison: Well, there were two big surprises in my eyes this past weekend. The first was clearly Army over Syracuse. Crazy! I think I speak for the entire lacrosse world when I say that until Army scored the game winner in double overtime, I was still convinced Cuse was going to pull away. The Orange just know how to win in May, and I was so surprised that they didn't come out on top. My second surprise would have to be my Hopkins boys getting smacked by Duke, 18-5! Now, I know the Blue Jays were heavy underdogs and everyone expected them to lose, but I didn't think it would be like that.
Hughes: Hopkins getting smacked was pretty bad, but honestly watching that game, I just saw two teams in totally different tiers. Hopkins was not athletic enough to stay with that offense. The Army win was shocking. Those boys just outworked Cuse and looked like a better team. That just does not happen to Syracuse in May. I would love to hear more about the Cadets' game plan going into that game and what the mood was like. I see it as one of the bigger upsets in the NCAA tournament's history.
2. Which teams should be on upset alert in the quarterfinals?
Hughes: All of them. Virginia has to play at Stony Brook, which has a few offensive players who can flat-out ball. If the Cavaliers come out focused, it will not be a problem, but the second they give that team confidence they could be in trouble.
Harrison: I do think that everyone is going to need to be at their best in order to get a win this weekend, so every team needs to be on upset alert. I'm actually the least concerned about Virginia -- those cats are playing well right now. Duke-North Carolina should be the most exciting game this weekend in my opinion, and I'm going with UNC in a close one.
3. Which players stood out in the first round?
Harrison: Well, a few players came out firing last weekend, but the three that really impressed me were Duke's Max Quinzani and Virginia's Shamel Bratton and Brian Carroll. Say what you want about Quinzani, the kid scores a lot of goals and has been doing it since his freshman year. He gets beat up and continues to put up huge numbers. In the first play of the Mount St. Mary's-Virginia game, Bratton got the ball, put a left-to-left shake on the pole and buried one in the bottom right corner -- making a bold statement to Mount St. Mary's. It was pretty much over from then on. He finished with three goals and two assists, made some plays on the defensive side of the ball and did a great job in transition. Carroll is another guy who has been doing it for a while now, and had three big goals in the first half last weekend.
Hughes: Max Quinzani looked great. He is a little spark plug of a player, and just keeps getting better. I remember thinking he couldn't play off-ball, but he is learning to work with Ned Crotty and become a truly great all-around attackman. Brian Carroll is as solid a player as you'll find at the college level, and he may be the best middie in the country. Army goalie Tom Palesky also gets my vote -- he stood tall in the net against Syracuse in May. A big amount of credit goes to the Army defense for the upset, but Palesky is my player of the week.
4. Should college lacrosse have a shot clock?
Harrison: I go back and forth here. Whenever I see a team stalling or slowing things down in the first half, I definitely get a bit frustrated and wish there was a shot clock to speed things up a bit. But I do like the rules in the college game, as it's the game we've grown up watching and playing. I think a 90-second shot clock may be a good thing as it wouldn't speed up the game too much, and it also wouldn't put too much pressure on teams to play out of their comfort zone.
Hughes: Yes. I don't even go back and forth on it -- even if it's 120 seconds -- although I think 90 is plenty to get a shot off. A 60-second clock would make it hard for all teams to play their own style, but 90 seconds is easy. And if you take an honest shot you can still back it up -- it's crazy to think that teams couldn't get a shot off in a minute and a half or two minutes. If that's the case, I respect strategy, but I don't know if that's a game I'll be watching.
5. With a week off and exams over, how do teams prepare for the next round?
Hughes: They have to get after it a bit harder during the week, and try to stick to as close to the daily routine as possible. I used to get up and go on a light hike or go fly fishing with teammates -- be active instead of sleeping. Spend time in the film room, but don't overanalyze your competition.
Harrison: I absolutely loved when exams and school were over -- you're finally able to focus your energy on preparing for your opponent and taking care of your body. Get extra shots in, extra film study and treatment on injuries and make sure come game time, you've done everything possible to leave that game with a win. Definitely no fly fishing going down in Baltimore; we just relaxed and went to movies once the day was over at the athletic center. Days of preparation got very long, but I absolutely loved it.
Brett Hughes is the co-founder and vice president of Lacrosse the Nations. You can check out the group's work here.