Duke and Notre Dame were left out of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament a season ago and now that they’ve locked up the #1 and #2 seeds respectively, they will be seeking revenge for last years snub. I’m going to rip through and discuss this upcoming weekend’s NCAA tournament games in order of how worthy I think they’ll be of watching if you want a solid shot at seeing a decent lacrosse game. Princeton vs Penn State promises to be a really incredible game and I think that Yale vs Georgetown won’t be too far behind it. But can Army upset Maryland and maybe Michigan pull an upset over Cornell?

Must See TV

Princeton vs (5) Penn State

Princeton came into this season ranked far higher than their play warranted…until now.  After losing to Syracuse and dropping to 4-5 on the season, Princeton won 4 of their last 5 games including wins over Penn and Yale in the Ivy League Tournament.

Penn State played the role of the Ivy Killers this season over a stretch that saw them string together three consecutive wins over Yale, Penn and Cornell.  They followed that up with an odd loss to Marquette, a loss to Maryland before finishing out the season with 4 conference wins.  The kick in the pants was the loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Semifinals.

Two of the best goalies in the country will be featured in this game. Princeton’s Michael Gianforcaro has been incredible stopping 59% of the shots he’s face since becoming the starter.  Jack Fracyon isn’t far behind with a 57% save percentage.

  • Gianforcaro has been at 50% or better in his last 5 games and has been above 65% in 4 of those 5 games.
  • Fracyon has been at 50% or above in his last 6 outings with 3 of those games seeing him above 60%.

Princeton has the edge offensively ranked #12 (35.8%) in offensive efficiency whereas Penn State is sitting at #26 (31.2%).

Both teams are near the top in the nation in defensive efficiency.  Penn State is #3 (21.9%) and Princeton comes in at #7 (24.5%).

The edge that either team has pretty much evens everything out.  Both are mediocre at the faceoff dot so no edge there either.

Prediction:  Princeton by 1 or 2 goals

Army vs (4) Maryland

While I think that this game has the potential to be very close, and could maybe even provide us with a first round upset, it could also go Maryland’s way by a margin. It depends on a few factors.

While Maryland is a very good defensive team, they are missing Ajax Zapitello on top of the fact Army has performed better than Maryland all season. Army has the 5th ranked defense in the nation stopping opponents on 75.6% of possessions.  Maryland is ranked 12th getting stops on 74.5% of their defensive possessions.

Army has a teeny tiny edge in offensive efficiency coming it at #31 (30.5%) to Maryland’s #33 (30.4%).  Both teams are capable of putting up enough points to win a game, especially if their defense and goaltenders come to play.

So far, you may think I’m leaning into thinking these teams are pretty even, but the reality is that Maryland has played a much tougher schedule. Maryland’s SOS was #2 in the country compared to Army’s weak schedule that came in at #42.

Army hasn’t played against a top-5 RPI team, is 0-1 against teams ranked between 6 and 10 in RPI and 1-1 against teams ranked between 11 and 20 in RPI. 

Maryland on the other hand is 2-2 against top-5 RPI teams, 1-0 against teams ranked 6 through 10 and 3-2 against teams ranked 11 through 20.

At the faceoff dot, an area Maryland normally dominates, Will Coletti of Army has a chance to prove himself against Luke Wierman.  Coletti actually has a better win percentage (62%) than Wierman (61%).  Coletti has also put up 10 points (6g, 4a) to Wierman’s 3 points (1g, 2a). Again, important to note that Wierman has faced slightly better competition, but I think Coletti is likely feeling pretty good heading into this game.

Edge goes to Army in cage as well where Knox Dent has stopped 54% of the shots he’s faced whereas Brian Ruppel is sitting at 50%. Dent has been at 52% or above in his last 6 contests (at or above 59% in 3 of those 6). Ruppel has actually struggled lately.  He’s been below 50% in 4 of his last 6 games and only stopped 36% of the shots he faced in the Big Ten Finals loss to Michigan.

Prediction:  Maryland by 2 to 4 goals

Michigan vs (8) Cornell

Everyone is riding the Michigan hype train hard, but I see on issue with this game.  The Michigan defense isn’t very good, their opponents score on 30.7% of their possessions.  Cornell’s CJ Kirst is a goal scoring machine, and it will require near automatic double-teams to have any chance at containing Kirst.

On the flipside, Cornell’s defense is actually pretty good coming it ranked #9 in defensive efficiency only giving up scores on 24.8% of their looks.

A key for Michigan will be at the faceoff dot where the two-headed monster of Justin Wietfeldt (66%) and Nick Rowlett (57%) have been incredible. Cornell has serviceable help in Cascadden and Petrakis, but Rowlett and Wietfeldt are hot and riding pretty high as they’ve been pretty much wrecking people all season, more specifically Wietfeldt.

Michigan has been as good as anyone this season offensively.  They are #8 (34.7%) in the country in offensive efficiency to Cornell’s #9 (34.3%). I like the swagger Michigan will be hitting the field with in this one. They have shared the ball well over their last few games and they’ll need to do more of that to beat Cornell.  But I still like Cornell better because CJ Kirst has that dog in him.

The edge in cage goes to Cornell and the veteran Chayse Ierlan.  He’s stopping 53% of everything that teams have been throwing at him, although his last 3 outings are nothing to write home about, 47% against Brown, 48% against Princeton and 24% against Yale.  Still, he’s better than Hunter Taylor who has seen limited action this season and only locked up a potential starting gig after last weeks win over Maryland.

Prediction:  Cornell by 2 or 3 goals

Yale vs (7) Georgetown

How this game plays out hinges on one thing.  Which Georgetown offense is going to show up?  So long as it’s the offense that has been rolling as part of the Hoyas 12-game win streak, the Hoyas should probably be OK.

Yale is ranked #7 (35%) in offensive efficiency to Georgetown’s  #10 (33.8%).  However, the Hoya’s offense is loaded with veterans that are out for revenge whereas Yale is still relying on a lot more underclassmen with a bit less of a chip on their shoulders.

Tucker Dordevic (57g, 13a) and Chris Lyons (58g, 12a) both have 70 points coming into this game.  Yale get’s a bit more production from their top three guys, but Georgetown is loaded with graduate transfers on offense and they score more points deeper into their roster.

Georgetown has a huge edge on the defensive side.  The Hoyas are ranked 18th in defensive efficiency to Yale’s 44th. That’s partly because Danny Hincks (55%) has been better than Jared Paquette (52%). Hincks struggled early in the season and was benched at one point after they started 0-3, but he’s been back for a few games now and looking almost as good as I expected him to.

James Reilly provides Georgetown the edge at the faceoff dot, but he’s been on and off this season and Nicholas Ramsey hasn’t been too bad for Yale against some solid competition.

Prediction:  Georgetown by 2 or 3 goals

Games That May Not Stay As Tight

Bryant vs (6) Johns Hopkins

I don’t want to insult Johns Hopkins by listing this game as must-see TV.  I do in fact think that Hopkins has the potential to roll Bryant. I’m talking about this one first in my list of games that may not stay as tight because Bryant can win faceoffs and they rank in respectable areas in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency.

But the reality, Hopkins is more battle tested, they boast the 14th best offense in the land as well as the 11th ranked defense. Their worst loss is to Loyola vs Bryant’s worst loss was to Merrimack (gross).

So while a lot of people have this one listed as one with a bit of upset potential, I’m thinking the Jay’s are in fact back and they roll.  Could Bryant impress?  Sure. Will they?  Probably not.

Prediction: Hopkins by 5 to 8 goals

Richmond vs (2) Virginia

Again, Richmond has a history of hanging with Virginia. But let us not forget that Virginia already thrashed Richmond 25-8 in early March.  I’m not thinking Richmond has improved that much that they have any real shot against UVA this weekend.

Prediction: Virginia by 8+ goals

Utah vs (3) Notre Dame

Lots of people are getting all sorts of hyped that Utah’s high flying offense is heading to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Remember, Notre Dame played the 6th toughest schedule in the country compared to Utah’s schedule that hits this game ranked 29th. While Utah’s offense is almost as highly ranked as Notre Dame’s, the two are NOT the same.

Notre Dame is 6-2 against top 20 RPI teams.  Utah is 0-3.

Prediction:  Notre Dame by 8+

Delaware/Marist vs (1) Duke

Do we even need to talk about this one?
Prediction:  Duke by 8+

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