OK, today I’ll talk about the D1 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament as well as about games for the D2 and D3 tournaments. Every game this weekend at the Division I level have promise, but I think the Georgetown vs Virginia and Army vs Penn State matchups could be crazy. Duke has shown they are susceptible to getting upset, they did lose to Jacksonville early this season after all. Notre Dame and Hopkins rarely faceoff against each other, so no matter what the outcome of that game it will be fun to watch. I don’t hate Hopkins chances at screwing up Notre Dame’s fun. We’ll also talk about all of the D2 and D3 tournament games as well.
(7) Georgetown vs (2) Virginia
At this stage every one left is pretty comparable in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency as ranked by LacrosseReference.com (pro edition).
Virginia comes in with the highest rated offense in the nation with an offensive efficiency of 41.4%. Georgetown is 10th scoring on 34.6% of their possessions.
Xander Dickson has paced the UVA offense with 77 points off 58 goals and 19 assists. Their other monster goal scoring threat, Payton Cormier, is sitting at 60 points off 49 goals and 11 assists. Connor Shellenberger has done the bulk of the quarterbacking for Virginia with 47 assists on the season (to go with 21 goals and 68 total points).
Midfielder’s Thomas McConvey (27g, 21a) and Griffin Schutz (21g, 16a) have also factored heavily and have been good at both scoring and generating offense for others. Jeff Conner’s 18 assists don’t hurt either when you have guys like Dickson and Cormier that are adept at getting open with their hands free.
Tucker Dordevic has been the Hoya’s big dog putting up 76 points off 63 goals and 13 helpers. The kid is a goal scoring machine and after some shooting issues early in the season, he has his shooting percentage up to 35% and has looked incredible for Georegetown putting up at least 5 points in each of their last eight contests. That stretch included two 6-goal games and a 10-goal outing against Providence in the first round of the Big East tournament. He had 6 goals last week against Yale in the NCAA first round.
Brian Minicus (31g, 23a), Jacob Kelly (20g, 27a), Nicky Solomon (33g, 9a) and Graham Bundy Jr. (30g, 10a) are all verifiable killers as well, and when this group is playing well, they are as good as anyone.
Defensively we’d all have assumed Georgetown may have the edge, but not so. Virginia is coming in ranked 20th in defensive efficiency giving up points on 26.5% of their defensive possessions. Georgetown actually finished below the Cav’s getting scored on 26.7% of the time. Very close, but slight edge to Virginia here.
The Cav’s have a bit more defensive depth than Georgetown across the board. Yes, the Hoyas boast a guy like Will Bowen, but I like the trio of Cade Saustad, Cole Kastner and Quentin Matsui better at close defense.
It’s about dead even in cage, both Matthew Nunes of Virginia and Danny Hincks of Georgetown are sitting at 53% in terms of stopping shots. Hincks has more years of college lacrosse under his belt, but Nunes has played two full seasons in the ACC and has legit NCAA tournament experience. So I think the goalie battle could go either way.
The battle at the faceoff dot should be a good one. James Reilly holds a slight edge over Petey LaSalla in terms of win percentage (59% to 57%). Reilly wins a larger number of draws to himself as well. But Petey can expect more support from his wings as UVA has the advantage in terms of their faceoff unit as a whole. This should be another really even matchup on paper, but LaSalla comes in with all of the experience and is a two-time National Champion. I’m team Petey all the way.
All in all, should be an incredible game. I expect it to be close, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if either team rolled as both have had games where they’ve gotten hot and have been unstoppable offensively. I’m hoping they both get like that at the same time and we see a game in the high teens.
Prediction: Virginia by 1-3 goals
Michigan vs (1) Duke
While Duke got hosed in drawing Delaware in the first round as the 1-seed, this game feels a bit more appropriate to me. Not that Michigan can’t do some damage in this one. They can. But if I was Duke and I had to pick the team to play out of who’s left, I think they’d have gone with either Michigan or Army. So all is back to good in the universe in terms of bracket integrity in my opinion.
Offensively Duke has the edge ranked 3rd in offensive efficiency scoring on 37.2% of their possessions. Michigan isn’t too bad themselves as their 35.1% score is good for 7th in the land.
The big three for Michigan have been Michael Boehm (45g, 26a, 71p), Josh Zawada (34g, 28a, 62p) and Ryan Cohen (27g, 29a, 56p). Zawada has been Michigan’s leading scorer since 2021, so having Boehm perform so well has been a huge lift for this offense. It’s taken pressure off Zawada as a primary dodger and has allowed them to build some chemistry as multiple guys can now sting defenses off the dodge.
Brennan O’Neill will be the best player on the field on Saturday and his 84 points lead both teams (45 goals and 39 assists off 35% shooting). O’Neill can lean on Dyson Williams as he’s always open in and around the crease area, high crease, low crease, just off the back side of the crease, he doesn’t really care. He’ll finish wherever you hit him. Andrew McAdorey is another legit threat, 33 goals and 23 assists, he’s fast as hell and has a high IQ. Both McAdorey and O’Neill love to press the defense before they get a chance to set up as successful clears and I expect they will do a ton of that against Michigan on Saturday.
Duke holds a much greater advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Dukes defense is ranked 12th in the nation in efficiency getting stops on 75.5% of their possessions whereas Michigan is ranked 49th and only stopping their opponents 69.2% of the time. This number stings a bit more when you consider Duke has played a tougher schedule overall. Not by a ton, but by enough to matter.
In cage, Hunter Taylor, Michigan’s new starter has a slight edge on Will Helm in save percentage (54% to 52%), however, Helm has faced 314 shots compared to Taylor’s 152. I’ll give the edge in cage to Helm although it should be noted Taylor has been hot. He stopped 62% of his shots against Penn State in the Big Ten Semi’s. He stopped 74% of the shots he faced against Maryland in the Big Ten Finals, and looked good against Cornell in the first round last weekend stopping 53% against Cornell in his first tournament game.
This game provides us with another crazy matchup at the faceoff dot. Michigan comes in with the duo of Justin Wietfieldt (65%) and Nick Rowlett (57%) who have been beasts as of late. Wietfieldt has the highest win percentage of any other fogo in the tournament and the fact they can send either of these guys out there against Naso is a huge advantage.
With that said, Naso is very much up to the challenge. His 64% is the second highest out of all of the guys that are still playing this weekend. My only concern is that Rowlett and Wietfeldt will be forced to take far fewer reps, and if they both have solid days, that will make for a very tired Jake Naso by the games end.
While I don’t want to count Michigan out, especially with as well as they’ve played over the last few weeks, I think Duke is just too good. I think they played down to Delaware a bit last week and Michigan is not too much better than the Blue Hens. I think Duke is going to come out playing crazy on the defensive side, and I’m not sure Michigan is going to do as good of a job defensively on O’Neill as Delaware did. Delaware is a very good defensive team (ranked 14th in defensive efficiency) so it wasn’t surprising that O’Neill struggled a bit.
I don’t think O’Neill is going to struggle at all against Michigan.
Prediction: Duke by 4 to 6 goals
Army vs (5) Penn State
This should be a very good game. Both teams match up well offensively and defensively, both teams have a goalie with the capability of getting hot, and both teams have a lot to prove.
Offensively, almost dead even, Penn State is 22nd (32.7%) and Army is 23rd (31.4%). Both teams can get it done both at attack and from the midfield. Both teams have guys that can light it up from outside, and shoot on the run.
TJ Malone (29g, 31a, 60p) leads Penn State while Reese Burek (34g, 26a, 60p) leads Army. Each teams second leading scorer, Jack Traynor for the Nittany Lions (31g, 16a) and Evan Plunkett for the Black Knights (21g, 25a) are perfect complements to their higher scoring counterparts.
Defensively, things are just as close. Penn State is 3rd (31.7%) and Army is 7th (31.4%). Both teams play physical defense, they handle dodgers well and they protect the inside of the field.
I give a slight edge to the Penn State defense because Jack Fracyon has had an incredible season. He’s stopped 57% of his shots compared to Knox Dent’s 54% for Army. I think most would agree you’d take Fracyon over Dent, but that doesn’t mean shit when it comes down to game day. Dent has been at 52% or better in each of his last 7 games. Well, Fracyon has been as well, so maybe that’s not as much of a point for Dent as I thought. Moral of the story, both teams have great keepers and the winning team will more than likely own the keeper that had the better day.
Where Army has a chance to really gain an advantage is at the faceoff dot as Will Coletti has that dog in him and has 54% or more of his draws in 8 of his last 9 outings, with the only game below 54% being last weekend against Maryland and Luke Wierman (a game Army obviously won). Penn State has not been very good facing off this year so they will have to rely on Fracyon making some bonkers saves to make up for a potential possession disparity for Army.
In the end, I think that Coletti may in fact be the X factor in this game and provide Army with the boost they need to make it to the final four. Penn State hasn’t faced a whole lot of teams with killers facing off, and Coletti is probably the best guy they’ve faced since Wierman.
Prediction: Army by 1 or 2 goals
(6) Johns Hopkins vs (3) Notre Dame
Which brings me to the game that in terms of “seeding” is supposed to provide us with one of the closest games of the weekend, but due to how these two match up, I’m not sure that’s what we’ll see.
Notre Dame is 2nd in the nation in offensive efficiency (40.1%) and 1st in the nation in defensive efficiency (19.8%, the only team under 20%). To be clear, Hopkins isn’t all that far behind. They are 11th offensively (34.4%) and 9th defensively (25.2%).
The Notre Dame offense will more than likely not be stopped. I believe that Hopkins is going to be forced to outscore the Brothers Kavanagh and company.
I like Liam Entenmann in cage more than I like Tim Marcille. It’s not really even that close as Entmnmann boasts a 57% save percentage to Marcille’s 51%.
Neither team has impressed me at the faceoff dot, so we won’t even go into that.
In the end, I think that Notre Dame’s defensive depth ends up being the biggest factor in this one. Guys like Brian Tevlin and Quinn McCahon that will both play a bunch of defense and a bit of offense will be huge in getting a few solid matchups on the offensive side of the field that could/should result in Notre Dame goals.
I like the defensive depth that Chris Fake, Ross Burgmaster and Chris Conlon provide Notre Dame and I think they will more than likely do a solid job at limiting Angelus and Melendez on attack.
I think Hopkins is most certainly back, and it’s tournament time, so all bets are off, but if I had to bet my life on who would win this game, I’m not feeling terrible about picking Notre Dame.
Prediction: Notre Dame by 3 to 5 goals
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