2019 Men’s Lacrosse: D1 Tournament First Round Preview
Selection Sunday has come and gone and 17 teams have been selected to play in the NCAA Tournament. Here I will go through every game on a week-to-week basis, overviewing what you need to know about the games and predicting a final score line for each game. Maryland, Hopkins and Syracuse were the last three in, while Cornell, High Pont and Denver were the first three to be left out. Many teams have easier paths than others, and eight have the advantage of staying at home and playing this weekend. Here are my previews for the eight games on the slate for this weekend.
The full bracket can be found here.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Saturday May 11th
#8 Loyola vs Syracuse – Baltimore, MD
This may be the closest matchup we see in the first round, as we get a matchup of two teams ranked in the top-10 in the polls. After both teams underperformed in their conference tournaments, they have been given a shot to continue their season. This is the toughest quadrant of the bracket, as the winner of this will likely play Penn State. On April 20, Loyola beat Army 13-9. Pat Spencer had 7 points. On Sunday, Spencer was held to a single assist and Army beat Loyola 7-5. Syracuse has to key in on Spencer and find a way to shut him down. For Loyola, they need the supporting cast to step up at home in the biggest game of the year. After many questioned Syracuse after their season-opening loss, they have a chance to make a statement in this second round game. Can the veteran led Cuse attack and young Cuse midfield shoot well against a hot goalie in Jacob Stover. Stover is saving the ball at 60% this season. Syracuse needs to keep this a slow, low scoring game in which they can rely on late possessions to take control. If Syracuse keepk Spencer off the scoreboard, they should move on from Baltimore.
Prediction: Syracuse 13, Loyola 9.
#5 Yale vs Georgetown – New Haven, CT
Yale has been one of the more dominant teams in college lacrosse all season, and two of their three losses have come to Penn. They boast the best faceoff man in Division 1 in Td Ierlan, which allows their offense to rise to #3 in the nation at 15.2 goals per game. Georgetown, however is sitting at #6 as they score 14 goals per game. This one is going to be a shootout up in New Haven. Of note, the Brandau brothers will take on each other as Matt (Yale) and Chris (Georgetown) will be on opposing sidelines. The veteran led Georgetown offense does not have enough firepower to keep up with the defending champions. Yale will take this one and see the back of the net plenty on Saturday.
Prediction: Yale 17, Georgetown 11
#4 Penn vs Army – Philadelphia, PA
This is one of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend, and although Penn is the 4 seed, Army shows a lot of upset potential, especially after running through the Patriot League, winning three games in six days. Their only losses this season are to Syracuse, Lehigh, Boston U and Loyola…four teams who were vying for a tournament spot last weekend. Army has the ability to slow down other offenses, keeping them to under 10 goals per game and in some cases under 8. Penn likes to get themselves into close games, and they haven’t lost one since they began the season 0-3, with losses to Maryland, Duke and Penn State. Penn has a deep offense, with nine guys significantly contributing. Based on the way these teams play, Army has the advantage when they get into a close game. With a shutdown defense and an offense that has the ability to score every time they touch the ball, the real question is who will be better: Army’s D or Penn’s O.
Prediction: Army 12, Penn 10.
#3 Virginia vs Robert Morris – Charlottesville, VA
As of now, the Hoos are my champion and I don’t see how they could be upset at home against Robert Morris. Under the lights at Klockner Stadium should be a pleasant environment for the home team, as Virginia fans will watch the best Virginia team in about five years take the field. Virginia knows how to get it done, and it is due to their midfielders, of whom many can play two ways, led by Ryan Conrad. Against Notre Dame last week, the Hoos pushed transition off a save which led to a few goals. With Alex Rode in between the pipes, and seeing the ball well again, they shouldn’t have a problem this weekend. After starting the season 1-7, Robert Morris has won 8 straight to get them into the tournament for the second straight year. They gave Maryland a test last season but their hole lies in their goalie who is saving the ball at 49%. Virginia will test them early and often and ride into the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Virginia 15, Robert Morris 7.
Sunday, March 12th
#1 Penn State vs UMBC – State College, PA
UMBC gets to head up to State College to take on the nation’s best team in Penn State. Coming off a Cinderella story of a season that saw the Retrievers look like they did last year in March Madness, can they do it again? UMBC was 3-8 going into the last weekend. They clawed their way into the America East tournament, only to beat the top two seeds on their way to an NCAA tournament berth. After handling Marist Wednesday, the Retrievers head to Penn State. On the other side, Penn State is the best team in the country. They have been the best team in the country all season long and for one to pick UMBC something crazy will have to happen. Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe are among two of the nation’s biggest offensive threats, and they have showed it all season. Ament recently broke the single season assists record (78), which is still counting. They won a thriller over Hopkins in the Big Ten final in a shootout. Penn State can put up goals in bunches and I don’t see them having a problem doing that on Sunday. Ament and O’Keefe are extremely versatile, which will be problematic for the Retrievers.
Prediction: Penn State 21, UMBC 8.
#6 Towson vs Maryland – Towson, MD
This is a huge game for both teams. These teams are not on the best terms, as they recently have dropped each other from their respective schedules. But in a year that Maryland was ranked highly all year and Towson struggled at times, the game will be played at Unitas Stadium in Towson. This game should draw a massive crowd. Maryland found their maker in Hopkins last week, but can another in-state team do the same thing to Maryland. Maryland was efficient in their shooting, but couldn’t generate enough shots against Hopkins. Their seven goals on May 2nd was the only instance they scored under 10 this season. Towson has had a solid defense and goalie all season, but can they compete with Wisnauskas and Bernhardt. How will Maryland face against this defense. They will have had 10 days to prepare, so I assume John Tillman has something up his sleeve. This is a big game, and one of the four teams from Maryland will be going home Sunday afternoon. I think this is the year that Maryland runs out of fuel.
Prediction: Towson 16, Marland 14.
#2 Duke vs Richmond – Durham, NC
Duke has had its time to rest and prepare for this contest with Richmond, as they have had over two weeks off. Duke was somehow catapulted to the 2 seed in this month’s tournament, probably because their losses come to High Point, Syracuse, North Carolina and Notre Dame. Since their win over Virginia, the Blue Devils have struggled, beating Marquette by 1 and losing to Notre Dame. Richmond on the other hand has had a taste of upset and want more. First over Notre Dame in February and again over High Point in the SoCon Championship. In their game against Duke earlier this year, they were limited to 15 shots on goal, but converted on 7 of them and only lost by four. Both teams have developed since then, but I think the same things will stand out. Duke has a great D, and will limit Richmond’s chances. Richmond will weather a storm of Duke chances and keep this game close, but in the end Duke has too much power all over the field.
Prediction: Duke 14, Richmond 10.
#7 Notre Dame vs Hopkins – South Bend, IN
Which team will show up for Notre Dame? The team who beat Duke 12-10 in the ACC semifinal or the team who lost to Virginia 10-4 in the ACC final. Which team will show up for Hopkins? The team who lost two straight to Ohio State and Penn State (20-9) or the team who beat Maryland twice in a row and lost to Penn State in OT? This game is unpredictable because the teams are unpredictable. The winner will get Duke, a team Notre Dame has seen before. Hopkins and Joey Epstein basically scored at will on Saturday night against Penn State in the Big Ten final. The freshmen can dodge from X, shoot from each wing and dodge from up top. They have a solid supporting cast and shoot A LOT. Notre Dame is simply inconsistent. They haven’t won more than two games in a row all season. When they are down, they are down and have lost to Richmond and Ohio State. When they are up, they beat teams like Syracuse, Maryland and Duke. Notre Dame is trending to have an “up” game, but I think Hopkins has found themselves at the perfect time.
Prediction: Hopkins 15, Notre Dame 13.
Keep up to date this weekend as there is lacrosse action starting at noon on Saturday. All of these games will be aired on ESPNU and even better, two in the Baltimore area: Loyola on Saturday and Towson on Mother’s Day. The biggest month in college lacrosse takes off now, as each team is playing towards that coveted Memorial Day game and the chance to hoist the National Championship trophy.
Sam Kuhn currently is the graduate assistant for the men's lacrosse program at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio and is working to complete his Masters of Business Administration in 2020. Sam graduated from the College of Wooster in 2018, where he received his Bachelors Degree in English and played lacrosse as well. In his four years, Sam was a two time All-NCAC selection, a first team All-Region selection in 2018, and surpassed 100 goals for his career, one of seven members in program history to do so. Sam has interned with Inside Lacrosse, and wrote for the sports section of The Wooster Voice.