2019 NCAA Lacrosse: As March Arrives
After a few weeks of the NCAA Lacrosse season, a few teams have emerged from the pack as favorites to breakthrough in 2019. A few teams have surprised many and jumped out from nowhere, winning games they were not picked to win, and a few teams have been disappointing, as their talent they returned and brought in have not panned out for them yet in 2019. Luckily for everybody in the NCAA, championships are not won in February.
Through the last week of February, every favorite each analyst, fan, player and coach who thought their team would have a breakthrough 2019, has been slightly disappointed one weekend. Favorites such as Yale, Loyola, Virginia and Duke have been upset by teams like Towson, Villanova and High Point. It is teams like these, and upsets like that, which make many wonder how the next three months will shake out. College lacrosse is becoming increasingly more competitive, and what a time for that to happen. With the addition of the Premier Lacrosse League, and college becoming more competitive, there is not another sport right now that shows the upside and potential that lacrosse does.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Many of these early season reactions makes me wonder:
How much impact does the shot clock have in many of these upsets?
Although it is not just up to me, I think the shot clock has had a major impact on many teams throughout the year so far. Three things I think the shot clock dramatically changes:
(1) Clearing. Having only 20 seconds to get it over the midline instead of 30 has impacted a lot of teams, making them rush to get it over. I would expect to see a lot of 10 man rides out of teams to hang up the clear for over 20 seconds.
(2) Shooting. Teams only have 80 seconds to shoot. That sounds like a lot of time, but after clearing and getting specialized midfielders on the field, that is down to about 50 by the time the possession starts. Teams will take a lot more early shots, and players are picking an okay shot over working for the best shot the team can get. This will be in favor of the goalies.
(3) Saving. Good goalies will stand out, because as offensive players take their average shots, teams rely on their goalies to gobble those shots up.
What is the chance many of the “frontrunner” teams find their stride come late April and May?
Many teams have been up this year, many have been down. There have been plenty of surprises that lacrosse fans did not see coming. I do not see three or four teams getting into the tournament from the ACC and Big Ten. Some of those teams have lost too many early season games, and will face an even tougher schedule in the latter two months of the year.
How many more upsets will the fans see?
Although college lacrosse has changed, it is still college lacrosse. Last spring, UMBC beat Albany in April and Albany lost again in the semi-final by double digits. Crazy things will happen. Many of the smaller colleges are becoming more competitive with the historical powers like Hopkins, UNC, Virginia and others. Right now, Towson, Villanova, High Point, Richmond and Colgate are all ranked ABOVE Notre Dame, Hopkins, UNC and Princeton.
Who are the contenders and pretenders in college lacrosse in 2019?
High Point – The Panthers have skated through February with one loss to St. Johns. Therefore, they cannot be labeled as contenders just yet. The SoCon will give them a couple of tough opponents, but they should be able to run their way through the conference and make it to the tournament.
Towson – Right now the Tigers have to be considered a contender. They are now 4-0 and just took down a Loyola team who looked pretty unstoppable. Young players are stepping up, and older guys who weren’t major impacts last year are emerging as leaders. Towson will jump into a top-3 spot next week.
Ohio State – The Buckeyes are one of five teams who made it out of February unscathed. Their schedule will ramp up now, as they move into Big Ten play, but the Buckeyes have been playing well thus far. I don’t see them keeping this up until late may, so I label them a pretender.
Loyola – The NCAA’s most dominant team through three weeks of February went down Wednesday night. Although they took a set-back to the #7 team, they still have one of the nations best goalies along with Pat Spencer. The Greyhounds will make a deep run in May.
Maryland – The Terps are 5-0 heading into games with Notre Dame, Albany, Villanova, UNC and Penn State in March. The Terps could roll into April at 10-0, and their consistency and dominant defense keeps games close for the Terps. After March, the Terps will continue marching twoards Memorial Day weekend.
Cornell – Cornell is only 2-0, winning a couple of games that were closer than many expected. I think the Big Red are legit, with Jeff Teat back at the helm, he looks hard to stop once again this year. Yale and Princeton will be their toughest IVY games this year, and it will come down to those and two late games against Cuse and Notre Dame for Cornell to prove themselves.
Yale – Yale suffered an early loss but bounced back against a good Penn State team. It is too early to tell what the new and improved Bulldogs will look like a month from now, but I cannot begin write them off on March 1.
Games to watch March 2nd-3rd:
Denver @ North Carolina – 10am
Virginia @ Syracuse – 12pm
Hopkins @ Princeton – 12pm
Robert Morris @ High Point – 12pm
Delaware @ Villanova – 1pm
Albany @ Cornell – 3pm
Maryland @ Notre Dame – 12pm – Sunday