Underdogs Closing In On Baltimore

Tommy Scherr, Alex Smith responsible for Delaware's victory over Virginia

May 16, 2007

By Paul Carcaterra

Special to CSTV.com

 



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PAUL CARCATERRA

An analyst for CSTV, Paul was All-American on Syracuse's '95 title team. He is president of No Limit Lacrosse Camps, and developer for Maverik Lacrosse.

This week CSTV lacrosse analyst Paul Carcaterra offers his thoughts and opinions on the first round of the NCAA tournament and gives his analysis and predictions for the upcoming NCAA quarterfinals.

 

Critical Possessions

The two biggest parts of the game week in and week out are goaltending and face-off play. On Sunday, Delaware excelled in both areas. Delaware may have been overmatched against Virginia from a player personnel standpoint. Virginia is a school that traditionally gets the top recruits in the country. It's never a situation where they're losing out on recruits to a place like Delaware.


 

 

 

People can touch on parity, but more importantly, Delaware won controlled ball possessions in the two most critical parts of the game. Alex Smith won 18 out of 26 face-offs and junior goaltender Tommy Scherr made a season-high 18 saves. When you have that type of combination of face-off play and goaltending even with a Top 15 team, it gives you an opportunity to beat a team like Virginia. If you couple Smith's face-off play with great goaltending, Delaware is going to be in every game. If they get that combination next week against UMBC, they're winning that game. If they get that combination in the final four, they're going to be down to the wire with any team they play against.  It's that simple because when you have that outstanding goaltending and face-off play, you've controlled a good portion of the game.

 

I think everyone's initial reaction after Delaware beat Virginia was the parity that has grown in college lacrosse. Not so fast. Looking into it from a deeper standpoint, Delaware completely dominated two of the most important areas of the game.

 

Book Ends

Defending national champion Virginia started with a disappointing loss to Drexel in the first game of the season and now ends its season with a disappointing loss to Delaware--two teams on paper that aren't even close to the Cavaliers. Virginia had an outstanding season outside of that with their only other losses coming against Duke. They deserved a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, but I think the biggest difference between this year's Virginia team and last year's team was two things.

 

One was senior leadership, which they got from guys like Tewaaraton Trophy winner Matt Ward, Matt Poskay, Michael Culver, Kyle Dixon and J.J. Morrissey. That was an extraordinary senior class and one of the top senior classes in the last 10 years. That, in addition to the Cavaliers' lack of ability to control the game at the midfield--which has Virginia's staple for years--really was the telling tale of 2007. They didn't have a 20-goal scorer from the midfield. Junior midfielder Jack Riley led the unit with 15 goals this season while last year Virginia had three guys over 20 goals. The midfield was a work-in-progress, and although the Cavaliers have some talented players, they never seemed to get over that hurdle.

 

A critical turning point in the season was when Duke played Virginia in the middle of April. Both teams were almost mirror images of themselves with unproven midfields. Duke's midfield has really grown from that point on. Brad Ross scored three goals, including the game-winner, in that game and Ned Crotty has put up big numbers since then. Duke went one direction, and Virginia stayed the same and never was able to answer that question mark with its midfield.

 

Always a First

Ever year or two we get introduced to a new team making its first appearance in a final four. Loyola made it in 1990, Brown made an appearance in the mid 1990s and Georgetown did it in the late 1990s. In 2001, Notre Dame made its first final four appearance and last year UMass got to the national championship game.

 

It's interesting to see these new teams. It always tells you that lacrosse is changing. But then you've had five national champions--Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia--in the last 25 years. Going into the NCAA quarterfinals, there's never been a situation between two teams that are having Cinderella-like tournament runs where they've played each other for a spot in the final four.

 

Last year UMass and Hofstra battled it out, but people expected Hofstra to go to the final four before the NCAA tournament started. I can't recall a time where two unheralded teams played each other in the quarterfinals. Usually those teams are spread out and upsetting the powerhouses, and this week we have an opportunity to see UMBC and Delaware face off for the right to the final four. It will be interesting to see what kind of game we get out of UMBC and Delaware because they're two underdogs playing each other. 

 

X-Factors

X-factors aren't necessarily the best player on each team, but the player that needs to have an incredible performance for his team to win and emerge in the NCAA tournament from this point on.

 

Duke - Peter Lamade

Lamade had huge expectations to be the Blue Devils' leader from the midfield this year. The senior has actually turned out to be the third option behind Brad Ross and Ned Crotty, but for Duke to win a national championship, people are going to have to hear from Lamade.

 

North Carolina - Gavin Petracca

The Tar Heels are a young and talented team without a go-to guy who can lead the offense. Although Petracca is a redshirt freshman, his play through the remainder of this season will be pivotal because North Carolina doesn't have that guy it can turn to with playoff experience.

Albany - Brett Queener

I think you're going to get numbers out of Frank Resetarits and Merrick Thomson and good play in the midfield out of Jordan Levine regardless, but the style that Albany plays--they love to get up and down the field and it puts extraordinary amount of pressure on a team's goalie--will force Queener to play his best lacrosse against Cornell. Saturday's matchup with the Big Red will not be an easy task. Although Cornell loves to push, especially from restraining box to restraining box, they do it as well as any team in the country. 

 

Cornell - John Glynn

If you took the number off of Glynn's jersey and look at his numbers, hands down he has First Team All-American numbers. He has incredible numbers, and he's that perfect type of midfielder who can take the pressure off a guy like Max Seibald. So much attention is on Seibald that Glynn has an uncanny ability to find spots and seams in a defense. He distributes the ball, he can shoot from the outside and he can dodge off a quick feed. The Cornell attack has been steady throughout the course of the year, but Glynn will have to put numbers in the NCAA tournament and play the type of lacrosse he's played all year for Cornell to win the national championship.

 

Johns Hopkins - Kevin Huntley

In his freshman year, Huntley scored some of the biggest goals for Johns Hopkins during its 2005 national championship season. Last year, he was the team's leading goal scorer, but this year, because of the change in the Blue Jays' offensive system along with some fresh faces stepping up, Huntley's play has gone unnoticed most weeks. For Hopkins to win a national title, Huntley has to be that left-handed finisher, especially with midfielders like Paul Rabil, Stephen Peyser and Michael Kimmel grabbing so much attention. Huntley's backside play on the left side of the zone has to be relevant for the remainder of the NCAA tournament.

 

Georgetown - Man-up Unit

Heading into their first round matchup with Princeton, the Hoyas were 18 percent on man-up opportunities. At Division I, you typically want to score about 35 percent of the time with a man up. Georgetown has been plagued by poor execution (and shooting accuracy) in addition to a lack of distinct role players. Too many Georgetown players play the same style of lacrosse, and it makes it difficult for them in man-up situations. On Sunday versus Princeton, the Hoyas were 2-for-4 on man-up opportunities, which is more than acceptable against a great defensive unit like the Tigers. If Georgetown can continue to execute on man-up situations, the Hoyas will have a stronger opportunity to be playing on Championship Weekend.

 

UMBC - Jeremy Blevins

Delaware will have the advantage to control ball possessions with Alex Smith facing off, and that will force Blevins to play very similar to the way he did in the Retrievers' upset victory over Maryland. Only a sophomore, Blevins was one of the top high school goalies in the state of Maryland two years ago. He started as a freshman last year and played admirably, but he's never played on a stage as quite as big as he will on Saturday.

 

Delaware - Jordan Hall

Hall had a decent game against Virginia in the first round, but his point production and ability to score goals at critical moments will decide the fate of the Blue Hens. Playing with the nation's best face-off man and all-time groundball leader in Alex Smith gives offensive players extra opportunities to be a driving force in the game. I think Hall will have those opportunities.

 

NCAA Tournament Playmakers

 

Best Attackman: Matt Danowski (Duke)

 

Best Midfielder: Paul Rabil (Johns Hopkins)

 

Best Defensive Midfielder: Ethan Vedder (Cornell)

 

Best Face-off Man: Alex Smith (Delaware)

 

Best Defenseman: Casey Carroll (Duke)

 

Best Goaltender: Matt McMonagle (Cornell)

 

This Weekend's Predictions

 

Duke vs. North Carolina - Duke

 

Cornell vs. Albany - Cornell

 

Johns Hopkins vs. Georgetown - Johns Hopkins

 

Delaware vs. UMBC - Delaware