The 2017 NCAA lacrosse regular season is over and it’s time to get into the postseason, aka ‘May Madness’. With upsets galore, seven different #1’s, and a star-studded Freshman class, the 2017 season was one for the books. To be honest, I really had no interest in following D2 or D3 lacrosse aside from the teams that had kids on the roster I grew up playing with, (Endicott, Cornell (Ia), IWU, AU, Elmhurst, DePauw, Carthage) as the same 3-4 teams dominate year in and year out, which is indeed what happened. While the D1 lacrosse landscape is dominated by the typical ACC/Big Ten powers, after last years’ result (North Caorlina winning as an at-large seed) the tourney is really anyones’ game. As a lifelong Maryland lacrosse fan, I’m biased. But if you’ve watched any Terps lacrosse this season, you know they’re the real deal. So without further ado, let’s run though the first round match-ups.
This year, trying to figure out seeding of the tournament has my brain is all sorts of fucked. There are 16 teams in the NCAA D1 lacrosse tournament. With the ACC no longer receiving AQ’s, the only way to get in if you’re a team in the ACC is as an ‘at-large’. I know I could probably watch a YouTube video or read an article on the new structure but I really can’t be asked. The gist of how I’m pretty sure the teams are selected is: Nine teams received AQ (automatic qualifying) bids after wins in their respective conference tournaments. Eight other teams receive ‘at-large’ bids based on RPI, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, quality of wins, and input from the committee. The 2 lowest-ranked of the AQ teams (as determined by the committee) compete in a play-in game to advance to the actual tournament.
Below is a printable version of the 2017 NCAA D1 Lacrosse Bracket in PDF.
Bryant v. Monmouth
Honest to god, I know nothing about either of these teams. It’s pretty cool that Monmouth won the MAAC and got the AQ for the tournament in only their fourth season after being sub .500 their first three years, even going 0-13 their first year in D1. It’s because of this underdog story that I’m pulling for them in the play-in game. Honestly, the smart bet would probably be Bryant as I’ve actually heard of them before this year and they’ve been to the tournament before and they didn’t blow. But all the same, they play in the NEC, which is one of the worst conferences, if not the worst, in all of college lacrosse (hence why they’re in the play-in game…). Monmouth currently holds the nations longest win streak at 11 straight due in large part to their defense, which ranks #2 in all of D1, surrendering just over seven per contest (7.24). Bryant will have the edge at the face-off X, which isn’t a surprise as they always seem to recruit talented FOGO’s somehow. No offense to Bryant U as a school, I just don’t understand why someone would choose to live in Rhode Island. Monmouth’s defense pulls through, advancing them into the first round.
Prediction: Bryant 7 – Monmouth 10
#1 Maryland v. Bryant/Monmouth
Anyone who’s watched any of my snap/IG stories over the past couple days could tell you I’m a HUGE Maryland lacrosse fan. Non-coincidentally, I’m a Maryland homer. Last time the Terps won the National Championship was 1975, but the team was damn close last year, losing in the finals in OT to North Carolina 14-13. On that subject, FUCK UNC. Anyways, the Terps have looked unparalleled this season: Goalie Dan Morris has completed his evolution into a literal brick wall, Defenseman Tim Muller is 1st team All-Big Ten, Connor Kelly SCORES GOALS, and the GOAT/Big Ten POY/All-time Maryland points leader/probably Tewaaraton winner Matt Rambo is…. a beast. Oh, and did I mention the Terps have 8 wins against ranked opponents this year? I really don’t think anything needs to be said about Bryant/Monmouth as both will undoubtedly get their shit kicked in this matchup. Big Ten > MAAC + NEC. Most importantly though, the Terps have the best flow in the game in attackman Colin Heacock legendary locks (pictured below).
Prediction: #1 Maryland 16 – Bryant/Monmouth 6
#8 Albany v. North Carolina
Fuck. North. Carolina. I cannot stress this point enough. In all honesty, this matchup is a pick ’em. On one hand, Albany’s offense is lightning in a bottle and they’re not half bad on defense (…they play in the American East so one would hope…). UNC is red hot, plays in arguably the best conference in college lacrosse, and has quality wins over: Denver, Virginia (eh), Syracuse, and Notre Dame. At the same time, Albany possesses the only 100+ point scorer in D1 this season, attackman Connor Fields and the best FOGO in the country, FRESHMAN TD Ierlan winning 75% at the face-off ‘X’. Flipping it around again, UNC has a handful of key returns from their 2016 National Championship squad including attackmen Chris Cloutier and Luke Goldstock, as well as star FOGO Stephen Kelly just to name a few. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to consistency, face-offs, quality wins, and experience. Consistency – UAlbany, Face-offs – UAlbany, Quality Wins – UNC, Experience – UNC. While it is obviously very evenly matched, I like the dynamic nature of UAlbany’s offense in this one.
Prediction: #8 Albany 14 – North Carolina 12
#5 Denver v. Air Force
I actually had no idea where Air Force was so I assumed it was on the east coast as thats where the other two military academies are. In case you don’t know, Air Force is actually in Colorado. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Denver lost to Marquette AGAIN in the Big East conference tournament. This, while embarrassing, does not change the fact that DU absolutely murders teams, averaging over 13 a game. Canadian Ethan Walker, leading scorer, is only a Freshman. His play coupled with that of Senior Connor Cannizzaro has created one of the deadliest attack duo’s in all of college lacrosse. Oh, and they also have Trevor Baptiste, one of the best FOGO’s in D1 who wins almost 75% (73.6%) of his draws. With how important possessions are, his play is key to their success moving forward. Air Force, on the other hand, is coming off an impressive win against the best defensive team in the nation, Richmond (6.25 Goals Allowed/Game). While the Falcons have a great face-off man of their own in Trent Harper (60.8%), their defensive mindset will prevent them from scoring enough to hang with the Pioneers. I think it should be a dead giveaway how this game is going to go when you look at their matchup earlier in the season, which Denver won handedly 14-6.
Prediction: #5 Denver 12 – Air Force 7
#4 Notre Dame v. Marquette
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I hate Notre Dame with a burning passion and I have a cousin that goes to Marquette, a relative connection that biased my thinking in their March Madness matchup (shoutout Jake). However, when it comes to lacrosse, I’ve learned that I can’t bet against the Fighting Irish. For once, while the individual stats may not show it, Notre Dame is actually exciting to watch. With players like Sergio Perkovic, a freight train that shoots 100+ and Ryder Garnsey, an elusive Sophomore with unmatched stick skills, ND is no longer the defensive, put-you-to-sleep team they have been stereotyped as in the past. In fact, the Fighting Irish aren’t even in the top 20 in scoring defense (22nd). Marquette on the other hand is pretty average at everything. In addition, they don’t have any star players and were barely above-average in the regular season. Being hot and peaking at the right time does mean something, but I don’t think it adds up to enough to beat the once #1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Regardless of if Perkovic or Garnsey play (both sat with injuries v. Army on Saturday) I still think they have the pieces to get past Marquette. On the topic of Ryder Garnsey, check out his postgrad year mixtape at Phillips Andover linked below.
Prediction: #4 Notre Dame 15 – Marquette 10
#3 Ohio State v. Loyola (Maryland)
Now, this may seem like a no brainer, but Ohio State is dangerous. In my mind, if they would’ve beaten Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament championship, I think they’d be the #1 seed… but they didn’t. Still, the Buckeyes have wins over tournament teams: Towson, Denver, Johns Hopkins x2, and Maryland. OSU is yet another team without any real stars. Freshman Tre Leclaire has really stepped up over the course of the season (42G, 14A) as well as key FOGO Jake Withers who wins 67.2% of his draws. While his numbers aren’t staggering, Goalie Tom Carey is also a menace in goal, which earned him 1st Team All-Big Ten honors this season. Ohio State is overall very defensive-minded, letting in only 8.35 per contest. Loyola is a very different team. The Greyhounds live and die by the play of feeding specialist phenom Pat Spencer (27G, 55A). Loyola is red hot right now, allowing only 4.3 over their three game win streak while averaging over 13 in their AQ clinching Patriot conference tournament victory. Looking back, I’ve made this game seem a lot closer than it probably will be. For one, Loyola plays in the fucking Patriot league. They’ve also only beaten two ranked teams all year in Towson and Army, both teams that would get stomped by pretty much anyone in the Big Ten. If you can’t tell, I really like the Big Ten.
Prediction: #3 Ohio State 18 – Loyola (Maryland) 13
#6 Johns Hopkins v. Duke
Once a year, Johns Hopkins and Maryland compete for a giant wooden crab. For those 60 minutes, I hate Johns Hopkins. Aside from that, I really don’t give a shit what they do. In terms of Duke, you either love ’em, or you hate ’em, theres no in-between. All that having been said, the Blue Jays are actually really good this year. With wins over Loyola, North Carolina, Virginia, Rutgers, and Penn State, the emergence of the Kyle Marr + Shack Stanwick duo (both 25G, 20A), and dynamic midfielder Joel Tinney’s return to the lineup, Johns Hopkins is once again a legitimate threat in the tournament. Unfortunately, they drew Duke, probably the toughest of the non-seeded teams. Attackman Justin Guterding (44G, 38A) and middie Jack Bruckner (44G, 15A) lead a balanced squad that went 12-4 during the regular season, ranking 10th in scoring offense, and 7th in total defense. Pretty impressive for a team that didn’t receive a seeding eh? Johns Hopkins downfall and the reason why I’m picking Duke in this matchup is their defense (43rd – 10.93 goals allowed/game) and goalie play (2 goalies, avg. save % – 45.1), which, as you can see, has not been solid over the course of the season.
Prediction: #6 Johns Hopkins 9 – Duke 17
#7 Penn State v. Towson
I’m convinced Penn State’s attack trio, while not statistically, is the best in the country: Grant Ament (27G, 31A), Nick Aponte (22G, 33A), and Mac O’Keefe (48G, 5A). The Big Ten is a rough conference, anyone can really beat anyone on any given day and Penn State held their own, winning crucial games against Ohio State and Rutgers, finishing 2-2 in conference play, and averaging 13+ goals per game (13.67 – 5th in D1). Freshman FOGO Gerard Arceri wins a little over 62% (62.8%) at the X, giving the Nittany Lions a plethora of possessions. Towson is a very different team. Led by a very senior-heavy class headlined by 1st team All-CAA selections: Attackman Ryan Drenner (25G, 22A), LSM Tyler Mayes, and Defenseman Jack Adams, the Tigers are very defensive team. This really isn’t a challenge as they play in the CAA, but it’s still impressive that they held opponents to 7.43 per game, 3rd best in all of D1. But again, when you’re playing teams like UMass, Drexel, Fairfield, and Delaware (all sub-.500) on a consistent basis, I don’t think thats too much of a challenge. Summing up, I’m riding Penn State for a variety of reasons: 1. Penn State is 8-0 at home this season… this game is AT PSU… need I say more? 2. Dynamic offense can come from pretty much anywhere. 3. Towson plays in the fucking CAA. Congrats, you beat Johns Hopkins and an overrated Hofstra team. 4. Defensive-heavy teams are so boring to watch.
Prediction: #7 Penn State 14 – Towson 10
#2 Syracuse v. Yale
Another pick ’em. Syracuse, while 12-2 with seven ranked wins, is a very suspect #2 seed. The Orange are 8-2 in one goal games, which on one hand, proves that they know what they’re doing late in games. On the other side of things, it also shows that ‘Cuse doesn’t know how to keep their foot on teams’ throats once they get a lead in games, which can be detrimental (but obviously hasn’t been as they got the #2 seed…). I wouldn’t say Syracuse have gotten ‘lucky’ by any stretch of the imagination, but if they want to succeed in the tournament, they’ll need to continue to work their balanced approach to PERFECTION on both on offense and defense. Goalie play really needs to step up in the tournament as Evan Molloy only saves 47.5% of shots. While unpopular, in this tournament, Yale is my “dark horse”. Even though they got a tough draw in the first round and their defense is shit, the Bulldogs attack (T-7th in D1) is a thing of beauty: Ben Reeves (38G, 35A), Jackson Morill (19G, 18A), and Matt Gaudet (30G, 5A). Yale is coming off their fifth Ivy league tournament victory in the last six years, something definitely providing an added momentum the Orange do not have. Yale may not have the loaded resume of other teams, but what do you expect when they play in a conference that only received one representative in the tournament, the AQ. Shoutout Princeton for choking and confirming my belief that you’re complete and utter garbage. Princeton is actually actually pretty good, I just randomly hate them with a passion. I’m pulling Bulldogs in the first round for a variety of reasons: 1. They’re my dark horse, so I kinda had to take them no matter who they drew. 2. I’m not the biggest fan of the midfield > attack offensive mindset that this years’ Syracuse team seems to possess. 3. One-goal games scare the shit out of me. 4. The sleeveless jerseys Syracuse wear are ugly as fuck.
Prediction: #2 Syracuse 12 – Yale 13
Wrappin’ it up
The 2017 first round looks to be one of the most interesting in recent years, a lot of matchups that are real toss up’s: Albany v. UNC, Johns Hopkins v. Duke, Syracuse v. Yale. Knowing my luck with postseason predictions, I’ll probably get all three wrong. Anyways, all the 1st round games are on ESPNU from Noon ET -7:30 ET on both Saturday, May 13th, and Sunday, May 14th. Enjoy the postseason festivities, I’ll be back with a quarterfinals blog FROM CHICAGO next Monday – cue the fucking music.