Breaking down the quarterfinals
Given how UMBC and Delaware, each unseeded, has smashed a chunk of the bracket with huge, first-round upsets, I probably should be tempted to pick another shocker. I just can't.
In the first game tomorrow at Princeton, Albany seems like a trendy choice. The Great Danes are the story of the year under coach Scott Marr, and they can score with anybody with attackmen Frank Resetarits and Merrick Thomson, the best scoring combo this side of Danowski-Greer. Plus, Albany obliterated Loyola -- one of my brilliant upset picks -- in the first round, 19-10.
But how do you not like fourth-seeded, unbeaten Cornell over the Great Danes? Midfielder Max Seibald's foot injury is a definite concern, and Cornell isn't the best faceoff team, but the Big Red always has the answers, and always seems to produce a telling run. Depth at midfield, an explosive attack led by David Mitchell and Eric Pittard, and a sturdy defense led by senior goalie Matt McMonagle will show the way. Cornell, 15-10.
The Johns Hopkins-Georgetown clash could involve some bloodletting. The sixth-seeded Hoyas, who have a great crop of young guns led by midfielders Andrew Brancaccio and Scott Kocis and attackman Craig Dowd, play the most physical brand of lacrosse of any team left. No. 3 Hopkins knows this all too well. In a preseason scrimmage before the 2006 season, defenseman Jerry Lambe broke Blue Jays midfielder Stephen Peyser's jaw with a cheap shot that cost Peyser half a season and still has Hopkins boiling in private.
There must be a reason these two schools have played only once, in 1993. Anyway, grudges aside, this feels like a 10-8 Hopkins win. The Blue Jays are a bit suspect on defense. but watch senior goalie Jesse Schwartzman pull out another one of those big games he's known for, and watch the Blue Jays' deep offense get after Georgetown's short-sticks and suspect goalie Miles Kaas. Peyser's faceoff work and the Hopkins shooters will decide the issue.
On Sunday at Navy, I see a blowout coming. Yes, No. 8 seed North Carolina competed hard in two earlier losses to Duke. Yes, it's hard to beat a team three times. Blah, blah, blah.
Here's the deal. Attackmen Matt Danowski and Zack Greer, that ball-hawking defense and senior goalie Dan Loftus -- maybe the game's most underrated -- represent a Blue Devils team that is hellbent on winning it all. Carolina is thrilled to be playing in its second quarterfinal game since 1998. Don't be surprised by a 14-8 Duke whipping.
Finally, Delaware looks like the right pick in its confrontation with UMBC. Senior faceoff man Alex Smith could win at least 75 percent of his draws, the Blue Hens are big and physical on defense, Canadians Jordan Hall and Curtis Dickson and senior midfielder Dan Deckelbaum give them scoring balance, and junior goalie Tommy Scherr is red hot.
But don't dismiss UMBC. The Retrievers are playing fast and loose and are pouncing on people with a great attack and transition game. They score in bunches. And the defense has matured nicely in front of sophomore goalie Jeremy Blevins, who, like Scherr, had 18 saves in the first round in Sunday's win at Maryland.
Looking at the way Delaware dismantled No. 2 Virginia, this should be a relatively easy day for the Blue Hens. But if Blevins has another gem in him, this is the game that goes against the grain. Don Zimmerman coaches his butt off and junior midfielder Terry Kimener scores the game-winner in OT for a 13-12 win that sends the Dawgs to their first final four. And Zim gets a crack at Hopkins, the school that dumped him in 1990 after he had bagged three NCAA titles for the
It has to play out this way, right?