Q&A with ESPN's Quint Kessenich
While helping me with a feature advancing Saturday's Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic, ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich, an All-American goalkeeper who helped Johns Hopkins capture the 1987 national championship, shared his thoughts on the first month of the 2010 campaign.
Question: Who are your favorites to win the Tewaaraton Trophy?
Quint Kessenich: "Ned Crotty of Duke, the preseason favorite, I would have to say that he is not rising because I’m not sure with all of the preseason hype how he could rise. Duke’s loss may have hurt him a little. Michael Kimmel’s gotten off to a great start for Hopkins. Cooper MacDonnell of Loyola is a senior who has exceeded expectations. But the Tewaaraton is really a team trophy. Shamel Bratton [of Virginia] is off to a slow start. He’s only shooting 2-of-14 right now. The season may be a month old, but for a lot of teams – Brown hasn’t played yet, Cornell only has one game – it’s still in the infancy stage."
Q: Which teams do you like to make the Final Four?
QK: "We’ll get to see all of these teams in Baltimore, and then on Sunday, I’m going down to Virginia and Syracuse. Next week, I get to see Carolina-Duke and then Georgetown-Syracuse. So by March 13, I will have seen basically the entire top 10 minus a Cornell and some of the fringe teams. I think I’ll be pretty comfortable then, but having not seen them, I hate to make a prediction. Having not seen Syracuse, I can’t tell you. I know what they are on paper, but I just don’t feel comfortable making a prediction."
Q: In your latest rankings for Inside Lacrosse, you ranked Virginia at No. 1 and Syracuse at No. 2, and you've been getting a lot of criticism for that. Can you explain your reasoning behind the rankings?
QK: "Because a lot of people in central New York log on and read it when I got it that way. No, I just think that Virginia is going to be Syracuse on Sunday. They’re at home, and they beat them last year in the [Carrier] Dome, and Virginia returns a better lineup on paper than Syracuse does. Syracuse lost all sorts of All Americans last year, a great senior class in Matt Abbott, Dan Hardy, Kenny Nims, Sid Smith. Those were four top-notch pro players. I know Syracuse still returns a lot, but I just think that Virginia would have to rate a slight favorite at home on march 7, and that’s why they get my nod for a first-place vote. The tough spots in my poll are the [Nos.] 4-5 area. Hopkins has the name, and they’re winning, but they were as unimpressive against Siena as it gets. So I really struggle with where they should be. Teams like Georgetown and Delaware have a lot of talent, but they’ve got to win some games."
Q: What has been the biggest surprise of the season thus far?
QK: "The biggest surprise has been how these mid-level teams have been playing. There are no free Saturdays. Every team now is very well-coached, has pretty good talent, and if you’re not ready to play and focused, you could be in trouble. … You get these teams who are way outside the top 20 who can now jump up and be competitive. There are no free Saturdays, and I like that. Does that mean that one of those teams could win a national championship? Obviously not, but you see the growth of the high school game really impacting those lower programs to where they have really good players."
Q: Is it fair to say that Sunday's game between Syracuse and Virginia is the most anticipated match-up of the season?
QK: "As long as I have been covering lacrosse, that has always been the best game in the month of March. It usually sets up the rest of the season. It’s usually a high-scoring game, great action, both coaches – being this early in the season – don’t over-control the game, and so it’s a fun game for the fans to watch. … That’s always a barometer. How many times has the winner of that game then been the No. 1 team in the nation?