Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra
ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra will provide commentary for No. 1 seed Virginia’s first-round game at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., against Mount St. Mary’s this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Carcaterra offered his opinion on the omission of Georgetown, the seed with the easiest road to the Final Four, and the local team with the best chance to reach the Final Four.
Question: How would you evaluate the selection committee’s decisions regarding the make-up of the 16-team field?
Paul Carcaterra: "One interesting team that popped out at me was Georgetown. It’s almost unfair to put them head-to-head with another team, but when you look at the Georgetown-Notre Dame situation, it doesn’t make complete sense unless you were in that committee. Georgetown had the better record, a better strength of schedule, a better RPI, and they beat Notre Dame head-to-head. So to me, there’s some kind of discrepancy there. Look, it’s not an easy job because this year – more than ever – so many teams beat each other. For example, Loyola beat Georgetown, Georgetown beat Notre Dame, and Notre Dame beat Loyola. That’s just one example of how it’s so cyclical with all of these teams beating each other. I think there was probably a lot of tension on who should be in and who should be out. If Georgetown got in and Loyola didn’t, then people would be barking that Loyola beat them head-to-head, and something similar could be said for a lot of these situations. It was not an easy situation to be in if you’re on the committee, but that was one team that possibly got a raw deal."
Q: So it sounds like you had Georgetown pegged for the tournament. If that’s the case, which team did you think was out?
PC: "I was kind of debating between four teams for the last two spots, and they were Hopkins, Loyola, Hofstra and Drexel. I thought Drexel had a pretty nice body of work. Drexel beat Notre Dame, beat Hofstra. The other situation that I thought was kind of interesting was that Drexel was almost penalized – in my mind – for going to the conference tournament. Hofstra doesn’t make the conference tournament, but gets in the NCAA Tournament, and Drexel stays home because they lost to Delaware again. When you think about it, Drexel hurt themselves by going to the conference tournament and losing again, whereas Hofstra stayed idle and got to the NCAA Tournament. So those were my four teams, and I felt like it came down to either Hofstra or Drexel and Hopkins or Loyola. I had Georgetown in and Notre Dame in, so it wasn’t necessarily about Georgetown getting in over Notre Dame. Hopkins beat Loyola last weekend, and even though they had a worse record, they also played a much tougher schedule than Loyola. So I thought that Hopkins and Drexel should have gotten in. I think Hofstra’s a better team – top to bottom – than Drexel, but they just didn’t take care of business when they should have. And not making your conference tournament – although that’s not a pre-requisite – to me, that just didn’t add up."
Q: What were your thoughts on Stony Brook getting the No. 8 seed and a home game in the first round?
PC: "I was surprised because when you think of Stony Brook and their body of work – although they have two of the most explosive offensive players in [junior midfielder] Kevin Crowley and [junior attackman] Jordan McBride – what’s their top win? I looked at their schedule, and they had no big wins on that entire schedule. They beat Towson, but Towson’s at home and they’re 7-8. Delaware’s their best win, but you don’t get a No. 8 seed when Delaware’s your best win. I would have given the No. 8 seed to – as crazy as it sounds – Georgetown. Georgetown beat Notre Dame, they played a very difficult schedule, and they didn’t have any bad losses. Georgetown had a top-10 RPI and their strength of schedule was ninth. That’s why when Georgetown didn’t get in, it was like, whoa. With that said, I think Stony Brook can beat Denver because Denver is traveling all the way to the East, and it’s at Stony Brook."
Q: Would you agree or disagree that Virginia has the easist path to the Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend?
PC: "Absolutely. Virginia’s path to the Final Four is drastically easier than the other top seeds. They’re playing a Mount St. Mary’s team that is actually pretty good this year. They’re not a poor team by any stretch, but for the No. 1 team in the country, they will be heavily favored and should win that game without too much trouble. And that quarterfinal game, when you think about it, is normally a bear of a game for every top seed. It’s usually a difficult game more times than not. But to face either Stony Brook or Denver as opposed to [No. 4 seed] North Carolina and [No. 5 seed] Duke potentially squaring off, [No. 2 seed] Syracuse possibly playing [No. 7 seed] Cornell, and [No. 6 seed] Princeton playing [No. 3 seed] Maryland, those are much tougher games than Virginia’s. Unless North Carolina gets healthy, I think Duke is a few goals better than North Carolina right now. Syracuse and Cornell, the last two times those teams have played, it’s come down to the last second, so you can’t tell me that’s an easy game."
Q: So it sounds like of the top seeds, North Carolina has the most difficult path to the Final Four.
PC: "They’re playing a Delaware team that has won five in a row, has a couple of really good offensive players in [senior attackman Curtis] Dickson and [senior midfielder Martin] Cahill, and they’re going to play North Carolina tough. Delaware is a team that is one of the hottest in the country right now, and that’s a tough game for one of the top four seeds. And if they get past that, they’re looking at the Duke-Hopkins winner, which – if everything plays out – will be a team that has gone to the last four Final Fours in the years they were eligible to participate. They have a lot of the same cast of characters in [senior attackman Max] Quinzani, [fifth-year senior attackman Ned] Crotty, [sophomore long-stick midfielder C.J.] Costabile, [senior defenseman Parker] McKee, [senior midfielder Steve] Schoeffel, [senior midfielder Mike] Catalino. All of those guys have big-time game experience, more than the Carolina guys. And Carolina is dinged up right now. [Senior midfielder] Sean DeLaney is not 100 percent. That’s a tough draw"
Q: So the North Carolina-Delaware game has the biggest potential for an upset in the first round?
PC: "Yeah, because when start getting into those 7 seeds and 8 seeds, they’re not really upsets. But when a top-4 seed goes down, that’s a big upset."
Q: How would you rate No. 3 seed Maryland’s chances of advancing to the Final Four?
PC: "Maryland has shown me that they’re highly explosive. It’s interesting because my tone has changed with them. I didn’t feel like they had the middies to make a big run, but I’m not neccesarily sure that they need to because they’re playing so many of them. They’re getting a goal from this guy and a goal from that guy. They’re playing three midfields, and then they have that explosive foursome with [junior attackman Grant] Catalino, [junior attackman Ryan] Young, [junior attackman Travis] Reed and [senior attackman/midfielder Will] Yeatman. Those guys have all proven that they can fill up the net and do some work. That’s a team that’s really, really hot right now, and I think they’re going to get to the Final Four. Hofstra can’t defend Maryland right now. Hofstra’s struggled to defend teams in the last six or seven games. They’ve let up double-digit goals, and their goalie play has been a little sporadic this year. I think Hofstra won’t be able to hang with Maryland. And then Maryland would play either Princeton or Notre Dame, and I think they would have more trouble with Notre Dame because I think Notre Dame is a little more athletic at the midfield than Princeton is. But Maryland should be in the Final Four. It’ll be interesting if Maryland advances and Syracuse advances. That would be a great semifinal game. Maryland’s strength is their attack, but Syracuse might be the one team where Maryland doesn’t match up as well."
Q: How does Loyola knock off No. 7 seed Cornell considering the potential absence of senior defenseman Steve Layne (knee) and recent troubles of junior goalkeeper Jake Hagelin?
PC: "Cornell is interesting. Cornell is just so unbelievably well-coached. [Jeff] Tambroni does a fabulous job. With that duo of [sophomore attackman Rob] Pannell and [senior attackman Ryan] Hurley, those guys put up huge numbers, and Pannell is the type of kid who is so effective at distributing the ball. But when he turns the corner, he’s such a great low-angled shooter. You have to respect him as a feeder since he leads the nation in assists per game, but he’s also a very good dodger. People don’t give him credit for being a scorer the way they should, but the kid really gets it done. Loyola, they might want to throw some wrinkles in that defense, which is a little bit under-manned right now with injuries. I think Loyola matches up fine at the midfield. Cornell’s midfield doesn’t really scare you. They’re smart players and they play both ends of the field really well, but the biggest issue will be containing those two at attack."
Q: What’s your assessment of Johns Hopkins’ first-round showdown with No. 5 seed Duke?
PC: "I think on paper, Duke is definitely favored by a bunch of goals. But the thing people have to really think about is at this time of the year, Coach [Dave] Pietramala prepares and throws wrinkles in his game plan as well as anyone. That has to account for a few goals. He is just brilliant at taking other teams’ strengths away. He’s done it for years with Hopkins. I wouldn’t be surprised if they played Duke a lot tougher than people think. I think he’s going to do things to the Quinzani-Crotty duo that they probably haven’t seen much of this year."
Q: With Mount St. Mary’s getting the unenviable task of taking on top-seeded Virginia, what can the Mountaineers do to avoid getting overwhelmed by the Cavaliers’ talent and speed?
PC: "I think it’s critical for Mount St. Mary’s not to let the game get away from them early. I say that because if they hang around, I think they could make a serious game about it. I think if Virginia starts rolling and starts playing freelance lacrosse, it could get out of hand. But I also think Mount St. Mary’s strength is exactly what it needs to be in a game like that, and that’s having an incredible goalie. One of the best goalies in the country is on that Mount St. Mary’s team, the [T.C.] DiBartolo kid. Last year, when he played Virginia, he had over 20 saves, and they only let up 10 goals. Now they didn’t score a lot, and they lost, 10-2, but they were playing six or seven freshmen. Those kids have all grown up, and their sophomores aren’t normal sophomores. Their sophomores are very seasoned because they have two full years of lacrosse under their belts. So if DiBartolo plays awesome and those guys start sticking some early goals and they could make a game of it at halftime, they’re going to be able to hang around longer than people think. But if Virginia starts rolling and begins playing freelance lacrosse, it could get out of hand."