Q&A with CBS Sports Network's Steve Panarelli
CBS Sports Network analyst and former Syracuse All-American defenseman Steve Panarelli helped the Orange reach the Final Four in 2004 and 2006 with the team capturing the national championship in 2004. Panarelli discussed the most interesting game of the NCAA tournament quarterfinals this weekend and a key storyline for each contest.
What’s the most intriguing game of the weekend?
The Syracuse-Maryland game is the most intriguing, I think. Someone said to me, “How does Syracuse get the No. 1 seed and they’re rewarded in the wquarterfinals with Maryland?” If you’re a seeded team and the best team out there, that’s probably one team you wouldn’t want to play. I think it’s going to be a great game. I think they match up well with each other. I think it’ll be up and down, there should be a lot of goals and excitement. So it’ll be a great game to watch.
Can unseeded Maryland keep pace with Syracuse if the game becomes a track meet?
Like I said before, I think the game is going to be up and down, and I think there’s going to be a lot of goals. That’s just the way those two teams play. I think the big thing that will help Maryland is faceoffs. If they can control X, they control time of possession and transition. That will put them in a good position to win the game. I think being how it’s going to so fast-paced and up and down, I think the faceoffs will be huge, and I think in a game like that, especially with two teams creating a lot of shots offensively, the goalie play is going to be huge. So look for the faceoff guys and the goalies to play a huge part in that game.
Can No. 7 seed Virginia handcuff junior attackman Rob Pannell of No. 2 seed Cornell?
He’s just such a dynamic player. Not only is he creating his own shot and scoring goals, but he makes everyone around him so much better. There’s really no way to stop him. you really need someone like a first All American, someone like a [Syracuse senior defenseman] John Lade to guard him. if you slide to him, he’ll find the open guy. If you don’t slide to him, he’ll just score. You need someone who can just take him one-on-one and put that guy on an island to cover him. But I don’t think Virginia has that guy. I look for them to play a lot of zone, which they did in the last game. And they didn’t look too hot in the zone. That’s something that they don’t do. For years, [coach Dom] Starsia has been a man-to-man guy, and you can tell that the guys didn’t really feel too comfortable in that. I also think with Virginia, there’s just so many distractions. No one’s even talking about the game. They’re talking about whether [senior midfielder Rhamel] Bratton’s playing or not. As a team, that wears on you. I’ve been on a team where we had guys in and out of the lineup for multiple reasons, and instead of talking about your matchup and game plan, you’re talking about whether X, Y and Z are playing. That wears on you, and it’s probably been wearing on those guys all year long. So it’s going to be a tough game for Virginia. I think Cornell comes in extremely confident. They’re playing their system extremely well, and like I said, with Pannell, there’s really nobody to match him up with one-on-one. He’s going to give them fits all day.
Which is more significant: No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins’ experience and tradition in the NCAA tournament or No. 6 seed Denver’s nothing-to-lose attitude?
Denver definitely has nothing to lose. They’ve already made huge strides by getting a home game in the first round. That’s a huge accomplishment for them and for the game of lacrosse. If you look at Hopkins, it’s the same old story. If you look at their defense, Coach [Dave] Pietramala does an unbelievable job year in and year out of playing that system. For Denver to score goals, it’s going to be tough. But Coach [Bill] Tierney knows Coach Pietramala pretty well from his days at Princeton and when they played similar styles. The quick-sliding defense, controlling possession, controlling the clock. He’s opened I up a little more in Denver since he got there, but it’ll be interesting to see what he does – whether he tries to run like he’s been doing all year or if he’s going to slow it down a little bit and go back to his old ways. I think it’ll be a good matchup, but I think you have to give the edge to Johns Hopkins because they have that tradition. In big games like that, that stuff plays a major role because you could be down by a goal or two or whatever is happening in the game, there’s always that belief. They always think they’re going to win, and when you play at a Hopkins or a Syracuse or a Virginia, no matter what goes on, you always that in the back of your mind, that you’re going to win. So I think that tradition will play a huge role, especially if the game’s tight late.
In the battle between No. 4 seed Notre Dame and No. 5 seed Duke, can Duke’s prolific offense solve the Fighting Irish’s stingy defense?
I always pick the defense over the offense, especially in a game like that. If you watch Notre Dame play, they’re very similar to Hopkins. They play their system so well. No matchup is a problem. They always have the answer. I think with Duke, the biggest question for them is in the goal. It’s something they’ve been dealing with all year. In big games, a goalie has to sometimes stand on his head and make a few saves. If Notre Dame is playing great defense and they’re controlling the clock and making some shots, it’s going to be huge for them. Duke’s offense is extremely dangerous. They like to push it in transition. If they’re going to be successful, you don’t want to play Notre Dame six-in-six. If you can make it a run-and-gun and get it up and down the field and use your long sticks, that’s when you’ll take the advantage., but if it gets to be a six-on-six game where it’s very controlled, sand they’re playing a slow style, that’s huge for Notre Dame. So if I was Duke – and I’m sure Coach [John] Danowski is talking to them – they want to get up and down, look for quick opportunities once you get the ball cleared.