Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra
ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra provided commentary for the network when the bracket was unveiled Sunday night. Carcaterra discussed Maryland going unseeded, the teams with the easiest and most difficult paths to the Final Four and the one team that poses the biggest threat to the seeded teams.
What’s your take on Maryland being unseeded and having to travel to meet North Carolina for the third time this season?
I think Maryland is in a situation with winning the ACC, which is lacrosse’s toughest conference, to go on the road for the first round, that’s definitely a difficult draw for them. And if they win, they could potentially play Syracuse, the No. 1 team. So you’re playing your arch rival in North Carolina, a conference opponent whom you’ve played twice already. So if you look at Maryland and their potential path at getting to the Final Four, it’s harder than anyone else’s. That Colgate loss certainly did them in, in terms of not getting seeded. But I still felt that Maryland had played their way into a top-8 seed. If you look at Denver, they didn’t lose to anyone as their only two losses were to Syracuse and Notre Dame. That Duke victory is huge for them, but outside of that, they didn’t have to go through the ACC or play the type of schedule that Maryland has. Denver’s schedule, I thought, was much softer than Maryland’s.
So was Denver worthy of getting a home game?
I think there are a lot of things in consideration. I think from the outside looking in, people don’t realize all of the intricacies of how the seeding is done. There’s travel, conference opponents. They don’t want to pit ACC teams against each other. It’s been many years since a first round with ACC teams has been done. So they’re conscious of that, and they take all of that into consideration. But I think Denver is going to be a travel team regardless, and let’s be honest. The sport is growing in leaps and bounds out West. It’s made great strides from a popularity standpoint. I think it’s good for a sport, to take a playoff team to Denver and to that facility. That city is becoming a big-time lacrosse city. So I think it’s an opportunity where you have a team like Denver which certainly had a good year. You can argue that they deserved a top-8 seed. So I don’t think anything was outlandish regarding that.
A reader questioned why Johns Hopkins, as the No. 3 seed, got paired with a dangerous opponent in Hofstra while Denver and Virginia, as No. 6 and 7 seeds respectively, drew Villanova and Bucknell. Did the Blue Jays get a tougher draw despite being a higher seed?
Bucknell has six wins against teams in the top 20 in RPI – the second-most in all of college lacrosse. Just because Bucknell doesn’t have that big name in lacrosse, by no means is Bucknell a lesser opponent. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s an easier game. And with Villanova, that’s a team that played Notre Dame tough and lost to Syracuse by a goal. I really don’t feel like you can justify Bucknell or Villanova being easier teams. If you’re a Johns Hopkins fan, you should like your draw. You’re playing Hofstra, a team that you should beat, and if you look at their potential quarterfinal matchup, out of the top four seeds, I think they actually have the easiest draw.
I thought Cornell, as the No. 2 seed, might have the easiest path to the Final Four.
Maybe, but let’s not mistake the fact that Virginia still has a ton of talent, and their one game two weeks ago without the Brattons was their most complete offensive outing of the year. They won, 11-2, against Penn, a playoff team. So they’re not going to be an easy game for Cornell. Virginia, on paper, is still more talented than Cornell. You don’t play the game on paper, but I just think that looking at Hopkins, if you had asked Dave Pietramala a couple months ago that if he wanted to get to the Final Four, he had to beat Hofstra and Denver, I think he’d take it and run. That’s no disrespect to those two teams.
Which unseeded team poses the biggest threat to upset the seedings?
Maryland, without a doubt. Maryland’s a team that many people felt could contend for a national title. And when they’re playing their best, they’re awfully difficult to defend. When [redshirt freshman goalie] Niko Amato is making saves ad starting the transition, I think their long poles handle the ball better than any other team in the country. Brian Farrell and Jesse Bernhardt are a lethal duo that can handle the ball in transition from defense to offense. I think they have to push the ball. I think the reason they lost to Colgate was they played a half-field game. When they play a half-field game, they struggle. If they’re pushing the ball, they can play with anyone.