College lacrosse playoffs begin this weekend
Most of the country gets excited about college basketball's March Madness, but I am more excited about May Madness. That is, the beginning of the college lacrosse playoffs. As a former player, this is what gets me pumped up. This year's field offers up some exciting matchups, but does come with a caveat. The Ivy League conference schools did not play this season due to COVID-19 restrictions. Several teams in the playoffs have athletes that transferred from Ivy schools before the season and constitute key players for their new teams.
So, as restrictions are lifting in many parts of the country and the weather is improving, try to find a nice local restaurant or brewery with ample TVs to sit and watch what are sure to be great games.
Admittedly, college basketball is more dominant when it comes to the "brackets" and betting (legally of course). But, here is my bracket breakdown just for posterity's sake. I should add that this is not at all scientific. I watched a limited number of games, so most of this is random gut feelings and biased speculation.
#1 University of North Carolina vs. Monmouth. Winner: UNC. #1 scoring offense (UNC) versus #2 scoring defense. From the few games I saw, UNC looks like a well-oiled machine and should be able to score enough against a stingy D. The Tar Heels have one of the best attackmen in the country, who is a Tewaaraton Award finalist. (This will be a recurring theme). The Tewaaraton trophy is college lacrosse's equivalent to football's Heisman trophy. UNC is playing at home. I'm thinking they may be playing on Memorial Day, too (when the championship game is held).
#8 Lehigh vs. Rutgers. Winner: Rutgers. This is my only "upset" pick of the first round. No real rhyme or reason. I have not watched either play. Maybe it is based on this great story about two brothers playing for Rutgers. The teams are ranked #4 (Lehigh) and #5 in scoring offense. If Rutgers can pull this off, they'll have to overcome Lehigh's #1 faceoff winning percentage (.746). I do not have a lot of confidence in this pick. Actually, as I was doing research for this, I realized how well Lehigh ranks in several team statistical categories: Assists (#6), Faceoff winning percentage, Ground balls (#1 - coaches love this), Points-per-game (#4), Scoring margin (#6), Scoring offense (#4), Shot percentage (#10), and Winning percentage (#2). This is looking more like an awful pick, but I'm sticking to my original uninformed, biased choice.
#5 Georgetown vs. Syracuse. Winner: Georgetown. I've always like Georgetown and disliked Syracuse. Georgetown is a great school in a great lacrosse location. Syracuse is not having its usual final-four caliber year and the team is dealing with the suspension of a high profile player. I will say I commend the team for their response to the situation which I'm not going to go into here. A Hoya attackmen is also on the Tewaaraton finalist list.
#4 Virginia vs. Bryant. Winner: UVA. Virginia has two losses to Syracuse but also wins over playoff teams UNC, Notre Dame, High Point, Loyola, and an overtime loss to Duke. Just don't see an upset here. Plus, they get to play on their home turf.
#3 Maryland vs. Vermont. Winner: Maryland. Maryland could have been the #1 seed in my opinion. Only undefeated team in the playoffs. The Terps can flat-out play and get to do so at home. Second only to UNC in offensive scoring (16.17 goals per game). Oh, and they also have a Tewaaraton finalist attackmen.
#6 Notre Dame vs. Vermont. Winner: ND. Notre Dame is just talented top-to-bottom. Their three losses are by a combined four goals to teams expected to compete for a Final Four spot - Virginia (1 goal), Duke (OT), UNC (2 goals). By the way, they have a Tewaaraton finalist attackmen. The youngest of the group.
#7 Denver vs. Loyola (Md). Winner: DU. Denver gets to play at home and has one of the best coaches of all time. As an East Coast transplant to Colorado, it is great to see this program in the top tier of the sport. Hometown bias? Possibly.
#2 Duke vs. High Point. Winner: Duke. High Point has burst on the scene lately, due in part to a local Colorado kid, but Duke is loaded. I actually think they have not been playing as well as they could, which is scary. And, you guessed it, they have a Tewaaraton finalist attackmen, who was the favorite to win last year before the season ended short. Duke is also high on my bias list due to the fact they have three players from my high school alma-mater and one from my hometown.
Well, those are my picks for the first round. Honestly, I can see half of these picks going wrong. Should be some great games, though. Click on the image below for the rest of my bracket.