It's definitely over my head and I try not to think about it, but it's inevitable...I don't have a national championship ring, I don't have a final four. -Brian Megill
There are a lot of good Syracuse Lacrosse previews out there. Our friends over at College Crosse have one that I highly recommend. If you want to go even more in depth, look to Inside Lacrosse for details on the X's and O's.
But neither one mentions the one thing that stands out about this season: Tradition.
Or rather, a return to tradition. The idea that this group of seniors taking the field has never been to a Final Four is mind blowing for Syracuse Lacrosse. It not only shows that tremendous leaps forward the sport has taken, but how Syracuse can no longer just "expect" to be a Final Four team year in an year out.
Every preview of Syracuse is the same: face off issues haunting the team, uncertainty in the middle, strength of competition within the Big East. All of these are reasons people say this team won't be making a trip to Philadelphia for the Final Weekend.
Let's start with those issues: Yes, the faceoffs have been an issue for Syracuse. The scrimmages were not anything completely reassuring but there should be some improvement. The key will be play on the wings just as much as the guy fighting for the ball. Coach John Desko mentioned that fifth year captain Steve Ianzito will be the key man in that position. I don't expect Syracuse to be dramatically better at faceoffs, but even being average would be an improvement.
Midfield is an area I think there will be improvement upon. The midfield/attack combo this year is going to surprise a lot of people. Chris Dadio and Derek DeJoe looked strong in scrimmages and while Luke Cometti and JoJo Marasco play more of an attacking role this year, the overall scoring production of the mids is going to go up.
Finally, the Big East. In it's final season (drink) things are going to be exciting. Notre Dame is the clear favorite with returning talent to match, if not best Syracuse. St. Johns and Villanova could surprise and Providence will stall to make it close. All you need to know is that the Big City Classic between Notre Dame and Syracuse will determine the Big East Championship. It will be a game for the ages.
But there is a lot of good in this team, namely the attack and back four.
The attack is going to be scary good. Derek Maltz is going to hit the back of the net a lot with the help of Marasco and Cometti and the next rotation of Powderly, Dylan Donahue and Kevin Rice is just as good as any out there. Just ponder this: Desko essentially said after the first scrimmage that Maltz was too good to play in the scrimmages. Yeah, that'll help this year. These guys move the ball around and use superior athleticism to run around their opponents and open lanes. Think Oregon Ducks of lacrosse minus the highlighter. Well...sometimes the highlighter.
Finally, the defense is really good. When the unit plays as well as it as it can, it shows they have a strong returning unit. Megill says that they call themselves "The Forest" because throwing a lacrosse ball through a dense forest is impossible. (Waiting on the t-shirts...) Bobby Wardwell has solidified his place in net and the team should not have the controversy they had last year.
All in all, Syracuse Lacrosse 2013 is good. Really good. Are they "elite?" We won't know until after Army, UVA and Hopkins. ND is my pick for the championship so that game will be less of a "who are we" and more of a "Championship Preview" if Cuse is good. If not, it will be a "Upset Watch" for ND.
What I love about Manly is that when you walk into the main foyer, it's a homage to Syracuse Lacrosse. There is the Wall that shows the history of the game on the hill. There are replicas of every championship trophy Cuse has won. The senior guys on the team know that's where they should be.
Will they do it this year? I'm not sure anyone knows for sure. But all that's important is that the Orange knows it should do it. It'll be a fun year.