I like to think I know a decent amount about Lacrosse. But Matt Glaude, aka Hoya Suxa, runs the show over at SB Nation's College Crosse and knows more in his pinky finger's hangnail than I ever will in my entire life. Therefore, I caught up with him to help us breakdown the NCAA Tournament bracket.
AP: Denver, UNC, and Penn State are the notable teams in Syracuse's side of the bracket. Who out of these teams should challenge the Orange most for a spot in the Championship game?
MG: They're all good, all capable of beating Syracuse. Of that grouping, North Carolina is probably the most difficult challege: Joey Sankey, Jimmy Bitter, and Marcus Holman (a player of the year candidate in any season in which Rob Pannell wasn't a super senior and on a rampage) constitute arguably the strongest attack in the country; Carolina's defense is markedly improved from a season ago and freshman Kieran Burke has done some nice things in the crease for the Tar Heels; and the midfield is deep and complementary of the attack. Carolina is stupidly underseeded to the point that the RPI should be burned for witchcraft. Working in Syracuse's favor is that Carolina's road to a potentially meeting with the Orange goes through Lehigh -- a stylistic spectrum opposite to the Tar Heels -- and either Denver or Albany (teams with enough offense to take Berlin in just 36 hours). None of the opponents are particularly favorable for Syracuse (this isn't 1997; everybody can play these days), but Carolina is the biggest problem on the top side of the bracket.
AP: Who presents the worst matchup for the Orange that they could theoretically face (seeing that Albany is buried until the Final Four barring a crazy run)?
MG: In the entire bracket (I mean, any team in the bracket is a theoretical opponent for Syracuse at some point)? There are a handful of teams -- Cornell isn't the best matchup in the world, and the Red were a pipe or two away from earning a win in the Dome during the regular season; Yale's Dylan Levings is a possession-generating machine and the Elis are one of the strongest defensive teams in the nation, the combination of which -- possession starving the Orange and the capability to mark Syracuse's strongest unit -- creates issues for the Orange; Penn State has one of the best goaltenders in the nation in The Blonde Satan (Austin Kaut), capable of cooling the Orange offense almost by himself (and State has a hell of a field defense); and Maryland remains the most dangerous team in the field when they're playing at capacity (which they really haven't been lately). The best matchup in the bracket is Detroit, because Detroit is six shades of terrible. Syracuse will not play them.
AP: What's going to be Syracuse's strength in the tournament? Their weakness?
MG: Syracuse's strength lies in the offense: Very few teams shoot as well as the Orange do, very few teams share the ball as well as the Orange do, and very few teams value possession -- in terms of limiting turnovers -- as well as the Orange. The team's thousand points of spite offensive unit is multi-faceted and finding its groove at the right time of the year (and when they go in transition they're as good as anyone). As for weaknesses, strength of play between the pipes remains a concern and the team's faceoff play isn't fantastic (although Syracuse's makes up some of the possession opportunity generation with its clearing game and the rate at which teams commit turnovers). As long as the team's offense and defense play efficiently, possession margin isn't the worst thing in the world (although it makes winning games comfortably a lot easier).
AP: If the Orange make it to the Final, who would you want to see, you don't you want to see and who do you think the Orange should see?
MG: All Syracuse fans should pull hard for Detroit to make a charmed run to Memorial Monday. That's the best matchup on the board with a title on the line. That, of course, will not happen unless all other teams in their path become horribly diseased. There really aren't large gaps between Syracuse and all other schools that aren't Detroit, Bryant (which could be a huge pain in the ass for the Orange on Sunday), and Towson; there is competitive balance throughout the field. I guess the team most Syracuse fans wouldn't mind seeing in the championship would be Notre Dame, mostly due to the fact that the Orange detonated plastic explosive the last two times the teams met. The least preferred opponent in the final? Cornell, because a motivated Rob Pannell is the scariest thing this side of a food pyramid that only consists of vegetables. Most likely opponent? I don't know. That side of the bracket has a lot of teams with weird profiles. Right now I'd pick Cornell, but Loyola and Maryland (especially if the Terps find their groove again) are capable of making Memorial Monday.
Remember to check College Crosse all tournament long for updates and previews.