School: North Carolina
Mascot: Tar Heels
Coach: Joe Breschi
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Game Location: Durham, NC
Game Time: 6 PM
Television/Radio: ESPNEWS…this is a change, so be aware; TK99/105
Weather: 87 Degrees, Partly Cloudy
All-Time Syracuse Record Vs. Opponent: 16-7
Previous Matchup: 12-11 (OT) Syracuse Win
Opponent Ranking: #20
2017 Record: 6-7
2017 Conference Record: 1-3
Conference Postseason Results: 7-10 lost to Syracuse in ACC Semifinals
NCAA Tournament Postseason Results: National Champions
2017 Team Statistics
Total Goals– Shot Attempts: 142-503
Total Opponent Goals– Shot Attempts: 127-417
EMO Goals (Percentage): 12 (.353)
EMO Goals Against (Percentage): 16 (.400)
Team Shooting Percentage:.282
Opponent Shooting Percentage: .305
Shots on Goal Percentage: .561
Opponent Shots on Goal Percentage: .619
Opponent Groundballs: 375
Caused Turnovers: 182
Faceoffs: 170-309 (.550)
Clearing Percentage: .908
Opponent Clearing Percentage: .841
Penalties: 44 (34:30 PIM)
I want to start off by reminding everyone that the ACC does NOT have an automatic qualifier in lacrosse any more. The benefit of still having an ACCT is to give a team like Carolina a chance to improve its resume to get an at large bid (or in this case get to .500) and give a team like Duke a chance to improve its seeding. As for a team like the Syracuse Orange? Well, SU cannot improve its position and can only hurt themselves.
It was mentioned during the UNC-SU regular season game that John Desko had brought up the idea of having a non-AQ ACC Tournament where the top team in the Conference was left out and only the bottom four teams were invited. In a situation like the one we have this year, that would certainly benefit Syracuse, but it would also significantly benefit the Heels too. In that scenario, SU would not play, Duke would be the one seed and take on Virginia with Notre Dame and UNC going at it. Therefore UNC would not have to play the best team in the nation and would have a better opportunity to make a run. I doubt this would ever happen, but it would sure be innovative if it could be done.
The last time a National Championship team did not make the next year’s Tournament was Virginia in 2004. On Friday, the North Carolina Tar Heels will try and avoid becoming the second team in the 21st Century to do that.
So this is it for Carolina. In order to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament, a team must have a winning record (including a .500 record). UNC sits at 6-7 currently, which means that the Heels have to win the ACC Tournament in order to even be eligible for the NCAAs. Therefore, Carolina’s NCAA Tournament starts Friday.
All that being said, this is be the most dangerous team with a losing record entering conference tournament time. North Carolina had that regular season Syracuse game until, well until they didn’t. While the Heels took SU to overtime, it gave up a major lead to allow Syracuse to get back into the game. Playing one-goal games is like playing with fire and while Syracuse hasn’t really gotten burned this season (other than the loss to Army), now is not the time to find out how hot that flame is.
Sergio Sacido had three goals against North Carolina a few weeks back, but was relatively silent last week against Binghamton. If the Orange are to make a run, it needs Salcido to be big, especially if he has a shorty on him.
This will be the sixth matchup between these two teams in the last three years and the seventh in the last four years. During that time span only Duke has played Syracuse as many times. SU has a four game win streak against UNC with the last loss coming on April 11, 2015, and is 5-1 since the start of the 2014 season.
The UNC attack had some trouble getting the ball inside against Notre Dame last week. Syracuse’s interior defense has been pretty good this season, so it will be interesting to see how the Heels perform. Carolina utilizes the pick game tremendously, watch the two man game, especially behind the net.
Andy Matthews is a freshman from Baltimore. He is primarily an assist machine with 20 on the year, but he has a lot more in his bag of tricks than that. Last week against Notre Dame, he had a dirty reverse on his defender on the wing after a restart that led to an easy goal.
Watch for Chris Cloutier on the crease. He is a battler and is a very patient shooter who will throw a lot of fakes. The 2016 Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament leads Carolina in goals with 25. Cloutier also has a great low, side arm shot which he utilizes on the wings as well.
Luke Goldstock is the guy to watch. He is one of two guys on the roster with 30+ points this season and is one of the best goal scorers in Carolina history. Keep an eye on Goldstock on the wing, he has a great shot.
Timmy Kelly is the highest scoring midfielder for this squad. He had just ten goals in 2016 but has backed that up with 15 goals and two assists this year. Las Vegas native Justin Anderson has 11 goals and three assists in his freshman year.
Brian Cannon was the most dangerous midfielder against Syracuse in the regular season matchup, burning SU for two goals. He only has eight on the season, but he can get kind of lost in the shuffle. Cannon should be on the second midfield line.
Watch out for graduate student Michael Tagliaferri. He gets very physical on the dodge and can power through a defender and take a shot even while being well defended. If SU does not long-pole him, the defense has to be ready to slide quickly. He has just ten goals on the year, but don’t let that fool you. Tagliaferri has the ability to explode.
On the UNC man-up, keep an eye on William Perry who has three EMO goals for the Heels this year.
Look for Stephen Kelly to push the ball off of a faceoff win. I said it before in my regular season preview of UNC, but Kelly is wicked physical at the faceoff X. He’s not a “technical” guy like Ben Williams is, instead he doesn’t mind letting his opponent win the draw as long as it’s a groundball because he is vicious on the GBs. He is 17th in the country in faceoff winning percentage, taking .548 of his draws. In the regular season game, Williams took 15 of 25 from Kelly.
North Carolina is sixth in the nation in clear percentage. They are one of the worst man-down defenses in the country, killing .600 percent of all man-down situations. I don’t like how Carolina slides, I feel like they are slow to move to double the ball, and that is something that the Syracuse dodgers could take advantage of. The off ball defense is also not great as the Heels have been caught ball watching all year long.
The real question for this game, defensively, is whether or not Carolina will double pole the midfield. Yes, Salcido is coming off of a poor showing against Binghamton, but he is so dangerous. For the last two years only a few teams have really utilized the double pole against Syracuse, and given the SU midfield personnel, that has been very surprising. If I am an opposing coach, I am putting a pole on Salcido and Nick Mariano at the midfield and leaving a shorty on probably Nate Solomon. Of course, with the emergence of Jamie Trimboli as a major dodging threat from midfield, there are now three crazy dodging threats from the first midfield line. Would it be crazy to triple pole a midfield line? Yes, but there is a first for everything.
Syracuse has been great against the zone this year, something we’ve seen a lot of from UNC in 2017. The problem with their zones has been the poor interior defense. I expect Brendan Bomberry to find himself open on the crease quite a bit on Friday, and if SU can get the feeds to him, he could have a big day.
Last week, UNC had a very embarrassing moment in the third quarter. With the flag down on Carolina for an offsides, the Heels had an extra man in the defensive zone and still managed to give up a goal while looking bewildered.
Austin Pifani is 19th in caused turnovers in the nation, and is the heart of the defense. When it wants to, this unit can be very physical with Pifani setting the tone. Ryan Macri is a large fella and can also be a physical guy. He has 15 groundballs on the year and four caused turnovers. The Heels like to use Jack Rowlett on the faceoff wing, it’s all about the groundball game at the X for Carolina. He is an offensive-defenseman and can be utilized more as an LSM. Rowlett has 23 groundballs and eight caused turnovers on the year.
Brian Balkam’s statistics are not all that impressive but he can get hot. The Tar Heels need 12+ saves from this kid for UNC to have a shot. When he makes 12 or more saves UNC is 3-0 and is 3-7 when he makes 11 or fewer saves with those three wins coming against UMBC, Furman, and Dartmouth.
The Syracuse Orange will take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at 6 PM on Friday at Duke. The game can be seen on ESPNEWS and heard on TK99/105. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for updates.