NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Round 1 Predictions
It’s May again and another Selection Sunday has come and gone. We finally have our 16 teams that will fight for the opportunity to throw their gloves in the air and raise the National Championship trophy on Memorial Day.
As a life-long lacrosse fan, I could not be happier to watch these boys compete again, after their season got canceled last year. It looks as though every team has done their due diligence in order to follow protocols day in and day out, as well as the large sacrifices these men have made to get this season going. With all of that being said, I am here to offer up my personal predictions as to how these first round games will play out. Let it be known that I am far from an expert analyst, but a lifelong fan, follower, and player, putting myself out there for the lacrosse community that I love so much. Here we go!
5/15 12:00 PM ET #1 North Carolina (11-2) vs Monmouth (8-2)
The Tarheels get the number 1 seed in this year’s tournament coming off an impressive regular season, ending as ACC co-champions. Even though the ACC did not have a true conference tournament this year, it is fair to say that Coach Breschi’s boys are firing on all cylinders. Monmouth is going into this match up after winning the MAAC championship and snagging the automatic qualifier. I expect a team from the Jersey Shore to play this game with every bit of grit and grease they can possibly muster but unfortunately I do not expect it to matter much against the red hot Heels. I have a feeling that Chris Gray (42G, 35A) and the high-powered UNC offense will have a very effective scoring day. It is important to mention that Monmouth has been facing off at about 70% on the season. With that being said it should be interesting to see how they fair against the faceoff stables of Tyerer (53% FO) and Tucci (57% FO), but it looks like UNC will come out on top.
5/15 2:30 PM ET #8 Lehigh (10-1) vs Rutgers (8-3)
This is one of the games of the weekend that has me in a massive state of speculation. Both of these teams had not so expected ends to their seasons to say the least. Lehigh secured the AQ as the Patriot League Champion without even playing in the game since Loyola had to forfeit due to COVID protocols. They only suffered one surprise loss to a Villanova team who was coming into their own just a little too late. Other than that they proved to be dominant the entirety of the year. Throughout the BIG 10 season, Rutgers was the obvious second best in the conference only dropping two games to Maryland. Everyone expected them to meet Maryland a third time in the BIG 10 championship until they lost to Johns Hopkins in the semi finals. I can say that even as a Hop fan I was shocked to say the least. After they lost, there was a lot of talk of them still getting an at-large bid and it seems the committee deemed them worthy. As for this match up I expect a hard-fought battle. Considering these schools are only an hour apart, there isn’t anything better than a little New Jersey Vs Pennsylvania battle to spice up the first round. The reason I think that Rutgers has the edge is their ability to pepper the net with goals at a moment’s notice. The offensive trio of Charalambides (37G, 16A), Kirst (32G, 15A), and Mullins (25G, 20A) should be in full form especially after missing a chance at the conference title. Rutgers also boasts Colin Kirst (54% SV) in goal as he has exceptionally backstopped the Scarlet Knights all season. As for the Mountain Hawks, I think they will be able to run with the boys in red as they have been dominant in the possession game all season thanks to face off man; Mike Sisselberger (80% FO). They should be able to make it a good game as they have scored at a good clip all season, but I still think that Rutgers wins this one.
5/15 5:00 PM ET #6 Notre Dame (7-3) vs Drexel (10-2)
I have the Irish coming out on top in this one. Notre Dame secured an at large to the tourney, as did all of the other ACC teams. The Drexel Dragons made their path to the tournament by defeating Hofstra in the CAA championship. The boys from Philly are going to have their work cut out for them against Pat Kavanaugh (23G, 36A) and Notre Dame. Kavanaugh has proven that he is deserving of the Tewaaraton even if it may not come this year. This teams’ success cannot be attributed to just him alone, he has had offensive studs such as Griffin Westlin (14G, 10A), Will Yorke (22G), and Eric Dobson (14G, 6A) to fall back on. As many Notre Dame fans will agree, this is the first time in a long time that they have had solid face off and goalie play and that has been the true difference maker in South Bend. Drexel has surprised a lot of people this year, at the start of the season many people, like myself, did not see them as the eventual conference champions given the other teams in the CAA. The Dragons have dazzled with some highlight reel goals and good wins. They’ve shown that they like to share the rock given that they have 5 guys with 10 or more goals. This will be a fun one for all included, and Drexel will put up a hard fight but Notre Dame will emerge victorious. We’ve seen over the years how Coach Corrigan is not afraid to win by 1 goal against anyone.
5/15 7:30 PM ET #5 Georgetown vs Syracuse
This is going to be my most controversial pick of this blog even though it isn’t that hot of a take. Even though Georgetown is the seeded team in this matchup, picking them to win would be seen by most as picking an upset. This year it has been blatantly obvious that the ACC is far and away the most dominant division in all of college lacrosse. That being said, the Orange have had their fair share of ups and downs on and off the field this year. The biggest reason I have for picking against ‘Cuse this year is their defensive shortcomings. Throughout the season their defense has come up short on keeping them in games, and Georgetown just so happens to have a habit of exposing poor defenses. The other kicker for me is that the ACC is 32-1 against out of conference opponents this year, and Syracuse is that lone 1in the column since their early season loss to Army. Georgetown may not be from the ACC but they did just so happen to win their third Big East championship in a row, which is no small feat. The Hoyas team has been transformed over the past few years from mediocre into a real competitive team. It has a lot to do with what Coach Kevin Warne has done as well as the presence of one Jake Carraway (46G, 16A). Georgetown has some serious weapons like him on offense, as well as defense. Their defense was getting buzz early as they only let up a combined two goals in their first two games. The Georgetown Hoyas will be handing the Syracuse Orange a first round tournament exit.
5/16 12:00 PM ET #4 Virginia (10-4) vs Bryant (9-3)
I’m sure we all remember the year that Bryant upset Syracuse in the first round of the tournament and stunned the lacrosse community. Unfortunately for them, I don’t think that this year will be like that. I give them a lot of credit for the solid season they had, including winning the NEC championship over conference favorite St. Joes. One thing to note about the Bulldogs is that they have a better away game record than at home, and given that this game will take place away from Bryant, they could make things interesting. The Cavs are still the defending national champions since last season was canceled. They tout an absolutely loaded offense with a high upside that has been on display a lot this season. They did not fare well in the conference ,only winning 2 out of 6, but in all of those losses except one they were close games that they could’ve just as easily won. As long as Virginia plays the way that we all know that they can, they should enjoy a nice playoff win at home.
5/16 2:30 PM ET #3 Maryland (12-0) vs Vermont (9-4)
As the only undefeated team in the tournament most of the lacrosse community believed that Maryland was a shoe in for the number 1 seed. It seems that the committee felt more strongly about the strength of the ACC teams rather than Maryland running the table of a BIG 10 conference in a serious down year. It is no doubt that Maryland is a top team as they are led by the likes of Tewaaraton front-runner Jared Bernhardt (53G, 22A), as well as Logan Wisnausakas (29G, 27A) and Daniel Maltz (36G, 7A). They also boast a high quality defensive core as well. The Catamounts are up against a lot as they enter the tournament as the America East champions. They have definitely been a fan favorite all year, posting a highlight reel goal in what seems like every game, and their electric two man games and deep snipes have been a treat to watch. They consistently play hard and do well playing against teams that might be better than them on paper. I really think they had a good chance at beating Syracuse during the regular season but couldn’t hold on. This game is most certainly going to be a must-watch, as the Catamounts will fight with everything they have. I think the Terps will win in the end even if it does get close, but without a doubt this will be a game to watch.
5/16 5:00 PM ET #2 Duke vs High Point
The Blue Devils are absolutely rolling this year. As the other half of the ACC co-champions, they have a large ceiling this tournament. Anything less than winning it all would be a let down for Duke. They find themselves going against the up-and-coming High Point Panthers for the second time this season. The first time these two teams met, Duke won handily 27-8. The Blue Devils have a plethora of scorers, highlighted by grad transfer Michael Sowers (30G, 37A) and freshman stand out Brennan O’Neil (38 G, 8A). Over the past few years the High Point Panthers have made a name for themselves, as they’ve been responsible for some of the best regular season upsets in recent memory. One of which was against Duke. A large part of the Panthers success is due to attackman Asher Nolting (23G, 38A). He’s been the backbone of their offense for all of his years as a Panther and has made a name for himself and this program. Unfortunately for High Point, do not expect any upsets in this one as we have now entered Duke’s favorite month: May, where they always manage to find that extra gear. High Point will be able to hang with them at times but overall I think Duke will win without much of a struggle.
5/16 7:30 ET #7 Denver (12-4) vs Loyola Maryland (9-5)
The two things that these two teams have in common is that neither one of them won their conference championship to get into this year's dance, and that they both have won national championships. Denver fell short in the Big East finals to Georgetown while Loyola had to bow out of the Patriot league championship due to COVID protocols. Despite those factors both teams were still able to earn the good graces of the selection committee. I think that this game will be straight down the middle and it is truly either team’s game to win. What sets Denver apart are their certified weapon Ethan Walker (37G, 21A) and the addition of Yale transfers Jackson Morrill (30G, 36A) and TD Ierlan (70%FO). The Greyhounds of Loyola once again find themselves in the tournament but this time without team legend Pat Spencer, the most decorated athlete in school history. There are guys that have stepped up like Aidan Olmstead (26G, 25A) and Kevin Lindley (38G, 8A). This game for me is probably the hardest to call of all of the first round games but I think the Pioneers are a slightly more complete team, and that will allow them to come out on top in the end of this one.
All in all, it should be a very fun first round for this years NCAA Lacrosse Tournament.
I hope you're as excited as I am for these match-ups, especially after missing out last year. Make sure you stay tuned in to Russo's Playbook for more predictions and coverage as the tourney progresses.