well that's just, like, your opinion, man
I think there is a fair amount of interest among MgoReaders about lacrosse as a sport, but most of whom are not too familiar with it. The NCAA tournament starts today and it’s every lacrosse fan’s favorite time of year. Michigan’s program is in full effect now, but alas has yet to make the tournament. But I figured it would be good to write up a primer on the sport’s biggest event for those who are intrigued but unfamiliar.
The NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament consists of 18 teams, 10 conference auto-bids and 8 at-large teams. Here’s the field. There are only 8 auto-bids, making it difficult for independents, which is exactly why Hopkins joined the Big Ten as a lacrosse-only member (Hopkins sucked this year and managed to win the inaugural B1G tourney and made it in - they likely would not have made it as an independent). The lowest ranked 4 AQ bids face off in play-in games to determine the remaining two spots in the field of 16. Towson and Marist won the play-ins earlier this week.
Michigan played five teams who made it into the tourney this year: #1 overall seed Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Ohio State and Brown. They lost all of them, but its a good sign that Michigan is taking on a tough schedule.
It all leads up to the Final 4 or “Championship Weekend” over Memorial Day. The Saturday of semi finals has provided some amazing games in the past. The championship game is played on Memorial Day. All the games will be played on the ESPN family of networks.
Who to Root For:
College lacrosse is plagued by the dominance of a cartel of the same ol’ teams. So, you should pull for Underdogs and New Guys: This includes Denver, a fun Western team with tons of talent and plenty of Canadian dudes. A good rule of thumb for watching lacrosse is “Canadian Players = Fun Games”. Canucks have a different style based on flashy stickwork, fakes and pinpoint passing and shooting which is noticeable in the outdoor game and makes for entertaining play. Now a perennial Top-5 team and title contender, Denver is led by legendary coach Bill Tierney and they employ his trademark defensive and goaltending strategies. Plus, I always want the Pioneers to do well to help push expansion of the sport westwards.
Albany is another plucky young challenger. Last year, the Thompson Trio, two brothers and a cousin from the Iroquois Nation led the game’s most potent offensive family unit since probably the Gait brothers, or at least the Powells. They were putting the wood to ND last year in the quarterfinals before an epic collapse sent ND to the Final 4 again. The brothers graduated but Lyle has returned to lead the nation in points. Native Americans play a style similar to the Canadians due to the skills they developed playing box lacrosse, which lends itself to high octane offense in the outdoor game. As a result, the Great Danes lead the nation in total offense and hammered Stony Brook in their conference final, 22-9. They will make for a ridiculously entertaining Final 4 team.
Who to Root Against:
Ye Olde Guarde. Basically you should root against any snobby, east coast, team who has won a million championships before: the Virginias, the Hopkinses, the Dukes. And to a lesser extent Maryland- the Terps haven’t won in forever but they always seem to make the Final 4, and then play like shit. Syracuse is the only traditional power I can really stomach but I’m not going to shed a tear if they get knocked out by someone new. UNC gets a pass (for now) because they haven’t been to the Final 4 since 1993.
Michigan’s natural rivals: ND & Ohio State. Michigan lacrosse fans like me are faced with a double-edged sword when watching the Irish or Buckeyes in the tourney. I want midwestern teams to succeed and an ND or Ohio title would be great for the growth of the sport, but rooting for them goes against my natural hatred of anything blue and gold and scarlet and silver.
Players to Watch:
Lyle Thompson, Attack, Albany - Wish luck to anyone trying to stop Lyle. He’s slick and slippery and displays impeccable stick skills. He has amazing vision and is a clever and ingenious offensive mind. He is the focal point of the offense and makes everyone around him better - the mark of a truly great player. His older brother Jeremy was a star at Syracuse and his brother Miles and cousin Ty were his teammates last year so this is the last chance for the Thompson dynasty to win a championship. Lyle leads the nation in points, averaging more than 6 a game. If you manage to keep him from scoring, he will just distribute and get his teammates going. He is basically the Magic Johnson of lacrosse. Plus, he’s got sweet hair- check out the photo on his bio.
Myles Jones, Midfielder, Duke
6-5, 240 and built like a linebacker, Myles Jones is considered the prototype of the future lacrosse athlete. A big and powerful dodger with a scathing shot, he’s matchup problem for most teams. Jones is a finalist for the Tewaaraton, lacrosse’s Heisman, but he’s a only a junior and will be back terrorizing ACC defenses next year. He is a smart player and has gotten considerably better in his time at Duke and is emerging into a savvy offensive player. And it’s nice to see a black kid out there kicking ass (even if it is for Duke).
Matt Kavanaugh, Attack, Notre Dame
Kavanaugh shows the world that you don’t have to have Myles Jones’ size to be a force on the lacrosse field. Tiny, 5’8, 170, but quick as a cat, Kavanaugh led the Irish charge through the postseason last year and is now one of the best players in the country. He is an electrifying player to watch and is the motor for ND’s offense. In February, Kavanaugh lit up Michigan for 6 points (3 G,3 A) in front of a big crowd at Oosterbaan.
Wes Berg, Attack & Trevor Baptiste, Faceoff Mid, Denver
Berg has been an incredibly productive offensive player for Bill Tierney for years now. He is your classic Canadian attackman - you’re not going to take the ball away from him and he’s going to torment you with precision passing and shooting. Like a lot of Canadian dudes, he likes to keep the stick in his strong hand, his right, so defenses will try to force him left, but it won’t work (Watch this goal at 1:48). Plus, the dude can shoot - he’s among the nation’s leaders in goals and shot percentage, which is rare.
If you have an offensive superpower like Berg, it helps to have an unstoppable face-off man to get him the ball. Baptiste is a Tewaaraton finalist and has won more than 70% of the draws he’s taken, which is rare for a freshman. The Berg-Baptiste tandem will fuel Denver’s O and wear down opposing defenses and midfields.
Kyle Bernlohr, Goalie, Maryland
Continuing in a long tradition of great Maryland goalies, Kyle Bernlohr has led Maryland to the #1 scoring defense in the nation. With Bernlohr in the cage, the Terps are yielding less than seven goals a game which is superb. He is among the top 5 goalies in save percentage and leads Maryland’s stingy defense and is a finalist for the Tewaaraton. Bernlohr only made 6 saves against Michigan, but didn’t need to do much as the Terps shut down an Ian King-less Michigan squad. Maryland typically plays a hard-nosed tough style of defense which should produce some entertaining physical play and some big hits.
Others: Nicky Galasso, Attack, Syracuse. Great player with a great name - I always think it’s “golazo”.
Ben Williams, faceoff middie and ground ball hog for Syracuse.
Jimmy Bitter, Attack, UNC, not as great a name, but still a pretty entertaining player.
Larken Kemp, Brown Long Stick Midfielder, a nationwide leader in caused turnovers. Great LSMs are disruptive in the defensive and midfield portions of the field and initiate the fast breaks.
If you’re not a big fan but are interested in learning more I hope this did the trick and gave you something to watch for. And don’t worry it won’t be long before Michigan will be in it, tearing up the NCAA bracket. Go Blue!
Michigan needs a victory over a struggling Penn St squad to make the Big Ten tournament next week at Maryland.
M is down 4-1 so far in the 2nd qtr. It is on B102Go if you get that...
This game is a really interesting one. Can Michigan steal one from Johns Hopkins who is having a down year? I'm thinking probably not but who knows?
Faceoff in 5 minutes on ESPNU.
The Michigan men’s lacrosse Team Four honored the proud club team history by wearing commemorative uniform patches for Sunday’s game versus Ohio State, and in a brief but meaningful ceremony paid tribute to the founding of the club lacrosse team in 1965. Transcript follows:
“Ladies and gentlemen at this time the University of Michigan athletic department would like to recognize the men that laid the foundation for Michigan lacrosse as we know it today. We honor Bob Gillon, Bill Moller, Bob DiGiovanni, and Bill Fleischman. In 1965 these four students took it upon themselves to start a lacrosse team, and 50 years later that team has evolved into an athletic department varsity sport and competing member of the Big Ten. On the field today representing those four men is Bob DiGiovanni, one of the founding members of that 1965 team. Mr. DiGiovanni was a leader of the program for 33 years as a player and a coach. Mr. DiGiovanni please accept this plaque as a sign of our gratitude and appreciation for laying the foundation for our lacrosse program here at Michigan.”