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NCAA 1st round games 2014

Duke vs Air Force
Duke caught a hell of a break being seeded #1, and should ride through the first round comfortably.  Good job to AF for getting to the dance, but Duke is just too much.

UVA vs Hopkins
This is a rematch that saw UVA victorious by 1 goal in the regular season.
Aside from MD and Albany, Hopkins has not beaten anyone of consequence.  The Blue Jays started the season looking strong and started to falter during their 3 game skid in mid March.  They haven’t looked sharp since.  Hopkins plays Hopkins ball.  Not too fast, methodical lacrosse.
UVA also had a great start to their season 6-0 including a beat down of Syracuse before limping along 2-5 in the middle of the season.  It was a stretch that saw 6 top 10 opponents.  UVA’s defense consistently lets in 10-12 goals per game, where they have struggled is on offense.  4 of their 5 losses came when scoring 10 or less goals.  The last time UVA consistently scored 10+ goals per game was in 2011 when they won a Championship.
The key to this game will be can Hopkins hold onto the ball.  Hopkins has struggled with turnovers.  Not the unforced TOs, but they get the ball taken away…alot.  That is what happened in the first meeting with Virginia (Hopkins with 18 TO…11 of which caused by UVA).  UVA outhustled Hop +7 Shots, +8 GBs in a game that wasnt sharp by either team.
UVA takes this one.

Denver vs UNC
The game is sold out in Denver.  Add in the altitude and Denver has their own 11th man.
This should be one of the top games to watch this weekend.  Great for the fans, but bad for the teams.  Seeded differently this could easily have been a final four game.  Denver vs UNC is becoming a tradition in itself.  For the second straight year, UNC is traveling to Denver to start the NCAA tournament.  and the third year in a row UNC faces Denver in the Tournament .  Denver won by 1 in 2013, and by 2 in 2012.
Denver is on an 11 game win streak after losing to Duke by 4 and UPenn by 2 in their first 5 games.  Denver has put up very comparable numbers to UNC in terms of every stat.
UNC has the talent and even though they technically have more losses than Denver, UNC only losses were to Notre Dame by 1, Duke by 1, Syracuse by 1, and UVA by 2.   All stats for UNC are good (FO a little low at 48%), but by all accounts has a stellar team.
Only real concerns are the intangibles.  Denver has won 2 of the last 2 meetings in teh tournament.  Denver is at a sold out home with altitude.  UNC has a history of losing close  big games.
This will be a close exciting game, but history repeats as Denver will take this one.

Penn vs Drexel
This is really a game for bragging rights as the campuses are literally blocks from each other.
Drexel plays everyone tight.  6 games have been decided by 1 goal.  Unfortunately they play up or down to their opponents (some games should not have been that close).  They are coming into the game on an 8 game win streak.
Penn has more quality wins and stats wise looks to be the favorite.
Drexel hustles.  Drexel acts like they’ve been there before.  In an UPset, I think Drexel comes away with another 1 goal game.

Loyola vs Albany
Both teams are fun to watch and it is a shame only 1 will progress after this weekend.
Everyone is now talking about Albany thanks to the main stream media attention.  The Thompson style of play is just fun and exciting to watch.  On offense, Albany can score alot, and while each Thompson  (3) has over 35 goals, two other players have scored over 20 goals each.  The question for Albany is that of Syracuse.  Albany is only winning 42% Face offs, and while they shoot and score alot, they also allow their defense allows their opponents to take too many shots.  Albany’s goalie looks much improved as the season went on is saving 55% of the shots faced.  55% should be good enough for most teams, however because he is facing 42 shots per game, his goals against is 11.4
Loyola could have…should have been the #1 seed.  Their resume included one loss, by 1 goal, in the first game of the year (February 6th), along with quality wins including the thrashing of the team awarded the #1 seed.  The only question for Loyola will be how do they approach a team that pushes the ball as much as Albany?  They have not faced a team with as much firepower or pace as Albany, and this could prove to be a problem.
I like both teams, and this is a hard one to pick.  I’m going to stick with my preseason pick and go with an Albany win.

Notre Dame vs Harvard
This is a mismatch in the seedings.  Harvard in with a win over Cornell and 2 Yale wins.  *Yawn*
Notre Dame has looked good and bad through out the season.  he main take away thus far has been the 180 Notre Dame is in this year.  Typically they have had solid defense and their lack of offense has hurt their NCAA tournament runs.  his year, their offense has proved to be solid, while their defense/goalie have struggled at times.
Harvard should be blownout if Notre Dame gets a handle on the defensive side of the field.

Syracuse vs Bryant
Initial reaction is Syracuse no problem.  But have you seen Bryant play?
Syracuse struggled early on in many aspects (Face Offs took the brunt of the criticism…mine included).  Defense was not communicating, the super offense felt rushed when they got the ball (few and far between), the FO situation, and lack of hustle.
After getting throttled by Duke, Syracuse slowly methodically got better each game.  Since then the Orange had only one loss, a one goal decision in which they looked good even in a loss.  The team is a more cohesive unit.
Bryant is not to be taken too lightly as they possess the key things that could derail Syracuse.  A good goalie that can frustrate shooters (61.1% saves and 7.44 Goals against average), an amazing Face Off man (70+%), a stud midfielder that could prove trouble against a Syracuse midfield that is not built for defense, and coach Mike Pressler (he was the one that built up the Duke Dynasty originally).
If they played earlier this year, I may have called an upset, but Syracuse seems to be gelling now.  Bryant may be able to scare them, but the Orange will come away with the win.

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