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This week’s games of the week are a perfect trifecta from the Meadowlands.  While all the teams participating are Final Four caliber teams, hopefully this is not a prequel to a future Final Four site.  While it is the home of my beloved Giants, and near NYC…it is also in dirty Jersey.  More on the NCAA’s movement of FF locations in a later blog.

For the record the best game is the first game, with the last game being the least interesting out of the three.  So if you can get to the Meadowlands this weekend do so…and early.

Virginia vs. UNC

The first game of the day pits Virginia against UNC at noon.

UVA is still undefeated at 11-0 with wins over #2Syracuse, #3Cornell, #11Hopkins, and #8Maryland.

UVA in their last 2 games have only won by 1 goal in each.  In their most recent, it was the longest game EVER going into 7 overtimes.  Everything about this team looks polished, especially Ghitelman making 22 saves in that 7OT thriller.  22 saves and only 9 goals against.  Their offense is superb and Ghitelman continues to stand on his head in cage.  There really is not much of a weak spot on this team, except EMO (32%).  Maybe they’ll be tired still for UNC?

UNC is 8-3 with wins over #19Denver, #17Navy, #15Colgate, #11Hopkins and losses to Notre Dame, Duke, and Maryland.  UNC statistically should have more wins.  They just fell short against some tough competition.  They are dominating on FO and GBs.  Their EMO is struggling at 35%, but their ManDown defense is playing well holding opponents to only 34%.

UNC should come out and play UVA physically for two reasons.  On the off-chance there is still some tightness/soreness from the 7OT game, and since UNC Man-down is good and UVA EMO is struggling, don’t be afraid to get some laundry on the field.  Other than that UNC needs to win those FO and GBs, and try to keep the ball out of the sticks of Virginia’s offense both Middies and Attack.  While my heart wants UNC to win, I think Ghitelman is too hot right now.  If he wasn’t playing at the level he is now, I could see UNC possibly with the upset.  Virginia by 4.

Princeton vs. Syracuse
The second game of the night is Princeton vs Syracuse at 2:30pm.

Princeton is 7-1 with wins over #11Hopkins, #6UMBC, and #18Albany. Their lone loss was to Hofstra. 

Princeton’s offense has been just as good as their defense.  Princeton is averaging 12.25 goals per game.  In their only loss to Hofstra, Princeton could only find the net 7 times and that was their downfall.  Princeton has 2 flaws.  Their special teams (EMO is less than 40%, and Man Down is less than 50%), and Faceoffs (52%).  Faceoffs is another factor in their loss as they only won 8 of 27.

Syracuse is 7-1 as well with wins over #11Hopkins, and #15Loyola.  Their lone loss was to Virginia.  Syracuse the past few games has had a habit of starting off slow and then exploding in the 2nd or 3rd or 4th quarters.  In the last 3 games they have not scored more than 3 in the first quarter and have progressively started their spurt later in the game.  Their offense is a formidable weapon, and while their defense is solid, they seem to lack the physical presence they had last year.  The Orange need to win FaceOffs, as they have struggled at times this year.  If Syracuse can get up early and not have to play catch up against Princeton, the Orange win.  Princeton could upset Syracuse if they can jump to an early lead and then slow the game down.  I am being a homer and going with the Cuse on this one.  While their slow starts scare me against a team like Princeton, once the scoring train gets rolling, there’s no stopping it.

Hofstra vs. Delaware
Finally to round out the day, Hofstra takes on Delaware at 5:00pm

Hofstra’s defense and goalie have gelled since mini-Gvozden was thrown into the fire against his big brother and the rest of the Hopkins Blue Jays.  Since then mini-G and the rest of the Dutch D have held opponents to under 8 goals per game.  Not on average, but no one has scored more than 8 on them since the loss.Delaware is 3-7 with no ranked wins, and too many losses to list.  3 of their 7 losses were by 1 goal.  If not for 3 goals, they could be a ranked team. This is Delaware’s downfall. Their offense has not put up more than 10G in a month.

This is an easy pick for me.  The Dutchmen playing in their own backyard with their D and G playing very well, and Delaware’s O stalling out to a fizzle is a no brainer.

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If the season continues like it has the first couple of weeks, we are in for a wild ride. Upsets and let downs have appeared in most big games so far. This week will hopefully shake the lacrosse world back into alignment.

Friday March 6, 8:00pm: Princeton at UMBC
UMBC is 3-1 with no wins over ranked teams and one loss to Hopkins.
Princeton is 2-0 with a win over #10 Hopkins.

UMBC has been putting up a lot of points this year averaging 13.8 goals per game. The Retrievers are led by Peet Poillon (8,10), Kyle Wimmer (11,4), and Alex Hopmann (11,1). Wimmer has stood out not only putting up 15 points, but also winning 6 of 9 face offs and scooping up the most 19GBs. If only the rest of the team had as much effort as Wimmer. The Retrievers are picking up less GBs and winning a lot less face offs than their opponents (36%).

Princeton is enjoying a year with not only their signature stingy defense but also an offense putting up 14 goals per game. As one would expect, the Tigers’ defense and clock management have been superb. Opponents are averaging 25 shots per game…that’s not on goal, but overall. Only 17 shots per game are getting through to the goalie.

On the hustle aspect, Princeton has picked up 20 more GBs (10 per game) than their opponents. Their face off abilities are just slightly over the 52% mark. One other interesting fact about their discipline…they have successfully cleared the ball 32 of 34 times.
On offense, opponents don’t know who to cover, as Princeton has 7 players with 3 or more points. Jack McBride leads the way with (8,1) followed by Tommy Davis (3,2) and Rich Sgalardi (1,4). On the flip side, both goalies are putting up great numbers. Ashra has 6GA and save percent of 63%, and Fiorito has 7.3GA and a save percent of 58%.

While UMBC plays opponents tight, and has made great progress in recent years, I have never seen a Retriever beat a Tiger in a fight. Princeton is too well oiled of a machine of discipline, time management, and now add in scoring this year. Princeton will take this one. I’m going out on a limb and saying the Tigers score 14…again.

Saturday March 7, Noon: Hofstra at Johns Hopkins
The Flying Dutchmen (aka Pride) of Hofstra will travel into Blue Jay territory. This is a rivalry that has heated up in recent years. Hofstra has actually won in 2006 & 2008. Hopkins won in 2007. Two of the three games(07/08) were 1 goal games.

Before I get into the breakdown of the teams, I’ll tell you neither of these goalkeepers has impressed me so far.

My favorite whipping boy from last year, Mike Gvozden has gone back to his sieve like self. Maybe he just doesn’t get good until 5 or 6 games into the season. Either that or the second half of last year was a fluke. I’ll concede that he didn’t get much help last week against Princeton, as Princeton took advantage of early disillusioned slides.

For the Dutchmen, we have Danny Orlando. Sure he’s got a suave name, but can he stop shots? The jury is deliberating. Every season he gets worse. Freshman year he had 7.2Goals Against and 56.3 save%. Soph year slid to 8.6GA and 49.1%. So far this year he has 9.4GA and 41.2%.

If Hofstra wants to beat Hopkins and improve to 3-0, they need more input besides Jay Card. Forget his 7Goals and 3Assists, he has been the saviour scoring both game winning goals in their two 1 goal wins. Card’s fellow attackman, Kevin Ford has taken more shots than a spaghetti western, but is having trouble raking in goals (24shots/3G). At midfield Anthony Muscarella is drawing opponents top defenders after a stellar year last year. While his production is down, it is freeing up Mike Colleluori to make things happen at midfield putting up 4G and 7A. Hofstra’s defence has faired well causing turnovers, limiting penalties, and limiting opponents shots. They just need to get Danny O’s head back into the game.

For Hopkins, they need to win at the face off X. If Powers can continue the success he had against UMBC (17 of 24), Hopkins should be able to win this one. The Blue Jays also need to keep their penalties in check. 19 penalties so far is not helping a goalie that is struggling as opponents are converting on 43% of their EMO chances. Continuing with their defense, if they can nullify Card, and let Ford keep firing blanks, Gvozden might…just might…start to build himself back to last year.

I think this game goes to the Blue Jays. Why? I think Hofstra’s offense right now is too 1 dimensional and their goalie is 0 dimensional.

Saturday March 7, Noon: Syracuse at Georgetown
Syracuse is 2-1 with their only loss to #1 Virginia.
Georgetown is 1-1 with a win over #8Maryland and a loss to unranked St. Johns.

No…that is not a typo.

Last week was a mirror image for these two teams. Both teams are coming off losses. One goal losses that each team really could have won. Both Georgetown and Syracuse played sloppy and made unforced errors early. Both also were trailing early and made nice comebacks that just fell short. Georgetown looked very good against Maryland, and quite honestly not too bad against St. Johns. When a goalie stops 15 of 24 shots on goal (63%) as Gavin Buckley did for St Johns, any team could lose. Their sub-par hustle performance didn’t help as they lost the GB war, and turned the ball over more. Georgetown’s attack is a smooth confident unit with Mirabito (8,1), Shuler (3,1), and Dowd (2,5). But don’t be fooled as they have a one two punch at midfield with Kocis (3,2), and Brancaccio (3,1). Even their goalie Jack Davis is doing well with a save percentage of over 51%.

Syracuse as usual is a scoring machine averaging 17goals per game. What they need to improve on before facing the Hoyas turning the ball over. Against UVA, many passes were errant. Syracuse defense also needs to stand up against confident attack units. In the games I saw last year, the Cuse defense let bodies fly and made attack units think twice about moving in for a close shot. Against Virginia, it looked as though they were timid. Many of the early goals against Syracuse were not their goalie’s fault but bad slides or miscommunication letting the shooter in on the doorstep.

If Georgetown can pull of the upset here, we might see them in Boston. If I erase what happened last week I would say they have a chance at pulling off the upset. Unfortunately we can’t ignore that loss to St. Johns. I think the Orange is pissed. Not so much about losing to UVA by a goal, but the way in which they played. I can see them coming out and being more physical on D like they need to be against a deceivingly good attack. Syracuse by a couple.

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