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Saturday March 14, 1:00pm St. John’s at Loyola

St. John’s is 4-0 with a win over #11 Georgetown.
Loyola is 4-2 with no ranked wins and losses to Notre Dame and Duke.

I have to be honest. I have not seen either of these teams in action yet for myself, however this game intrigues me.
Upstart St. John’s wants to prove that their win over Georgetown was no fluke. They also beat Drexel, while unranked is yearly a decent team.

Loyola on the other hand will play up or down to their opponents. Loyola only lost to Notre Dame by 1, and by 2 to Duke. However they only beat lowly Sienna by 2.

St. John’s is winning the FO battle with 63%, and I can safely say that their shot on goal differential is due to this control of play.  They have out shot opponents an average of 43 shots vs 26 shots per game. When an opponent is only getting a limited number of shots, it is easy to win games when your keeper (Gavin Buckley) is saving 61% of the shots he does face. Loyola is winning about half their face offs, and is averaging about 35 shots per game.

I think St. John’s has a chance in this one. They need to play their style of game, and not be intimidated by Loyola. I am going with them for my upset pick of the week. Either way it should be an entertaining game to watch.

Saturday March 14, 1:00pm UMBC at Maryland

UMBC is 3-2 with no ranked wins, and losses to Hopkins and Princeton.
Maryland is 4-1 with a win over #10 Duke, and a loss to Georgetown.

UMBC’s offense took a backseat in their loss last week to Princeton, but they are still a potent scoring team. The Retrievers are led by Peet Poillon (8 Goals,13 Assists), Kyle Wimer (12,5), Alex Hopmann (13,1), and Rob Grimm (3,7).

Aside from their scoring ability, goalkeeper Jeremy Blevins is playing very solid in net. He has a 9.17 GAA and a save percentage of 56%. Blevins was a big part in keeping UMBC in the game as he made 11 saves against Princeton and only let in 6 goals.

UMBC’s weaknesses are face offs and hustle. No one has won even 40% of their face offs on the team, and as a whole unit, they are only at 33% (and that’s rounding up).  On ground balls, they are averaging 8 less per game than their opponents. Without possession (FO) and control (GBs) the Retrievers make their games that much harder on themselves.  Their defense has to play longer, and harder, and each shot becomes that more crucial on offense.

Maryland last week surprisingly played Towson close…a little too close.  I have said earlier this is one of the best attack units, and they proved it by scoring all of the goals in the Towson win. Not 1 goal was recorded by a midfielder.  They need to get their act together when they face UMBC this week.

Maryland’s top scorers are Grant Catalino (11,10), Will Yeatman (6,8), Ryan Young (9,4), and Dan Groot (5,6).

In goal for this game should be Brian Phipps, as each goalie shares the starts. Phipps has been slightly better statistically speaking with a 7.38 GAA and a save percentage of 61%.

Maryland’s FO unit couldn’t be more different than UMBC’s. No one has won less than 45% of their FOs taken, and as a unit combine for a win percentage of 62%. On GBs, Maryland is averaging 8 more per game than their opponents.

These are the keys to the game.  Maryland needs to continue their FO/GB dominance and control the time of possession.   Their middies need to step up the offensive contributions to give them some breathing room.  For UMBC, they need to take MD’s midfield out of the equation.   Make Maryland beat them with just their attack. If they can do this and start winning FOs (even 50%), they have a chance.

Maryland will win in a surprisingly close one.

Saturday March 14, 2:00pm Hopkins at Syracuse

Syracuse is 3-1 with a win over #11 Georgetown, and a loss to Virginia.
Hopkins is 3-1 with wins over #9UMBC and #12Hofstra, and a loss to Princeton.

Kyle Wharton was a one man show against Hofstra tallying 5 goals and padding his stats. Wharton now leads Hopkins in scoring (11,3), then comes Mike Kimmel (8,6), Steve Boyle (9,4), and Brian Christopher (4,4).

Hopkins needs someone to step up to an injury riddled FO spot. If you take out Mike Powers’ 68% FO wins, the rest of the team is sub-50%. The other weakness is still Mike Gvozden.  Heading into the Hofstra game his save% was below 50%.  Hofstra made him look good by shooting at his body. Every game I watch him, I keep thinking, “Is this the turn around game where he wakes up and turns it on the rest of the year?”

Syracuse has 9 players with 3 or more goals, and is led on offense by Kenny Nims (10,9), Steve Keogh (13,4), and Dan Hardy(6,5).

An area they are suffering this year compared to last is at face offs. Syracuse’s FO unit is winning 46% of the time.

Two shining underrated stars have been John Galloway who has stood on his head in goal saving 62% of the shots he faced, and Joel White. White needs his own stat of intercepted passes. He has an uncanny ability to time and snatch the opponents passes and create turnovers without taking his opponents arm off with a check.

I think the injury to Powers is a huge benefit to Syracuse. I would have to think FOs will be about even in this game now.  The other thing to watch in this game is EMO.  Syracuse EMO unit is scoring 64% of their chances. Syracuse did struggle against UVA only converting 1 out of 4 chances.  With Hopkins getting an average of 6 penalties per game, Syracuse needs to be able to convert near their season average.

I’m going to be a homer and pick Cuse by 4.

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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.

The 2009 season is finally getting underway.  After a long winter of over 10 feet of snow, it is time to get the boathouse jacket out, the grill cleaned off, and head out to watch some great lacrosse. 

This valentine’s weekend tell her you lover her with tickets to the UMBC/Delaware game.
It is my game of the week pick, and will be a great challenge to both teams right from the gate.

UMBC at Delaware
Saturday 1:00pm

UMBC is carrying a heavy load of expectation this year. The Retrievers had their best season ever last year posting a 12-4 record (undefeated in conference play), and falling just 1 goal short against UVA in the 1st round of the NCAA playoffs.

They look to continue their success this year and go even farther, as they returned 9 of 10 starters…that was until top defenseman Bobby Atwell went down with an ACL injury, and their top attackman Smith is rehabbing his knee.  Smith might not be as effective due to his injury, however, his supporting cast should be able to pick up any slack.  Linemates Matt Latham, and either Chris Jones scored 38 goals last year, and are joined by a very promising freshman in Rob Grimm.  UMBC’s first midfield looks solid with Wimer, Hopmann, and transfer Poillon who combined for 64 goals last season.  UMBC’s starting defense and goalie all return this year, looking stronger than before. 

The only weakness for UMBC is mental.  They have a habit of playing up or down to their opponents.  Last year, UMBC looked a bit overrated as they were blown out by Delaware (7-15), and Rutgers (4-13).  They also struggled against teams they should have easily handled in close wins over Yale (11-9), Binghamton (6-5 in OT), and Vermont (8-6).   On the flipside, they beat Maryland, OSU, Albany twice, and lost to Hopkins by 2 and UVA by 1. 

The Blue Hens of Delaware return 19 players from last years squad including standout attackman Curtis Dickson who posted 46 goals last season.  Dickson will need to lead an inexperienced unit that aside from his numbers, combined for 5 goals last season.  Delaware also has the ability to score from midfield with Martin Cahill and Beau Davis a duo that put up 52 points last year.  On Defense, the hens have a very strong close unit  with Pat Dowling and Tim Langmaid.  What hurts their defense is the loss of goalie Tommy Scherr.  Noah Fossner steps between the pipes this season.  In his first start last week against St. Josephs, he allowed only 2 goals on 11 shots.
It is this unknown of Fossner that is Delaware’s weakness this year.  If he can step in seamlessly to the vacancy between the pipes, Delaware looks to have a solid year.

This game should be an excellent match up with no blowout this year.  It is going to come down to UMBC’s defense.  Can they stop the Hens’ figure out how to stop Dickson and Cahill who single-handedly scored more than all of UMBC last year?

I think UMBC is a solid team this year, but I think Delaware still pulls out a marginal win 10-8.

Tell me what you think?  Who is going to win this game?  What is YOUR pick for the best game to watch?

Every Thursday night I will be posting previews of the best games to watch.  Stay tuned and follow me through the season.

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