Atlantic Coast Conference 2019 Projections
In this article, we will be going over my projected order of finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. This article does not take into account how far a team may go in the postseason. It is only focused on how a team will finish in their conference during the regular season and conference tournament, if they qualify for a spot. Enjoy!
5. North Carolina
Only one team in the ACC does not make the ACC tournament, and I’m picking the Tar Heels to be the odd man out. The Tar Heels are a couple years removed from shocking many in the lacrosse world to win the national title, but they have disappointed since then. In 2017, they were knocked out in the first round to Albany, and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament in 2018 with a 7-7 record.
North Carolina struggled mightily on the road in 2018, with a record of 1-4. The Tarheels had the same stats on offense and defense as they averaged 10.53 goals per game with the same goals given up. The bad news is they lose Chris Cloutier; however, the good news is they return three other offensive stars in Andy Matthews (8 goals, 26 assists), William Perry (22 goals, 9 assists), and Jimmy Kelly (21 goals, 7 assists).
Even with such offensive production returning, the Tar Heels have been consistently inconsistent compared to other teams in the ACC. Until they can get back to playing championship lacrosse, I have them being left out of the conference tournament.
4. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish had a bit of a down year in 2018, getting knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Denver. The Irish never got blown out and were competitive in every game. I expect that to continue in 2019. Losing Ryder Garnsey for the season is a massive blow, but the Irish still have Bryan Costabile (30 goals, 4 assists) to lead the offense. The defense only gave up 8.6 goals per game in 2018 and with many of that cast returning, is expected to keep those numbers the same in 2019. Choosing who will win the ACC is always tough since every team is top-tier; however, I think Virginia will show more improvement than the Irish this year, so I decided to knock them down to finishing fourth.
Syracuse will do the same thing they’ve always done this decade: get a lot of hype, have lots of elite talent, and fail to live up to expectations. The expectation at Syracuse is to bring home titles, and they have failed to do that since winning it all in 2009.
In 2018, the Orange scored 169 goals while allowing 160. The man up was decent with a .381% conversion rate, but the clears need to be improved upon as the conversion rate was only at .85%. The good news for Syracuse is they return their top two offensive players in attackmen Stephen Rehfuss (20 goals, 28 assists) and Nate Solomon (22 goals, 15 assists).
The Orange will be good again this year, but they have been very good at being eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament the past few years, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see that again. I have the Orange falling in the first round of the ACC playoffs as well.
For a while, Virginia failed to win any ACC games. That is what led to a coaching change and the bringing in of Lars Tiffany. Tiffany has done what he was brought in to do, and the Cavaliers have only been getting better. The Cavs have had an alright defense under Tiffany and one can tell he is building his offense into the ones he had at Brown, which were an absolute blast to watch.
In 2018, the Cavaliers scored 228 goals while giving up 206. They play at a fast tempo and you can tell when looking at stats such as the Cavs having 267 turnovers, which is absurd, and an unimpressive .849% clear rate. The offense should be even better this year as Virginia brings back its leading scorers in Michael Kraus (44 goals, 39 assists), Dox Aitken (39 goals, 12 assists), and Ian Laviano (37 goals, 9 assists). The defense should be better as they will be more experienced, and return an anchor in Kyle Kology (20 groundballs, 3 turnovers), who always seems to be in the right place.
This pick will get some heat, but take this as one of my few hot takes for the 2019 season: Virginia will finish no better than second in the ACC and will make, and lose, the conference championship game for a second year in a row.
Duke lost in the first round of the ACC tournament last year, but it’s hard to pick against a team led by the all-time winningest coach in D1 lacrosse, who was one win away from his fourth national title at Duke. The Blue Devils are one of the best in the business and will be expected to compete for a national championship in 2019.
Duke scored 13.6 goals per game in 2018 while allowing 8.65. Their man up had a deadly .50% efficiency rating as well. Duke does lose Justin Guterding (66 goals, 47 assists), who was an absolute monster; however, they do return midfielder Brad Smith (29 goals, 36 assists) and attackman Joe Robertson (48 goals, 12 assists). The defense will be just as good or better in 2019 as they have a more experienced JT Giles-Harris (26 groundballs) back at pole. Giles-Harris is one of the best d poles in the country, and will only be better as an upperclassmen leading his fellow defensemen.
I find it hard to go against a team so consistently good, so I have Duke penciled in to win the ACC, but I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone else in the ACC won the conference crown—considering all these teams are so close together in terms of talent.