Which Underdog Has Best Chance of Advancing and Winning it All?
While exciting, the first round of the men’s D1 playoffs mostly played out as expected. North Carolina cruised to a 16-4 victory over Monmouth. Maryland, Notre Dame, and Duke handled business. The three most interesting advancers consist of Loyola, Rutgers, and Georgetown. Loyola eked out a 14-13 victory over Denver in a thriller. Meanwhile, Georgetown and Rutgers blasted Syracuse and Lehigh (18-8 and 12-5). Georgetown and Rutgers, while well-respected, have never won a national championship. Loyola hasn’t experienced a successful national title run since 2012. With blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland remaining, the trio isn’t expected to make the championship game; however, each underdog has enough talent to make a serious run. Here, we will be analyzing the squads of Georgetown, Rutgers, and Loyola to determine who has the strongest chance of surprising the lacrosse world by advancing and winning it all.
First, let me congratulate Georgetown on eliminating a massively overrated Syracuse to the tune of 18-8. A 7-5 Syracuse squad had no business being in the tournament. I know Covid messed with polling this season, but Syracuse entering the tournament ranked tenth was ridiculous. Sorry Orange fans, but Syracuse’s drumming was well deserved.
With that out of the way, Georgetown boasts an impressive resume. The Hoyas sit at 13-2 with their only losses being to NCAA tournament teams Denver (7-13) and Loyola (9-11). Their quality wins consist of sweeping Villanova (16-1, 8-7, 14-12) and Marquette (20-13, 10-8), while beating Denver twice (11-10, 10-9).
Statistically, Georgetown’s offense averages 13.8 goals per game while a stalwart defense averages 7.9 goals against per game. Georgetown will go as far as Jake Carraway (51 goals, 16 assists) and TJ Haley (5 goals, 49 assists) take them. The duo has been nigh unstoppable, and I expect that to continue against Virginia. Goaltender Owen McElroy has a .602 save percentage. He must continue to stay sharp if Georgetown has any hope of advancing.
I believe Georgetown has a legitimate shot against Virginia. The Cavs, while impressive at 11-4, have cooled off since their April 10 victory over #1 North Carolina (18-16). The Cavs ended the regular season with a disappointing 11-13 loss against Syracuse and struggled to beat a talented, yet outgunned, Bryant (13-11) in round one. Virginia’s defense allows 12.1 goals per game, which I believe could be an issue against Georgetown’s deadly offensive duo.
Rutgers has finally made it. For years, the Scarlet Knights were picked to make the NCAA tournament only to fall short. This season, they finally broke through. Rutgers genuinely surprised me by dominating an impressive Lehigh team (12-5) in the first round. I felt Rutgers would win; however, I didn’t expect a blowout. The Scarlet Knights are poised to take advantage of their well-deserved tournament opportunity.
The offense scores 14.5 goals per game. Meanwhile a solid defense allows 11 goals against per contest. Longtime player, Adam Charlambides (40 goals, 17 assists), is the heart and soul of this team. His success is well deserved.
While easily the second-best team in the Big Ten, the gap between Rutgers and Maryland was noticeable. Maryland swept the season series (12-19, 9-13) without leaving any doubt on who was superior. While Rutgers is talented, I believe their matchups against Maryland reveal they are a great, yet not elite team. They have yet to prove they can play up to superior competition. While I am pulling for Rutgers to win it all, since my girlfriend lives thirty minutes from Piscataway, I don’t think they’ll be able to upset a dominant North Carolina. North Carolina is just as good, if not better, than Maryland. I expect Rutgers to give North Carolina an admirable fight; however, I believe North Carolina will begin to take control as the game wears on. Rutgers’ Cinderella season will end this weekend.
Loyola hasn’t reached lacrosse immortality since their dominant 2012 national title season. Will 2021 be there year? Perhaps. But they must get through Duke. On paper, I consider Loyola to be outmatched; however, they may be catching Duke at the right time. Goaltender Sam Shafer is on fire right now. He had an astonishing 16 saves against Denver! Shafer is the primary reason Loyola advanced.
No disrespect to Denver’s shooters, but Shafer’s competition steps up a notch this weekend. He is rewarded with attempting to shut down Michael Sowers (34 goals, 41 assists), Joe Robertson (33 goals, 17 assists), and freshman phenom Brennan O’Neill (40 goals, 9 assists). If Shafer and company can hold Duke under thirteen goals, Loyola has a shot.
On the other end, Aidan Olmstead (31 goals, 26 assists) and Kevin Lindley (40 goals, 8 assists) must prevent defenseman JT Giles-Harris from disrupting their offensive momentum. If Giles-Harris can continuously pressure Loyola’s attackmen, I don’t see the Greyhounds scoring much. The key to minimizing Harris’ impact is to move the ball around quickly and have cutters streaking down the middle for quick shots on crease.
At the end of the day, Loyola’s survival hinges on Shafer’s ability to minimize Duke’s tough trio of attackmen. If he can minimize their scoring ability, Loyola will have a shot. We’ll know if Loyola can win the game based on the first quarter. If Duke gets out to a quick start, Loyola’s chances of victory will be significantly diminished.
Who Will Advance?
In my opinion, Georgetown has the highest chance of advancing and making a serious championship run. I believe they have the easiest round two opponent (amongst the trio) and have enough talent to push other top contenders to the brink. Rutgers and Loyola are talented too; however, I don’t believe Rutgers has enough star power to upset North Carolina. For Loyola, they have the misfortune of facing a Duke team in May. Duke is the Alabama of college lacrosse and has consistently been a top three team in the nation. Seeing Duke or North Carolina fall would be shocking, to say the least. Hopefully, all three advance to create insane parity; however, if you’re hoping to see an untraditional lacrosse program win it all, Georgetown is your best bet. Good luck to all eight teams this weekend!
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Also, if you are a longtime reader and are wondering why I have been inactive, please read the return update article linked here. In short, I was focusing on finishing my senior year of collegiate lacrosse and wanted to dedicate all my time to that. With my collegiate career being complete, I am free to dedicate more time to Logical Lacrosse. Again, thank you all for the wonderful support you have provided me since 2019!