Preparing for ACC lacrosse is like getting yourself ready for a performance of John Cage's most notable works: You have an idea of what lies ahead, the importance of the whole thing is readily defined (mostly because everybody you know keeps telling you that it's important), but you're not quite sure if blood is going to rain from the sky or if you'll be wearing clothes at the end.
There isn't much question about whether the ACC is the best confederation of teams in the country. Virginia is clearly in the national elite (again) this season and Maryland, Duke, and North Carolina aren't far behind. 2010 was one of the best seasons the league has ever seen, putting its entire membership in four of the top-five seeds in the NCAA Tournament. 2012 has the potential for similar destruction, the kind that involves opponents crying in the locker room and questioning whether losing by eight is a moral victory or simply pure luck that they didn't leave the field with critical flesh wounds.
No, the questions about the ACC this year aren't as to the national strength of the league, but rather:
- Who the hell is actually going to survive and sit atop the ACC in 2012? Each team gets three shots at each other, plus whatever residue emerges in the cockamamie ACC Tournament. That kind of quickie slate doesn't allow for much time to figure out a pecking order (if there even is one).
- Let's say that a team starts taking lumps in the league. How is that going to impact their positioning in the NCAA Tournament bracket? Seeding is important -- it's not incredibly important, like oil in your car or blood in your body, but it's important nonetheless -- and if a team has to go the unseeded route in May, what kind of impact will that have? Maryland curb-stomped this issue in 2011, but whatever. It's still making your brain work overtime when it should be relaxing with Miller Time.
- The ACC is a grind, even if it is a limited one. Some of the best athletes in the country suit up in the league and simply beat the snot directly out of their opponent's nose. (It's tissue toughness, except the tissues are made of titanium and make you bleed.) Injuries due to physical and mental fatigue are real consequences in ACC lacrosse, and you can't have any idea how that is going to play out until these games face-off. It's not THUNDERDOME!, but there's still the super fun potential of people walking around with head bandages acting as if they survived the zombie apocalypse.
These are exciting times, boys and girls, and it all starts tomorrow at 1:00 at Byrd Stadium when Duke travels to College Park to tangle with Maryland. If you have any thoughts on what the league is going to look like this year, leave 'em in the comments. I do provide this warning: Those thoughts will likely be in intensive care by 3:00 tomorrow afternoon.