Reluctantly crouched at the starting line,
Engines pumping and thumping in time.
The green light flashes, the flag goes up,
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup.
They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank,
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank,
Reckless and wild they pour through the turns,
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern.
-CAKE, "The Distance"
Let's get to the big stories from the weekend.
The Difference Between Death and Almost-Death in THUNDERDOME! is Razor-Thin
Six THUNDERDOME! members squared off against each other this past weekend -- the lone team to play a game that didn't involve battle axes as implements of lacrosse fortune was Penn State -- and the results were as expected: One-goal margins and limbs scattered across the country. The conference standings in THUNDERDOME! are somewhat bunched up . . .
. . . but if this past weekend is any indication, THUNDERDOME! could become the greatest thing on the planet since milkshakes were included in the food pyramid as a "Eat These Until You Puke." (That exists right? Good.) Here's how things shook out in America's toughest league:
- Delaware 10, Drexel 11: Drexel used a fourth quarter comeback -- duh; no doink; etc. -- to push the Blue Hens deeper into their continued descent into misery (five of Delaware's eight losses this season have only been by a goal). Down 8-5 at the end of the third quarter, the Dragons outscored Delaware 6-2 in the final period, including an unanswered five-goal run from the 10:32 mark of the quarter until 2:13 remained in regulation. The run turned a 6-9 deficit into an 11-9 lead for Drexel, scoring all those tallies in even situations. The Dragons remain invincible and Delaware remains the exact opposite of that.
- Massachusetts 6, St. Joseph's 7: Massachusetts is in danger of sending its season to live with the angels. Currently sitting at 5-5 overall and 0-2 in THUNDERDOME! play, the Minutemen need to start getting its act together relatively soon if they want to play meaningful lacrosse throughout April and, possibly, in May. Massachusetts' remaining THUNDERDOME! slate, though, is far from a river cruise: Towson won't roll over for anybody; Drexel is, of course, invincible and that doesn't bode well for a mortal Minutemen team; and Hofstra, while currently in a bit of a self-struggle trying to find their spirit animal, is going to be an uphill climb for Massachusetts at the end of the season. At this point, it's not about the NCAA Tournament for the Minutemen; rather, it's just about getting themselves into a position to make the THUNDERDOME! Tournament while navigating the dynamite-lined road to get there.
- Hofstra 6, Towson 7: These Pride-Tigers games have become some of THUNDERDOME!'s best. Following last season's epic double overtime victory for Towson -- a game that saw the Tigers storm back from a six-goal deficit with just 12:04 left in regulation -- the two combatants swung broadswords at each other on Saturday in Maryland (although the final result wasn't quite as eyeball-bulging as last season's iteration of the rivalry). Holding Hofstra scoreless for 24:48 -- a streak that started late in the second quarter and ended at the 10:43 mark of the final period -- Towson attempted to suffocate Hofstra to death all night. Late goals from the Pride -- two tallies in the final 1:01 of play -- would massage the score into the realm of immediate closeness (and raise from the dead thoughts of the 2012 game between the two schools), but at the end of the day it was another victory for Shawn Nadelen over the Pride. The game itself is interesting, but the implications stemming from the game are exceedingly important: (1) Hofstra is just 2-3 since beating Notre Dame in early March, all of those losses limited to just one-goal margins (this isn't exactly 2012 revived for the Pride, but there are echoes of Hofstra's bad luck from a season ago); and (2) Towson, now at 6-5 overall, has quietly overcome a 0-3 start (including a shocking loss to High Point) and is hanging right around the nation's mushy middle, which isn't too bad for Nadelen's neophyte effort at the helm of the program.
Hopkins Drops 10-11 (OT) Heartbreaker to Carolina; Currently Tournament Neutral
Despite playing from behind for most of the game -- the Jays didn't earn their first lead of the game until the 4:36 mark of the fourth quarter when Hopkins took a 10-9 lead -- Hopkins played fairly well from start to finish, continually chasing back a Tar Heels team that had the potential to blow the Jays out of the water. At this point in the season, though, simply playing well isn't what Hopkins needs; what the Jays need right now is to actually put one of these pelts into their bag. In its four games this year against teams ranked within the RPI top 20 -- Princeton, Syracuse, Virginia, and North Carolina -- the Jays are a measly 1-3. That's not a particularly good situation for Johns Hopkins at the moment: Based on the NCAA's cockamamie selection criteria for populating the NCAA Tournament field, the Jays are decidedly neutral at this point.
With a 6-3 record, Hopkins' overall resume looks fairly pedestrian at this point: 21st in RPI ranking; one RPI top 20 win (against a sputtering Virginia team); no bad losses; and a strength of schedule -- based on the RPI -- ranked only 27th in the country. It's just . . . this is as vanilla as a resume can look at this juncture of the season, and if it wasn't attached to Johns Hopkins' name, it probably wouldn't create any human emotions inside your being. Big games remain for Hopkins over the next few weeks -- Albany, Maryland, and Loyola will help define the Jays' resume (along with a season-ending date against Army that is starting to look more and more important as the season progresses) -- and Johns Hopkins still has its future in its own hands. For now, though, the Jays still have some work to do over the month of April to cement their place in the NCAA Tournament.
Et Cetera and Other Super Important Things
- St. John's 12, Notre Dame 10: Number one takes a kick to the pants for the second week in a row. I don't know what the Johnnies' ceiling is for this year, but the way the team has been playing since facing Syracuse at PPL Park -- a four-game winning streak that includes wins over the Irish and Hofstra -- has been important in the national context. Kieran McArdle is establishing himself as one of the nation's best offensive weapons and if Jeff Lowman can continue to steady the Red Storm's defensive efforts with consistent play, St. John's becomes a player not just in the Big East but the county as a whole. This isn't an isolated result from the Johnnies; they've been playing at a high level for an entire month and are rushing toward what could be an impressive peak.
- Duke 12, Harvard 11: Daniel Eipp didn't play (he's only participated in six of the Crimson's nine games this season), but that didn't stop Harvard from scaring the piss out of Duke in Cambridge on Saturday night. This smelled like an icky nationally-broadcast nightcap to what was shaping up to be a semi-bonkers day, but the Crimson assured that would not happen: Despite the arcs both programs were experiencing this season, Harvard stayed square with the Devils all night (the score was knotted nine times throughout the evening), even taking a 10-8 lead midway through the fourth quarter before succumbing to Duke in the final five minutes of play. In terms of surviving a difficult situation, the Devils excelled; with respect to hammering an overmatched opponent, Duke didn't earn a passing grade. At the end of the day the Crimson probably played above their head and the Devils played fairly average. And that's how a surprising 12-11 result ends up occurring.