The Weekend in Stick: What's Now is Now (Part II)

Jim McIsaac

"The Weekend in Stick": It's exactly what it sounds like -- a recapitulation of this weekend's most notable. No doink.

What's now is now,
And I'll forget what happened then,
I know it all,
And we can still begin again.
-CAKE, "What's Now Is Now"

Let's get to the big stories from the weekend.

Extra Time is Necessary Time
Marquette 11, Georgetown 10 (OT)
St. Johns 11, Villanova 10 (OT)

It was a big weekend for Big East teams, but two -- Marquette and St. John's -- had arguably more on the line than any other team: The Golden Eagles, in just their second season in Division I, were looking to secure a spot in the Big East Tournament; St. John's, on the fringe of an invitation to the league's playoff, needed a win and a Marquette victory to keep its postseason hopes alive. It was a simple scenario for both teams -- each needed a win within its control while the Johnnies also needed Marquette to handle an opponent in its wheelhouse -- but things got a little hectic when the Hoyas appeared poised to yank an upset and Villanova refused to quit despite already holding a place in the Big East Tournament.

  • Georgetown at Marquette: The Hoyas have struggled for much of the year, but after building a six-goal lead against Marquette early in the third quarter, Georgetown looked like the team that closed 2013 with purpose. The Eagles, though, were not deterred and mounted a comeback that seemed to exceed the experience of the program: Three goals in the final 4:50 of the third quarter -- the tallies came in a 2:29 stretch -- brought Marquette within three with 15 minutes to play; a quick strike just 1:08 in the final period brought the Eagles within two, but a Bo Stafford goal just under two minutes later gave the Hoyas another three-goal cushion; and then 'Quette started hammering the brick -- a tally just 10 seconds after Stafford's goal drew the Golden Eagles within two, a Tyler Melnyk bucket (one of four on the day) at the 7:04 mark brought Marquette within one, and then Melnyk answered his own goal less than three minutes later with the game-tying goal on an assist from Conor Gately. The score was knotted at 10 but the momentum was all in the Eagles' favor. After winning the opening faceoff of overtime and calling a timeout, Ryan McNamara got on the game-winning goal less than a minute into the extra period, sending Marquette to the Big East Tournament and positioning the Eagles for what could be a bonkers share of the Big East regular season title.
  • Villanova at St. John's: At the 9:27 mark of the third period, St. John's held a four-goal lead and was assaulting Villanova's face; at the end of the third period, the Wildcats held a 9-8 advantage and were wiping the remains of the Johnnies from their cleats. The story of the game isn't that the Red Storm and Wildcats traded blows in the fourth quarter with Kevin O'Neil, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Kieran McArdle scoring big boy goals late in regulation and overtime (O'Neil's tally came with 3:31 left in regulation and gave 'Nova a 10-9 lead; Fitzgerald's response came less than a minute later to lock the scoreboard at 10; McArdle's bucket came with 2:23 gone in the first overtime). Rather, it's that (1) the Johnnies gave back a sizeable lead when it couldn't afford to do so given the team's razor-thin margin of error to make the Big East Tournament, and (2) Villanova showed an ability to light up the cage in a short period (the Wildcats scored five goals in a 3:04 span). That third period that St. John's and Villanova played is arguably more dramatic than the game's ending, and without that stage, how the contest closed is only dust.

The only thing to settle right now in the conference is whether St. John's or Rutgers will earn a trip to Villanova. If Rutgers loses to Georgetown, the Red Storm will need to pack their bags; if Rutgers beats Georgetown, the Scarlet Knights will make a lame duck trip to the league's tournament.

Just Enough is Enough
Johns Hopkins 6, Navy 5

Goalkeeping, goalkeeping, goalkeeping, pipes, pipes, goalkeeping, goalkeeping, and goalkeeping. Annapolis was the host to one of the strongest displays of netminding this year, a 60-minute gruntfest that featured John Connors and Eric Schneider making stop after stop in an effort to rip the souls directly from their opposing offenses:

TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE: JOHNS HOPKINS-NAVY
METRIC JOHNS HOPKINS NAVY
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 10.87% 20.69%
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.64 1.38
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 60.71 66.67
Team Save Percentage 77.27% 70.00%

A-B-C: Always Be Cannibalizing
Maryland 12, Notre Dame 8

The Irish's loss to the Terps creates kind of a big issue for Notre Dame: Stuck with a 6-5 record, Notre Dame phasers are set to "Must Win; Can't Lose; Rock 'n Roll Will Never Die." To maintain eligibility for NCAA Tournament consideration, the Irish need at least a .500 record; that will require Notre Dame to beat Army if the team loses to Maryland in the first round of the ACC Tournament (that would give the Irish a 7-6 record), or to simply beat Maryland in the first round of the ACC Tournament (the Irish could finish with no worse than a 7-7 record regardless of what would happen in the ACC Tournament final or against Army). The pressure is on for Notre Dame to dictate more of its future, mostly because the team has decent (but not exceptional) at-large traits: A handful of quality wins (North Carolina and Virginia), a tough schedule (currently fourth in the weighted RPI), no bad losses, and a decent RPI ranking (13th (which will rise after playing Maryland this coming weekend)). The Irish's biggest issue right now is the team's record.

Deathblow?
Harvard 9, Princeton 8

Princeton entered 2014 with high expectations: An offense capable of shredding fools to pieces and a defense anticipated to grow into itself after a year of maturation. What has happened to Princeton has been this: "The hell?"

Like Notre Dame, Princeton is in a pinch, but the Tigers' pinch is more delicate than the Irish's: Notre Dame has qualified for its conference tournament; Princeton's loss to Harvard assured the Tigers of an Ivy League Tournament-less existence in 2014. A win next week against Cornell means little to Princeton from an Ivy League perspective as Yale -- if the Elis lose to Harvard -- holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Tigers and no other teams in the league can finish with a 3-3 record. Princeton's volition as a program hinges on earning an at-large invitation to The Big Barbecue, and the last team to make a May adventure despite not qualifying for their league tournament was Hofstra in 2010 (and this Princeton team doesn't necessarily match up well with that Pride team from 2010).

It's not over for Princeton, but it is as close to over as it can be.

Hurtblow?
Manhattan 6, Detroit 5

Ay-yi-yi. The MAAC: "Sh*t's real."

Detroit's loss to Manhattan creates anarchy in the MAAC: There is a possibility that five teams -- Detroit, Canisius, Quinnipiac, Marist, and Manhattan -- could finish with identical 3-3 records in conference play. I don't . . . I just . . . look: You guys stare at me like I'm ripping the head off of a live chicken when I tell you that the MAAC is an awesome league to watch because its teams are competitively balanced (even if they aren't necessarily competitive relative to the country's elite). And it's more than a small possibility that these four teams could finish with 3-3 marks; there's a really good chance that this happens:
  • Quinnipiac: MAAC season complete. Already 3-3 and that isn't changing.
  • Detroit: Currently 2-3 and will finish with winless Monmouth. The Titans are, more likely than not, winning that game to go 3-3.
  • Manhattan: Currently 3-2 and playing Siena. The Jaspers probably won't win that game, dropping them to 3-3 in conference play.
  • Marist/Canisius: This is a pretty decent toss-up game, and if Marist wins, the Red Foxes will be 3-3 and the Griffs will be 3-3.

Let's say this five-way tie for three tournament positions comes to fruition (and because it's the MAAC, this is definitely going to happen). What happens (other than Earth spinning into the sun)? Well, it's time for a multiple-team tiebreaker, and a layered one at that: Going to a mini-conference, these five teams -- under the permutations -- would all be 2-2 against each other (c'mon!); you then need to look at records against Siena (that's the rule; I don't know why), but as Siena is expected to run the table, you need to move to the next tiebreaker (c'mon!); and then you're comparing goals allowed among the tied teams.

You've stopped reading. Good. That was the right thing to do. The MAAC is a glorious mess, and that probably isn't going to change after this weekend.

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