It is truly an honor to have SU sportcaster Brian Higgins join the site in week one and give some insight to the upcoming 2011 Division I lacrosse season,
Not many division one schools out there have their games broadcasted over the radio. For the Syracuse Orange, not only is every game on numerous radio stations, but they have one of the best radio teams out there. Brian Higgins and Kyle Fetterly combine to give not only the Orange listeners, but lacrosse fans in general one of the best play-by-play broadcast's out there. If you don't believe me just watch/listen to this broadcast from the 2009 National Championship game against Cornell.
Higgins is a 2004 graduate of Syracuse University and does a brilliant job putting together the pre and post game shows for every S.U. lacrosse game. Combined with Fetterly, the duo knows Syracuse lacrosse inside and out. I even found myself putting last season's ESPNU telecasted Rutgers/Syracuse game on mute and listening to Higgins and Fetterly instead of the ESPN bradocasters. Higgins is also an avid lacrosse fan and knows the sport very well and was kind enough to answer a few questions about the 2011 Syracuse Orange team and a handful of questions about his thoughts on the rest of the 2011 Division I lacrosse season.
Be sure to follow Higgins on twitter as well @BrianHigginsSU for some up to the minute college sports info.
College Crosse: Right off the bat, let’s talk about this 2011 SU Orange team. You’ve had a chance to see them a little bit in fall ball. What can you tell us about this team and what do you expect out of them come February when the season gets underway?
Brian Higgins: There are a couple things I expect to be season long themes for the Orange. Mainly this team is hungry to win another national title, especially considering the way last season ended. This senior class has no interest in ending their final year with a loss. The other season long theme to keep an eye on is the defense. Syracuse led the country in scoring defense last year, and with John Galloway, John Lade, Brian Megill and Joel White back, there's no reason to think the Orange can't do it again.
BH: First off, the Orange are only one season removed from Nimmer leading way, so it hasn't been that long without a traditional QB. Secondly, I do think it will be JoJo this year. The offense looked like it was taking off when Marasco scored 3 goals in the 13-4 rout of Princeton in the Big City Classic last year. Jojo got hurt the next game against Cornell, didn't play the rest of the season, and the offense clearly missed him the rest of the way.
CC: On the topic of JoJo, how will he handle wearing #22 and how has he looked after the injury that had him miss the final 5 games of the 2010 season?
BH: If I know one thing about Jojo it's that he has both the confidence to wear the #22 and that for him it will be a weapon, not a burden.
CC: Changing topics a little bit, what’s your take on the revival of the Ivy League?
BH: The Ivy League must be doing something right since their coaches are always in such high demand. It's too bad Cornell wasn't able to win the title last year to make up for their 2009 heartbreak at the hands of Syracuse. The Big Red have always been a fun team to watch play, and an easy one to root for when not playing the Orange.
CC: We have seen a few new coaching changes in Division I this off-season. What’s your take on former Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni at Penn St? How will Cornell and Maryland fair after coaching changes?
BH: Jeff Tambroni will have Penn State nationally relevant and in the playoffs sooner rather than later. The resources are available in Happy Valley and Tambroni is one of the best coaches in America. Who knows what the conference landscape will look like in a couple of years? It's not crazy to say Michigan and Penn State could be at the forefront of Big 10 lacrosse. As far as Maryland goes, talent has never been the issue there. The expectations and pressure on Dave Cottle to win were always comically high and that has now transferred over to John Tillman. Can't forget that it's been 35 years since Maryland's last title and Dave Cottle is not the only reason for that.
CC: What’s your pre-season, very early top 5 teams in the nation and your vote for the four teams that will be playing Memorial Day weekend?
BH: For lack of any better reasoning, here's my way too early top 5 that was part of Inside Lacrosse's poll in June.
5. North Carolina
After Syracuse and Virginia it's reasonably muddled this year for me at this point. Those two will be in Baltimore and it may not matter who joins them there.
CC: Lastly, give me your top five players who will have the greatest impact on their teams in the 2011 season?
BH: 1. Joel White: Best player in the country, enough said.
2. Shamel Bratton: A healthy season from the twin would go a long way for Virginia.
3. Zach Howell and whomever's left at Duke: They lost...a lot of guys including the final group of 5th years. Duke will have an impact, but who knows what their players names will be.
4. A.J. Fiore: With Tambroni gone, would be huge for Cornell to have a steadying force in goal.
5. Maryland's Goalie: Brian Phipps graduated and the offense is very talented. Whomever is in goal in John Tillman's first year will be integral to the Terps 2011 success.