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2011 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Breakdown: #8 North Carolina vs. Maryland

Freshmen Nicky Galasso leads the 8th Seeded Tar Heels
Freshmen Nicky Galasso leads the 8th Seeded Tar Heels

With the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, we here at College Crosse will break down all the teams, players and match ups that will take place Saturday and Sunday. Glaude will have your team profiles, while I will break down the games.

North Carolina Tar Heels: 10-5, #8 Seed, 4-1 last four games (9-8 OT victory over ND to close out season)

Leading Scorer: Fr. Nicky Galasso, 24 goals, 31 assists

Maryland Terrapins: 10-4, #9 seed, 2-2 last four games (lost to Colgate to close out season but took home the ACC crown by beating Duke and UNC almost two weeks ago)

Leading Scorer: Sr. Ryan Young, 17g, 21a

Maryland leads the all-time series 39-21

As the hour grew closer to Selection Sunday, there were some rumblings about a possible first round ACC match up. When it was announced that Maryland would travel to Chapel Hill and take on the Tar Heels, I wasn't all that surprised.

One thing is for sure, I am excited. I've said it before, I like watching the ACC. I like it even more when two ACC teams play each other. For the third time this season, Maryland and North Carolina will face-off.

On March 26th, the Tar Heels beat the Terrapins by the score of 11-6. In that contest, the Tar Heels went on a crushing 8-0 run and never looked back. In only his second career ACC game and first game against the 'Terps, freshman Nicky Galasso had two goals and four assists.

On April 22nd, Maryland got revenge on the 'Heels and beat UNC 7-6, showing they too can go on an impressive run. A furious fourth quarter rally of five straight goals lifted the 'Terps to the victory over UNC.

One thing is for certain, we are in store for a great game. Quite possibly the best game of the first round. This is the rubber match for the season series. What more could you ask for.

Both teams are loaded with veteran seniors who have been here before. Maryland's top two scorers are seniors and two of the most feared attackmen in the country. Led by Young and Grant Catalino, the 'Terps offense averaged 11 goals per game. Third attackman and fellow senior Travis Reed has fought injuries, and has never really lived up to the hype he had coming out of high school. The same could be said for the entire 2011 senior class for the 'Terps. This could be their time to shine and prove the doubters wrong.

This is a game of two teams who have very talented senior classes, but also two teams who have never lived up to their potential. Year in and year out, these two teams are ranked in the top 10 in the pre season and often times picked to go to the Final Four.

Back to back Quarterfinal losses for the 'Terps led to the unfortunate dismissal of coach Dave Cottle. An 11-6 loss to Syracuse in '09 and a 7-5 loss at the hands of Notre Dame in '10, getting past the Quarterfinal's has been an obstacle for the 'Terps.

For the Tar Heels, their road block has been a little team named Duke. The Blue Devil's have knocked the 'Heels out of the tournament in the Quarterfinal's two years in a row. A 12-11 nail bitter in '09 and a blowout loss in '10 by the score of 17-9.

Yet another reason these two teams are so similar.

But this is a new year and both teams have clean slates heading into Saturday's game.

Scoring just under 11 goals a game, the Tar Heels have been paced by Galasso, the highly touted freshman from West Islip, Long Island. I said it earlier in the year that the fact the Tar Heels are led by the freshman can only make coach Joe Breschi smile. To be able to take some pressure off Bitter and third attackman Thomas Wood has only made the Tar Heel offense more lethal.

I also think each team has a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball. As i've written before, the Tar Heels have Ryan Flanagan, a 6'6" defenseman who can strip the ball, pick up the loose ball and run the length of the field and score. Flanagan not only had 42 ground balls and 28 caused turnovers, but also scored three goals and assisted on two others.

As for Maryland, they are also led by two key senior defensemen.

Long stick midfielder Brian Farrell and close defenseman Brett Schmidt combined to lead the Terrapin defense and help goalie Niko Amato stop 56 percent of the shots he faced and give up only seven goals per game. Farrell, like Flanagan and fellow long stick midfielder Joel White, has been a threat to score all season. In 2011, Farrell had seven goals and five assists, as well as 30 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers.

As for Schmidt, he shut down the opposing teams top attackman week in and week out. In the 11-6 loss to North Carolina, Schmidt completely shut down Bitter, holding him to no points on only three shots. In the 7-6 win, Schmidt held Bitter to only one assist. On the season he had 45 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers, as well as one goal and one assist.

Ultimately we know how potent and lethal both offenses can be. This game will come down to who can make the final stop and which team can control the face-off X. Possessions will be critical and both teams boast big time face-off threats. North Carolina's R.G. Keenan is winning 61 percent of his draws while Maryland's Curtis Holmes is winning 62 percent. Holmes dominated the first game going 15-20. In the ACC quarterfinal, each player went 8-8. Expect similar stats on Saturday.

With that being said, I am looking for Bitter to have a huge game. He lights it up when the spot light is on. In front of the large crowd at the Big City Classic, Bitter woke up and scored four goals while giving the 'Heels a chance to knock off Johns Hopkins.

I am going with North Carolina to win this game 9-7.

Some College Crosse stories on these two teams from throughout the 2011 season.

Ryan Flanagan a difference maker and a mid-season thought on which Tar Heel to try and shut down

Pre-season talk with Flanagan

Glaude's take on the March 26th game between these two teams

Big City Classic profile of North Carolina and an awesome pictograph of why Nicky Galasso and the Tar Heel offense average close to 11 goals per game

Random thoughts on the ACC Tournament

April 22nd breakdown of UNC-Maryland

And lastly, what if the ACC tournament didn't exist? Where would these two teams be today?