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2014 College Lacrosse Preview: ESPN Analysts Project Top Teams, Championship Weekend Participants

Four opinions from people in fancy suits.

USA TODAY Sports

If this was college hoops or college football, Paul Carcaterra, Mark Dixon, Ryan Flanagan, and Quint Kessenich would have spent thousands of hours on ESPN giving their opinion on the 2014 college lacrosse season. There would have been specials on ESPNU and your brain would have likely been filled with graphics and bon mots about all of Division I's programs.

But this isn't college hoops or college football. It's college lacrosse, and that means that you get a press release:

ESPN college lacrosse analysts Paul Carcaterra, Mark Dixon, Ryan Flanagan and Quint Kessenich offer their thoughts on the top storylines, players and teams as the start of the 2014 season approaches.

The especially interesting inclusion in the press release is the four analysts' projections of Division I's best teams and which teams will progress to Championship Weekend over Memorial Day Weekend. Here's how the four cats see the top of the nation shaping up this spring:

ESPN ANALYSTS: TOP 2014 TEAMS
ANALYST TEAM I TEAM II TEAM III TEAM IV TEAM V
Paul Carcaterra Syracuse North Carolina Duke Denver Notre Dame
Mark Dixon Duke Syracuse Denver North Carolina Princeton
Ryan Flanagan Duke Syracuse North Carolina Notre Dame Virginia
Quint Kessenich Syracuse North Carolina Denver Albany Princeton

Syracuse and North Carolina were the only teams listed in all four analysts' projections. Two teams -- Duke and Denver -- were listed three times (Kessenich left off the Devils and Flanagan left off the Pioneers). Two teams -- Notre Dame and Princeton -- were listed twice (Carcaterra and Flanagan like the Irish; Dixon and Kessenich like the Tigers). Two teams -- Albany and Virginia -- were listed once (Kessenich put the Great Danes in his top five and Flanagan included the Cavaliers). It may not matter, but the Orange were the only team listed in the top two positions in every analysts' top five.

Just four leagues are represented in the pool of teams: The ACC (Syracuse, North Carolina, Duke, and Notre Dame); the Big East (Denver); the Ivy League (Princeton); and the America East (Albany).

As for which programs are projected to take a field trip to Baltimore in late-May, the five ESPN analysts made the following predictions:

ESPN ANALYSTS: CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND PARTICIPANTS
ANALYST TEAM I TEAM II TEAM III TEAM IV
Paul Carcaterra Denver North Carolina Syracuse Duke
Mark Dixon Duke Syracuse North Carolina Princeton
Ryan Flanagan Syracuse North Carolina Virginia Notre Dame
Quint Kessenich Syracuse North Carolina Five teams for two spots

Every analyst -- save for Kessenich (he floated five teams that could join Syracuse and Carolina at M&T Bank Stadium) -- picked participants from their projected top five teams for 2014. Carcaterra's potential Final Four mirrored the first four teams he listed in his top five entering the season. Dixon didn't include Denver in his Championship Weekend projection despite having the Pios in his top five for 2014. And Flanagan -- a Tar Heel -- threw shade at his former archrival, Duke.

What do you guys think about this? It looks pretty reasonable to me. For context, my preseason media poll ballot went Duke, Carolina, Syracuse, Princeton, and Denver in the top five (in that order).