The more you try to qualify,
The more it all will pass you by.
-CAKE, "Tougher Than It Is"
Let's get to the big stories from the weekend.
With each of the ACC's six teams having one league date remaining on their schedules before the ACC Tournament, here's how the conference standings look *righthisverysecond*:
|Maryland||3-1||Syracuse, Duke, Virginia||North Carolina|
|Duke||3-1||North Carolina, Syracuse, Notre Dame||Duke|
|North Carolina||2-2||Maryland, Virginia||Duke, Notre Dame|
|Notre Dame||2-2||North Carolina, Virginia||Syracuse, Duke|
|Syracuse||1-3||Notre Dame||Maryland, Virginia, Duke|
|Virginia||1-3||Syracuse||Notre Dame, Maryland, North Carolina|
This league is leaking blood but in a good way: Every team has wounds, but none of these wounds are deadly to the degree that a coroner is necessary. Only Duke and Maryland are locked into the ACC Tournament at this point, which should accelerate the conference's possibilities as the league enters its final round of conference games.
- Notre Dame at Duke: The most surprising result of the weekend was also the one that had the least doubt for most of the game. Duke, surging at the right time of the year, absolutely destroyed the Irish at Koskinen Stadium, building a seemingly insurmountable 6-2 lead at the half and stretching their advantage to 12-3 before the start of the fourth quarter. The Devils stymied an aggressive Notre Dame offense and did terrible, horrific things to the Irish's vaunted defense, slicing through Notre Dame's prestigious unit as if it were road cones signaling construction. What's scary about what Duke did to Notre Dame wasn't necessarily the complete effort that the Blue Devils put together but rather the monster that Duke is becoming: The team's starting midfield combined for 13 points against the Irish and has combined for 49 points in their last three games. A solid argument can be made that no team in the country is playing better ball than the Devils right now, and given John Danowski's track record in Durham, Duke's trajectory isn't likely to level at this point in the season. The Blue Devils are a brutal, complete team with all the assets necessary to embarrass some of the country's best teams, and Duke remains a legitimate threat for a deep and prosperous May adventure.
- Virginia at North Carolina: Eight ties. Eight lead changes. The biggest lead that any team held on the day was only two goals (it happened twice). It was as close as a game could be without an overtime period:
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||25.64||29.73|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||24.39%||30.56%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.05||0.97|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||43.59||35.14|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Total Possessions||28.95||25.00|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||35.14||28.21|
|Team Save Percentage||54.17%||52.38%|
There's nothing pretty about THUNDERDOME!: Slashing throat gestures are necessarily gruesome. The league has sustained its character as the meanest league in the nation not because it lacks refinement but rather that it supports an angry tone that permeates the conference's games.
Towson at Massachusetts: It was a 40-possession land war that featured no goals in the fourth quarter, 11 total tallies, almost eight minutes of combined penalty time on eight total infractions, and stifling goalie play that rendered offensive output bare academic theory. This game created scars -- physical and emotional -- that are in-line with the predispositions of the two combatants, but the ones that each team's offenses incurred are the most notable given how Tyler White and Zach Oliveri played:
TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE: TOWSON-MASSACHUSETTS METRIC TOWSON MASSACHUSETTS Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 80.00 65.00 Team Save Percentage 76.19% 68.42%
- Penn State at Drexel: Mitch de Snoo's unassisted goal with 46 seconds remaining in the third overtime gave Drexel the win (the Dragons' third in a row as Drexel prepares for Massachusetts and Towson in consecutive weeks), but his goal did more than propel the Dragons up the THUNDERDOME! standings: It potentially crushed the Nittany Lions' hopes for postseason participation in 2014. After the loss to Drexel, Penn State is 4-6 and must win out -- the Lions have remaining games against Towson, Delaware, and Hofstra -- in order to maintain eligibility for NCAA Tournament consideration. Even if Penn State does run the table in its last three games, though, the Nittany Lions don't have much of a profile compared to other teams in the at-large pool: The team's RPI ranking is decidedly "meh," Penn State's strength of schedule isn't all that impressive, and there's only one real solid win the team can claim -- against Notre Dame. Otherwise, the Nittany Lions look like fungible drywall, a team with incredible potential that hasn't quite met its ceiling in 2014. There is no safety net for Penn State, and they're soaring through the air with the assumption that a hard landing will occur.
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||20.59||30.56|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||33.33%||31.43%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||0.62||0.97|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||70.59||47.22|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Total Possessions||32.86||31.43|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||38.89||17.65|
|Team Save Percentage||56.00%||46.15%|
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||22.58||21.43|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||19.44%||19.35%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.16||1.11|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||35.48||50.00|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Total Possessions||37.29||23.73|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||32.14||45.16|
|Team Save Percentage||60.00%||66.67%|
Conference play, everyone! Important notes about these two games:
- Graham Savio won the opening face-off of the second overtime thanks to a Brian Sherlock groundball pick-up. Sherlock raced down the field, found Justin Ward on the left side, and Ward fed Brian Schultz across the crease to give Loyola its far-too-close win over the Midshipmen. The winner was Schultz's only goal of the game.
- Navy held three two-goal leads against the Greyhounds, but after Loyola pulled square with the Midshipmen at five, the Midshipmen never again led the 'Hounds.
- John Connors had big save after big save against Loyola's explosive offense, buoying Navy's defensive efforts against the nation's number one team.
- It was a game of halves in Bethlehem. In the first, the Mountain Hawks built a small 5-4 advantage, basically trading goals with the Raiders from the opening whistle. In the second half, however, Lehigh exploded: A third quarter that saw the Hawks build a 9-5 advantage featured two Kurtis Kaunas tallies; the final period reflected alternating scoring with Colgate unable to eat into the cushion that Lehigh built in the penultimate quarter.
- Lehigh held Ryan Walsh -- The Dumptruck -- to no points on just three shots. It's the second consecutive game that an opponent has shut Walsh out.
It's hard to look at these games and definitively say that these were "upsets." Cornell entered their date with Harvard undefeated, but the Big Red weren't the super team that college lacrosse has seen in the past, capable of running the table regardless of opponent or particular performance. St. Joseph's hasn't had a lot of heat around their efforts this season, but the Hawks have been fairly average -- that isn't a backhanded compliment; given the history of St. Joe's lacrosse, moving toward the middle of the country is an impressive display of development -- and were positioned fairly well to snap Bryant's seven-game winning streak. These results aren't proof that the Bulldogs or Red are frauds -- far from it, actually -- nor are these results proof that the Crimson or Hawks are elite teams. They are, in function, indicia that Division I lacrosse is a bonkers place where opportunity often breeds dissonance in expectations.
Both the Hawks and Crimson needed to overcome long-ish odds to earn their wins, but both teams were more than capable of coming away with wins before the games started. The national landscape is volatile, and the isolated nature of these outcomes must be considered in the whole. In other words, poo falling from the sky is a reasonable weather pattern these days.