Each week, College Crosse’s Joe Keegan will try to cover the whole field of D1 lacrosse in ten topics. It’s the 10-man ride!
1. Princeton is emerging as Ivy favorite… for now.
We knew the Ivy would produce national championship contenders this spring, but we thought it’d be Brown or Yale. Right now, Princeton is playing the best lacrosse in its conference. The Tigers blew out Penn, at Penn, 17-8. They have all the pieces of a championship team: a downhill midfielder in Austin Sims (17-for-40 shooting), a do-it-all playmaker in Zach Currier (9G, 14A, 57GB, 10CT), a strong goaltender in Tyler Blaisdell (58.3 save percentage) and an alpha X attackman in Michael Sowers (19G, 21A). Even when you go step-for-step with Sowers, he’ll free his hands and find the back of the net.
Right now, it looks like the Tigers are the favorite. But it wouldn’t be a normal college lacrosse season if Brown and Yale don’t make a push in conference play — especially considering both teams have gotten healthier over the past couple weeks.
2. Alec Tulett made an immediate impact in his return for Bruno.
It’s tough to overstate what the senior defenseman brings to the table for Brown. He plays close defense, but also runs the wing on face-offs. And in classic Brown fashion, he pitched in 13 points in each of the last two seasons. In three games with Tulett in the lineup, Brown’s defensive efficiency is at 34.7%. Without him, the Bears are allowing points on 40.0% of their defense possessions. For a team that plays games averaging more than 124 possessions per game (per analyticslacrosse.com), that’s a huge difference. Tulett’s experience down low can give Brown the consistency it needs defensively to make a run during its Ivy League schedule.
3. Big Ben is back!
Last week I wrote how Yale’s best offense runs through Ben Reeves, even when he’s at less than 100% health. That held true as Big Ben posted four goals and two assists (on only six shots and zero turnovers!) against Cornell. Each week, the Elis’ Tewaaraton finalist looks healthier than the last.
His patience as a pick-and-roll operator is unparalleled. Watch him wait to see how the defense will play this action. His defender goes under, and Reeves drives at him like a slashing NBA wing getting to the paint. Notice his defender’s shoulders -- kid never had a chance of keeping Reeves away from the middle of the field.
4. Hofstra’s Josh Byrne played father-son lacrosse with a Providence squad that entered the weekend first in the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Providence was lowkey playing better defense than anyone in the country. Then Josh Byrne buried a hat trick in the opening five minutes looking like a father balling out in the backyard. As a junior, Byrne buried 30 goals and dished out 15 assists for the Pride. Through six games of his senior season, he already has 20 goals and 12 assists. If Hofstra can keep up its run once its THUNDERDOME! schedule begins, then Byrne will be a legitimate Tewaaraton candidate.
5. Michael Kraus has earned a reputation as a feeder and a dodger. Add “step-down shooter” to the scouting report now.
The ‘Hoos don’t put Kraus this high above goal-line extended often outside of extra-man opportunities. After the freshman showed off this type of range, that may change. Offensive coordinator Sean Kirwan can move his players around the field from week-to-week with both Kraus and Ryan Lukacovic able to play behind the cage. Whatever he decides to do, I hope it puts Kraus in position to show us more of this.
6. This outlet by Syracuse goalie Evan Molloy had shades of another sweatpant-donning Orange goalie.
Everyone’s first reaction to this gutsy pass: “Holy crap, that’s a John Galloway outlet!”
Syracuse’s six-on-six has gone stretches without drawing slides this spring (see: the first half against Virginia and Albany). When offense stalled again this weekend at Homewood, the defense stepped up its scoring. Molloy’s outlet to Paolo Ciferri made the difference, which is good news for ‘Cuse fans, since a win's a win -- yet also bad news for ‘Cuse fans, because Molloy (0G, 1A) posted the same stat line as #22 Jordan Evans (0G, 1A). The Orange will need a strong presence at X once ACC play begins, and so far, it looks sophomore Nate Solomon gives them much more of a threat than Evans does.
7. Villanova has found the optimal amount of face-offs for Jake Froccaro; once Luke Palmadesso is healthy, Froccaro will be a scary change-of-pace at the X.
After starting the game 5-for-7 at the X, Jake Froccaro won only two of his final 10 face-offs. As Greg Gurenlian pointed out on Twitter, part of that was due to the Terps’ decision to use a stand up face-off man, Jon Garino Jr. But the pattern of Froccaro hitting a wall after about 10 face-offs has been there all season. When Luke Palmadesso returns to the lineup, being able to use Froccaro 8-to-10 times per game is a dangerous idea.
Twice, Froccaro face-off wins turned into offense while Maryland’s face-off specialist Austin Henningsen was substituting off the field. The first was directly after a win. The second was indirectly, when a minute after a face-off loss, Henningsen tried to make it to the box before an endline restart.
If Froccaro can get wins against Denver’s Trevor Baptiste (and subsequently make Baptiste play defensive possessions), then ‘Nova has a shot to upset the perennial Big East favorites. Being able to beat Denver is likely Villanova’s only avenue to the postseason, because as well as the Wildcats played yesterday, their non-conference resume is not strong enough to earn an at-large bid.
8. Penn State’s defensive woes could be amplified once B1G play begins.
The Nittany Lions have been awful off the ground. They’ve scooped up 46.9% of non-face-off ground balls. Ohio State (59.2%), Rutgers (56.7%), Michigan (56.6%), Maryland (56.4%) and Hopkins (53.5%) are all absolutely dominant in that category. While face-off ground balls help start possessions, defensive end ground balls can end your opponents’ possessesions (and offensive end ground balls can help extend your possessions). Rebounds and unsettled situations often leave the middle of the field wide open. If Penn State doesn’t clean this up before conference play, their hot start could flame out fast.
9. Fairfield goalie Tyler Behring (14 saves) was seeing beach balls on Friday against Penn State.
The recipe for an upset of Penn State starts with great goalkeeping. If you allow that offense to heat up -- and to play make-it-take-it with Gerard Arceri at the face-off X -- then you’re going to lose. Behring played well enough for the Stags to pull off the upset, stuffing freshman Mac O’Keefe (who is leading the country in scoring yet is somehow not on the Tewaaraton watch list) on several occasions. Color commentator Matt Ward pointed out how Behring was already low each time O’Keefe dropped his stick. The Stags’ senior was one step ahead of a red hot offense all night.
10. The number of overtime games -- and quality of game-winning goal celebrations -- has been absurd this spring.
Look, I’d love to see a shot clock in college lacrosse. I think Major League Lacrosse has the best rules in the sport. But until we see a consistent timer that isn’t left to the referees’ discretion, we’re going to get a lot of overtime games. And that aspect of a shot clock-less sport is more than okay with me. Check out Barstool Jordie’s recap of this weekend’s overtime games including Monmouth’s mic drop celebration and Ryder Garnsey’s dead fish.
Masshole of the Week: Danny Seibel (Belmont Hill, Mass.)
Seibel has always been a shooter. Give him time and room, and it’s time to turn and rake. He scored 28 goals as a freshman, then 13 as a sophomore. In his third season at Villanova, Seibel has added a new element to his game: He’s more dangerous than ever as an inside scorer: cutting to ties, soaking checks, shooting through sticks and catching in traffic. His ability to pop for time-and-room shots or finish inside complements the Froccaro brothers perfectly.