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10-Man Ride: NSFW Terps defense, a cage-facing Cannizzaro, & unsettled Orange

Memorial Day Weekend is exactly 2 months away, time to get serious!

Notre Dame v Loyola Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

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. Even in a shooting slump, Sergio Perkovic’s gravity is strong enough to space the field for his teammates.

Perkovic might be shooting 21.3%, but he’s still the Motor City Hitman. He’s shouldering more of the initiating duties after Matt Kavanagh’s graduation, and as a result, a greater portion of his shots have been off the dodge rather than off the catch. Give him time and room though, and your goalie will give you an earful.

The respect is real. Most defenders don’t dare to hedge from Perkovic. Brendan Collins throws the subtlest shoulder fake imaginable and Perkovic’s man scurries back to his place -- even though Collins is sweeping into the teeth of the defense with a full head of steam! Think about the thought process behind Ohio State’s split-second decision. “Do I let this guy run full speed through the middle of the field or let Perkovic get his hands free for a step-down shot? Ah, let him go.”

2. In a game that saw a combined 35 goals, winning the non-faceoff ground ball battle (51.5%) proved to be the difference for Hopkins.

Entering this weekend, only one team (High Point) had won the non-faceoff ground ball battle against the ‘Hoos. Loyola split with them; the rest of the ground ball battles were bloodbaths. The ‘Hoos have beat Drexel (60.7%), Siena (62.1%), Penn (56.0%), Syracuse (66.7%), Cornell (71.1%) and Notre Dame (58.3%) on the ground.

Their ability to extend possessions has been key for their offense. Tired in the fourth quarter, the ‘Hoos defense were out-Virginia-ed by the Jays’ offense. Hopkins controlled the ball for the final frame of regulation, only allowing one clear attempt. Unsurprisingly, that attempt failed as the exhausted Virginia defense failed to get open for freshman goalie Griffin Thompson.

3. The Terps two-man game defense (and every other aspect of their defense) locked down the Tar Heels in a Memorial Day revenge match.

No GIFs for this one because what the Terps did to the Heels in Chapel Hill was NSFW. Whew.

Last week I wrote about the success UNC was having with its pick-and-roll game at X. That was nowhere to be found against Maryland. The Terps handed UNC its second 8-goal loss at home of the season. Coupled with Hopkins’ win over Virginia, this weekend may have swung an at-large bid from the ACC to the up-and-coming B1G.

4. In the second half, Syracuse dared any Duke player not wearing #14 to beat them.

The Orange were gashed by Duke junior Justin Guterding. The Garden City product had a goal, two assists and two turnovers before halftime. Guterding went strong to the cup and cashed in during some defensive confusion. At halftime, ‘Cuse adjusted as they do so well.

Orange opponents are scoring on 39.8% of their first half possessions this season. In the second half that number drops down to 31.3%. I’d imagine most of the locker room conversation at halftime revolved around slowing down Guterding (1G, 3TO in the second half). They were quick -- at times, too quick -- to go to him in the first half.

As an underclassman, Guterding was mostly a lefty finisher. With 23 assists already (five shy of his career-high), he’s been more of a quarterback. Most ACC teams will make Guterding earn his slides and prove that he can consistently win his one-on-one matchup like ‘Cuse did in the second half. And those teams will all throw tougher cover guys at Guterding than the three teams he has piled up more than half his assists against: Cleveland State (6 assists), St. Joseph’s (4 assists) and Jacksonville (3 assists).

5. Syracuse may play “slow” in terms of pace, but they run (and run back on defense) better than any team in the country.

Six of Syracuse’s 12 goals against Duke were scored on fast breaks. Their week-to-week gameplan may not be “run, run, run” like Lars Tiffany’s teams -- 24 teams in D1 are using a higher share of their possessions in transition (per IL’s Brian Coughlin). However, when they do run, they light it up. The Orange are fourth in unsettled efficiency (per Coughlin). The biggest benefit of running at opportune moments? Orange opponents are having trouble running against them; ‘Cuse is allowing the sixth smallest ratio of unsettled-to-settled possessions (per Coughlin).

One thing to keep an eye on is who plays the point on Syracuse’s fast breaks. Fluidity between midfielders and attackmen has led to a number of different lineup combinations. Sometimes it’s Jordan Evans, sometimes it’s Brendan Bomberry. I’d love to see Salcido get some time-and-room shots, too, but it’s hard to argue with the success Syracuse is enjoying. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

6. Denver attackman Connor Cannizzaro was “outverted” to the midfield for much of their game against Towson.

Many coaches move their attackmen around to spice things up. Nobody does it as well as Matt Brown.

You’ll see Pat Spencer (Loyola) and Jules Heningburg (Rutgers) dodge from the top of the box; at times, that move limits these players. It takes true quarterbacks and puts them in a dodge-to-shoot position. Top-down feeds are really tough, largely because it’s much easier to slide up than it is to X.

Find any Pios’ box score from the last few years, and flip a coin to see whether Wes Berg, Zach Miller and Erik Adamson started at midfield or at attack. Players are positionless in this offense. Everyone can do everything, and after shooting 1-for-8 against Ohio State dodging from X, Cannizzaro was put in a position that made him tougher to defend.

Operating above the cage, Cannizzaro was a constant threat to shoot. If you beat your man at X, then you still have to cross goal-line extended and take that “one more” step that’s always tough to earn against a defense like Towson. If you beat your man above the cage, well, then you can let it fly like this.

7. The quality and quantity of saves Hofstra goalie Jack Concannon (61.8 save percentage) is making is absurd.

If you attended Dave Huntley’s “Lax by the Numbers” session at LaxCon, then you know shots on goal is much more strongly correlated with wins than saves. That sounds obvious; you need to shoot to score and you need to score to win.

What is surprising is that “saves” and “wins” have a negative correlation, although it’s a weak one. That’s why there’s no magic number a goalie needs to get to for your team to win. It’s not “10” or “12” or “more than your opponent”. Just make enough.

Making enough saves is exactly what Concannon has done for Hofstra — and he’s building one heck of a First Team All-American case in the process. I’m going to dive in-depth into Hofstra’s offense later this week, but Concannon is a huge reason why this team is undefeated.

8. Jake Withers pulled the R3 stick back on his PlayStation controller for this slick exit.

Trying to decide whether I want College Crosse editor Chris Jastrzembski to set this to audio of Chris Berman saying, “WOOP!” or of Big Cat and PFT Commenter impersonating Chris Berman saying, “WOOP!”

9. The Inside Lacrosse Media Poll No. 1 curse is real. And scary.

Week 6 marks the fourth week in a row that the top-ranked team in the country has lost. Related: Notre Dame hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

10. There aren’t many overwhelmingly impressive non-conference resumes out there.

The heavyweights of the Ivy and Patriot League failed to boost the conference’s RPI, and it’s going to come back to bite them. Loyola lost to Virginia, Hopkins and Duke. Penn lost to Penn State and Michigan. Princeton lost to Hofstra and Rutgers. Yale lost to Maryland, Bryant and UMass.

For the Patriot League to get two bids, Army and Boston University will need to pick up wins in the first week of May against Notre Dame and Duke, respectively. I don’t see any scenario where the Ivy sends two teams to the Big BBQ, which is unbelievable given our preseason expectations. These records are only getting uglier as conference play begins. As Paul Carcaterra said, teams have started cannibalizing each other. This weekend’s cannibalism victims: Loyola (lost to Bucknell) and Princeton (lost to Yale).

Masshole of the Week: John Sexton (Lincoln-Sudbury, Mass.)

The first two-time winner of this award, Sexton continues to stand out even in a golden age of this position. He’s a throwback long-stick midfielder. He won’t hunt for takeaway checks, and you won’t need to slide to him. He’ll give you goals, but only in the most patient, high-IQ way possible.