Greg Pelton, Duke, LSM - The Blue Devils win against Denver is one you mark on the calendar. I don’t care if the month still says February, Denver came in with what many consider to be the best FOGO to ever take a draw, and Duke put up a SEVEN GOAL RUN in the fourth quarter to win it. That’s a win a title contender gets. Pelton isn’t one of the big names on this roster. He doesn’t score goals and isn’t particularly dynamic in transition. What he does do is crush wing play on draws. Pelton leads the Duke team in ground balls through four games, and had four more against Denver to go with a caused turnover. Remember in the Matrix when the kid tells Neo “do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try and realize the truth ... There is no spoon.” Trying to beat Baptiste at the X is trying to bend the spoon. Other teams need to realize the truth. Pelton says there is no spoon. The wing play caused Duke to get extra possessions even as Baptiste won faceoffs to himself instantly, with minimal tie up, and was key in the run that secured the win. Pelton was at the heart of that effort.
Denver playing in Foxborough - I know, they lost to Duke. But anyone out there who didn’t see a contender in this Denver team during that game on Friday night is nuts. You got to see a lot of the things that make Denver a ridiculously tough match up for just about anyone. They have a midfield that is legitimately six deep, and guys like Logan play and have an impact on both ends. Sam Mayle’s athleticism and IQ make him a legitimate option on offense, and apparently he’s the next guy in should someone on the EMO unit get hurt. Mayle is the LSM, by the way. There has been talk about Denver lacking a true alpha on offense, but I’d say Ethan Walker grabbed that role with six goals. Walker had more points (8) than shots (7). He showed you just what is so dangerous about this offense: the second you aren’t applying pressure to them or making them uncomfortable, your goalie turns and rakes. Here’s what happens if you don’t close out on Walker with some pressure:
END OF 3Q: Ethan Walker taking over with 6G, 2A. @DU_MLAX leads @DukeMLAX 12-8. pic.twitter.com/5ly8p9p1q0— US Lacrosse Magazine (@USLacrosseMag) February 16, 2018
On top of that, of course, is Baptiste. He won 23 of 30 faceoffs, and Denver lost. That won’t happen often. Duke managed to win the fourth quarter of this game with a seven goal run. I’ll give you a bold prediction now: Denver won’t give up a seven goal run again for the rest of the season. To anyone.
Colgate - This may not be the team that you think of right away when it comes to offensive production. That needs to change. Colgate put up 14 goals on Cornell in a victory, and DA RAIDASSSSS are a team to watch. Griffin Brown led the way with 6 goals. Freshman sensation Mike Hawkins only needed to tally one goal in this one, and there were six different goal scorers and eight players to register a point for Colgate. They’re efficiency is over 40%. That’s good. Really good. Granted that Marist, Binghamton, and Cornell are not exactly the three top defenses in lacrosse, but scoring that many goals that efficiently is impressive regardless of who you play. Only three teams were better coming into the weekend: Duke, Syracuse, and Denver. Syracuse probably isn’t up there anymore. But you know who is...
The Dane Train - All aboard, everyone. Albany went into the dome and put the kind of beating on Syracuse that has some of the people here at College Crosse questioning life decisions. The lowest scoring output for Syracuse in the dome since 1991. Tehoka Nanticoke exploding onto the NCAA scene with five goals. Four points from Tewaaraton contender Connor Fields, including this feed:
Connor Fields to Kyle McClancy to the back of the net and you can see this goal on #SCTop10 tomorrow morning. pic.twitter.com/8LCWc7D83L— The Crease Dive (@thecreasedive) February 17, 2018
Yeah, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. The Albany offense is going to score a ton of goals; this is not earth shattering news. But look at the rest of this game. Albany goalie JD Colarusso gave up 3 goals on 23 shots from Syracuse. FOGO TD Ierlan won 16 of 21 at the X. There was just plain dominance everywhere, and Syracuse is no slouch. There was a (extremely small) part of me that thought maybe Albany was getting overhyped this year. That part of me is gone.
Busride Karaoke - Happy Hour lacrosse was back this week in the form of the Duke vs. Denver game, and it was great to have Anish/Quint/Carc back together. We got treated to some wonderful footage of the three amigos riding around together. As usual Carc was driving while Anish and Quint were looking nervous that Carc was driving. It’s just one of those things that makes you happy lacrosse is back. So is busride karaoke. I give you freshman Ian Laviano, courtesy of UVA lacrosse twitter.
The @NBCTheVoice is officially safe from Ian Laviano. #RoadTripKaraoke pic.twitter.com/ZGaaGw99I5— Virginia Men's Lacrosse (@UVAMensLax) February 18, 2018
When you get an OT win over Loyola and follow it up with a win over Drexel, it doesn’t matter how bad your voice is. Seriously though, UVA putting together another win by beating Drexel isn’t shocking, but the box score is impressive. UVA put up 13 goals and got no goals from Laviano or Michael Kraus, but 11 different Cavaliers had a point, led by Dox Aitken with 4. UVA was the team considered to be in the bottom half of the ACC, looking up at Duke/Notre Dame and maybe even Syracuse. I’d say they are easily the second best team in the ACC today, and the rest of the conference has some work to do to catch up.
Analytics Lacrosse - I make reference to efficiency and other stats that may not be something typically tracked in a game or in a box score. As other sports take leaps forward by using more advanced metrics, lacrosse is no different. Analytics Lacrosse does an outstanding job of tracking offensive and defensive outputs to give a better idea of how well teams are performing without saying “they score a lot of goals” or “they give up a lot of goals”. It’s still early and sample sizes are small, but the data is still invaluable.
My upset picks - Shout out, Lax Vegas Lines, for letting us know exactly how things might be interesting if gambling were legal. Obviously gambling is illegal and you should never do it. But if it were, and you could, I would have been a perfect 3-0, with Villanova winning outright. I’ll be honest, I made all three picks thinking they would win outright, and Lehigh almost got there.
Lehigh +4.5, Jacksonville +2.5, Villanova +3.5 are all things that would be what I would be on if gambling were legal. https://t.co/R041kZD9mI— Daniel Arestia (@danarestia) February 15, 2018
The Ancient Eight - Tough opening weekend for the Ivy League. The teams that won (Dartmouth/Harvard/Penn/Princeton) didn’t exactly do so convincingly. Princeton needed overtime to squeak out a one goal win over Monmouth. Harvard did the same against UMass Lowell. Dartmouth, who everyone expects to be at the bottom of the league, beat Canisius by one. Only Penn had a solid win, beating Michigan by 3 and looking decent doing it. The Ivy League bell cows, the highly ranked teams coming into the season, did not look great. Yale lost in OT to Villanova. Furman/Delaware/Siena: those are the three teams ranked just ahead of Yale as of now in offensive efficiency, and Yale has Ben Reeves. Cornell went down to the aforementioned Colgate, and Brown lost to Quinnipiac in OT. There is something to be said for being essentially a game behind the competition, but if you’re as good as prognosticators think you are, these are games you need to win, particularly for Yale.
Games that don’t go to overtime - There have been 41 lacrosse games since Sunday February 11th (which is awesome). Seven of those games went to overtime. If anything, this is just another indication that we are in for a season where the top 40 or so teams in division one are competitive with one another. And it’s not just “evenly matched” teams doing it. Lehigh took UNC to OT. Monmouth took Princeton to double overtime. Quinnipiac has played two games, and both went to OT, with one being a win over Brown. We aren’t even in March yet. Cue the Whitney.
Navy - They got a win against UMBC that they desperately needed, but I still can’t help but put a down arrow next to this team. It pains me to say it, but I just don’t think we’re going to see the old Casey Rees anymore. He didn’t register a point in this one, taking five shots and adding two turnovers. Grayson Torrain had two goals and an assist, and that’s something you’re going to need to see a lot of for this team to get things going on the offensive end. Navy won 12 of 15 faceoffs and still let UMBC hang around. Part of that is giving some credit to Thomas Lingner, who has been outstanding for UMBC in net through two games. But a Navy team this senior heavy, winning faceoffs, and playing defense at a top 20 level (they are) should NOT be struggling to put away UMBC and losing to Jacksonville. I think this is a team that will figure it out, but they need to do it quick because they play a brutal schedule.
The Orange - What a difference a week makes! Last week I was all about Bomberry and the Cuse hanging 21 goals and being super efficient doing it. This week....not so much. Syracuse managed only three goals against Albany and got thoroughly worked in every phase of the game. You wanna say Dom Madonna was OK with 11 saves? Fine. The rest of this team got spanked. The thing is, nobody came into this year talking about Albany as a high quality defensive team, least of all the caliber defense that holds Syracuse to three in the Dome. But the Orange need to get over this in a hurry. Because their schedule is about to be BRUTAL. Army (who’s defense I saw firsthand and can tell you is very, very good), @ Virginia, Hopkins, @ Rutgers, @ Duke, Notre Dame. Don’t think that Rutgers in there is any sort of break, the Scarlet Knights are for real. You’ll know an awful lot about this team on April 1st, a day after that stretch ends. Until then, Syracuse needs to dust itself off and get ready for an Army team that came into the Dome and won last year, and has a top five defense this year.
The Hopkins Band - We hear it all the time, if you foul the Jays, the band will play. Well, Loyola’s man down is clearly not a fan of the band. Hopkins was perfect on extra man against Towson, but managed to go 0 for 5 in their loss to Loyola. Hopkins turned the ball over 22 times, with 13 of those caused by Loyola defenders, seven from Foster Huggins alone. This game was 5-4 at halftime, but the Jays were a second half mess. Four shots and no goals from Joel Tinney. No points from Fraser. Only one goal and one assist for Shack Stanwick & Cole Williams, respectively. Zeros in the boxscore for Forry Smith, who played sparingly. An offense that handled Towson well, and won 14 of 20 faceoffs, couldn’t get out of its own way against Loyola. Sloppy play like this is not something we are used to seeing from Hopkins, and you can bet Coach Petro will have some words for his offensive leadership this week. They get North Carolina on Friday, and that’s a defense they should be able to more than handle if they cut down on turnovers and mistakes. But as for Saturday, The Battle of Charles Street was won by the Hounds, and the Jays band barely got anything to play about.