It may not have the pizzazz of the madness in March, but May Madness is just as fun. Sure, it’s not 68 teams, and sure it doesn’t take over your office/school/television/internet for four consecutive days, but you still get to hate Duke, and you still get to tell people “I had that!” excitedly even when they don’t ask. It is, for that reason, that I’m here to give you the perfect bracket. My picks are of course completely unassailable, based on a specific scientific formula and data driven analysis that comes as a result of me having 3 beers and a glass of wine with dinner at an age where that hits me like a ton of bricks. I now, generously, pass those picks those along to you. You’re welcome.
Maryland VS Bobby Mo - This isn’t the no brainer that it might look like on paper. Bobby Mo has been building a quiet confidence all season. They played Georgetown to within a goal and had a close game with Rutgers. The Colonials currently are sitting at number one in adjusted defensive efficiency in all of division one. Having said that, Bobby Mo ain’t seen players like Connor Kelly and Jared Bernhardt all year. Maryland wins, 11-6.
Syracuse vs Cornell - Be afraid of the Big Red. I would bet that Syracuse comes out and shuts off Jeff Teat right away given how well it worked for Princeton and Brown. Yale decided not to and paid the price. Syracuse is coming off a nice confidence builder against Colgate, but has been terribly inconsistent this year. Cornell won their meeting in early April, and Syracuse followed it up by barely beating a bad UNC team and losing to Navy and UVA. I can’t pick Cuse right now over the red hot Cornell boys, Big Red wins, 13-10.
Hopkins vs Georgetown - Georgetown should not be underestimated as they come in on the emotional high of beating Denver for the Big East title. What’s more is that they did it without their best player, Daniel Bucaro, and they held Denver to just 3 goals. Hopkins, however, is coming off a bigger win, taking down their rival Maryland for the Big 10 title. Hopkins is doing everything right at the right time, and has the pieces on place to make a run. Georgetown has had a great season and can be proud, but it ends against the Blue Jays, 14-7.
Duke vs Villanova - Villanova probably shouldn’t be here, let’s just be real about that. I think everyone would rather have seen Bucknell/Rutgers/Ohio State, preferring a team playing better right now to a team with a better season long resume that is currently in a slump. But here we are, the Wildcats are in, and they draw the Blue Devils in the first round. The Duke defense has slid a bit, but is still top 5 in the nation. And Justin Guterding is definitely playing with a Tewaaraton Trophy sized chip on his shoulder. Duke makes a statement and blows out Villanova, 17-6.
Yale vs UMass - You can bet I’d feel a lot better about Yale if last Sunday’s performance was different. It’s not even that they lost, it’s that Cornell managed to counter the things Yale does well, which is pretty much everything. UMass hasn’t lost since March 6th, an 11 game streak. They’ll have Isaac Paparo, the CAA Player of the Year, to guard Ben Reeves, and if he can handle Reeves, the rest of the Yale offense will need to to carry the day. That didn’t happen against Cornell. Still, Yale has an outstanding senior class, studs at every spot on the field, and the voice in their ear about how they always exit early from the big dance. This year is a different story. Yale wins, 12-10.
Loyola vs UVA - Probably the best game of the weekend. These two kicked the season off with an outstanding overtime thriller that Virginia won on the end of a huge second half comeback. Since then, UVA has lost Ryan Conrad, but has gained a bonafide star at attack in Michael Kraus, who’s game took a quantum leap this year to say the least. Loyola, however, has done some growing as well. Foster Huggins is at the top of the charts in caused turnovers and is having an All American caliber season on close defense. The young players on the offense have gelled together well, and of course Pat Spencer is Pat Spencer. If Loyola can have marginal success on faceoffs, they win. Even if they don’t, I still think they win. Loyola 12-9.
Notre Dame vs Denver - Gotta say I’m not looking forward to this. Denver just stunk the joint out against Georgetown (or maybe lost on purpose). Notre Dame offense has found some rhythm lately, but Denver is going in the opposite direction. Only 3 goals against Georgetown. and low outputs in their last three games. Baptiste will likely crush faceoffs again, and I’d expect Denver to try and play a slower paced game while they’re offense finds a groove and they have no Sean Mayle to play transition of draws and loose balls. Denver wins a death by 1000 cuts game that you likely fall asleep watching, 7-5.
Albany vs Richmond - Richmond, I’m glad you made it. SoCon tourney was exciting, and had some quality teams like Jacksonville who were right on the edge of really making hte leap this year. Thanks for making the trip. Connor Connor Fields, y’all. 18-5 Albany.
Maryland vs Cornell - Now this one will have some firepower on the field. Cornell will have to find a way to handle Connor Kelly, which should be interesting because frankly they don’t have a defenseman who can handle him 1v1 (not many do). Early slides and doubles to try and force the ball out of his stick is the typical approach, the problem is that Kelly is incredible at finding seams to open teammates, and the Maryland shooters are solid. Cornell has a path to victory here: shoot to get hot, and shoot to stay hot. An otherworldly performance from Jeff Teat and the Cornell offense gets the job done, and Cornell takes down the one seed, 18-16.
Hopkins vs Duke - This will be a serious test for the Hopkins defense. Justin Guterding, as we have noted all year, is letting everyone know just how good he is every week. He’ll draw Patrick Foley, who’s having an excellent season, and from there, just about every matchup on that end probably favors Duke. However, Brock Turnbaugh has been outstanding of late, including a huge performance against Maryland in the Big 10 title game. The Hopkins offense gets it done on the back of huge performances from Cole Williams and Joel Tinney, and Brock Turnbaugh makes enough saves to engineer the upset. Hopkins wins, 13-12.
Loyola vs Yale - Ok, NOW we’re at the part where Yale blows it. Yale has senior leadership, a star at every level with defenseman Chris Fake, FOGO Conor Mackie, and attackman Ben Reeves. This makes it every more inexplicable when they lose. Fake loses his matchup with Pat Spencer, Reeves is forced into turnovers by Huggins, and the Loyola middies outplay the Yale middies. In the biggest surprise, Loyola splits the faceoff X 50/50 with strong wing play, and their success in the ground ball war carries them to the upset. Yale’s seniors, despite being outstanding, have yet another early exit. 14-9 Loyola.
Denver vs Albany - The heavyweight fight that only Greg Gurenlian has dreamed of. If you like faceoffs that last 30+seconds, this is the game for you. Seriously though, I think we’d all love to see the battle at the X between Baptiste and TD Ierlan. The two have been, without rival, the absolute best all season. Baptiste’s the best to ever do it, and Ierlan will likely eclipse the record for faceoff win percentage in a season. That’ll be what every is talking about. And after that, they’ll be talking about how Albany scored about a bazillion goals on a Bill Tierney defense. Ierlan wins the draws and naturally that swings the game heavily, Albany wins 15-6.
Cornell vs Hopkins - The magical run of Cornell carries on. There was nobody who expected Cornell to be here for Memorial Day Weekend, let alone even making the tourney. But this offense has been blitzing people all season, EXCEPT when Jeff Teat gets shut off. Cornell still never really showed a creative way to get their playmaker the ball when he’s shut off, and Coach Petro knows this. As the best defenseman ever, Petro also is more than happy to play 5v5 against five guys on Cornell who aren’t Jeff Teat. Hopkins shuts off the star and has the same success Brown had, except they shoot WAY better. 10-7 Hopkins.
Loyola vs Albany - Albany spent most of the season at number one, and it’s fitting they make the trip to Foxborough. Loyola was the team that everyone just seemed to sort of forget about, even though they’ve been a force all season. The Greyhounds to this point in the tourney have been carried by Pat Spencer, and it likely doesn’t change here. TD Ierlan has his normal day, but the offense of the Great Danes picks the worst possible time to have a rough shooting day. Loyola plays an exceptionally efficient game, wins the turnover battle, and overpowers and overmatched Albany defense to win 14-13.
Hopkins vs Loyola - What’s crazy is that Hopkins gets here without a bona fide star. Tinney is a great player, but Connor Kelly/Connor Fields/Justin Guterding he ain’t. Loyola has the biggest star in the game in Spencer. The problem is, he’s flanked by two freshman at attack, and there isn’t much experience anywhere else on the offensive end for the Hounds. Hopkins forces turnovers and frustrates Spencer with quick doubles and aggressive play, forcing the underclassman to try and handle the offensive load. On the other end, a complete team effort from Stanwick, Williams, Tinney, and a breakout performance from Connor DeSimone lead Hopkins to the victory and another chip for Coach Petro, 14-9.
And there you have it, that’s exactly how it’s going to happen.
Also, if you’re one of those guys who just picks Maryland/Albany/Duke/Yale, you’re the worst. Nobody likes that. Go back to picking the Warriors/Patriots/Yankees every year and not being fun at parties. Or, you know, live a little. Look, it’s been a wild college lacrosse season. The Top 20 in the Inside Lacrosse poll has had 34 different teams in it throughout the season and four number one teams, and that’s not even counting teams that got votes at some point but didn’t get in. There are a LOT of good teams in the college lacrosse landscape, and it’s been a year with wild upsets, star performances, and great games on the big stage. No reason to think the biggest stage will be any different.