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Big Ten Thursday Lunch Club Memo - March 21, 2019: Uptown Conference

Last call for non-conference wins!

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Thursday Lunch Club Memo

To - Big Ten Lunch Club members

Re - Midseason Report

Welcome back everyone to our Big Ten Thursday Lunch Club date. Thank you so much for indulging the bye week last week. My mom came up to visit for a few days, so I was a bit tied up. Here are few pics of us having a lovely lunch in Princeton last Friday (Shout out to PJ’s Pancakes).

Unfortunately, not everything is as lovely in the Big Ten as a Friday lunch on Nassau St. Now, to be fair, it’s more of a mixed bag for our beloved Rogue Conference than it is all doom & gloom. Indeed, it's a classic glass half-full/half-empty situation. Since we’re all about transparency & accountability here at College Crosse, we’re gonna start with the not so great news first and then move up(town).

Disappointingly, Rutgers & Michigan haven’t had the non-conference record we were hoping for this season. I'll start with Michigan, as I definitely had them as a team I thought would surprise people in 2019. It hasn’t been all bad for Michigan. Indeed, the wolverines have certainly impressed offensively this season, as this team can really get it going on offense. Nevertheless, the last three weeks have not gone well for the Wolverines, who were 3-1 back on March 2nd after their nice win over St. John’s.

However, since the St. John's game the Ides of March have hit the Wolverines hard, as Michigan has gone 0-3 since playing St. John’s. Two of those losses were to Yale & Notre Dame, and there's nothing to be ashamed about there, but their loss to Marquette on March 16th really didn’t help their cause.

Rutgers is in a similar boat as Michigan. They too have impressed at times, but they haven’t been able to close out a few important games this season, which has really hurt their record. Injuries have certainly played a factor this season, but that’s something that plagues every team in Division I. In the end, Rutgers has had opportunities to shine, but hasn’t been able to capitalize on them.

In their last two games versus Syracuse & Lehigh, Rutgers had fourth quarter leads against both teams (including a 13-10 lead over Syracuse with under 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter) only to come up short in the end in both contests. Rutgers is a good team, a borderline Top 20 squad, but at this point, their best win of the season was against Princeton, & they are 0-3 versus the Patriot League in 2019. That's not gonna cut it this season and unless they turn it around in conference play, it'll be another early summer for Rutgers.

Hopkins is in a pretty decent position right now, but they still have plenty of work to do this season. Losses to Towson, Loyola, & Syracuse are never good, but if you are going to lose, it better be to teams in the top 10. Additionally, Hopkins has wins versus three pretty decent teams in Princeton, Delaware, & Mount St. Mary’s and their win versus North Carolina will help their RPI at the end of the season. This is a big weekend for Hopkins, as a win versus UVA would significantly enhance Hop’s resume, give the Jays a win versus a highly ranked team, and provide some momentum going into the Big Ten part of their schedule.

Things look much better for Ohio State, Penn State, & Maryland. Indeed, these three teams have two losses combined, with only one of those losses (Yale’s 14-13 win over Penn State) coming in regulation. Additionally, these three make up 60% of the top 5 in the most recent College Crosse, USILA, & Lax Mag Top 20 Polls & take up three of the top seven spots in the most recent IL Media Poll. If Big Ten lacrosse were a city, Ohio State, Penn State, & Maryland, definitely live uptown this season.

Some contend that Ohio State doesn't belong in the same category as Penn State & Maryland, arguing that Ohio State has not played as rigorous a schedule as the Terps or Nittany Lions. I guess that's fair, but on the otherhand the theme of 2019 has been "anyone can beat anyone," so I find it difficult to understand how we can tout all the upsets this season, and then dismiss Ohio State’s undefeated record as unimpressive.

The reality is, winning is winning, and Ohio State hasn't caught an L this entire season. They'll be exposed once conference play starts if they aren't for real, but for now, I choose to celebrate the fact that OSU is the lone undefeated team in college lacrosse. Just win, baby.

This is an important weekend for the Big Ten as it’s the last non-conference weekend of the season. After March 23rd, it's a zero-sum game in the B1G, as a win for one conference member will come at the detriment of another. Indeed, self-interest is the only thing on the menu after this weekend.

The Five Bid Dream looks a little dim right now, but we have three teams that look like pretty sure bets to make the NCAA Tournament right now (Ohio State, Penn State, & Maryland), and with a win this weekend, Hopkins could definitely also nudge their way into that category. Additionally, because the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, & Terps dominate the top of the polls, there will be multiple opportunities for Rutgers & Michigan to get one or two high quality wins to bolster their at-large resume, and, more importantly, they still have a chance to make the the Big Ten Tournament to win that sweet sweet AQ bid. So five bids is still in play, albeit, things don't look as promising as they did two weeks ago.

Moving on to this weekend, you can find the Big Ten Thursday Lunch Club Big Board for March 21, 2019 directly below. Links in the 2019 Overall Record column will take you to that team’s official 2019 schedule page. Links in the Last Game column will take you to the recap of that team’s most recent game, while links in the 2018 Overall Record column will take you to Chris’ 2018 Year in Review post for that particular team.

Big Ten Thursday Lunch Club Big Board For March 21, 2019

Team 2019 Overall Record Last Game Next Game 2019 Non-Conference Record 2019 Conference Record 2018 Overall Record
Team 2019 Overall Record Last Game Next Game 2019 Non-Conference Record 2019 Conference Record 2018 Overall Record
Johns Hopkins 4-3 Johns Hopkins 12 vs. Delaware 10 March 23 JHU home vs. UVA 4-3 0-0 12-5
Maryland 7-1 Maryland 17 vs. Villanova 7 March 23 Maryland home vs. North Carolina 7-1 0-0 14-4
Michigan 3-4 Notre Dame 12 vs. Michigan 9 March 23 home vs. Delaware 3-4 0-0 8-6
Ohio State 6-0 Ohio State vs. Denver (Canceled) March 23 Ohio State @ Notre Dame 6-0 0-0 8-7
Penn State 6-1 Penn State 24 vs. Jacksonville 11 March 23 Penn State @ Cleveland State. 6-1 0-0 8-6
Rutgers 4-4 Syracuse 18 vs. Rutgers 14 March 23 Rutgers home vs. Hofstra 4-4 0-0 9-6

Johns Hopkins vs. UVA

Hopkins is 4-1 since starting out the season with two straight losses to Towson & Loyola. If the Blue Jays can beat UVA, they will finish the non-conference portion of their regular season with a healthy 5-3 record. But that'll be easier said than done, as the Cavaliers are on a four-game winning streak, averaging 13.5 goals/game in their last four match-ups.

As most of you have heard, Quint Kessenich stated in the Hopkins section of his recent Top 20 post for Inside Lacrosse, that Hopkins & UVA might not play each other in 2020. While it would be disappointing if these two can’t play each other next year, I am not too worked up about it, as that’s life in the Conference Era in college lacrosse. I know Hopkins wants to play this game, but I understand if UVA can’t swing it. I hope the game happens, but just in case, I’ve already made preliminary calls to Notre Dame & Duke to gauge their availability/interest.

Jokes & memes aside, UVA versus Hopkins is one of the best rivalries in college lacrosse. There’s plenty of history, the game gets good ratings (the 2012 regular season game was the highest rated lacrosse game ever in ESPNU ratings history, surpassing even the NCAA Championship coverage), and it has given us some of the best plays and greatest games in college lacrosse history. I hope both parties can come to a reasonable resolution and get this game on the schedule for 2020. However, if this is the last time these two play each other for the foreseeable future, I hope the game goes into triple overtime to give the fans their money’s worth .... with Hopkins winning of course.

Maryland vs. North Carolina

7-1, only loss coming in overtime on the road, and steady improvement throughout the season? Yup, that sounds like Maryland alright. The Terps are rolling right now, after their 17-7 win over Villanova last weekend and their 14-9 win over Albany the weekend before. With a victory over North Carolina on Saturday, Maryland will be 8-1 and then they take on Penn State in a huge game on March 31st. First things first, though, beat North Carolina.

Michigan vs. Delaware

Delaware is not a team you should underestimate, as they had my Blue Jays on the ropes late in the 4th quarter last weekend. But I doubt the Wolverines will sleepwalk through this game, as Michigan really needs a win to snap out of the funk they are in now. At 3-4, Michigan’s season is far from over, but they don’t have a good at-large resume right now and they really need a W right now.

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Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

So I stand by everything I wrote in the first half of this post about Ohio State. The Buckeyes don’t need to apologize to anyone for being 6-0. But yea, just between us Thursday Lunch Club members, I do wish Ohio State had played that Denver game last weekend, for no other reason than just to see how this 2019 team would handle going up against a national power like the Pioneers, even if Denver isn’t having a typical Denver regular season. Luckily for us, though, OSU will get their chance to go up against a team with a high profile, as they will go on the road this weekend to take on the Fighting Irish. This is a big opportunity for Ohio State to silence some of their doubters.

Penn State vs. Cleveland State

Penn State should be fine this weekend, but Cleveland State is not a team that they should overlook. They gave Ohio State a pretty good run for their money early in the season and almost took down Michigan as well. The Vikings are a solid team and won’t be in awe of Penn State when the Nittany Lions come to town this weekend. Again, Penn State should be fine this weekend, but they last played on March 10th, and there is always a chance that they come out slow due to the lack of playing time this month. Rust & complacency before Big Ten play are things Penn State will need to avoid this weekend versus the Vikings.

Rutgers vs. Hofstra

The road to the NCAA Tournament goes through the Big Ten for Rutgers. Rutgers needs to win this game versus Hofstra to snap their losing streak, but a victory over the Pride will not do much to improve RU's at-large resume. RU will need a few B1G wins and probably at least make the Big Ten Tournament final if they are to have any chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Tall task, but it is doable if Rutgers can regroup for the home stretch.

We have a nice group of games coming up on Saturday, including three contests versus the ACC. I hope you get achance to catch some of the action this weekend. We'll be back next week as we begin Big Ten play the last weekend in March. It should be a fun time.

I’ll see you out there.

Very truly yours,