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NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Final Four Preview: (1) North Carolina vs (4) Virginia

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It’s Round Three between the Heels and Hoos in Hartford on Saturday. Who has the advantage and what are the key matchups? Read on for more

Matt Dewkett

The 10,000 Foot View

Date and Time: 12:00 PM ET

Location: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut

Network: ESPN2

LaxRef Win Probability: 55% North Carolina

Your Anticipation Level: THROUGH THE ROOF

The Nitty Gritty Numbers

North Carolina vs Virginia

THE STATS North Carolina Virginia
THE STATS North Carolina Virginia
Adjusted Offensive Eff. 41.9% (1st) 36.4% (4th)
Adjusted Defensive Eff. 27.3% (18th) 28.9% (35th)
Adjusted FO% 58.9% (14th) 65.4% (5th)
Clearing Percentage 89.1% (8th) 86.6% (24th)
Ground Balls Per Game 35.13 (8th) 42.19 (1st)

The Key Match-Ups

  • Carolina Dodgers vs Virginia Close Defense
  • This is similar to a question we posed last week for the Georgetown vs Virginia game. Answer? TKO Virginia win. The Virginia Close D with experienced, rangy vets in Cade Saustad and Kyle Kology and young, massive 6’7’, 200 lb freshman Cole Kastner bullied and physically dominated Georgetown’s dodgers. Carolina is a whole different ballgame. The Tar Heels have 17 goals from their midfield in two games against Virginia this year. Chris Gray has seven. And not just from the usual suspects. Connor McCarthy, scorer of the Heels OT GWG against Rutgers last weekend, had a hat trick from the 2nd Midfield line against the Hoos in the Heels 18-16 loss in Chapel Hill last month. However there have been some modifications to those lines since then. Tanner Cook has been nursing an injury for the last month. He missed the Duke and Monmouth games and only played man-up in the game against Rutgers. Cook has been the Heels best dodger outside of Gray. In his place has been freshman Cole Herbert, who while possessing oodles of natural ability, hasn’t shown an ability to beat his man off the dodge consistently this year. Lance Tillman has on that 2nd midfield with McCarthy, but how does his speed matchup with the long reach and physicality of Saustad, Kology, or Kastner? You imagine the Hoos will have a pole for him after he toasted Rutgers shorties last weekend. Carolina’s weapon aside from Gray’s massive production through efficient dodging and pinpoint outside shooting is how athletic they are from the midfield. When that’s going, combined with all the hallmarks of a usual Dave Metzbower offense, they’re unstoppable. But things seemed to stall without it last weekend vs Rutgers. Virginia’s Close D hasn’t been playing this well since Memorial Day 2019. It may be the key matchup of the weekend.
  • The Riding Game
  • No one rides like Carolina and Virginia. Just watching these two teams ride is worth the price of admission. Carolina won the Rutgers game to get here through their ride, forcing several Rutgers turnovers by relentless riding and hustle, preventing the Scarlet Knights from extending their lead, when Justin Anderson chased down a Rutgers shortie, or in overtime, having a chance to win it when Chris Gray ran over and caused a turnover on Shane Knobloch in the defensive zone. Virginia’s physicality and riding in the middle of the field just overwhelmed Georgetown and helped cause the maelstrom that propelled Virginia back to the Final Four. Both teams use the ride to create transition, extra opportunities for their deadly offenses, and as juice and energy. However, one key area to watch that could tilt the game. While Carolina rides incredibly well, they also defend well against the ride. They clear it at 89.1% and were flawless against Rutgers last weekend. Virginia, while always great in the ride and by no means bad against opponents ride, doesn’t quite clear it as well as UNC. They come in at 86.6%. Whoever generates more opportunities from their ride and from unsettled opportunities could win this matchup of high powered offenses, so a potential Carolina edge in clearing could help them withstand the UVA ride in a way UVA can’t from UNC’s. Pay very close attention to the battle between the lines in this game. In no game this year will it be as important.