Myths and opinions about lacrosse

Game being slowed down by stick technology

March 17, 2011|By Quint Kessenich, Special to The Baltimore Sun

The college lacrosse season has rounded the clubhouse turn and teams are racing down the backstretch, a third of the way through the regular season. Trends are developing, surprises are emerging and myths need to be busted. Here are some of the myths and what I think about them:

Myth: Lacrosse is the fastest sport on two feet.

Opinion: It is, at times. But too often the game has become slowed down by stick technology that makes dislodging the ball impossible, over coaching, specialization and rules that allow teams to stall. Division I coaches have told me that when they break down film, the 60-minute game is actually more like 40 minutes of action. I believe that the sticks are more to blame than the need for a shot clock. At a period where lacrosse is getting national exposure weekly on television, the sport isn't always putting its best foot forward.

Myth: Syracuse and Virginia are the two top teams in the country by a wide margin and will meet on Memorial Day in the NCAA Championship game.

Opinion: The Cavs and the Orange are a step ahead, but it's a small step. Virginia was tied late with Drexel, needed overtime to dismiss Stony Brook and trailed Cornell 7-5 in the second half. Syracuse had to play like it was life and death to hold off Army and escaped in overtime last weekend against Georgetown.

Myth: No. 3 Notre Dame is the strongest challenger to Syracuse and Virginia.

Opinion: The Irish are one of a handful of teams who can challenge Syracuse and Virginia for national supremacy. Notre Dame will be favored in its first 10 games before finishing the regular season against Syracuse and North Carolina. Right now, my quarterfinal bracket includes Syracuse, Virginia, Notre Dame, Maryland, Hofstra, Stony Brook, Army and Cornell. My first-round NCAA losers are Jacksonville, North Carolina, Duke, Villanova, Johns Hopkins, Denver, UMass and Princeton. But it's only mid-March so don't take those picks to Vegas yet.

Myth: Shooters have never been more accurate and powerful.

Opinion: Last spring only one goalie in the nation (Scott Rodgers) had a save percentage above .600. That's equivalent to only one batter hitting above .300. It appeared as if the pendulum had swung in favor of the shooters. But right now 13 goalies sit above the magical .600 mark, including three above .650. Jonathan Falcone of Yale, Pierce Bassett of Johns Hoplins and senior Matt Chriss (Gilman) of Brown lead the way. This season has been defined by defense and goaltending, not explosive offense.

Myth: The MIAA is the nation's premiere high school league.

Opinion: The league isn't producing as many can't-miss stars like it once did. The 2010 All-American team had just one MIAA graduate (Mike Kimmel — Loyola High School and Johns Hopkins). In 2001 there were five first-teamers from the MIAA. While still an extremely skilled, superbly coached and competitive league from top to bottom, the growth of the game in Florida, California, Texas and the Midwest has improved the overall athletic profile of lacrosse, and the MIAA has lagged. Current top 10 teams Syracuse, Stony Brook, Hofstra, Notre Dame and Army are devoid of any big-time MIAA contributors. Hopkins and Duke have just one starter from the MIAA and Virginia has two.

Myth: The ECAC is a two-team race between Loyola and Denver.

Opinion: Denver downed Loyola on Wednesday and now must deal with Ohio State on April 16.

Myth: After a 1-3 start, Princeton won't make the playoffs.

Opinion: The Tigers have lost to Hofstra (5-0), North Carolina (5-1) and Villanova (6-1) and have played the nation's toughest schedule so far. If attackman Jack McBride returns from injury, they will be in the hunt for the Ivy League automatic qualifier. Their win over Hopkins (5-1) will come in handy on selection Sunday.

Myth: Johns Hopkins can pencil their names in the 2011 NCAA tournament bracket like they have every year since 1972.

Opinion: The Jays will have to beat one of the big boys (Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland or Army) and hold serve against Navy, Albany and Loyola if they expect to get an invite. Hopkins still has to play four top 10 teams and seven teams overall who are in the current Top 20. Wins over Manhattan, UMBC, Siena, Delaware and Towson may be insignificant.

Myth: The evolution of the plastic lacrosse stick has had positive impact on the game.

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