CBS Sports Network analyst and former Syracuse All-American defenseman Steve Panarelli will be at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Friday night to provide commentary for the Patriot League showdown between No. 8 Lehigh and No. 17 Navy. Panarelli, who can be followed on Twitter at @stevepanarelli, discussed Johns Hopkins’ overtime win against Virginia, Cornell’s steady record without Rob Pannell, and Denver’s chances despite the loss of a starting goalie.
What did you take from Johns Hopkins’ 11-10 overtime win against Virginia this past Saturday?
I think it validated their confidence, but I think they were validated even before that game. They put a pretty good beating on Syracuse even though they just lost to Villanova, which takes away from the win a little bit. But they’re a good team. I think everybody knew in the preseason after the year they had last year when they were so young and being one game away from a Final Four. I think the expectations were there. I watched that Virginia-Hopkins game, and I thought it was a Final Four or national championship-type game this early in the season. Those guys are playing pretty well. I think they’re really well-rounded. I think they do a very good job of playing their Hopkins style. They can kind of control the ball, they play solid D, you have to work for every goal against them. They get opportune scoring. They’re just a well-round, do-everything-well type of team, and you’re going to have to beat them to win. They’re not going to give you opportunities, they’re not going to make a lot of mistakes, and you have to outplay them.
Because of that win, the Blue Jays overtook the Cavaliers for the top spot in every poll. But if Johns Hopkins is No. 1, Virginia must be 1A, right?
I would think so. They’re both playing those schedules where they’re going to get a lot more tests, so teams are going to have opportunities to knock them off, and they’re going to have opportunities to show what they’re about. I’m sure if you asked either one of those coaches, they would say that they don’t care what the polls say now, but you’ve got to put Virginia right there. Right now, I think those teams stand out. They’ve put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. If you look at Duke, they’ve had some ups and downs. Loyola’s there, Lehigh is a team that has one loss. There are a lot of teams that are on the outskirts looking in as far as that top two, but those two teams are definitely standing out and playing at a level that is almost like Memorial Day-level, and it’s still early in the season.
Since senior attackman Rob Pannell broke a bone in his left foot against Army on March 3, No. 3 Cornell has gone 4-1 with the only loss coming to Virginia. Does that surprise you?
Rob’s good. We all know that Rob’s great. He’s probably the best talent in the country, but they’ve got a lot of other guys there that can play. They’ve got a lot of talent, and I think there was a good reason for why there was a lot of hype around them. Obviously, there was Rob, but people knew he had a supporting cast and he had guys around him who could help him take this team to a Final Four or championship game. They’re well-coached. Ben DeLuca does a great job with them. They like to push it a little bit, which is fun to watch. But what they do, they do really well, and he’s done a good job of taking over that program from Jeff Tambroni. Maybe they’re changing it up a little bit and mixing it up from what they did in the past, but even with Rob out, they still have a lot of talent. They’re very similar to Hopkins. They’re not going to make a lot of mistakes, so you’re going to have to beat them if you’re going to win. I don’t know what Rob’s status is, but if he can come back and be similar to the type of player that he was and get back in time for the end of the year, they’re obviously dangerous and in that conversation [for a national title] immediately.
It was reported last week that Denver sophomore goalie Jamie Faus will miss the remainder of the season with a ruptured Achilles. How much does that impact the Pioneers’ chances of returning to the Final Four?