As part of ESPN’s coverage of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday and two critical Big East contests Saturday, Paul Carcaterra will be offering commentary from the network’s studio. The former Syracuse All-American midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, provided his thoughts on the top team in Division I, Duke’s mastery of Virginia and Villanova’s upset potential against Notre Dame.
With Virginia losing to Duke and Johns Hopkins falling to Maryland, which team did you have at No. 1?
Loyola. I feel like they have a few more quality wins than UMass, which was the other team I was debating about putting in that No. 1 spot. I think the Duke win – and in the fashion that Loyola actually beat Duke – weighs a lot heavier than any of the other teams that were in that debate. I really like Loyola’s wins over Duke, Fairfield and Denver, which are three quality teams. UMass’ best wins are Penn State and Bucknell. I kind of just looked at what each team did in terms of the toughest opponents on their schedule, and Loyola didn’t just beat Duke, but they beat them handedly. And who’s a hotter team right now after that Virginia win on Friday night than Duke? I mean, they looked like the best team in country. So I think that only helps Loyola’s position.
Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils have won 12 of the last 13 meetings with Virginia. What does Duke do that makes it such a tough opponent against the Cavaliers?
There’s a lot of different things that play into that domination and one is, over the course of the last five or six years, you can say that Duke has been the most consistent, best team in the country over that span. They’re an incredible program with a ton of talent. And then I think the second piece is – and I’m convinced of this when I wasn’t a year ago – that Duke is in Virginia’s head. I feel that Virginia plays tighter because they think of the domination in the past and what has prevented them from beating Duke seems to rekindle every time they step on the field against each other. If you look at this domination, it’s not just a couple years. These seniors for Virginia have only beaten Duke once. It’s not a scenario where they’ve enjoyed any length of success against Duke. And I think Duke, on the flipside, plays with a confidence and a swagger against Virginia, that they have the upper hand mentally.
Would you then agree that Duke is the favorite to win the ACC tournament?
The ACC Tournament is different. I think that when Duke and Virginia play on that isolated date on their schedule like they did last Friday, I think the advantage rests with the Blue Devils. I think in the ACC Tournament, there’s a lot of lacrosse being played over a 48-hour period. So I think that actually gives Virginia an advantage in terms of being able to get off the schneid against Duke. I think the Cavaliers won’t have as much time to think about because they have to play North Carolina on Friday, and I think if they beat the Tar Heels, I think they have a better chance of beating Duke than if they had a whole week to think about it.”
Another significant game this weekend is No. 4 Notre Dame at No. 12 Villanova. How do you see that matchup?