Q&A with ESPN lacrosse analyst Mark Dixon

Former Johns Hopkins midfielder offers his opinion on the No. 1 team in his mind, a team whose ranking he questions, and the race for the Tewaaraton Award

January 27, 2014|By Edward Lee | The Baltimore Sun

The 2014 campaign opens this Saturday when High Point visits Delaware and Lehigh tangles with Furman, but the season doesn’t begin locally until Feb. 7 when Loyola travels to Virginia. That means it’s time to check in with ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon. Dixon, who is on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse and will help provide analysis of a Feb. 16 doubleheader involving Ohio State-Massachusetts and Notre Dame-Jacksonville, has already watched several scrimmages in the area and offers some of his thoughts.

Duke, the reigning national champion, opens the season at the top of many preseason polls. Any argument with that?

I like Duke, which had six players taken in the Major League Lacrosse draft. The big question mark for Duke is their midfield. When you look at the losses they took there with [Jake] Tripucka and [David] Lawson, they may lose a lot of offensive power in that midfield. I really like their attack, and their defense returns. Their defense is not dominant, but they’re good enough to get the job down. Let’s already put them down for three losses in February, but it’s a team that believes in fundamentals and believes in getting better as the season goes on. They never panic. They never get too high or too low. I think Syracuse is a bona fide contender. They lose [midfielder] JoJo Marasco, which is huge. Their questions marks are if they can win faceoffs and how their chemistry will be. They have [junior attackman] Nicky Galasso back in the mix after sitting out last year due to injury. They added a guy by the name of Randy Staats, a transfer [and junior attackman] from Onondaga [Community College] who is a terrific player. Syracuse has been a team really defined by chemistry, unselfishness and team players the last couple seasons, especially last year. Does that remain the same with them? And then you’ve got other teams. Look at North Carolina. Is this the year they break through? They lost [attackman] Marcus Holman, but they’ve got a great attack back in [juniors] Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter, and they’ve got some midfielders in [junior] Chad Tutton. The defense had gotten better and they have a really nice goaltender [sophomore Kieran Burke]. Denver is another team that’s in the conversation. Offensively, they’ve lost some serious weapons in [midfielder Cameron] Flint and Chase Carraro, but they get [senior midfielder] Jeremy Noble back and [junior midfielder Eric] Adamson back. [Junior attackman] Wesley Berg is back. I don’t think there’s a more innovative team offensively in the country than Denver, and their defense should be better. If you’re looking at a sleeper, I think that’s Princeton. That’s a team that was decimated by injuries a year ago. They have arguably the best midfielder in the country in [senior] Tom Schreiber. They get back [senior midfielder] Tucker Shanley and [junior midfielder] Kip Orban and [sophomore midfielder] Jake Froccaro. That’s a team that is going to put some points. The question is, can they stop anybody defensively?

Is there a team whose preseason ranking you question?

One team that I might look back at a little bit is Maryland. The main reason is that team is going to be so young offensively, and last year, that became their problem, scoring goals. They basically had four offensive weapons in [midfielders] Mike Chanenchuk and John Haus and [attackmen] Jake Bernhardt and Kevin Cooper. Well, three of them are gone. … I think it’s going to be a lot of pressure on Chanenchuk. I think they have some really talented attackmen there, some guys who can play some key roles. So Maryland might be a team in the top 10 that you look at and say, ‘I’m not sure about that,’ when you think off all the young players on the offense coming off a season when the offense was challenged.

Is there a team that should be ranked higher?

I think of Princeton. That’s a team that gets guys back from injury and have had experience and have proven themselves. So I think Princeton starting outside of the top 10 is a little low.

Since you’ve already mentioned Maryland, what are your thoughts on Johns Hopkins?

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