ESPN's Mark Dixon discusses NCAA lacrosse first round

May 12, 2014|By Edward Lee | The Baltimore Sun

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon provided play-by-play of fifth-seeded Denver’s 9-5 victory over North Carolina in an NCAA tournament first-round game on Saturday night. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who will be in the ESPNU studio in Charlotte for the quarterfinals round next weekend, offered his thoughts on the most stunning result of the weekend, the unseeded team with the best chance to get to the Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium, and his pick for the Tewaaraton Award.

Which first-round outcome stood out the most?

I think the two that stood out the most were Albany going into [third-seeded] Loyola and beating the Greyhounds [13-6] and of course Bryant going into the Carrier Dome and beating [second-seeded] Syracuse [10-9]. I think those were the two results that stand out the most.

In hindsight, were the results not too surprising?

I think the Albany-Loyola one is much more surprising to me simply because Loyola is sound defensively with [senior defenseman Joe] Fletcher and [senior goalkeeper Jack] Runkel. But I did write in my Takeaways column for Inside Lacrosse that you had to find a way to defend [Great Danes senior attackman] Miles Thompson. He is their No. 2 guy, and I think you saw Albany’s No. 2 guy was much, much better than Loyola’s No. 2 on defense. I think that’s a big reason why that game turned out the way that it did. I thought [sophomore goalie] Blaze Riorden played a terrific game. When Albany gets goaltending, they’re incredibly tough to beat, especially if you can’t contain the Thompsons. And Loyola started off shooting very, very poorly. They were victimized by a couple of pipes early on, and if one or two of those go in, we could be talking about a different game. With Bryant-Syracuse, the Bulldogs had been there before. They knew what to expect, being in the [Carrier] Dome, and they’ve got that great combination of really solid faceoffs and great goaltending, and the latter is especially what carried the Bulldogs through. In a way, I know it might sound weird because Syracuse was the No. 2 seed, but losing at home is not unprecedented because they lost to Army a few years ago in the first round at the Dome. So while that was surprising, it was a one-goal game.

What is the significance of four unseeded teams advancing to the quarterfinals?

I think it just says that they have a lot of really good lacrosse teams out there, and it’s not how you got here, it’s not about how you played in March or who you played in March or April. It’s about how you’re playing in May, and it’s about how you’re executing in May. If you look at Drexel, they’re a team that has been in a lot of close games and has had success. They’re really fun to watch offensively, and they just exploded yesterday [in a 16-11 win against fourth-seeded Penn]. Hopkins is a team that has played so many quality opponents all year long. Yes, they had that three-game losing stretch where they lost to Syracuse, Virginia and North Carolina, but it’s all about how you execute on game day, and Hopkins had a great game plan and got the job done [in a 14-8 win against eighth-seeded Virginia]. And we’ve already talked about Albany and Bryant, but Albany lost to Canisius back in March. Bryant lost to Brown and St. Joseph’s, which was the favorite to win the Northeast Conference. It’s about how you play in May. You can talk about being battle-tested and throw all those words around, but you’re got 60 minutes in an NCAA tournament game and that’s all that matters. Sixty minutes are all that matters, and those four teams just played really solid lacrosse and came away with the wins.

Which unseeded team has the best chance to move to the Final Four?

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