As this is the first article that we here at Xtraordinarysports are posting, I just want to say sorry for writing it so late in the season. Well actually, Iím writing it after the college lacrosse season. But you know what? At least Iím doing it right?
So about a week ago, during Memorial Day Weekend, the college lacrosse national champion is crowned with both the semifinals and finals being played during the weekend. This year, the semifinal matchups were Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds versus the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Maryland Terrapins versus the Duke Blue Devils.
The first semifinal played was Loyola versus Notre Dame, it most certainly did not disappoint, if you like defense and goalies making saves. I mean both teams like to slow the ball down and take their time, which is a great strategy, but as a fan of goals, it was not that intriguing and actually quite boring until the last 3 minutes or so when Notre Dame were pushing for a goal. But in the end, led by their leading scorer Eric Lusby (5 goals in the game, 54 on the year), the overall number one seeded Loyola Greyhounds advanced to the championship game with a final score of 7-5.
The second semifinal between Maryland and Duke, classic ACC rivals, was what I was looking for during the championship weekend. And just like the lacrosse announcers always like to say, ďIt was a barn burner.Ē This game had the high scoring that was needed to bring the life back into the fans attending the games in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
The Terrapins jumped out to a 3-2 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Even with C. J. Constabile, quite possibly the best defenseman in the nation, the Duke Blue Devils had no answers for Marylandís offense. Not to mention that Dan ďI have an Awesome Last NameĒ Wigrizer didnít have his best game of the season. Led by Drew Snider and Owen Blyle (combined for 7 goals), the Terrapins defeated Duke 16-10 and headed towards a showdown between the Loyola Greyhounds on Memorial Day.
And now for the NCAA Lacrosse Division I national championship game recap: boring. Just absolutely awful. I mean the Maryland Terrapins, who just put up 16 goals on Duke, didnít score for like the final 44 minutes of the game. Eric Lusby himself beat Maryland (final score of the game was 9-3, and Lusby had 4 goals).
All props to Loyola though. Congrats on the win, but please change up your style of play please. Itís not like the Loyola goalie stood on his head or anything either. The dude had 6 saves. Loyola just dominated the game, and to be honest, I turned the game off like midway through the 3rd quarter. Nothing is worse than a boring lacrosse game. I would even rather watch Dancing with the Stars instead of a boring lacrosse game.
Overall, it was a very exciting season. Not one team dominated all the way through, except Umass, but they lost in the first round to Colgate so who cares about them?? It was just a shame that it had to end with the boring drama at the end.
Highlights from the 2011-2012 season:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/BJWL_X79HRc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
So it\'s tourney time as I am sure you are all already aware. Here I have written the really late blog that aims to give you a quick regional break down, while advising you which high seeds (1, 2, and, 3) are most legitimate. Obviously the tournament is the sweet science that is so hard to predict. Teams that looked like \"contenders\" all season can prove to be the opposite come March, and teams that looked like \"pretenders\" during the season get red hot, and play deep into the bracket. Then there are all those teams that are in the field but you just know nothing about. So generally you do some basic research on them, and then go with your gut. But wait, then you have to use common sense and second-guess your gut feelings, and then your bracket just becomes one big cluster that you throw into a giant game of chance. Well for all of you people out there that are lagging on filling out your bracket like me, here is some last minute insight on the high seeds that should help take you very far.
Since we have received breaking news that Fab Melo will not be eligible to play for Syracuse, we will start by breaking down the East Region. With Fab Melo, Syracuse had an excellent chance of getting out of this region, and into the Final Four. Despite his offensive numbers, he motors that 2-3 zone and makes things complicated for opponents. However, without him this team looks too vulnerable in some areas to advance to the Final Four. Sure, they\'ll get past the second, get challenged in the third, but in the fourth round I see them playing either a Vanderbilt, Harvard, or very possibly Montana. All of these teams shoot the ball really well from the outside, and will be a lot less afraid to penetrate Cuse\'s lauded 2-3 zone without the big Fab Melo in the middle. This is a nightmare for a team that relies on a 2-3-zone night in and night out. Syracuse better hope to get a matchup with an offensively challenged Wisconsin, in order to make it to the regional final unscathed, and even then you can\'t help but feel that it is somewhat of a long shot.
Ohio State poses a great threat in a potential Syracuse regional final matchup. With the way they shoot the ball, and a Jared Sullinger mismatch they could do some damage. Regardless I am not too sold on them to go far in this field. Yes I am calling them a pretender, their numbers are great but I question them very seriously in a potential, and almost inevitable Sweet 16 matchup with Florida State. With Fab Melo\'s unfortunate, untimely injury I see Florida State coming out of the east. They are the most battle-tested team, veteran led, and they are playing very well right now. Sullinger, although a great talent does not present the kind of athletic ability, and physical dominance that is needed year in and out to go far in the tournament. Ohio State can just ask Duke how hard it is to get a good shot off against Florida State.
Of the high seeds in the East I think Florida State is primed to make a run. But then again who knows, this is the NCAA tournament, and last year\'s field shows us just how wrong an experts break down can be.
The Midwest proves to be an interesting region, top seeds North Carolina, Kansas, and Georgetown could all find themselves vulnerable to feisty teams such as Michigan, Creighton, North Carolina State, and St. Mary\'s. Ultimately I see this region going through North Carolina as long as John Henson can stay healthy. If he can\'t Michigan, and Creighton can give North Carolina fits with their ability to shoot the ball, extend the floor, and ability to rebound with more ease (without Henson in the lineup). However, I suspect Henson will be playing by the third round, so the Tar heelís should cruise. In the regional final I think North Carolina is most likely to meet up with Georgetown. Yes Georgetown. I don\'t see many lesser seeds making it past the round of 16 in this region. I am taking a little bit of a bet on Kansas but they haven\'t proved tournament worthy in recent years, and I like a well rested, battle tested, Georgetown team out of the Big East more in a Sweet 16 matchup. At the end of the day I bequeath this region to a healthy North Carolina team. When healthy, this team has the best backcourt, and one of the most, if not the most complete starting lineup in college basketball. There is a reason they were the pre season favorite to cut the nets down.
Now we move to the West, which has got to be the toughest, most up in the air region in the bracket. Starting at the top, I always like a hardnosed Tom Izzo team to go deep in the tournament. Michigan State looks like any elite Spartan team from the past, they rebound the ball well, they play tough defense, they have excellent ball movement, and Draymond Green could be the X-factor as he is a matchup nightmare. However, Sparty could face major matchup problems in the round of 32 with an athletic, offensively potent, Memphis team. Missouri could be the most dangerous, two seed we have seen in decades. They have excellent balance on offense, and have won 30 games throughout a tough schedule in the top-heavy Big 12. However, even they have a potential heart breaking matchup against an always tournament ready upbeat Florida in the third round.
Marquette is another top seed that shouldn\'t be slept on, nor should any team that finishes second overall in the Big East. However, they are not immune in this competitive region, Murray State is not to be taken lightly and is probably the best sixth seed in the tournament. This 30-win team with an unbelievably well balanced offense would matchup optimally with Marquette in the round of 32. Michigan State, Missouri, and Marquette all play excellent Basketball, and I would expect to see a Sparty/ Missouri regional final. But this region is too up in the air to make any guarantees. Memphis, Florida, Long Beach State, and Murray State are just the first four lower seeds that come to mind in the region. All of these teams seem like they are primed to make a deep run in the tournament. With that being said it is never dumb to bet on a Spartan team that is following their usual format of success, after winning the toughest conference in America.
Finally we move to the South. If you have been watching ESPN, sports analysts are crazy about Kentucky; some say this is the most dominant team since the Wooden era. WOAH there! Slow down, I will agree that the Wildcats might be the surest bet in the entire field. Especially when you consider that their starting lineup is the most complete next to North Carolina\'s, (flooded with first round draft picks). However, potential 3rd and 4th round matchups with Connecticut, VCU, or Indiana could all pose problems. Remember Connecticut ousted Kentucky last year, and poses similar first round talent, and matchup problems with Jeremy Lamb, and Andre Drummond. But, let\'s not get ahead of ourselves here, this Calipari team is unique from others in that besides the freshman talent, they have returning experience from last year\'s Final Four team in Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. The Cats will also be hungry to avenge losses against Connecticut from last year, and Indiana earlier this year if presented the chance.
Duke, and Baylor are the other high seeds. They are luckier than Kentucky because they do not face potential round after round matchup problems until the Sweet 16, where they would face each other. Let\'s break down each of these teams; Baylor is fast, athletic, and an overall solid team on offense, and defense. The former features present most Duke teams in recent years with huge matchup problems, that have resulted in \"early\" exits (early for Duke fans that is). Although this Duke team likes to camp around the arc like its predecessors, they are more dangerous, and more capable of making a splash in the tournament. Former Duke teams in the past 5 years have not had the healthy speed, talent, and size that the Blue Devils have highlighted in
Under new head coach Dave Rice, UNLV has put together one of the most historic seasons many rebel fans have seen since the days of Jerry Tarkanian.
With upset wins over North Carolina and Illinois, UNLV is a talented team that has a chance to make a deep run into March Madness. Being ranked 20th in the nation and posting an impressive 25-7 record is such evidence. †
Mike Moser, a transfer sophomore from UCLA has made a huge impact for the Rebels, averaging a double double and has been named a candidate for The John R. Wooden Award.
The only thing stopping the Rebels from being a caliber team such as Duke and North Carolina is they need to learn how to keep early †leads and learn to win on the road.
With an impressive 19-0 record at home, they are only 1-7 on the road. If the Rebels can win the Mountain West Championship and learn to win on the road, the sky is the limit and there is no reason they cant make it deep into the NCAA tournament.
If you have any comments or questions let me know. Go Rebel nation!!!
Itís March Madness time baby! Everyone around the neighborhood is trying to reach glory and get the perfect bracket. This time of the month is hotter than the lottery. Itís called March Madness for a reason because you never know when your whole bracket can just go terribly wrong. From the Cinderella story to the David vs. Goliath, this year has all the match-ups in the making. Since 2003, the tournament champion winner has been a number 1 seed, or has won their respective conference tournament to punch their tickets to the big dance. There are 32 conferences, which makes 32 teams to start dreaming big for the championship. Hereís a preview of who I think is going to win the tournament, but Cinderella can strike early!
Ah so the frost has worn off, the pretenders have been identified and the first weekend of March Madness is officially over. Redo, anyone? We can take it from the round of 16. If only, if only then we could all have a chance at picking the Final Four correctly.
The first three rounds of tournament play were very unique. We saw two 2 seeds Duke, and Missouri falter to 15 seeds Lehigh, and Norfolk State (both of which didn't last very long after their triumphs). Yet top seeds Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Syracuse have all had moments that indicate that at their best they are very hard to stop.
Questions about Kendall Marshall will without a doubt be on the minds of many who thought North Carolina was the most complete team in this tournament, and that includes myself. However, to make the most educated forecast for the regional semi-finals and finals let's take each team at their best. Let's assume that every team that is still surviving is as pristine as they were coming in. That is the way we all want it to be anyways, right?
Starting with the south, we find Kentucky. So far they are rolling right through their region as expected. It is hard to see a chink in this teams armor, but they have an intriguing matchup coming up against one of the only teams that beat them all year. In this game half of my brain tells me upset alert, the other half tells me that Wildcat revenge will take place in the form of a massacre. With the way that Indiana shoots the ball and the presence of 7 footer Cody Zeller down low, the Hoosiers are capable of disrupting some of Kentucky's best weapons. This includes the dominant Anthony Davis. However, Kentucky should come out on top. They have too many weapons, and will have revenge on their mind.
Let's move down in the bracket. Here we find Xavier matching up against Baylor. Xavier has had a nice Cinderella ride, and the tournament perennials have reached yet another Sweet 16. But, Baylor just looks too athletic and strong on the glass in this one. I see a Baylor-Kentucky regional final where athleticism, Basketball IQ, and talent will be on full display.
Moving west, top seed Michigan State continues a tough schedule in a grinding region. The Big East tournament champions, Louisville are next on the schedule. This matchup pits two of the hottest teams from the country's two best conferences. Both teams play lock down perimeter defense so expect this game to be a grind into the last few minutes. Ultimately, I see Draymond Green being the X-factor, and lifting Michigan State into the Elite Eight in this 2009 Midwest regional final rematch.
Marquette vs. Florida might be the hardest regional semi final matchup to predict. Usually I am a sucker for the Gators come tournament time. However, on the other hand Marquette has been playing very well and have been consistent in a tough conference all year. Both of these teams play excellent defense and have the ability to light up the scoreboard. For some reason, it just hurts to pick against Florida in this tournament, but I like the war-weathered Golden Eagles in a defensive nail biter. Pencil it in, a Michigan State-Marquette regional final.
In the East, Syracuse and Wisconsin is a hard game to pick. I had a lot of trouble seeing Syracuse getting to the Elite Eight without Fab Melo, but Rakeem Christmas has filled in the middle gap and has rebounded the ball really well. Count on this game to be very competitive and defensive minded. Without Fab Melo I originally thought that Syracuse could only get so far. This Wisconsin team is hot, hardnosed, defensive, and is battle tested in close games. I like Wisconsin by a hair.
The Big East and Big Ten continue the fun with Cincinnati taking on Ohio State (still think that these two conferences aren't the best in the land?). Boy was I wrong for calling Jared Sullinger, and the Buckeyes pretenders. Completely contradicting my prediction of an early exit for the Buckeyes, I am going to take them over Cincinnati and put them in the Elite Eight. When firing on all cylinders the Buckeyes simply have too much firepower for the Bearcats. Wisconsin, and Ohio State will have a shot at a seasonal tiebreaker in this years East's regional final.
In the Midwest North Carolina hangs by a thread as they wait on the status of Kendall Marshall's wrist. With, or without Marshall the Tarheels have far too much firepower for Ohio. They should win, though without Kendall Marshall the Bobcats will have a great chance at clawing, and gritting their way to a victory. Regardless, the front to back talent on North Carolina's roster should prove too much for Ohio, even without Kendall Marshall in the lineup.
Moving down to the last semi final, North Carolina State is not to be taken lightly against Kansas. The team that got hot in the ACC tournament is on a role, and will look to make life miserable for the Jayhawks. Regardless, Tyshawn Taylor, and Thomas Robinson have been here before, and the Jayhawks share, shoot, and defend too well to let this one slip away. This sets up a colossal, and culturally significant regional final as Roy Williams would square off against his old team.
As I have previously stated, this is a top-heavy tournament. Sticking with my original picks I expect both Kentucky, and Michigan State to advance in the South, and West regions. The Buckeyes look like they are on a mission, and are all in all a better team than Wisconsin so they should come out of the East no problem. In the Midwest I have to stick with my pre-tournament pick to cut down the nets, the Tarheels who are the most talented team in this region. However, without Kendall Marshall, Tyshawn Taylor and the Jayhawks could give them fits. Everything is still up in the air but I smell a Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, North Carolina Final Four.