Which quartet will compose the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Final Four in Baltimore later this month?
ESPN analyst Eamon McAnaney, a former Notre Dame star, gives Front Row his analysis of the 16-team tournament, which begins with first-round action at various sites on Saturday.
Here’s how McAnaney forecasts the tournament.
FR: What teams are the ones to watch?
McAnaney: Syracuse, the No. 1 seed, was stunned by Army in the first round last year, but that won’t happen Sunday night against Siena. The senior class is determined to go out in style with a third championship in four years. Rob Pannell is the best player in the country. Nobody in the country is playing better than the Big Red (Cornell) right now as they try to make it back to championship weekend for the third straight year, and fourth in its last five.
FR: Who are the potential sleepers?McAnaney: Can you call the winner of the ACC tournament a sleeper? Maryland [playing at No. 5 North Carolina on Sunday] comes in unseeded after their final week upset loss to Colgate, but the Terps are still a team many picked to win it all. A senior-laden group has the chip back on its shoulder and that is when they are dangerous. Villanova [playing at No. 6 Denver on Sunday] and Bucknell [at No. 7 Virginia on Sunday] can also surprise people this year.
FR: What are the first-round matchups?
McAnaney: Hofstra vs. Johns Hopkins: It isn’t very often the No. 3 seed (Johns Hopkins) has to face a team that went 13-2 in the regular season, but Hofstra was quite simply the last team into the field. There will be some tension at Homewood Field between these long-time rivals as Hopkins cancelled the series this year. Now the Blue Jays (Johns Hopkins) have to face a Pride (Hofstra) team playing with a second life.
FR: Who makes up your Final Four?
McAnaney: Maryland: This team feeds off emotion, and getting a chance to play as an unseeded team instead of as the ACC champs is in its wheelhouse. The road back home to Baltimore is the toughest in the tournament, with a road game at North Carolina for a third meeting with the Tar Heels followed by a chance to upset Syracuse.
Johns Hopkins: The Blue Jays are rolling and are a young team no more. Head coach Dave Pietremala has the recipe for home field advantage at M&T Bank Stadium on championship weekend with experience at attack, athleticism at the midfield, and nastiness on defense.
Cornell: Nobody is playing better than Cornell right now. If Virginia can avoid the upset bug against Bucknell, there will be a championship weekend-esque showdown in the quarterfinals between the Cavs and Cornell.
Notre Dame: The Irish cannot wait to take the field at Arlotta Stadium after three straight road games to end the season. They will be a rejuvenated group in South Bend. That should set up a quarterfinal showdown with Duke in a rematch of last year’s championship game won by the Blue Devils in overtime. ND won the regular season meeting in February, but Duke is a much different club now with the emergence of freshman Jordan Wolf and Christian Walsh at attack.
ESPNU will televise six first-round and two quarterfinal games May 14-22. ESPN and ESPN2 will each televise a first round game with ESPN2 picking up two quarterfinals, plus the National Semifinals Saturday, May 28 at 4 & 6:30 p.m. ET from M&T Bank Stadium.
ESPN will offer the National Championship game Monday, May 30 at 3:30 p.m.
The face offs begin at noon ET Saturday on ESPN2, when No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins takes on Hofstra; at 2:30 on ESPNU, No. 4 Notre Dame welcomes Penn; at 5 p.m. on ESPNU, defending champion and No. 5 seed Duke tackles Delaware; at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU, No. 2 seed Cornell meets Hartford.
The other side of the bracket, featuring No. 1 seed Syracuse, begins play Sunday at 5:15 p.m. on ESPNU.