ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra participated in a Q&A Monday. The former Syracuse All-American midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, also answered a few questions about No. 4 Maryland, No. 7 Loyola, No. 13 Johns Hopkins, Towson and UMBC.
A month ago, many people would have said that Maryland is the heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Are the Terps still the favorite?
No, I think it’s a three-horse race between Maryland, [No. 1] Duke and [No. 2 North] Carolina. Duke’s a totally different team from the one that got blown out by Maryland in early March. They have the nation’s longest winning streak at nine, and they’re doing such a great job at the midfield. Guys like [seniors David] Lawson and [Jake] Tripucka are allowing their attack to be their attack and be great finishers. [Junior] Jordan Wolf can carry a little bit, and [freshman Case] Matheis and [junior Josh] Dionne are using that off-ball game to really click on all cylinders. Duke’s a team that can win the ACC easily. Carolina may be one of the hottest teams in the nation, and Maryland is probably playing its worst lacrosse of the season. Now [No. 14] Yale is a really tough team. So it didn’t surprise me that [the Terps] had a tough game against Yale on Saturday. But if you look at the last couple of weeks, they’re kind of searching for an identity on offense. I think they need to be a little bit more of a dual threat with the attack and midfield. It’s a really heavy dose of midfield initiation on the Terps offense, and I think if they get some balance, they’ll be right in the mix. But I look at that as a really intriguing three-horse race.
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Which individual or unit needs to make a run for Loyola to make a run?
I think it’s their defensive midfield unit of [senior long-stick midfielder Scott] Ratliff, [junior short-stick defensive Pat] Laconi and [senior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh] Hawkins. As good as [attackmen Eric] Lusby and [Mike] Sawyer were in 2012, I thought the identity of that team started with its defensive midfield because they created the tempo for their team. It was the best unit in the nation as a whole that allowed Loyola to strike from defense to offense. It was fun to watch, it was a crazy pace, but that was their identity, and they have the pieces to have that same identity. Outside of Lusby, that entire team is pretty much back. So if they can create that pace and dominate teams in the middle of the field, I think Loyola then allows itself to have that similar identity. If Loyola really dedicates itself to forcing teams to beat them in the middle of the field with those three guys, they’ll be right back in the mix, and they can play with anyone.
Does Johns Hopkins have to beat Loyola this Saturday to have a chance to get an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament?
I don’t think so. People like to break down the RPI and strength of schedule and head to head. At the end of the day, if they lose to Loyola and they beat Army and they’re 9-5, I don’t care if you throw in the RPI or strength of schedule, I just don’t see Johns Hopkins being left out of the tournament at 9-5 – especially if Maryland wins the ACC because then they could argue that they beat Maryland head-to-head when they were the No. 1 team in the nation. Now if Maryland doesn’t win the ACC and loses in the first round of the ACC to Virginia, that hurts Hopkins’ case. So I think you have to keep an eye on how Maryland is doing, but if I was going to make a blanket statement, a 9-5 Johns Hopkins team is not being left out of the playoffs.
If you look at the season, the coaching job that Shawn Nadelen and his coaching staff is doing is remarkable. They lost to High Point in the first game of the year, and they started off so slow. They were the laughingstock of Division I lacrosse, but they’ve turned it around and are playing incredible lacrosse and beating good teams on the road. I just think his coaching job is one of the best in the nation. The way he’s been able to build this team after being so low, that’s a tough job to do. The team has struggled the last few years, and the team doesn’t have that winning culture, and then they started off slow and lost to a team that hadn’t played college lacrosse. You can’t negate the fact that he’s done an amazing job. Do I see them going through their conference tournament and beating teams like Drexel and Penn State? Probably not, but I think they’re going to give those teams a lot of trouble and can beat them up in many aspects of the game. Regardless of the outcome, I think you have to applaud the job that Shawn Nadelen has done.
UMBC just needs to defeat Binghamton to qualify for its 10th America East tournament in 10 seasons, but lost to No. 10 Albany, 16-10, on Friday night. Is that a foreshadowing of what could happen in the conference tournament?
And it could be worse because [junior attackman] Miles Thompson didn’t play. [Junior attackman] Ty Thompson scored eight goals and [sophomore attackman] Lyle Thompson had 11 points. But if you throw Lyle’s brother Miles into the mix, that changes the game even more from an offensive standpoint for Albany because those three just click on all cylinders. If Albany is playing its game and doing what it has done throughout the course of the season, I don’t see anyone in the America East stopping that offense.