Evan Washburn was NBC Sports Network’s sideline analyst for Maryland’s 12-10 upset of reigning national champion Loyola on Feb. 23. He also is the CBS Sports Network’s analyst and will provide color commentary for the March 31 meeting between Army and No. 6 Colgate on March 31. The former Delaware defenseman, who can be followed on Twitter via @Evan Washburn, offered his thoughts on No. 1 Maryland’s convincing victory over Duke, No. 5 Johns Hopkins’ concerns in an upset loss to No. 14 Princeton, and the individual matchup between 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum and 2011 finalist Rob Pannell.
What was the most impressive result from this past weekend?
The most impressive to me was [top-ranked] Maryland. Just watching the way they dismantled Duke [16-7], I know there have been struggles, and they obviously have a lot to figure out, but that’s still a talented team and a team that gets up for Maryland, an ACC opponent. Watching that game from start to finish, there was no point where you felt that Duke was in that game. When you sort of look at, you’re wondering, “Is Duke that bad or is Maryland that good?” I’m going with the point that Maryland is that good. I haven’t seen a team play that complete a brand of lacrosse in a while.
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Is it too early to say that Maryland is the team to beat right now?
I think they’re the team to beat. I agree that it’s early, but I think Maryland is the best team in the nation hands down and then the rest, your guess is as good as mine. As we saw over the weekend, we saw five top 10 teams lose. So it’s pretty wide open. But to me, Maryland is a head above the rest.
Any of those upsets stand out to you?
The Hopkins loss [11-8 to No. 14 Princeton], two things kind of jumped out at me. I thought that [No. 5] Hopkins was more disappointing than I expected them to be in that type of game. I think offensively, they looked pretty disjointed and we saw that first midfield struggle. I think they really missed [junior midfielder] Rob Guida [who is dealing with an undisclosed injury]. That was the first time I had ever seen [senior defenseman] Tucker Durkin not look dominant. But that also goes hand-in-hand with Princeton really impressing me. Not only the Froccaro brothers [Jeff and Jake], but [junior midfielder Tom] Schreiber seems to be everything that they’ve been talking about over the past year. Virginia-Syracuse, that’s a game you can toss up every year because of the way they come into that matchup. It’s always end-to-end, and I think Syracuse gets up for that game perhaps more than any other. But in terms of top 10 losses, the Hopkins one jumps out at me. And [No. 12] Ohio State taking out [No. 9] Penn State was a big one because having seen both of those teams play in person, I thought that Penn State was much more equipped to be a top 10 team throughout the season as opposed to Ohio State, which has got some nice pieces, but I just didn’t see them taking out Penn State. Those are probably the two that stood out the most.
In No. 2 Cornell’s 19-3 thumping of No. 6 Colgate, Big Red redshirt senior attackman Rob Pannell finished with two goals and five assists, while Raiders senior attackman and 2012 Tewaaraton winner Peter Baum was shut out. Does this make Pannell the leading candidate as the best college player in the nation?
I think at this point, Rob Pannell is the leader in the clubhouse. I was excited for this game more than any other game over the course of the week. I thought that Rob Pannell played a really smart game. He didn’t go into that game thinking that it was Pannell vs. Baum, and he got a lot of guys involved. Cornell had 10 different scorers. That showed me a lot about his maturity. He’s a fifth-year guy. And then the other storyline that needs to be mentioned is [senior defenseman] Jason Noble who marked Baum for most of that game. He’s an All-American, but he’s not a defender that wows you with his size. But I was impressed with what he did against Baum. I do a lot of Patriot League games for CBS, and Peter Baum is as good as it gets in my mind, and to see him held to only three shots and one assist is pretty impressive.
Is the media guilty of excessively pointing out Loyola senior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins’ absence?
I think it’s glaring. I’m a huge fan of Charley Toomey, and I respect the fact that this is a program decision and a school decision that he has to do some things to get himself back on the field. But X’s and O’s wise on the field, they are in dire need of Josh Hawkins because defensively, he allows them to do what they do best, which is not really slide. You can put Josh Hawkins on the best midfielder or the second best midfielder and not slide to him. You saw in the Maryland game that [junior short-stick defensive midfielder Pat] Laconi at times can do that, but not on a consistent basis. [Junior short-stick defensive midfielder] Kyle Duffy is not there yet. It’s more of a traditional sense now where they do need to slide, but Loyola’s defense, which is more experienced, is just not used to doing that. If you spend two years trying to play a specific way defensively where you’re slow to go to your short sticks, it’s not something you can just turn on in a week. You’re just not used to sliding and the rotations are weak. So they really need him in that sense – on six-on-six settled situations. In the past with Hawkins on the field, they didn’t need to slide to him. Yes, the transition game is important, but the thing that stands out to me is more of what they allow the close guys to do and how that defense played so well last season and didn’t put that much on [junior goalkeeper Jack] Runkel’s shoulders.
Who are the top five teams in the country in your opinion?
I have Maryland at No. 1, Notre Dame [No. 2], Loyola [No. 3], Cornell [No.] 4 and Princeton [No.] 5.
How much trouble is 2-4 Duke in?
They’re in big trouble. Maryland looked head-and-shoulders better, but the way Duke played defensively was surprising to watch because that is [coach] John Danowski’s wheelhouse and they’ve got so many talented athletes. But it was basic stuff. They just didn’t know when to slide. That kind of thinking worries you as you get into March because those are things you hoped you figured out in the fall. Retooling that in March and not having confidence in a goalkeeper and not know who you’re going to go with in the cage, these questions I really don’t think you want to answer at this point. I was like everybody else in saying, “Hey, this is Duke. They’re an April and May team.” But at this point, if they play the way they played on Saturday, you’re in trouble.