With conference play heating up, and April — a month that's all about improvement — on the doorstep, I solicited questions on Twitter (@QKessenich) to see what's on people's minds.
National College Lacrosse League @NCLLax: If QK can change just one rule for 2013, what would he add or delete from the NCAA rulebook?
QK: The No. 1 rule change on everybody's mind is the shot clock. Shot-clock advocates are growing, but change is a touchy subject. The rules committee works in a two-year cycle, and this offseason offers it the opportunity to enact reform.
Right now, I favor a 30-second shot clock once the stall warning has been administered by the officials. So instead of the "keep it in" rule, a team would have 30 seconds to put a shot on goal. On goal means scoring or hitting the goalie or a goal post. A wide shot wouldn't reset the 30-second, referee-held buzzer. Refs would manually signal the start of the clock, their beepers would sound at 10 seconds and they would manually count down. It is a compromise solution.
Kevin Gibbons-O'Neill @gibbonsoneill: How do you feel about video replays on scoring plays?
QK: For games that are televised, I love the college basketball model of video review. Referees can use video to review three situations:
•Goal or no goal — Did the ball cross the goal line? Was a player in the crease?
•Timing situations — Had the clock expired? Does time need to be adjusted?
•Flagrant fouls — Officials can use video to correctly identify and punish offenders.
Peter Wilson @PeterWBZ: What about adding a small 30-second clock to ESPNU games to illustrate the time running out as teams try to clear?
QK: Good idea. On dead-ball clears, it makes sense. The problem with that clock is it wouldn't necessarily match up with the timer the official wears on non-dead-ball clears, such as a save, ground ball or intercepted pass. So it wouldn't be an official clock.
@C_McD19: What are the top three skills required to play Division I lacrosse?
QK: Stickwork. Speed. Decision-making. Coaches look for athletes with exceptional stickwork with both hands — players who can shoot hard and accurately on the run. Coaches can't teach speed, so speed is a worthy commodity. And they want playmakers who make correct decisions on the field and show a strong lacrosse IQ.
Ryan Coakley @BIGcoaks: How do you guard Steele Stanwick?
QK: Luckily, I don't have to. But seriously, I'd be slow to double-team Stanwick when he attacks the goal. I'd rather make him beat me off the dodge and score unassisted than let him dish to a teammate. I will also shut him off on extra-man situations and face-guard him when Virginia has any transition. The fewer touches he gets, the better.
Chris @csears18: How do you think UMass will be able to deal with top 5 talent if they make it into the NCAAs?
QK: UMass has balance and is stacked with legitimate talent. Coach Greg Cannella knows how to win and has 11 seniors who contribute. At 8-0 after a win Tuesday over Harvard, the Minutemen have beaten only two teams in the Top 20 (Bucknell and Penn State). They still must play Hofstra, Drexel and the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. But it's likely that at the end of the regular season they will have played no one in the Top 10. That's a serious question mark.
Justin Clark @jclarky021: Cornell is really hanging tough without Rob Pannell — is it the best team in the country when he is healthy?
QK: The Big Red is rated No. 1 in scoring offense and No. 2 in shots per possession, and it rarely commits frivolous turnovers. Cornell is getting terrific production from Steve Mock, Max Van Bourgondien, Connor English, Matt Donovan, Chris Langton and JJ Gilbane. With Rob Pannell, Cornell is a Memorial Day contender; without him, it's a solid quarterfinalist with a chance to win its way to Boston depending on the matchup.
Tom Bovee @TBovee65: If you were building a team today with only NCAA players, who is your starting lineup?
Steele Stanwick — Virginia
Peter Baum — Colgate
Mark Matthews — Denver
Rob Pannell — Cornell (injured)
Tom Schreiber — Princeton
Colin Briggs — Virginia
Brent Adams — Fairfield
CJ Costabile — Duke
Devon Dobson — Notre Dame
Marshall Burkhart — Johns Hopkins
Bobby Dattilo — Hobart
Brian Megill — Syracuse
Joe Fletcher — Loyola
Tucker Durkin — Johns Hopkins
John Kemp — Notre Dame
Albert Elezovic @brofessorbert: With many teams rebuilding this year, what unexpected team do you expect to be in Top 10 ranking/playoffs?
QK: Here is my mock NCAA tournament if the season ended today:
•1. Johns Hopkins
•Siena (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
•8. Lehigh (Patriot League)
•5. UMass (CAA)
•4. Notre Dame (Big East Conference)
•3. Cornell (Ivy League)
•6. Loyola (Eastern College Athletic Conference)
•UMBC (America East)
@tweeter_McGavin: What do you think of redshirt freshman goalie Andrew O'Connell? Future All-American?
QK: North Carolina's backup from Malvern (Pa.) Prep has played a grand total of 52:27 while compiling a 10.30 goals-against average. He is making saves at a 57 percent rate. I will watch him warm up Sunday at MetLife Stadium and give you my assessment during the broadcast of the Tar Heels' game against Johns Hopkins in the Big City Classic (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m.).
Quint Kessenich covers college sports for the ESPN networks and writes a weekly column for The Baltimore Sun during lacrosse season.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun