ESPN analyst Mark Dixon participated in a Q&A on Monday. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @Dixonlacrosse, also addressed a few questions about No. 4 Maryland, No. 8 Loyola, No. 15 Johns Hopkins and Towson.
Do you think Maryland has to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to earn the top seed in the NCAA tournament?
It’s interesting. The NCAA tournament has proven in the past that it’s your whole body of work, not just how hot you are at the end of the season or how cold you might be. The way that teams have been beating each other, this weekend was the first week where there wasn’t major upheaval in the top 10. Does that mean that things are stabilizing? I don’t know. But when you look at potential No. 1 seeds, you’re looking at Maryland, you’re looking at [No. 5] Cornell, you’re looking at [No. 6] Notre Dame, and you’re looking at [No. 1] Denver – if the season were to end today. How they do down the stretch is going to be just as important – if not more important – than how they do in their conference tournaments. If Maryland falters in the semis of the ACCs, that might put them out of position to get a No. 1 seed. And let’s not forget that they’ve lost the last two seasons to Colgate in the last regular-season game, and they face the Raiders against this year. Those two losses knocked them out of a seeded position. So even if they do win the ACC tournament and they play Colgate and lose, they could be out of it because those Big East and Ivy League and [Eastern College Athletic Conference] tournaments are the same weekend and maybe that propels a team over Maryland for the No. 1 seed.
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Loyola and Denver meet Saturday to help determine the No. 1 seed in the ECAC tournament. Considering that they might meet again in the tournament, how significant is Saturday’s contest?
It’s an important game. The ECAC tournament is at Hobart this year. It’s not out West. So there’s no cross-country travel for Loyola. I think they’re obviously going to play to win the game, but if they lose and they end up getting the No. 2 seed, I don’t think it’s the end of the world because at the end of the day – although I do think the ECAC is vastly improved with [No. 10] Ohio State and Bellarmine probably rounding out that top four – I think those guys will go 1-2 based on how the ECAC has already played. So I don’t think this weekend is a must-win by any stretch for either ball club.
Is it time for Johns Hopkins to consider revamping its midfield lines to increase production from that unit?
[Senior John] Ranagan has won games for them in the past. He won the Virginia game last year in overtime. They’re trusted by the coaching staff and that’s a big thing. It’s not so much who’s there. I think it’s about who’s missing, and that’s [junior] Rob Guida. He just makes that offense and that midfield so much more dynamic, tougher to cover. The attack is good, but they’ve been a little inconsistent. I think the key down there is when Zach Palmer struggles, so does the rest of the team. But the midfield, the coaches are with those guys every day in practice, and they’re putting out the guys that they feel like can win games for them. So to question the personnel, I’m not really sure if that’s the right thing to do at this time. I think that’s a team that really misses No. 27 at this time. They really miss Rob Guida. He adds another dimension to that midfield, and there’s nobody else like him on that roster. I think [freshman] Ryan Brown’s been getting some more playing time, but he’s not really a dodger that is going to break guys down. He’s more off-ball, a wicked shooter. So therefore, the dodgers have to get them separation and maybe look to dump the ball to Brown. Maybe they might get look to get Brown more involved off-ball, but [senior] Lee Coppersmith is a great option. He’s getting plenty of time. I don’t know what the answers are for Hopkins. All I know is when I watch that team, I really get the feeling that they would look different if Rob Guida was out there.
When you look at Towson, how do you reconcile the current squad that has won its first three games in the Colonial Athletic Association with the team that lost to High Point and Marist in February?
I think it comes down to coaching, and I think Shawn Nadelen does a great job. He right off the bat did not shy away from ripping his team. In some ways, that’s a gamble when you call your players out because when things aren’t going well, the players can either pack it in and head for the hills or they can be galvanized, and it looks like the latter. When you lose to High Point which is a decent lacrosse team especially for a first-year program, you’ve made history by losing to a first-year program in their first game ever, and that’s rough. And then you lose to Hopkins and Loyola and then you beat a Mercer team that’s really been at the bottom of Division I lacrosse, and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, this is really going to be a long season for Towson.’ But they’ve been able to put it together. The CAA is one-goal heaven out there. Those teams constantly beat each other just by one goal. It’s who can be one goal better than their opponent, and Towson has found a way to scratch out those wins. They beat Delaware and Hofstra by one goal and then they dusted UMass at a point in the season when they should because Umass is really struggling and Towson is surging. But I think when you look at Towson, I think the big difference maker is [senior goalkeeper] Andrew Wascavage. Week in and week out, he has brought his A game. I think he’s saving around 63 percent on the season. He’s been terrific. [Junior attackman] Thomas DeNapoli has been good. Those two have been consistent all year long. There have been other spots, especially at attack, where they’ve been really inconsistent trying to find that third guy. This weekend, [junior Devin] Grimaldi steps up and has a big game. So you look to your leaders to be consistent and hold down the fort so that other guys can step up their games, and it looks like that’s what Towson has done and now they’re playing in a really good spot. They’re playing for the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament this weekend against Penn State. I think if you would have said after that High Point game, “Where is Towson going to be April 8?”, I don’t think anyone would have said they’re going to be 3-0 in conference and 7-5 overall and battling for the No. 1 seed in the CAA.