ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich was in the network’s studio in Charlotte, N.C., where he helped provide coverage of the 16-team field in the NCAA tournament Sunday night. In the second part of a Q&A, the former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper, who can be followed on Twitter via @QKessenich, shared his thoughts on the value of being the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the tournament, the most intriguing first-round contest, and one seeded team that may have the easiest path to the Final Four.
Were any of the top eight teams in the bracket overvalued in terms of seeding?
Not really. The best thing this committee did was put the teams in the bracket because it’s a well-balanced bracket. You’ve got some intriguing matchups. I think they rewarded [No. 1 seed] Loyola and [No. 2 seed Johns] Hopkins tremendously. The 1 and 2 seeds were coveted because you’re playing an America East team in Stony Brook that’s got a losing record and you’re playing a Canisius team that has never won an NCAA tournament game. So those were really coveted spots. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. There are some big-time dogfights. So I like the bracket. I like the fact that there’s only one regular-season rematch in the first round. I’m really against tournament rematches in the first round.
So can I assume that you don’t think there was a team that was underseeded?
I don’t think there’s anyone from Nos. 9 to 16 in the unseeded section that has a legitimate gripe. Not a team like Colgate going on the road against [No. 6 seed] UMass. Syracuse deserves to go to [No. 3 seed] Duke. So I think that was the strongest part of this committee. Penn State being left out was a strike, but otherwise, once they selected this field, I really thought they did a great job of slotting them. They upped the flight totals from the typical two-flight maximum to three, which really helped things out. And I think this is equitable for everybody.
What’s the most intriguing first-round contest?
The Denver-[No. 8 seed] North Carolina game is going to be a great lacrosse game. Both teams can score goals. [Pioneers coach] Bill Tierney is a legendary coach. Their attack with [senior] Mark Matthews can light up the scoreboard and is a tough challenge for North Carolina. Conversely, North Carolina’s attack of their little rugrats in [freshmen] Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter and [junior] Marcus Holman is going to cause all sorts of problems for Denver’s youthful defense. You’ve got two great faceoff men. [Denver junior] Chase Carraro from Louisville, Kentucky is one of the best in the country, and [Tar Heels sophomore] R.G. Keenan from right here in Baltimore is, too. Both teams are relying on faceoff wins to fuel their offenses. So this game will feature double digits, a lot of goals, and an exciting game for the fans.
Which of the seeded teams has the most difficult path to the Final Four?
[No. 7 seed] Lehigh has got a really tough challenge. They face a Maryland team with playoff experience, a hard corps of blue-collared guys who are going to bring it and fight for groundballs. Maryland, I think, has a lot of respect for Lehigh given that they just lost to Colgate. And if they get by that game, then they’re facing [No. 2 seed] Johns Hopkins. So that’s a tough draw. Another tough draw would be Duke. Duke has to host Syracuse, which was 7-7 during the regular season. They beat that version of Syracuse, but they’re going to see a different version of the Orange. They have really turned the corner in their Big East championship. They’ve made some changes, the kids have bought in. I was really kind of blown away by the version of Syracuse lacrosse team that I saw last weekend. And if they get by that game, all of a sudden you’re looking at a high-scoring Colgate team or an undefeated UMass.
Which of the seeded teams has the easiest path to the Final Four?
I like Hopkins’ path, and I’m not just saying that because that’s where my diploma came from. They have a strategic advantage over Stony Brook. It’s a great matchup in the faceoff department for Hopkins, which is very good, and Stony Brook has struggled at 37 percent on faceoffs this year. You can’t pull off an upset if you don’t have the ball. And then if you’re a Blue Jays fan, you’re really rooting for the Terps because I know that Hopkins would love to see Maryland after having let that regular-season game escape from their grasp.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun