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Q&A with CBS Sports Network's Steve Panarelli

Former Syracuse defenseman discusses various subjects

By Edward Lee

6:00 AM EDT, March 13, 2012

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CBS Sports Network analyst and former Syracuse All-American defenseman Steve Panarelli will provide commentary for the March 27 Patriot League showdown involving No. 10 Lehigh at Navy. Panarelli, who can be followed on Twitter at @stevepanarelli, discussed Cornell’s performance in an overtime loss to Virginia, Notre Dame’s formula for winning games, and the most intriguing game to watch this weekend.

What did you take from No. 3 Cornell’s 9-8 overtime loss to No. 1 Virginia at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic Saturday?

I think they’re a pretty good team. If you lose to the No. 1 team in the country without arguably the best player in the country because of injury and you lose by a goal, I think they’re an unbelievable team. Once [senior attackman] Rob [Pannell] gets healthy and gets back in the swing of things, I think it’s going to make a world of difference for that team. I think they look to his leadership, and he completely changes the other team’s matchups and how they’re going to play defensively. So I think they have a ton of talent. If you look at that Army game, they did a pretty good job against them, too, when Rob was healthy, and I think Army’s a pretty good team. Cornell kind of dominated that game a little bit, and once they get Rob healthy, I think they’re going to be tough to beat.

No. 5 Notre Dame has surrendered just 17 goals in five games, which is an astronomically low number. But the offense has scored just 22 goals over that same span. Can that be a winning formula?

That’s a good question. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to their coaching staff and to the defensive guys. They play that system where you’re sliding to everything. Whether you’re a defenseman or a short-stick guy and whether it’s guys from up top or behind, they’re just going to everything and making you move the ball, and they play that system really well. Can you win without scoring more goals? I don’t know. There’s the old adage that defense wins championships, but you also have to score more goals, too. Defense is usually a constant, but eventually, someone is going to score some goals on them. As good as their defense is, I think in at least one game, someone’s going to have a good day against them and maybe figure out their system a little bit or match up well against them, and eventually, you’re going to have to score goals to keep up with a team.

Is there a team that has exceeded your expectations?

I think it’s [No. 8] Loyola. I think Loyola is one of those teams where there wasn’t too much heard about them in the preseason. They’re always in the conversation, and they’ve got a great program and Coach [Charley] Toomey always does a great job down there with those guys, and he’s really turned them around from a few years back. They hadn’t played any of the elite top programs until they beat Duke, which I thought in the preseason can be – and I still think this – a Final Four team. But Loyola got them, and that’s a credit to them. I think they’ve exceeded everybody’s early expectations. They have a very difficult schedule going forward, and we’re going to find out what they’ve got over the next couple weeks.

Is there a team that’s underperformed thus far?

I think you have to look at Albany. They’ve had some great recruiting classes over the last few years. They had a lot of hype with the Thompson brothers going up there and nailing some big recruits out of the central New York areas and maybe even stealing some from Syracuse. They just don’t seem to be getting it done. They lost to Syracuse in the [Carrier] Dome, and that’s an understandable loss. But there have been some other losses in there where you look at it and wonder if they were in those games. Last year, they didn’t have a very strong year. I thought this year coming in, with the experience and getting some more guys in, I thought they’d have a better team, but it seems like they’re still in that slump, and they can’t figure a way to get out of it.

This weekend is littered with rivalry games. No. 12 North Carolina at No. 14 Duke on Friday night, No. 7 Syaracuse at No. 2 Johns Hopkins and Penn at No. 18 Princeton on Saturday and No. 6 Denver at No. 5 Notre Dame on Sunday. Which game intrigues you the most?

I think it’s Syracuse at Hopkins, and obviously, I’m a little biased, but I think that just because you’re going to see where both of these teams really match up and where they’re at. I think both of them have had some games where they performed really well and some games where they weren’t hitting on all cylinders. I think there are no excuses now. You’re got four or five games under your belt, you’ve played on TV and all that stuff, and now it’s time to see where you’re at. I think both teams are trying to find themselves a little bit and trying to figure out who they are and how good they can be. So I think that’s going to be a good barometer-type game for both of them.

With Pannell out as much as six weeks with that broken bone in his left foot, is Virginia senior attackman and reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Steele Stanwick a lock to repeat as the collegiate top player?

Obviously, he’ll jump out as a front-runner. But I think that award is usually won late in the year. Who’s really going to put their teams on their backs and carry them to the Final Four or a championship? He’s last year’s winner, and I would think that he would be the guy. But there’s so many more games left and so many things that can happen.