As part of ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA tournament’s quarterfinal round this past weekend, Paul Carcaterra was the sideline reporter for all four contests. The former Syracuse All-American midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, provided his thoughts on the most stunning result in the quarterfinals, the hottest team in the Final Four and the race for the Tewaaraton Award.
Which was more exciting: the first round or the quarterfinal round?
I thought both rounds wre entertaining and provided fans with different styles in lacrosse. But I always like the quarterfinals a little more based on the fact that the teams can smell a berth to the Final Four. The quarterfinals kind of separate the teams that maybe just sneaked in or were automatic qualifiers. The quarterfinals, to me, are almost turning into another round of the Final Four. The level of competition is so high. You see teams like Maryland and Hopkins playing each other, Notre Dame and Virginia. If someone told you at the beginning of the year that Maryland, Hopkins, Notre Dame and Virginia were going to be playing for spots in the Final Four, you wouldn’t even think twice. So I just think the level of competition and what’s at stake in the quarterfinals has been heightened to a totally different level.
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What was the most surprising result of the quarterfinals?
I thought the most surprising result was Duke really hammering Colgate because Colgate’s a team that was very competitive and not just in the Patriot League, but nationally this year. They had some big wins in their own league, and they beat Fairfield and Maryland. And they came off a victory against an undefeated UMass team at UMass. So I thought Colgate would show up and to some extent, I thought they even had an opportunity to stage the upset. So I was really surprised at how little trouble Duke had with Colgate once things started rolling their way.
Three of the four teams left lost in their last game before the start of the NCAA tournament, and No. 1 seed Loyola leads with a modest four-game winning streak. Which team is the hotter squad?
Duke is a team that pushes the ball in transition and can really impose its will on a team. If Duke starts rolling and gets a comfortable lead, it forces the other teams left in the tournament outside of Loyola – and I’m specially talking about Maryland and Notre Dame – to play at that pace. So I think for Duke, a fast start is so critical – more than any other team left in the tournament because I think they need to dictate tempo to beat a team like Maryland or Notre Dame, who are playing more of a half-field lacrosse. Notre Dame’s half-field lacrosse is not a slowdown mode to any extent. I think the lacrosse world has it wrong when they think that Notre Dame slows the ball down. Notre Dame is a very, very productive and efficient offense when they’re hitting the cage, and you rarely see Notre Dame called for a stall warning. The lack of efficiency that they’ve had in terms of putting up numbers is because their shooting’s been off. That’s a team that can threaten offensively, but that’s from a 6-on-6 set, not a transition-type game like Duke or Loyola. Maryland, I feel, is doing whatever they have to do to win, and I respect that. But they’re slowing the ball down a lot more than the rest of the competition.
Loyola coach Charley Toomey and Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese are considered the leading candidates to be named the Coach of the Year. Considering that Maryland’s John Tillman became the first coach in men’s lacrosse history to guide unseeded teams to back-to-back Final Fours, shouldn’t his name be in the conversation, too?
I think John Tillman should definitely be in the conversation. I also think Kevin Corrigan should. Notre Dame is a program where over the last six games, they’ve had a different leading scorer in every game. That to me shows balance. The way they defend, the way that they’ve bought into the system and the culture in South Bend with student-athletes that are so committed to excellence both on the field and in the classroom, I’m just so impressed with what he’s doing. And another reason that I like the job that Corrigan has done is if you look at the Inside Lacrosse rankings every year on who is the top recruit and who are the Under Armour All Americans, Notre Dame’s roster is not stacked with those types of players. He’s developing kids into great players and into great system players. They’re winning games and onto their second Final Four in three years, and there’s no reason why he can’t continue doing that.
The Final Four is left with just two Tewaaraton Award finalists in Loyola junior attackman Mike Sawyer and Duke senior long-stick midfielder C.J. Costabile. Are they the best candidates for the honor that is presented annually to the top collegiate player?
I think if one of these two guys plays lights out and catapults their team to a national title and the reason they win the national title is because of their individual performance, I don’t have a problem with them getting the Tewaaraton. But if the season ended today, I think it should be a two-horse race between [Virginia senior attackman] Steele Stanwick and [Colgate junior attackman] Peter Baum. I think Baum and Stanwick have slightly separated themselves from Costabile and the rest. But if Costabile or Sawyer plays lights out and the reason why their team wins the national championship is because of their individual play, I have no problem with it.