ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra will provide color commentary during Saturday’s game involving Michigan at No. 5 Johns Hopkins. The former Syracuse All-American midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, discussed the most surprising result of the weekend, his most impressive team of the season thus far and the upcoming rematch between No. 3 Maryland and No. 1 Loyola.
Any surprising results from this past weekend?
The most surprising results for the weekend was [No. 14] UMass over [No. 6] North Carolina [by the score of 12-11]. I think at even strength, UMass is the type of program that can compete against ACC teams. I just thought that without [senior attackman] Will Manny, who is reported to have broken a thumb in the Army game from the week before, I thought they would have a tougher time generating offense because he is a first-team All American and a Tewaaraton candidate for this upcoming season. So I thought not having the quarterback of your offense against a team like Carolina who has a ton of talent, I thought UMass would have struggled a little bit more than they did. It just shows you their resolve and their ability to compete deep into the game. They came from behind despite being minus Will Manny and a couple other starters. So they were undermanned, but certainly they’re a team with a tremendous amount of pride and tradition. And their coach Greg Cannella is one of the best in the business. So that was probably a surprising outcome for me. I thought [No. 4] Notre Dame would have had their hands full a little bit more against [No. 10] Duke just because Duke had two games under their belt, and that was Notre Dame’s first game and it was down at Duke. I felt that Notre Dame was the favorite going into that contest, but I didn’t think they’d win by eight goals [13-5] and so convincingly. That was never a game from the first whistle, and I was very impressed with what they did down in Durham against Duke. And there were some other fantastic games. Delaware had [No. 1] Loyola on the ropes, Albany up in the [Carrier] Dome against [No. 13] Syracuse. I watched that entire game, and I felt that Albany’s offense really gave Syracuse’s defense fits. It looked like Syracuse was confused at times playing against the Thompson trio. Those guys were scoring every time they had the ball. Just a ton of great lacrosse this weekend. But those were probably the two games that separated themselves from the others.
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If you were a broker, is there a team you would buy now?
Yeah. I just don’t know if it would be cheap, but it’s Notre Dame. I just feel that’s a team that is hitting on all cylinders. We know what they’ve been able to do in the past defensively. They have a returning first-team All-American goalie in [senior] John Kemp, great midfielders who play both ends of the field, and with these new rules, I think you need those types of guys, and Notre Dame certainly has guys that can go from defense to offense and vice versa. And I think this is their best attack that they’ve had in quite some time. Their freshman, Matt Kavanaugh, is dynamic. He’s probably the best freshman attackman to ever play at Notre Dame. They had a guy in the early 90s named Randy Collie, who was superb, but I think Matt Kavanaugh is more skilled and probably the best freshman attackman to ever step on that campus.
Similarly, is there a team you would sell now?
North Carolina, it’s too early, but a lot of people had them as a top-four or five team in the preseason. I had them more like at eight or nine just because I had questions about their defense. They’re starting a new goaltender in [freshman] Kieran Burke. He looks like he’s a solid goalie, but there are certainly question marks when he’s beating out the incumbent in [redshirt senior] Steven Rastivo. I just think defensively, they haven’t figured it out yet. So that is a concern. They have an offense with perhaps the best attack in the country in [senior Marcus] Holman and [sophomores Jimmy] Bitter and [Joey] Sankey. Their midfielders are probably better than they have been in the past from a dodging standpoint and creating offense. But their defense worries me.
Were there any individual performances that impressed you?
The one that really impressed me was [sophomore attackman] Lyle Thompson from Albany. He had two goals and six assists against Syracuse in overtime, and every time he had the ball, something happened – whether he scored or assisted. If lacrosse were a statistics driven sport like hockey where you have double assists, he probably would have had a slew of assist. He’s instant offense. So creative, his stick skills are superb, but his awareness to see the entire field and get others involved make him one of the better offensive talents in the country. He’s only a sophomore, but I just think that he’s probably going to be dynamic. Another kid is from Notre Dame, Jim Marlatt, a [junior] midfielder who had five goals. And then the Kavanaugh kid had four goals. So those are two young guys that I think are transforming Notre Dame’s offense. Everybody has been talking about Notre Dame’s defense for years. I think they have the offense now to combine and give teams fit.
No. 9 Denver upset then-No. 6 Duke in the season opener, but got upended by No. 18 Penn State Sunday. What do you make of the Pioneers?
As good as Denver is – their first midfield with [senior] Chase Carraro, [senior] Cam Flint and [junior] Jeremy Noble is probably the best first midfield in the country – they’re not a very deep team. I don’t think they have a tremendous amount of depth at the midfield. I think a lot of those guys have to play two ways, and Carraro was hurt in the first half of that game. That changes their ability to create offense off the faceoff because he faces off and scores the goals and he plays all over the field. So Denver, when you take one of those guys out of the mix, they’re not deep to begin with. I think they can struggle. And defensively, I watched that game and I thought Denver had a real tough time playing team defense and sliding and stopping Penn State’s dodgers, specifically the Shane Sturgis kid. He had four unassisted goals and they were all from that same area behind the goal, creating one-on-one offense with no slides. That’s not typical of a Bill Tierney defense, to let the dodgers score. So there were some holes in that defense yesterday. But credit [Penn State] coach [Jeff] Tambroni. I thought it was more of a five-year project to start cracking into that top 10 stratosphere, and he looks to be ahead of schedule. He is one of the best coaches in the country – hands down.
If you’re Denver, how worried are you about No. 8 Lehigh visiting this Saturday?
Lehigh is so well coached. Kevin Cassese is a fantastic coach in the way that he coaches defense and he gets his team prepared. Lehigh can certainly beat Denver, and they’re probably deeper, to be quite honest with you. I really like their attack also with [seniors] Dante Fantoni and the [David] DiMaria kid who can create offense. The big question for me was Lehigh’s midfield. They lost the Lao-Gosney brothers who created so much offense from up top. If they can continue to generate some offense – and it looks like they’re starting to in these early stages of the season – from the midfield, those attackmen will break free and create a lot of concern for opposing defenses. Defensively, they are on lockdown. They’ve got a great goalie in [sophomore] Matt Poillon, their defense returns for the most part, and they played statistically some of the best defense in the country last year. So that’s going to be a great contest and I expect that game to go down to the wire.
The other significant game this weekend is No. 3 Maryland at Loyola. Which team needs this win more?
I think – believe it or not – Loyola needs this win more, and I say that because although Maryland hasn’t won a national championship since the mid 70s, Maryland has consistently competed in Final Fours. They’ve been to the last two national championship games [in the last two years], they have a great senior class. I think Loyola – after winning the title and now being the hunted instead of the hunter – they have to solidify their legitimacy in their own right by competing in a new year. Even though they have a majority of their team back, they need to prove to themselves that they belong in the elite of lacrosse. In their first game last week, Delaware took them down to the wire. If Loyola thinks they’re going to roll the ball and be the same team as last year, it’s a different year, a different type of chemistry. They certainly have the talent to repeat as national champions, but I think this game against Maryland this early in the season is an opportunity to prove to themselves that they are amongst the elite in college lacrosse in 2013 and kind of take that momentum from 2012 and parlay that into a season that presents a tremendous amount of challenges with some great teams on their schedule. I think early in the season, confidence for a team that’s just won their first national championship, you can’t really quantify that. The chemistry and the belief they’ll have after beating a team like Maryland this weekend would just be a tremendous boost for the program.
Who are the top five teams in your mind?
If there was a playoff right now, based on what’s in front of us, I think Notre Dame’s the top team in the country. I think Loyola and Maryland are right there. And I think [No. 5] Johns Hopkins is certainly a team that can compete for a national championship. They have so much talent back. They have the senior class, which was one of the top recruiting classes in the country when they came to Johns Hopkins. You have to look at their last two regular seasons. They were fantastic. They just haven’t played their best lacrosse come tournament time. I think they’re even better this year. Those are my top four teams, and I’m anxious to see what [No. 2] Cornell does this week against Hobart. Hobart had a big win against Siena and put up huge numbers. This will be [Cornell’s] first game of the season. I want to see what the 2013 Big Red looks like with [senior attackman] Rob Pannell because I think he’s going to be playing on a completely different level with probably only just a couple other players in the country like Peter Baum and a few others. I think Rob Pannell is the total package and probably the best player in the nation in his ability to make his teammates better. I think he’s going to take that team to huge heights this season.