ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra provided color commentary for fifth-seeded North Carolina’s 16-7 rout of Lehigh and Cornell’s 16-8 upset of sixth-seeded Maryland in a pair of NCAA tournament first-round contests this past weekend. The former Syracuse All-American midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, will be part of the crew covering Saturday’s quarterfinals in College Park and Sunday’s quarterfinals in Indianapolis. Carcaterra offered his perspective on results that impressed and surprised him, concerns for the top two seeded teams and the most interesting quarterfinal.
What was the most impressive result from the first round of the NCAA tournament?
The two teams that kind of stood out in my mind were Carolina and Cornell, and I say that because they played two teams that were formidable foes and matched up with well with Carolina and Cornell coming into the weekend. Those two teams kind of stood in terms of the way they played on both ends of the field. It was a complete effort on ground balls, from a physicality standpoint, controlling the tempo in both of those games. I just walked away feeling that both of those teams were dialed in and very hungry.
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Was there a result that surprised you?
Loyola was a team that I thought positioned itself to go down to Durham and come out with a victory. With that said, it was a double overtime game, and both teams played very hard and fought tooth-and-nail to the very end. But I just thought that Loyola was a squad in a position to make another run because I like their athletic defensive midfielders and [junior] Justin Ward was playing great lacrosse on attack and finding guys like [senior attackman Mike] Sawyer and [freshman attackman Zach] Herreweyers. They kind of had all the pieces to make another potential run at the title. It’s unfortunate for any of those two teams to walk away with a loss, but I just thought that Loyola was a team that could beat [seventh-seeded] Duke.
Top-seeded Syracuse fell behind 4-0 to Bryant before winning, 12-7. Second-seeded Notre Dame trailed Detroit, 7-3, at the end of the third quarter before rallying for a 9-7 win. How worried should both of those teams be?
I think they should both be concerned. I thought Notre Dame’s offense was absent for three quarters against a good Detroit defense, not a great defense. You’ve got to give Detroit credit for their effort and the way they played throughout the course of the game. But this Notre Dame offense is still searching for an identity. Matt Kavanagh, the freshman, has been great all season long, and he dug them out of the hole and took the game over. But outside of him, over the course of the last month, you didn’t see too many dodging options for the Notre Dame offense in guys who can initiate and break the defense down. That’s going to have to change next week against Duke if they’re going to be victorious. I think Notre Dame is a team that will play great defense and get solid goaltending from [senior] John Kemp, but it didn’t really surprise me that Detroit had them against the ropes because Notre Dame hasn’t really been blowing anyone out through the course of the season because of their inability to strike with huge numbers offensively. So that game was kind of puzzling, but I think Notre Dame walked away knowing that it can dig out of a hole, and that’s a good thing in the tournament. They have one of the best coaches in the country in Kevin Corrigan, and he’ll have those guys ready. In the past, they’ve matched up defensively against Duke. A lot of people might think that Notre Dame is in big trouble heading into Duke, but it’s going to be a close game. For Syracuse, it’s the same story. They won one out of 23 faceoffs, and when you give a team the ball that many times at this level in the tournament and you still win by five goals, I have to look at that as a positive. That being said, if they struggle in the faceoff category against Yale, which faces off very well, it could be a different outcome. So I think they have to find a way to at least get up to 40 percent to win ball games moving forward. Bryant showed a lot in the beginning of that game, but as the game settled and Bryant had to strike in the six-on-six set, the Syracuse defense was very good.
What is the most intriguing quarterfinal to you?
Denver-North Carolina just because Carolina might be the hottest team in the nation. They were No. 1 in the media and coaches poll heading into the tournament, and they got the No. 5 seed. No one wants to play them and match up with them defensively. [Senior attackman] Marcus Holman is making a run at this Tewaaraton Trophy flanked by [sophomore attackman Jimmy] Bitter and [Joey] Sankey. These guys can not only play offense, but they can scrap, too. They go after ground balls, they ride so aggressively when the defense has the ball, and they’re playing a team in Denver that really matched up well with them last year in that first round and beat them because they had [senior faceoff specialist] Chase Carraro, who had [junior] R.G. Keenan’s number. If that happens again, advantage Denver. But if R.G Keenan plays as he has the past two weeks, I don’t see anyone really able to stop North Carolina if R.G. gets on a roll.
With Albany sophomore attackman Lyle Thompson exiting from the first round and Princeton junior midfielder Tom Schreiber left out of the NCAA tournament altogether, which of the three remaining finalists in Holman, Syracuse senior midfielder JoJo Marasco and Cornell fifth-year senior attackman Rob Pannell do you like to win the Tewaaraton Award?
I think Rob Pannell. I think what he did in the first round – as much as you want to give credit where credit is due with [Denver sophomore attackman] Wesley Berg’s eight goals [in Saturday’s 19-14 victory over Albany] – Pannell’s command of the offense and the way he was able to dissect Maryland’s defense was just next-level. The kid was incredible. His overall lacrosse IQ, it’s almost like he saw the defense and what the defense was going to do before he started his moves. So I think he’s the frontrunner right now. If Cornell was to lose and North Carolina advances, Holman – after being the [Atlantic Coast Conference’s] Player of the Year – is in a position to make a run at it. I think for Syracuse and JoJo Marasco to win the trophy, it would probably be a scenario where Pannell and Holman don’t make championship weekend and Syracuse makes a run at the national title.