Men’s lacrosse analyst Evan Washburn took part in the CBS Sports Network’s coverage of No. 14 Navy’s 9-8 win at Army West Point on Saturday. Washburn, a former defenseman for Delaware from 2004 to 2008, will help cover Friday night’s game between the Black Knights and No. 8 Loyola Maryland at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore. He will also provide commentary for the network’s broadcast of the Patriot League tournament next weekend. Washburn, who can be followed on Twitter via @EvanWashburn, offered his thoughts on the four teams he likes to make the Final Four at Gillette Stadium, his pick to represent the Patriot League in the NCAA tournament and the need for instant replay.
If the season ended today, which team would be the No. 1 seed in your bracket?
I feel best about [No. 1] Maryland. I know they obviously lost to [No. 2] Albany earlier in the year, but just the way they’re playing right now – I know they scratched by on Sunday [in an 11-10 win against No. 10 Rutgers] – I just think they’re the strongest team physically when it comes to health. And I think at their best and Albany at their best, they’re a team I would feel more comfortable with at that [No.] 1 spot. But Albany is not far behind, and I think it’s a situation where you could make an argument for both. But my feeling is Maryland is the best team in the country.
Is there a team currently flying under the radar?
I think it’s [No. 5] Yale just based on their past success and what they did as early as last year. Their expectations are high, and they’re meeting them. It’s one of those things where we often cover those big stories up top and then the fun stories, the surprises, and [No. 6] Cornell fits into that narrative. But I don’t think Cornell is flying under the radar anymore because they’ve become one of the better stories of this season. They’re exceeding expectations and they’re surprising us. So I think Yale is under the radar and Cornell is the darling right now because of the way they play and how many goals they’re scoring and the fact that I don’t think a lot of people thought it was possible.
What four teams would be your favorites to make the Final Four?
I’ll stick to what I did for the Army-Navy game. I have Maryland, Albany, [No. 4] Denver, and then I’m going to get on this Cornell train early and see if it can ride us all the way to Foxborough. If they keep playing this well and scoring this many goals, being a guy who was on a team that got hot around this time with Delaware, I know what that can do. So that will be the four that I stick with and hopefully, I won’t be too wrong in a month here.
With Rutgers having an 8-4 record and a 1-2 mark in the Big Ten that creates a tie with Ohio State for fourth place in the conference, are the Scarlet Knights in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row?
It’s hard to believe because of how talented they are and what they’ve been able to do against quality opponents. But yeah, they’re at risk. If they don’t make the Big Ten tournament, I don’t see how they would get into the NCAA tournament, and even then, I think they would probably have to win a game to improve their resume. Their RPI, the last time I checked, was pretty high. With how they finish down the stretch here against [No. 11] Penn State and Ohio State, Penn State will provide them with what could be a really quality win and obviously help their chances of getting into the Big Ten tournament. But you have to be concerned because the numbers are going to dictate a lot of it. The eye test is not going to win you out in that [selection] committee room.
Which team do you think will eventually represent the Patriot League in the NCAA tournament?
I look at the Patriot League as having a chance to be a two-bid league. So I think Loyola has already cemented themselves as being in the tournament based off of their RPI and the way they’ve played up to this point. If [No. 12] Bucknell were to get to the final against Loyola, that’s a situation where I think you could have Loyola and Bucknell as tournament teams. [No. 14] Navy is a possibility. I love what they’ve done. It’s impressive because they’ve been able to win a lot of close games, but they don’t necessarily at the moment look like a tournament team. But they could get hot in the Patriot League tournament.
Who are your top five candidates for the Tewaraaton Award?
So I have [Loyola junior attackman] Pat Spencer at No. 1, [Albany senior attackman] Connor Fields at No. 2, [Denver senior faceoff specialist] Trevor Baptiste at No. 3, [Maryland senior midfielder] Connor Kelly at No. 4, and for No. 5, what [sophomore attackman] Jeff Teat is doing at Cornell has played his way into that conversation. But I also think that [senior attackman] Ben Reeves is deserving of being there because Yale has been somewhat under the radar and he’s had another great year. I guess I would have Reeves there, but Teat is fast on his heels. Just because you’ve given me the platform, I think Pat Spencer is a step above the rest as a player. I think he’s a once-in-a-generation player. I’m not sure he’ll win it because it’s become somewhat of a team award, but I think he’s the best player in the country by far in my mind.
There have been a couple controversial goals recently. Johns Hopkins sophomore attackman Cole Williams scored a goal in the third quarter after the shot clock had expired in a 13-12 win at Rutgers on April 1, and Navy freshman long-stick midfielder Jeff Durden scored a goal after the clock hit zero to end the second quarter of a 9-8 win at Army on Saturday. Is it time to install instant replay, and is that a feasible proposition for 69 teams in Division I?
I know it’s not free and money is always an issue, especially with second-tier sports like lacrosse. But I think that in fairness of what you want your outcomes to be based off of, there’s definitely ammunition to have replay for end-of-quarter situations so that you make sure that you get the timing right. And I go back to the shot clock discussion of a few years back when folks were saying not every school can afford to have a visible shot clock. There’s probably a way to pay for it. Many of the schools have ample funds, and I don’t think replay systems are too exorbitant of a cost. So yes, I would hope that replay can be deployed for those areas of the game, and I think it is reasonable to believe that 69 programs can find a way to pay for it.