Maryland has won all 15 meetings with Brown, but the two sides will tangle for the first time since April 30, 1995. The Bears have advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals for only the second time in program history and for the first time since 1994. The Terps are making their third consecutive appearance in the final four and their fifth in six years.
Brown (16-2), the Ivy League regular-season titlist, defeated Johns Hopkins and Navy to get to this stage of the postseason. The team's high-powered offense has relied on the prowess of faceoff specialist Will Gural. The senior ranks second in Division I in faceoff percentage (70.4 on 250-for-355) and fifth in ground balls (7.6 per game) and has registered 10 goals and five assists.
Maryland (16-2), the Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion, has won a program-record 15 straight games and has not lost since March 5 against Notre Dame. Junior attackman Matt Rambo has been on a tear in the NCAA tournament, posting seven goals and four assists in the first two rounds. With 63 points, he is the first Terps player with that many points since Joe Walters finished with 68 in 2004.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
1) Brown's transition. How many teams can boast a long-stick midfielder, a faceoff specialist and a close defenseman each posting more than 10 points this season? The Bears have leaned on junior long-stick midfielder Larken Kemp (five goals and 12 assists), Gural (10G, 5A) and junior defenseman Alec Tulett (5G, 8A) to take advantage of unsettled situations. Maryland has seen a similar style from Big Ten rival Rutgers, but coach John Tillman knows the Terps have to prepare for a vastly different and talented group.
"I think we've played teams that have slight aspects of their style, but nobody fully committed to what they do," he said. "A team like Rutgers obviously pushes transition, and they have certain aspects, but not the full package. So it is a unique animal. Throughout the year, you're playing against different styles and trying to prepare, but they are very unique. I think having a great faceoff guy, a great goalie, great guys in the middle of the field, a really good defense and an outstanding offense and obviously fantastic transition players poses a lot of problems."
2) Maryland's ball security. The Terps feature five starters on offense with at least 30 points each, and two of their second-line midfielders (senior Pat Young and redshirt sophomore Tim Rotanz) have at least 16 points each. The unit is headed by Rambo, but Brown coach Lars Tiffany has been most impressed by Maryland's ability to protect the ball as the team commits the fourth-fewest turnovers per game in the nation (10.8).
"We've got to deal with a team that has that type of athleticism and talent," Tiffany said. "But they don't recklessly run up and down the field like we do. They can possess the ball and wait for you to make mistakes. That's the biggest challenge. Can we deny their talented lacrosse players, but can we also maintain a razor-sharp focus for a minute, a minute-and-a-half at a time? That's the thing we've got to do."
3) Brown's offfense. Much has been made about the anticipated absence of Bears junior attackman Dylan Molloy, who leads the country in assists (54) and points (114) but was described by Tiffany as "unlikely" to play because of a broken right foot. But as Brown demonstrated in Saturday's 11-10 win against Navy in the quarterfinals, the offense is more than a one-trick pony. Senior attackman Kylor Bellistri has tied Molloy's program record of 62 goals, senior attackman Henry Blynn has scored 50 times, and three other starters have notched at least 29 points each. Tillman said Maryland has to be wary of the Bears' weapons not named Molloy.
"They have a system and a system that they believe in," Tillman said. "When you have amazing parts, any system is going to work better. With Dylan, that system is stronger, but the other parts are so strong, it looked like that system worked really well. So I think they were a great offense before Dylan got hurt, and I think they're a great offense now, and they showed it."