Paul Carcaterra returned to his alma mater Saturday and provided analysis for ESPN's broadcast of No. 8 Syracuse's 13-7 victory over No. 13 North Carolina. The former Syracuse midfielder will be part of the network's coverage team of another Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between No. 1 Notre Dame and the Tar Heels on Saturday. Carcaterra, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, discussed the number of ACC teams he thinks should qualify for the NCAA tournament, the hit No. 4 Yale took from Saturday's 14-12 loss to No. 3 Brown, his perspective on the Fighting Irish-Cavaliers contest, the Orange's resume, and his four early candidates for the NCAA semifinals.
With No. 13 North Carolina and No. 16 Duke in the bottom half of the latest Cascade/Maverik media poll and Virginia outside of the Top 20, is it fair to say that the ACC is trending downward?
I think the ACC is most likely going to get a minimum of three and I could easily see four in the NCAA tournament. And the interesting piece now is say Virginia beats Brown in that showcase game on Saturday and Brown wins the Ivy League, Virginia would have two really good wins against [No. 10] Johns Hopkins and Brown. They'd have to be in the discussion. They would be eligible mathematically in regards to the minium requirements to get into the tournament. I think a lot of people assumed that because of the records of the ACC, it could be a year of just two or three. I think it's a minimum of three and I could even see four. Look at the body of work out of conference. Syracuse has beaten [No. 6] Albany and [No. 20] Army, who are both in the Top 20. Carolina has got some nice head-to-head wins against Johns Hopkins and [No. 16] Duke. I'd be shocked if less than three went.
Although Brown defeated Yale 14-12 on Saturday, aside from the race for the Ivy League championship, the Bulldogs didn't lose much ground, did they?
They didn't, and I think as long as they hold course for the rest of the year and win all the other Ivy games and meet each other again, the team to me that is positioned better is Yale because they have that Maryland win. Brown has the Villanova win from a few weeks back, but [No. 18] Villanova has lost a couple. So I think Yale's win against [No. 5] Maryland is really holding up, especially as the Terps continue to win and appear to be playing their best lacrosse. The Ivy League is interesting. That [Yale-Maryland] game was in February, and I think this is going to be a defining year for that conference in the postseason. I feel like this is a year that Yale or Brown has to make the Final Four for the lacrosse world to say, 'OK, these guys were in the Top 4 for a lot of the year and rightfully so.' I think this is a huge year for the Ivy League. The Ivy League has kind of been knocked around a little bit ever since the Princeton-Cornell run was over. I think [Yale coach] Andy Shay and his staff have done a tremendous job winning three of the last four conference titles, and I think this league kind of desperately needs a Brown or a Yale in the Final Four to kind of validate what's been going on this year.
Which four teams do you like for championship weekend in Philadelphia?
I have no clue on the fourth, to be honest with you. I think [No. 2] Denver and Notre Dame are pretty safe. Both have experience, talent all over the field. They know how to win close games, and there's an art to winning close games. It's leadership and communication on defense. Notre Dame wins these close games for a reason, and Syracuse was losing those close games for a reason – breakdowns on defense, a lack of communication. What did they do on Saturday against Carolina? Locked it down on defense for their best defensive effort of the season. So I don't look at it as, 'Oh, Notre Dame is just barely skating by with all of these one-goal games.' There's a reason why they win all of those one-goal games. It's not by accident. So I really like them. I love Denver with their offense, and [sophomore faceoff specialist] Trevor Baptiste can make it so difficult for a team that plays so much defense when you're playing against Denver. Maryland is a team with so much talent, too. Maryland has six seniors drafted in the Top 19 of college lacrosse. If I was to go out there and feel confident about a third team in the Final Four, I think it's Maryland. They have experience playing on championship weekend, and from a talent standpoint, they're as good as in any of the years they were there in the past. This is a group that's really dangerous. The fourth one? Tough. Honestly, you could give me eight teams for that spot and I could argue all of them.