Part 1 of Q&A with CBS Sports Network men's lacrosse analyst Steve Panarelli

Steve Panarelli has returned for his fifth year as a college lacrosse analyst for the CBS Sports Network. Panarelli, a three-time All-American defenseman who played on the 2004 Syracuse team that captured the NCAA championship, provided color for No. 11 Duke's 15-6 thrashing of No. 13 Loyola Maryland on Saturday. Panarelli, who can be followed on Twitter via @StevePanare11i and will help cover Saturday's Patriot League showdown between the Greyhounds and Navy, discussed the Blue Devils' true representation, the Denver-Notre Dame showdown, and North Carolina's roller-coaster season.

Is the Duke team that routed Loyola the one that will show up for the remainder of the season? Or should we become more accustomed with the squad that lost to Richmond a week ago and Harvard two days prior?


You've got to remember that they got the faceoff guy back. When you get [junior Kyle] Rowe back, he operated at 80 percent, I think, [actually, 82.6 on 19-of-23 draws]. That's a big difference for them. Is defense their strongest point? No. They're very talented offensively, and when you win faceoffs, you're not leaving your defense as exposed, and they're not playing as many minutes as they have to, and you're giving your high-powered, talented offense more opportunities. So he's a game-changer for them. He changes their whole team by operating anywhere about 65 percent. That's going to be a huge plus for them.

What was your reaction to Denver edging Notre Dame, 9-8, in overtime to overtake the Fighting Irish for the No. 1 ranking?


It was three quarters to one. I think Denver dominated the game for three quarters, but their scoring slowed down in the second half there. If they could have gotten a few more, they would have buried them and ended it. But you've got to give credit to Notre Dame. They made that run. They were able to figure it out. I think they had a little bit of an answer for [sophomore faceoff specialist Trevor] Baptiste with the two poles. Their faceoff guy [junior P.J. Finley] was not worried as much about winning the clamp and the draw as he was about not letting Trevor win it to himself really clean. He was really trying more to muck it up and make it more of a 50-50 ground ball and let his two defensemen come in. So I think they did a good job of that in not letting him win out the front and creating breaks. Every faceoff he won, he had to earn. He was picking up ground balls with two poles on him, and even when he won a few, they were able to turn them over right away. That was big because Denver's usually used to winning those faceoffs pretty clean and operating at a high percentage. But I still think they're the top two teams in the country, and they showed you why. They're pretty good offensively, and obviously I think Notre Dame's defense is a little stronger than Denver's, and I think Denver's offense is a little stronger than Notre Dame's. The goalies were pretty even. The faceoffs weren't a huge advantage like they usually are for Denver, and that's why you got the outcome. But they're two talented teams, and I still think they're probably the two best teams right now.

So is there a clear division between Denver and Notre Dame and the rest of the pack?

You've got a lot of good teams this year, and every time you like someone, they end up losing. I really liked Harvard after the Duke game. They were great in transition, they played well, their offense looked phenomenal, and then they lost two [at Bryant and Penn State]. I think Syracuse is pretty good. I think they're under the radar even though they are ranked third. I don't think people expected [redshirt senior attackman] Dylan Donahue to be able to carry more than he has in the past. He always relied on [former attackman Kevin] Rice and those guys to feed him, and everybody kind of looked at him as an off-ball player. But he's showing that he can carry, he can create, he can distribute. So he's been a huge X factor for them. Obviously, [junior] Ben Williams facing off has been great for them, and the defense is also playing well, and they're getting solid goalie play. They were ranked in the preseason pretty high, but I think if you spoke to most people, most people weren't expecting your typical Syracuse team. But they look good. The midfielders are dodging well, drawing slides. The kid Jordan Evans is playing better and starting to live up to the No. 22 [worn traditionally by the team's best player] a little bit. I wouldn't say [Denver and Notre Dame] are head-and-shoulders above. They might be a little bit above, and the other guys are close. I think Syracuse is good. I think Hopkins is going to get better as the year goes one. And to be honest, you've got to see what happens in the Ivy League. I can't wait for Yale and Brown to square off and maybe play a little better competition to really see what they've got. Right now, they're kind of steamrolling people, especially Brown. But it's going to be interesting to see when they play each other or when they play a really good team because some of the teams they're playing right now, you kind of expect them to win those games. You don't really know what they have until they play each other or play someone good. I think Denver and Notre Dame are the top two, but those other guys aren't too far behind. And then there's a lot of really good teams. I like [No. 12] Hofstra. I like [No. 9] Towson with the goalie, [redshirt senior Tyler] White. I think he's phenomenal, and when he stands on his head, he can literally change a game and win a game for them. Duke obviously is very talented. Yeah, they've got the three losses, but they're going to be a problem when it's tournament time if they keep playing and get better. There's a lot of guys that can play this year. It's definitely going to be interesting in the tournament.

What do you make of a No. 17 North Carolina team that has defeated No. 8 Johns Hopkins, but has lost to No. 12 Hofstra and Massachusetts by five goals each?

I know when I was playing in the 2000s, they were very inconsistent, very up and down, always loaded with talent but could never figure it out. And I think they've got that going on a little bit. They've got a lot of talent on that team, and they've got a lot of experience, guys who have played for them in the last two years. But it really goes down to, if you're not playing hard in every game and you're maybe taking teams for granted, you're going to lose. Those things are over as far as the top teams showing up on Saturdays and winning the games they're supposed to. I think they're learning that lesson a little bit. But the good thing for them is they play an ACC schedule. So they're going to get plenty of opportunities. They're going to get Duke and Notre Dame and Syracuse and Virginia. So they've got plenty of opportunities left. I'm sure with coach [Joe] Breschi, no one's panicking. They have a lot of marquee games where if you get through some of them with wins, you're right back in the mix of things. So there's plenty of season left for them, but they've got to figure out. They definitely have some issues and some weaknesses right now that teams are exposing.

Who is the best player in Division I?

After this weekend and seeing him in person, [Duke senior midfielder] Myles Jones. I think there's a lot of skill guys. I like [Denver junior attackman] Connor Cannizzaro. I think he's really good. I had a chance to see the kid from Hofstra, [redshirt freshman attackman Josh Byrne], and he's legit. He's more than just your typical Canadian finisher who stands inside. He can dodge a little bit, he creates his own shot, he's really good off-ball. And the kid from Harvard [senior attackman Devin Dwyer] is really good. He's not physically dominating and he's not going to run by you and he's not going to blow you away with speed and quickness, but every game, he somehow fills up the stat sheet. But I think you have to go with Myles. Just from a physical standpoint, when he dodges from the midfield and he gets going downhill, there's nobody better in the country. This weekend, he showed you that he's willing to play extremely unselfish. Every time he got a double team, he was moving it right away, and that was freeing up other guys on the team. He scored three goals left-handed this weekend, so the old "force him left" [plan], you can't do that anymore. He's shooting well, he's distributing the ball well. He re-dodged three times where he made his initial dodge, got stopped, but was able to re-dodge right away and get his hands free. When he's going and he's playing the way he's capable of, he's a huge problem for any defense because he can win his one-on-one matchup with a pole or a short. And if you double him, he's improved a lot where he can make that one pass or they've got that tic-tac-toe thing going where he moves it to someone adjacent who might find somebody wide open. But he's distributing and he's willing to share the ball. He's the guy. He lives up to the hype when he's playing well. When he's forcing things like has done -- against Harvard, he tried to force some things and tried to do too much. When he lets the game come to him and he just plays the way he's capable of, he's the best in the country.