Paul Carcaterra is back for his seventh year as a men's college lacrosse analyst for ESPN. The former Syracuse midfielder will provide commentary for Saturday's showdown between No. 2 Denver and No. 11 North Carolina.
Carcaterra discussed what's troubling No. 8 Johns Hopkins, what No. 4 Maryland could use, and which area team he highlighted in the offseason as a potential surprise.
What did you make of No. 8 Johns Hopkins' 15-11 loss to North Carolina on Sunday?
I think Johns Hopkins, coming into the season, was an extremely talented team. I looked at that squad in the fall as a final-four contender, and when you get to Championship Weekend, anything can happen. But they've been decimated with injuries, and the [sophomore midfielder] Joel Tinney suspension [for violating an unspecified NCAA rule] really hurt.
[Senior midfielder] Connor Reed with the ACL and now [freshman midfielder Alex] Concannon with the leg injury, and the freshman, Drew Supinski, wasn't in the lineup today. They are so undermanned in regards to their offensive capabilities, which are limited at this time. They don't have the marque dodgers, and it's just putting pressure on guys like [senior attackman] Ryan Brown and [junior midfielder] John Crawley, who would have flourished into huge roles.
I mean, Ryan Brown is going to have a huge role in college lacrosse, regardless. He's one of the best shooters I've ever seen. But it changes because when you have dodgers like Tinney and Connor Reed in the offense, it just opens up that much more for a guy like Brown. So I don't think we're seeing the full Ryan Brown, I don't think we're seeing the full John Crawley, and it just limits them in terms of what their options are offensively.
With that said, they were still in this game, and they had every chance to win this game. When you're undermanned and you have injuries, I always think there are certain categories you have to master to get the most out of your team, regardless of who your dodgers are and who your scorers are. You've got to be able to clear the ball. And at the Division I level, you need to be clearing well over 85 percent, and they're just not doing it. [Sunday] was a really tough go for them from a clearing standpoint.
When they had the ball, they still put up 11 goals, and they looked pretty good. But they have those other areas. For Johns Hopkins to be in the mix this year, they have to clear the ball well and they have to own the ground balls. [Sunday], they didn't.
Does Maryland lack a go-to field general?
I think [junior attackman Matt] Rambo is picking up some of those pieces, but that's not him by nature. He's a lefty, goal-scoring attackman who can dodge off of quick ball movement and has got a nice shot. They don't have the quarterback, but I also think [senior midfielder] Bryan Cole is a nice passer. So I think they need to invert him a little bit more and let him do some of the things he did late last season and put a lot of pressure on opposing teams' defenses.
They'll shuffle things around. They have a really good first midfield with Cole and [senior Henry] West. I think we need to see how [senior] Pat Young acclimates to Maryland. I saw him a couple years ago with UMBC, and he was dominant. So he has the potential to really explode. Do they have that true quarterback? No.
But if you look up and down college lacrosse, there only a couple teams that do. It's a dying breed. There were a lot more way back when lacrosse was different and kids were being developed in high school. Now it's more of the club summer lacrosse, and there are more goal scorers, and kids have better stick skills and are better shooters. But the quarterback is a dying breed. There's a small, small handful in college lacrosse. There's probably five that you can call a true quarterback, and everyone else doesn't have one.
Is there a team that has surprised you by how well it's playing?
All offseason, I was kind of calling for Loyola. They had six one-goal losses a year ago, and they were really close. They added a couple guys back from injury, and this freshman, Pat Spencer, is about as good of a freshman attackman as there is. He fits that quarterback role that a lot of other teams don't have. He's around some really good goal scorers.