Paul Carcaterra helped ESPNU cover the unveiling of the NCAA tournament Sunday night, and the former Syracuse midfielder will provide analysis for first-round games pitting Johns Hopkins against No. 5 seed Brown on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Navy against No. 4 seed Yale on Sunday at 5:15 p.m. Carcaterra, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, shared some more thoughts on the 18-team field.
Is there a first-round game you are most interested in?
A couple. I'm really interested in seeing Loyola and Duke. I think that's going to be an outstanding game. Those are two teams where at times, they don't play consistently, but when they're on, they're really good and fun to watch. I think Duke beat four teams in the field. Duke has the capability to beat anyone. And with Loyola winning the Patriot League [tournament], with [freshman] Pat Spencer and [senior] Zach Herreweyers, that's one of the best one-two punches in the country. Pat Spencer is clearly the best freshman in the country. I think he's a legitimate contender for first- or second-team All American. He's unbelievable as a quarterback. So I think Duke has to find a way to limit him. It should be a high-scoring game and fun to watch. And I think [No. 5 seed] Brown against Johns Hopkins should be another one. Hopkins is traditionally a talent-rich team. They've had a lot of injuries, but they've battled through and they have a chip on their shoulders because they feel like they belong in this tournament. And with Brown losing in the Ivy League [tournament] semis, they're another team that just plays at hyper speed. They're fun to watch, and this should be a great display of offense up in Rhode Island. I'm excited to watch that one.
Would you say No. 1 seed Maryland has the toughest road to championship weekend in Philadelphia?
I would. Obviously, the first round shouldn't be too difficult for Maryland. But the quarterfinal matchup with [No. 8 seed] Syracuse, absolutely. If someone told you last week that was the national championship game, you wouldn't think that was crazy. So to have those two teams play in the quarterfinals, that's really tough. I think that's going to be the thing that tilts the tournament. I think that game could be the deciding factor on who wins the national championship. I'm not saying one of those teams definitely will, but it's going to be a tough run for Syracuse to deal with Albany, a really good team, and then Maryland and then get to the Final Four. That's a brutal path.
Which team has the easiest path to Philadelphia?
I'd have to say [No. 3 seed] Notre Dame. I look at Notre Dame and I think if you told Notre Dame a month ago that they would have to beat Air Force and [No. 6 seed] Marquette to go to the Final Four, they would take it. Now Marquette has a really tough game against North Carolina, and I think Carolina will be favored. But in terms of seeded teams, Marquette is 6 and Notre Dame is 3, and if they play each other in the quarters, if you're an Irish fan, you've got to like your path. You play Air Force every year in a scrimmage, so you know them. You already beat Marquette in overtime, so I think you've got your team's attention in terms of knowing that it's a good team. As much as I said Marquette might have gone a little higher [than he would have liked], they're still a good lacrosse team. They led the nation in goals-against, and they just play really together. They're a tough team, a super-coached team with Joe Amplo and that staff, but if you're the No. 3 seed in Notre Dame, you have a lot of things set up for you because if you beat Air Force in Round One, you're either playing North Carolina, a team that beat you with seven straight goals and you've got that in terms of getting the kids ready, or you have their attention with Marquette because you only beat them by one in overtime.