Mark Dixon traded his ESPN hat for his Big Ten Network one last week as the analyst for the Big Ten tournament semifinals and final at Byrd Stadium in College Park and then participated in a live online chat for Inside Lacrosse as the 18-team field for the NCAA tournament was unveiled Sunday night. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder will be part of ESPN's broadcast crew for Sunday's first-round game between No. 3 seed North Carolina (12-3) and Colgate (10-5). Here is Part Two of a conversation with Dixon, who can be followed on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse and shared his perspective on the tournament's bracket.
Which first-round game is the toughest?
The toughest first-round game is [No. 8 seed] Cornell-Albany. That's a very tough matchup for the Big Red. Albany doesn't have to travel very far, and they have a good history in the first round. They beat Loyola [Maryland] back in 2007 in the first round, they beat Loyola again last year in the first round. Albany-Cornell is a really tough matchup for the Big Red. I think Hopkins-[No. 7 seed] Virginia is a pick 'em. [The Cavaliers] had that 16-15 overtime game on March 21. I think that's a really intriguing game.
Which first-round game is the easiest?
I don't think there are any easy first-round games. But if you're looking for a matchup where one team may have a decided advantage over the other, I think [No. 4 seed] Denver has a decided advantage over Brown. Denver is such a tough place for travel, it's a tough place to play, and Denver is a team that is really, really good at home.
Which seeded team has the toughest path to the Final Four?
[No. 5 seed] Duke. I think Duke having to go through Denver, at Denver, is difficult, and that's if Duke beats Ohio State. On paper, which Ohio State team is going to show up? Is it going to be the team that beat Denver and the team that beat Maryland the other night? Or is it going to be the team that lost to Notre Dame 9-0 and lost to Rutgers 17-10? If they can control faceoffs, it's all about possession time for the Buckeyes. I love the job [head coach] Nick Myers has done, and they run their system and the kids believe in it. So I think Duke – if they can get past Ohio State – playing Denver in Denver is really, really difficult. Then again, there's a reason why Duke has been to eight straight championship weekends. For North Carolina, I think Colgate is a tough out in the first round. Yale is a very talented team, and [No. 6 seed] Maryland beat the Tar Heels earlier in the season in California.
Which seeded team has the easiest path to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia?
There is no easy path. I wouldn't call it easy. I would call it an advantage. And I just think that Denver, in Denver, is incredibly tough to beat. So not only will Brown have their hands full, but Duke or Ohio State is going to have a very, very difficult task in front of them. It's not the easiest path, but it's the most advantageous path.