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Q&A with ESPN/Big Ten Network men's lacrosse analyst Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon continues to be a busy lacrosse analyst. He was part of the ESPN broadcast crew for No. 20 Yale's 16-13 win at No. 17 Princeton on Friday and the Lax Sports Network team for No. 6 Denver's 12-11 decision over No. 15 Towson on Saturday. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder will call play by play for women's lacrosse games between No. 3 Florida at No. 1 Maryland on Wednesday and Ohio State at No. 5 Penn State on Saturday and then provide analysis for the men's lacrosse contest of No. 5 Ohio State at No. 2 Penn State on Sunday.

Dixon, who can be followed on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse, shared his thoughts on Rutgers' fall from the top of the Inside Lacrosse media poll, Penn State as his top-ranked team, and North Carolina's exit from his Top 20.

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What was the most significant result of the past weekend?

There are three results that jumped out at me. No. 1 is [No. 10] Rutgers losing to Delaware [13-9] on the road. They were No. 1 for the first time ever, and they went to Delaware, and it's not like Rutgers played poorly. The goalie for Delaware was great in the first half, and he made saves. Rutgers will play the same way whether they're down by four goals or up by one, and that is pedal to the metal and full throttle. So the Rutgers loss to Delaware was surprising. The other game that jumped out was Bucknell beating Loyola [Maryland]. This is the third one-goal loss for the Greyhounds, and I think aside from [No. 7] Army, you're thinking, 'OK, Loyola is going to challenge for the Patriot League championship.' You get to league play, and you expect them to put it into high drive. So I think that really puts a lot of pressure on Loyola. And the other one that jumped out to me is the game that I called on Friday with Yale versus Princeton. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to watch the both of them live. Yale is obviously off to the disappointing start with a young team and some injuries that they're dealing with, and Princeton is one of the most improved teams – if not the most improved team – from a year ago with a high-octane offense and a great freshman in [attackman] Michael Sowers. To watch Yale not only beat Princeton at home, but also respond a couple of times because Princeton is not a team that just goes away, that stood out to me.

Rutgers' loss might compel some to think that the team was not a legitimate holder of the No. 1 ranking. Would you agree or disagree?

I think the first thing is, anything is possible as we've seen in 2017 in college lacrosse. Anyone can beat anyone at any given moment. And Delaware is 7-3. They're not weak by any stretch of the imagination. I think they caught Rutgers. Rutgers ran into a hot goalie. [Freshman] Matt DeLuca made 19 saves, and 11 of them were in the first half. So he set the tone. It's like the Loyola-Georgetown game in the middle of last week where [junior goalkeeper] Nick Marrocco from Georgetown was incredibly hot, and Loyola was able to figure him out enough to escape with a one-goal win at home. Rutgers is for real, trust me. They are a very good team offensively with [freshman attackman] Kieran Mullins and [junior attackman] Jules Heningburg and a really good midfield with [redshirt sophomore] Casey Rose and [senior] Jeff George. But I think the thing that really separates Rutgers from a year ago is the development and maturation of their defense. [Junior] Michael Rexrode, [senior] Chris Groel, and [junior] Alex Bronzo, they give support to that offense to allow them to play the way they want to play. [Sophomore] Kyle Pless at long-stick midfield is excellent, and they have two terrific short-stick D-middies in [redshirt junior] Christian Mazzone and [junior] Christian Scarpello. And then they've got [junior] Max Edelmann, who I think is a very good goalie. Edelmann had a bad day. He only made five saves against Delaware. So Delaware got the hot goalie play, and Rutgers didn't. But Rutgers is for real.

Who do you have as your No. 1 team?

I've got [No. 2] Penn State No. 1. I've had Penn State No. 1 for two weeks, but the No. 1 ranking has been a revolving door, and I don't expect Penn State to go undefeated in the Big Ten. I don't think anybody will go undefeated in the Big Ten. I think if there's one team that might earn that, it might be [No. 9] Maryland based on what games are at home and what games are on the road with their schedule. But right now, I've got Penn State No. 1. But that's a tenuous position. They've got [No. 5] Ohio State this weekend, a Buckeyes team coming off a loss to [No. 1] Notre Dame, which was their first loss of the season. So that's a slippery slope, but as a lacrosse fan, that's what you appreciate and like about the sport.

What should we make of six overtime games on Saturday and one more on Sunday?

I think it's just a situation where you take it for what it's worth. You saw [No. 13] Johns Hopkins come back against [No. 14] Virginia, and then Virginia came back against Hopkins to tie it, and then Hopkins was able to get the game-winner [18-17 in overtime]. The [No. 4] Syracuse-[No. 12] Duke game was incredibly interesting. I don't know how Syracuse continues to live like they do. On paper, this is not a great Syracuse team, but that's why games are not played on paper. This is not Dungeons & Dragons. You get out there and you play on the field. Syracuse has been able to make plays late to win games. That was their fifth one-goal win of the season. I think it's just more of the case that these teams are good and talented, and it's never over. It's never over in a sport where you have a faceoff after a goal is scored, and each team has an equal opportunity to get the ball back, and once you get into a groove and a rhythm, anything is possible. So I think there's just not much separation between the teams this year. You still have your elite programs, but what is elite? Is it because they have Top 5 recruiting classes? Is it because they've got history? Is it because they've got NCAA championships or tournament appearances? I don't know. All I know is the walls are starting to come down between the elite and the middle of the pack, and it just seems like everybody is in the middle of the pack right now with a couple programs ahead of the others.

In your poll, which team moved up the most and which team dropped off the most?

If you listen to my podcast on Wednesdays for Inside Lacrosse with Dan Flynn, I spend about 10 minutes on my poll every Sunday night. I put a lot of thought into it, but I don't put too much thought into it, if you know what I mean. So I dropped [No. 18] North Carolina out of the Top 20. I had them at No. 14 last week, and I had them drop out. Are they a Top 20 team at the end of the year? Most likely, but they have four losses, and they've been hammered at home twice by Hopkins and then Maryland. And actually, all of their losses were at home with [No. 11] Richmond and [No. 3] Hofstra. The biggest gainer was I moved Yale up from No. 20 to No. 14.

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