Evan Washburn did double duty over the weekend, providing commentary during the NBC Sports Network's telecast of No. 3 Duke's 12-11 decision against Harvard Saturday night and then doing the same for the CBS Sports Network's broadcast of Army's 10-4 upset of No. 16 Colgate on Sunday. The former Delaware defenseman, who can be followed on Twitter via @EvanWashburn, will provide analysis during Friday night's annual showdown between No. 5 Maryland and Navy at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Washburn offered his perspective on the two games he worked, the most shocking result of the weekend, and his picks in the conferences that have automatic qualifiers.
What impressions did you come away with from Duke's win against Harvard and Army's upset of Colgate?
Harvard's got some really good, young players. I think the future's pretty bright for the Crimson. I think Duke came into that game thinking they could take them out in the first quarter because Harvard was coming off an ugly loss [16-7] on Tuesday to [No. 19] Albany, and I had a similar feeling. I thought Duke was going to come in and blow the doors off in the first quarter. But Harvard took those first few punches and Duke just played out of character. It wasn't that they weren't playing fast, but they weren't playing very smart. At the end of the game, they scored three goals over the course of a minute, and I think a big part of that was their faceoff guy, [junior] Brendan Fowler. He's impressive, and at the end of the day, they were just the better team. Army-Colgate was also pretty surprising because I thought the game would be close because they're the exact same team. Each team has got two good attackmen, one good middie, questionable goalie play, and two good defensemen. But Army just won every key matchup. [Senior] Brendan Buckley, the close defenseman for Army, blanked [Colgate senior attackman and 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner Peter] Baum. I think he was on a 54-game point streak, and that was wiped out. He doesn't get the pub of a Durkin or some of the other big-time defensemen, but he did an awesome job. And [sophomore attackman] John Glesener, [senior attackman] Garrett Thul may come up with the big numbers, but John Glesener is the best player on that team. He had five goals and is really an efficient player as a midfielder now playing attack.
Was there a result from the weekend that surprised you?
It's hard to ignore [No. 1] Notre Dame losing to St. John's [12-10]. I knew that St. John's had some talent and that they've been getting better each year, but when you see that score and Notre Dame is at home, that's surprising. Notre Dame's been in all of these close games, and I know that finding a way to win is a positive a lot of times. But when you're in a one-goal game with Rutgers [7-6 on March 24], that is sort of a red flag. That was the biggest result that surprised me. And I think [No. 4] North Carolina is really good. Their goalie, [freshman] Kieran Burke, is starting to play really well. The defense was a question for them, and I know Hopkins played them tight, but I was impressed with the way they played on Wednesday against [No. 14] Brown and then taking care of Hopkins.
Let's go through an exercise where we run through the conferences with automatic qualifiers and you tell me who you think will emerge as the conference tournament champion and why. Let's begin alphabetically with the America East.
I think it's Albany's. Having not seen all of those teams play, it's tough for me to see anyone else. Albany just jumps off the screen when you watch them, and they've been around in a lot of the games that I've been involved with. So I don't see a team being able to match up with all of the weapons they have, and what they throw at you offensively is a nightmare to cover.
Who do you like from the Big East?
I have to go with Notre Dame just because of what they have in personnel and experience. And despite what they showed on Saturday, I think they'll figure out a way. They're too well-coached, too experienced to do anything else.
How about the Colonial Athletic Association?
[No. 19] Hofstra, and that's tough because I'm a Delaware guy. I've been impressed with what Towson has been able to do recently. They've picked up their game from earlier in the season. I was shocked when I saw that they lost to High Point [on Feb. 8], but they've looked better. But with Hofstra, I love the way Seth Tierney coaches, and I like what he's able to do. I think it will come down to them and Drexel, and that's a dogfight. The CAA – and I know this from experience – is a physical conference, but right now, I'd go with Hofstra.
The Eastern College Athletic Conference?
In my opinion, this is the deepest and toughest conference to call. I like [No. 15] Loyola. To me, it comes down to Loyola and [No. 2] Denver. I've got Denver ranked higher than Loyola in my top 20, but I'm just concerned about Denver's defense. When you get to a conference tournament, you've got to play really well in all areas of the field. You can't just have glaring weaknesses. I think Loyola is trending in the right direction, and they're starting to get their personnel back and get their confidence back. Once they get that swagger, I think they'll be able to live up to expectations that came with winning last year.
Who do you like in the Ivy League?
[No. 10] Princeton. I really like Princeton. This is another example where I've got [No. 7] Cornell ranked higher right now because they've shown me more, but I've watched Princeton and my gut tells me right now that the defense looks solid and so does the midfield and the attack, and I like the complete brand that they have. Cornell has that as well. Obviously, [fifth-year senior attackman] Rob Pannell is my Player of the Year, but I love [Tigers junior midfielder] Tommy Schreiber and if he can do some of his things, he might jump Pannell in my book. But that's going to be one of the most intriguing conference tournaments to watch. That and the ECAC are the two deepest and probably the most exciting in terms of what's going to happen in the conference tournament.
How about the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference where Jacksonville and Marist are both 2-0 in league play?
I got to see Jacksonville play early in an event down in Jacksonville, and they played [No. 8] Ohio State really tough. Jacksonville looks good, but Marist is on a roll. I think this is their year. I talked to one of their former players this week, and he said this is the year for them. So I'll go with Marist based off of experience and having been in this situation for a number of years.
The Northeast Conference?
Mount St. Mary's. Let's go with the Mount. They've got a lot of talented players, and when you watched them play against big-time competition like Hopkins earlier in the season, I thought that jumped out. I think this could be their year.
Who do you like in the Patriot League?
I said this yesterday on air, that if you asked me to predict where the Patriot League tournament was going to be, I have no idea. I thought it was a Lehigh-Colgate-Bucknell race, but now I've got to put Army in the mix because they looked so good. But I really do think we're going to be in Bethlehem [the site of Lehigh's campus] for the Patriot League tournament, and I'm going to say that they walk out of there with the title. This is the toughest one for me to pick probably because I'm the most ingrained because of what I have to do each week to prepare. I admire all of those coaches because I think they do a really nice job with their situations. But I think [Mountain Hawks coach] Kevin Cassese has that team playing in a certain way. If he can get them in the mindset over the course of two or three days for that tournament, I like them to walk out as winners.