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ESPN lacrosse analyst Paul Carcaterra helped cover then-No. 18 Princeton's 16-15 overtime win at then-No. 12 Johns Hopkins on Saturday and then-No. 3 Syracuse's 15-9 victory over then-No. 5 Virginia on Sunday. His next assignment will involve providing commentary for a March 14 meeting between Johns Hopkins and Syracuse in Syracuse. Carcaterra, the former Syracuse midfielder who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, shared his thoughts on the past weekend of college lacrosse.

Were you surprised by then-No. 1 Denver's 12-10 loss to then-No. 4 North Carolina on Friday?

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A little bit. I look at Denver offensively, and the biggest takeaways that I had after watching them against Duke [in a 17-13 win on Feb. 14], I just felt that they had so many offensive weapons and options that it was going to be difficult for any defense to hold them under 15 goals. If you look at [sophomore midfielder] Connor Cannizzaro and his ability to break down defenses and how he has become an elite set-up guy in college lacrosse and with all of those weapons, I was really quite surprised at how well defensively North Carolina did in that matchup. That was the biggest takeaway. I knew that [senior attackman Jimmy] Bitter and [senior midfielder Chad] Tutton and [senior attackman Joey] Sankey and those guys are really quick to produce on their end, but I think Carolina is improved defensively. So it did come as a surprise. I thought going into that game, Denver would the advantage. North Carolina won some critical faceoffs. When Denver steamrolled Duke, [freshman] Trevor Baptiste, their faceoff guy, was a major storyline. Their offense just didn't get the consecutive touches. It felt like they never really got into a flow in terms of making runs in that game.

The loss dropped Denver from No. 1 to No. 4 in the latest Cascade/Maverik media poll. Syracuse, North Carolina and Notre Dame are 1-2-3 in the poll. Which team is your No. 1?

When I look at Syracuse and North Carolina and Notre Dame, you could argue that any of those three teams could be No. 1. It's so close. Do I think Syracuse has earned the spot? I think North Carolina had the best win out of those teams fighting for the No. 1 spot. This early in the season, it's really hard to tell. But I think those are three teams that not only right now, but will be three of the five or six teams that will really have a strong opportunity to make a run at the national title. So getting back to your original question, I really don't have too strong of an opinion on who's No. 1. You could argue for any of those three teams, and I think we're going to get a good picture from Notre Dame. If you look at the stretch they're going to go through in the next few weeks, we're going to learn a lot about them. They play Denver and then Virginia and then the rest of the ACC. So that will sort itself out, but right now, North Carolina has the best win out of all of the three, but I think Syracuse is a little bit more of a complete team from end-to-end than North Carolina.

You watched Syracuse dispose of Virginia. What stood out to you about the Orange?

Lacrosse IQ on the offensive side of things. When they're winning faceoffs – and [sophomore and Holy Cross transfer] Ben Williams was 15-of-19 that afternoon – and you give a really smart offensive team that many opportunities, it's going to be super difficult to beat them. They were so efficient in the past when they weren't winning faceoffs, and they could play with anyone. You could argue that they were one of the better teams in the country a year ago, and when they got to the playoffs, they were the top seed. If you look at what they've done in the past without winning faceoffs and how difficult they were to defend the ball that many times and how efficient they were with guys like [senior attackman] Kevin Rice and [redshirt junior attackman] Dylan Donahue and [senior attackman Randy] Staats and a senior midfield, they're a really smart lacrosse team. I think their IQ is super strong. And defensively, they're good, too. They have a shutdown guy in [redshirt junior] Brandon Mullins, who can erase a team's top option. They're so balanced. This Syracuse team is as balanced as a team that I've seen since 2000. I'm not saying it's their best team, but I just think that from a balance standpoint, the 2000 national title team really had it covered from end to end, and I think this Syracuse team does, too.

What impressed you about Princeton's win at Johns Hopkins?

[Sophomore midfielder] Zach Currier. This kid to me was the story of the game. He took faceoffs [6-of-8], he played wing on the faceoffs, he was good on the defensive end, he scored two goals and three assists. That guy was by far the best player on the field on Saturday, and it wasn't even close. He was everywhere. I can't remember a college lacrosse midfielder at an elite level burning that many minutes. It'd be really interesting to see how much he plays throughout the season because every time I looked, he was on the field. He was all over the field, too. He wasn't just standing out there and holding a spot. He was making plays everywhere – ground balls, assists, breaking defenders down. Zach Currier to me is the biggest surprise in college lacrosse because you didn't really much out of him as a freshman. He came in as a monster recruit. Granted, Princeton didn't make the playoffs last year, but in the games that I watched, I didn't feel like he was an impact player at all. Now it's his sophomore year, and he's standing out like a first-team All-American midfielder. That kid was incredible. I think Princeton now is in a position that when they get these three starters back from injury [junior midfielder Jake Froccaro, junior defenseman Mark Strabo and sophomore long-stick midfielder Will Reynolds], they're going to add some depth to a team that has some skill. Coach [Chris] Bates is in his sixth year, and he has recruited his guys. I think they're going to be an interesting player in the Ivy League. They're better than I thought they would be. And I think Johns Hopkins is a tough team to figure out just from an emotional standpoint with everything that they've been through this season with the death of [freshman defenseman] Jeremy Huber and the emotion and trying to get on track. They're a really skilled team, and they're so well-coached. They're going to be in the mix in their conference. They're never going to be eliminated in the month of March. I think there's a lot of lacrosse left to be played for Johns Hopkins, but this is Coach [Dave] Pietramala's toughest coaching job because of everything else that has happened off the field. But if anyone's up to the task, that's him and them.

Does then-No. 9 Cornell's 16-9 victory over then-No. 7 Albany say more about the Big Red or the Great Danes?

When Cornell lost to Syracuse, that was the second week of February, and the Ivy League didn't let them start practices until Feb. 1. So those guys hardly had any time in terms of full-field practices and getting out there and going through a few weekends of scrimmages. So I think Cornell has some superstars at each position – [senior] Matt Donovan at attack, [senior Connor] Buczek at midfield, [senior] Jordan Stevens on defense. So they have great leadership all over the field. Depth something that really concerns me if I'm a Cornell fan. How good is their second midfield? How can they withstand a run late in the season when the weather warms up? For Albany, they're dealing with a lack of practice time, too. I think [coach] Scott Marr told me they've been on a full field three times this year. The winter has been crippling for them. They don't have an indoor facility. They've had scrimmages and practices postponed and canceled because of the weather. So I don't think you can have a full picture of who even Albany is right now.

There are a number of top-10 games this weekend including No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 4 Denver, No. 7 Cornell at No. 8 Virginia and No. 10 Princeton at No. 9 Maryland. Which game interests you the most?

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There are two of them. I think Notre Dame offensively has the most firepower they've had in Kevin Corrigan's 27 years there. I think this is his best offensive team. [Sophomore] Sergio Perkovic is an animal at the midfield, [junior attackman] Matt Kavanagh is one of the elite players in the country on attack, and freshman [attackman] Mikey Wynne is the perfect complement. He's a right-handed goal scorer, and Kavanagh is a lefty playmaker. I think those guys play so well off of each other. So offensively, I think it's going to be great. I expect it to be a high-scoring game. Denver as I mentioned before just throws so many looks at you because of their personnel. They have eight or nine really legit players who will test that Notre Dame defense. Notre Dame's philosophy is to play within their base system and not to rearrange a game plan based on superstars. So they'll guard Connor Cannizzaro just like they guard someone who was on Dartmouth last week. I think that game is super interesting. It's a great litmus test for Notre Dame. It's their first true test. With Denver beating Duke and playing North Carolina, they've already played some elite teams. So I expect it to be fast and high-paced with some great offense. And the other game is Maryland-Princeton. I think Princeton is coming off a great win against Hopkins, but we're still a little bit slow to go in terms of fully buying in on Princeton. They have the injuries to three starters, but more importantly, they haven't been to a playoff in two years. So you really want to see how they do in consecutive weeks against a power team. Beating Hopkins was certainly a step in the right direction. I think Maryland will present some challenges to Princeton. On the flipside, Maryland is a team that we don't know a ton about either. The losses in graduation and all the transfers they had in the offseason, this is just a different Maryland team. Gone is Cannizzaro, last year's ACC Rookie of the Year. [Attackman] Mike Chanenchuk had the ball in his stick all the time offensively for them. So now you're asking [sophomore attackman] Matt Rambo and [sophomore attackman] Dylan Maltz to be the primary ball controllers on offense, and that hadn't been the case in the past. So I think offensively, it's a new identity. [Goalkeeper NIko] Amato's gone, [long-stick midfielder] Michael Ehrhardt is gone, [senior defenseman] Goran Murray is no longer with the team. So my feeling is this is a completely different Maryland team, and we're going to know a lot more about them in the coming weeks. Princeton gives them a huge test. They couldn't beat an Ivy League school a couple weeks ago in Yale. For Maryland, the jury is still out.

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