Mark Dixon served as the analyst for No. 3 Maryland's 13-4 rout of Michigan on the Big Ten Network on Sunday. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder will provide analysis for the network at the Terps' home game against Penn State on Saturday. Dixon, who can be followed on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse, shared his views on the new No. 1 team in Division I, the former No. 1 team, and an area team that has some significant concerns.
What does Saturday's 13-12 overtime win against Syracuse, which dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the latest Cascade/Maverik media poll, mean for newly anointed No. 1 Notre Dame?
Obviously, it's a huge win to beat Syracuse. They lost the regular-season matchup last year, and they got revenge for the [Atlantic Coast Conference] championship, but I think it really shows the shift in identity for that Notre Dame team this year.
I believe they're more of an offensive team than they have ever been in the past. They got out to a big lead, and Notre Dame was able to control some faceoffs. Really, it was [Orange redshirt junior attackman] Dylan Donahue [who scored seven goals] off-ball that was the killer against Notre Dame.
But to show that they still can play some defense – [sophomore goalkeeper] Shane Doss made some big saves in the overtime period – and Notre Dame was able to go down and get the game-winner after a defensive stop. I think it shows a little bit of a shift in identity for Notre Dame.
They're so dynamic offensively with [sophomore midfielder Sergio] Perkovic and [junior attackman Matt] Kavanagh. The one player who has really impressed me is [senior attackman] Conor Doyle [who hails from Towson and graduated from Gilman]. He gets better and better every year, and he's so versatile. He can play behind as the quarterback, he can be a feeder, he can be a scorer, but then you can also run him out of the box, and he's athletic enough and talented enough to run by a short-stick defensive middie.
Obviously, it gives them the No. 1 ranking. So now the No. 1 sign is around their necks and they get to hold onto that for the weekend if not longer.
What does the loss mean for Syracuse?
It just means that there are no more unbeatens in college lacrosse.
I thought going into the game that Notre Dame was going to win. But what I think it shows is there is no quit in Syracuse.
What a difference a capable faceoff man can make in [sophomore] Ben Williams, but I think it also speaks to how Syracuse is so deep and so balanced, and to play Notre Dame that tough without [senior attackman] Randy Staats is a real feather in their caps. So while the loss is disappointing, it just means that they've got one loss on the season and that there are no unbeatens in Division I lacrosse.
I know I put Syracuse No. 2 in my poll this week because I have that much respect for them. You're not going to drop too far when you lose to No. 2 that is now No. 1. Syracuse has earned my respect.
Another important game pitted No. 7 Duke at No. 4 North Carolina, which the Tar Heels won, 15-14. What is the impact for both teams?
I think if you're Carolina, the recent success against Duke is important because that's a series that has been dominated by the Blue Devils ever since John Danowski took over in Durham. I think it also showcases two teams that have some defensive holes.
We know that team defense at Duke is a little suspect, but they've had suspect defenses and goaltending in the past, and they've won national championships. Carolina has got a good defense – or at least their defense is better than it's been the last couple of years. But when you've got Duke and Carolina, that's two of the top five offenses in the game.
And I think it contributes to the trend that we're seeing with increased scoring. All the new rules over the last four or five years have benefited the offense – a wider substitution box, the faster pace of play, no sideline horns. That puts a lot of pressure on defenses, and when you have teams that can play like Duke and Carolina, I just think a lot of offensive talent was on display yesterday, and I'm not surprised at the result.
What did you take away from No. 10 Brown's 10-8 victory at No. 13 Princeton?
I like the fact that even though [junior attackman] Dylan Malloy was handcuffed, Brown had other people step up to get the job done. [Junior attackman] Henry Blynn stepped up with four goals and a real nice game.
I think going into that contest, you might have thought, "OK, this is going to be a shootout just like Carolina-Duke was." I think both goalies stepped up for their respective teams. [Princeton senior Eric] Sanschagrin and [Brown junior Jack] Kelly each had 15 saves for their respective ball clubs. So what I took away from that is Brown is a pretty darn good lacrosse team.
You've kind of been looking at them on paper and saying, "OK, you haven't played the toughest schedule, and you're putting up arcade-type numbers with the offense." But to go into Princeton, they were able to grind out a "defensive" game for Brown statistically, and it was a good game.
The Ivy League this year is interesting. I can't recall a time when you've had two of the more historical teams winless at this stage of the season. Harvard is 0-2 and Penn is 0-3. Normally, this time of year, it's Dartmouth winless at bottom and everybody else has at least one win. We don't have that this year.
Which team made the biggest move in your poll and which team took the biggest fall?
Loyola dropped out of my top 20 because of the loss at home to Colgate. My poll didn't have a ton of movement this week. There wasn't a team that all of a sudden shot up.
If you want to talk about a mover, Albany may have moved up two or three spots. Syracuse only dropped from No. 1 to No. 2. I left Duke as is or at most, dropped them one spot. That's simply because you have to look at the teams that someone could potentially leapfrog or fall behind, and I just didn't think that the top teams that lost deserved a huge drop.
There's not a lot of breathing room right now in the polls. I think the top teams have established themselves. You never know what something is going to bring, but I know that one team that dropped out of my poll is Loyola.
Speaking of Loyola, how worried should that program be?
I think you're worried. The Patriot League right now is being run by Navy, and Navy did enter my top 20 this week. At 5-1, they've got a two-game cushion on the rest of the field. There are a whole bunch of teams that are 3-2, and that's including Army and Loyola.
For Loyola to play at home and come out and not execute the way that you would think, I think there's reason for concern. There are two things that are really plaguing the Greyhounds right now. One is the midfield defense is really suspect. And two is they have no depth of scoring in terms of people coming off the bench.
They are one of the most top-heavy teams in the country. To have a league game at home and lose by seven to Colgate – and take nothing away from the Raiders because that's a good team – I think you're worried.
Between three games of note next weekend in Notre Dame at Duke, North Carolina at No. 8 Virginia, and No. 20 Johns Hopkins at No. 15 Ohio State, is there a game that catches your attention?
All three of them catch my attention. When you talk about Notre Dame and Duke, it's about team defense for the Blue Devils. Are they going to have enough juice to battle Notre Dame?
One player I didn't mention was [Fighting Irish senior midfielder] Nick Ossello. The kid looked like he grew six inches from Friday night to Saturday. He looked huge against Syracuse.
North Carolina-Virginia is always a great game. Depth is my concern with the Cavaliers. They're only using five middies right now, one of which is [junior] Greg Coholan who flip-flops between attack and midfield.
The ACC, with Duke, Carolina and Virginia, those are teams that are going to outscore you, and they can live with 16-15, 15-14. They're not going to play many 9-8, 8-7 games whereas Notre Dame is better suited to play those types of games.
If you want to talk 8-7 lacrosse, Hopkins and Ohio State. I think Hopkins might be a little more explosive offensively, but defensively, Ohio State is one of the top 10 teams in the country. I thought they rebounded nicely after being shut out by Notre Dame with a nice win over Penn State on the road. That's going to be a real black-and-blue type game, and I think it's a critical game because right now, Maryland is the clear-cut favorite in the Big Ten.
If you're Ohio State or Hopkins, you have the opportunity to knock off the Terrapins, but you don't want to drop any games that might put you in potential to either not make the Big Ten tournament or make it as the No. 4 seed and have to face Maryland as the No. 1. So this could be the first of two matchups we will see between Hopkins and Ohio State.