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Quint Kessenich: Hopkins at Maryland headlines four things to watch this weekend in college lacrosse

Judgment day is near. Conference tournaments start this week in the ACC and Patriot League. This weekend and next go a long way in determining the NCAA bracket. Here are four things to watch this weekend:

Johns Hopkins at Maryland, 8 p.m. Saturday, BTN

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Like Orioles' Opening Day and the Preakness, this annual game is a rite of spring. The Big Ten affiliation has doused kerosene onto this combustible rivalry.

As a player and announcer, I've seen this game take on a life of its own. Strange things happen when there's too much adrenaline in the air. "The team that usually wins this game doesn't have a lot of turnovers or penalties," said Maryland senior Isaiah Davis-Allen. "The team that manages their emotions the best typically limits those categories."

Maryland is the favorite but hasn't beaten Hopkins in College Park since 2001. Southpaw Matt Rambo has 56 points and midfielder Tim Rotanz has scored a hat trick in three straight games.

Maryland (9-3) comes in off an overtime loss at Ohio State. Terps goalie Dan Morris has been inconsistent. Face-offs loom large because both offenses have the advantage. Maryland's Colin Heacock's (ankle) availability and mobility are gigantic. Hopkins' defense down low isn't built to stop both Rambo and Heacock. Few are.

"Our goal is to play better than we did the week before," said Davis-Allen. "We want to clean up some of the mistakes we made against Ohio State and play a complete 60 minutes."

Maryland's defense has to deal with a skilled Hopkins motion offense led by Shack Stanwick. "We have to communicate through picks," said Terps coach John Tillman. "It's important that we know the personnel, try to maintain our match-ups but don't be consumed by them. Everyone has to be on the same page because breakdowns against them will kill you."

Johns Hopkins' (8-4) formula is simple. In wins, they capture 52 percent of the face-offs and score 14.9 goals per game. In losses, those stats shrink to 37 percent of face-off wins and just 7.8 goals per game.

Senior captain John Crawley (20 points) is no stranger to the hostility. "Maryland week, things are different. Attitude, intensity, focus and more than anything, off-the-field conversation has a dramatic shift — everything is about Maryland," said Crawley. "The team that comes out of the gate with the most energy and most intensity ends up finding success."

Crawley now basks in his senior moment. "I just want to worry about playing hard and enjoying my time out on the field with my team. This time of the year every team is playing for more time together. I want to walk off the field knowing that I did what I could to earn that extra time."

Patriot League Tournament

Loyola (8-5) hosts the tournament and faces Holy Cross at 4:30 p.m. Friday. With Patrick Spencer at the controls, the offense is dangerous. Loyola's path is win and advance, or lose and go home. The Crusaders defeated Navy 11-7 on Tuesday in an ugly game.

Army (10-3) battles Boston University in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The Cadets, who have dropped consecutive games to Navy and Loyola, are suddenly shooting blanks. BU (13-3) looked sharp on Tuesday disposing of Lehigh.

Hofstra at Towson, 12 p.m. Saturday, LSN

This is round one of potentially a two-round fight. This game could determine home field for next week's CAA tournament and has NCAA playoff implications.

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With 38 points, Ryan Drenner is Towson's chief threat. The Tigers (7-4) are battle tested. Hofstra (11-1) owns wins over North Carolina and Princeton with a recent setback to Drexel.

"Both teams are fighting for the regular-season championship title," said Towson senior Ryan Drenner. "When we play Hofstra, it's always a playoff atmosphere."

"The stakes are always high when we play Hofstra," said Drenner. "They give us a tough game every time. From our freshman year here [2014], it's been like that. They won the championship that year so we knew they are one of the top dogs in the conference."

The Tigers' strongest unit is their defensive midfield of Zach Goodrich, Tyler Mayes and Jack Adams.

"Saturday is senior day, 11 guys will be graduating that have played major minutes on our field. We need to make sure it isn't our last home game and that the [CAA] Tournament comes to Unitas Stadium," Drenner said.

The Pride shoots 35 percent as a team and has lethal snipers in Josh Byrne (35 goals, 24 assists) and Ryan Tierney (26, 15). Goalie Jack Concannon is one of the finest in the nation. Hofstra struggles to win face-offs with frequency and Towson's Alex Woodall could have an edge. Both teams play hard-nosed defense.

"We pride ourselves on our defense and they have been able to build a top-tier defense," said Hofstra senior Michael Diener. "We have similar playing styles. We respect their playing style because it is like ours. It's going to be a physical, grueling match-up."

ACC Tournament

Duke (11-3) will host in Durham, and Syracuse (11-1) is the top seed by virtue of their four one-goal wins in conference. This tournament is for momentum and NCAA seeding because the ACC doesn't own an automatic qualifier as a five-team league.

History says toss out the seeds — Syracuse won as a No. 4 last year and No. 3 in 2015, and No. 4 Notre Dame won in 2014. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s so pack your second midfield and complement of substitutes.

Syracuse vs. North Carolina, 6 p.m. Friday, ESPNews: The Orange are 8-1 in one-goal games this year. "We've shown composure," said coach John Desko. "I don't sense a frenzy in the huddle late in games."

Orange fans have chewed their fingernails down to the nubs. Nick Mariano and Sergio Salcido are the key catalysts.

Carolina has collapsed in the fourth quarter with a minus 10 scoring margin. The 2016 champs have blown leads to Duke, Syracuse and Notre Dame. The Heels (6-7) are down to their final lifeline, needing to win the ACC tournament to finish at or above .500 and be NCAA at-large eligible.

"Our May is April," said North Carolina coach Joe Breschi. "We've just got to finish. We're now in our NCAA tournament."

Duke vs. Notre Dame, 8:30 p.m. Friday, ESPNews: In regular-season matchups since 2010, Notre Dame is 6-2 against Duke. However, in the six postseason (ACC or NCAA) games played in the same period, Duke is a flawless 6-0. They have been Kryptonite for the Irish.

The Blue Devils (11-3) and Coach John Danowski have won nine of their last 10 games. Justin Guterding (72 points) and Jack Bruckner (40 goals) are the guns. Face-off man Kyle Rowe may be the difference.

Notre Dame has never won an NCAA title. They have a star in midfielder Sergio Perkovic and a proven defensive system led by Garrett Epple and John Sexton. Perkovic is heating up at the right time. Questions linger. Can they win enough face-offs? Is attackman Ryder Garnsey healthy? Will they ever beat Duke in the postseason?

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The ACC final will be held at noon Sunday (ESPNU).

Selection Sunday is May 7 when the NCAA committee releases a 17-team bracket at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.

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