College Lacrosse

Quint Kessenich: Hoops and lax nuggets at the outset of March Madness

March Madness takes center stage this weekend. College lacrosse has eight more weeks of regular-season action before it's own May Madness. Here are some basketball (hoops) and lacrosse (lax) nuggets to help you through the first weekend of March Madness. Hope they help you win your office pool.

Hoops: Kansas is the No. 1 overall seed and will try to make it five straight years that the committee's top team reaches the Final Four.


Lax: Denver (6-0) is ranked No. 1 after a 9-8 overtime victory at Notre Dame on Sunday. The past three games in this rivalry have gone into extra time. The Pioneers, winners of the 2015 national championship, will be tested in the Big East by Marquette, Villanova and Georgetown.

Hoops: The 2015-16 regular season saw the top 10 teams lose a record 74 games before the tournament, the end result being that the four No. 1 seeds this year have combined for a record-setting 23 losses.


Lax: Only four unbeaten teams remain in Division I — Denver, Yale, Brown and Syracuse. Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse Virginia has four losses and North Carolina three. Georgetown is 1-5. Conference play ramps up in late March and April.

Hoops: Maryland guard Melo Trimble shot 28.4 percent from the field in seven February games and his field-goal percentage has dropped each month this season until going up in March.

Lax: Midfielder Henry West is shooting 1-for-26. Last year he scored 20 goals on 18.7% shooting. West was the 12th overall pick by the Florida Launch in the Major League Lacrosse draft in January. He's an exceptional player, but for some reason is mired in a shooting slump. The Terps shoot 27 percent, which ranks 40th in the nation.

Hoops: Maryland shoots 55.7 percent on 2-point attempts, second best in the Big Ten and 10th in the nation. The Terps are the only Big Ten team with five players averaging at least 10 points per game.

Lax: John Tillman's offense lacks a bona fide star. Colin Heacock leads the team with 14 goals after being moved to attack. But his 2.3 goals per game is good for 40th in the country. Teammate Matt Rambo averages 2.7 points per game while Heacock and Bryan Cole both average 2.5. Too often at crunch time Maryland (4-2) doesn't have a go-to guy.

Hoops: North Carolina is the best 2-point shooting team in the ACC and the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference.

Lax: The Heels (4-3) have remaining games with Richmond, Maryland, Duke, Virginia, Syracuse and Notre Dame. Yikes. With losses to UMass and Hofstra already on their resume, ending the year at or above .500 is a prerequisite to the NCAA tournament. The loser of the Virginia-Carolina game might be in a deep hole come Selection Sunday on May 8.

Hoops: It has been 10 years since 11th-seeded George Mason reached the Final Four.


Lax: 2016 is the year of upsets and chaos. Save a dance for Cinderella in May. Yale, Brown, Villanova, Albany, Stony Brook, Towson, Marquette and Richmond hope the glass slipper fits.

Hoops: No Big Ten team has stood on the stage while One Shining Moment is played since Michigan State won the 2000 title. That 15-year drought is tied for the longest in conference history.

Lax: No Ivy League team has won an NCAA lacrosse title since Princeton in 2001. Teams currently in the ACC have won six of the past eight NCAA championships. Surprisingly, right now, the ACC has 10 out-of-conference losses.

Hoops: Virginia allows 59.7 points per game, third fewest in the nation. The Cavaliers allow just 6.7 transition points per game.

Lax: Virginia lacrosse ranks 44th in scoring defense. Goalie Matt Barrett had a .538 save percentage in 2015, but is down to .440 this year. The Wahoos have athletes, but a system that breaks down, lacking communication. Their double teams are inconsistent and their rotational recoveries are often flawed.

Hoops: The Cavs scored 336 points on screen plays this season.


Lax: Virginia is No. 52 in shooting percentage at 25.2 percent, which is an indictment of its offensive patterns and inability to get shots from inside the football hash marks, known as the paint.

Hoops: Michigan State averages 20.6 assists per game, most in the nation.

Lax: Brown leads the nation in assists per game. That's a function of the Bears scoring in transition, on odd-man rushes and with the extra man. Denver is the best passing team I've seen this year. Dizzying ball and people movement usually ends with a slam-dunk or layup from on top of the crease. Denver players use passer-friendly pockets.

Hoops: North Carolina is averaging 41.1 points in the paint per game, the most by a major conference team in the past five seasons. The Tar Heels are 27-1 when scoring more than 30 points in the paint.

Lax: Tar Heels goalie Brian Balkam is making saves at just a 45.4-percent clip. That ranks 56th in the nation.

Hoops: Utah is 12-0 when scoring at least 40 points in the paint and 14-8 when it does not.


Lax: Johns Hopkins is 136-21 under Dave Pietramala when scoring 10 or more goals. The Blue Jays are 35-43 when held under 10. They have made great strides after consecutive losses to Loyola and North Carolina. Freshman Drew Supinski is becoming the main midfield initiator.

Hoops: Syracuse heads into the NCAA tournament having lost three straight games and five of its past six. The Orange employ a 2-3 zone defense 94 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the nation.

Lax: On paper, the Orange are the most impressive lacrosse team in the country ranking No. 1 in clearing and faceoff percentage. Its scoring offense is ranked No. 3 and scoring defense is No. 8. Games aren't won on paper. Goalie Warren Hill (.515 save percentage) has only had to make seven saves per game. Saturday's game against Hopkins is a major step up in class.

Hoops: Oklahoma's Buddy Hield averages 25.0 points per game, second most in the country behind Howard's James Daniel (27.1).

Lax: Syracuse's Dylan Donahue ranks No. 6 in the country in points per game (5.0), chasing No. 1 Dylan Molloy of Brown, who is red hot at 6.6. Brown plays Harvard this weekend.

Hoops: Since losing Amile Jefferson for the season, Duke's top six players have combined for 4,648 of a possible 4,850 minutes (95.8 percent), the highest percentage in Division I in that span.


Lax: Duke senior midfielder Myles Jones scored five goals and added three assists to lead the Blue Devils to a 15-6 victory at Loyola on Saturday. Jones shot 50 percent and Kyle Rowe won 19 of 23 faceoffs. Duke is getting limited production from its bench, relying on Jones, Deemer Class and the starting attack for all its points.

Hoops: St Joseph's 27 wins this season are its second most in a single season in school history. The Hawks won 30 games in 2003-04 on their way to an Elite Eight appearance.

Lax: St. Joseph's (4-2) competes in the Northeast Conference (NEC) and are coached by Taylor Wray. It is a program on the rise. Mike Rastivo, Chris Blewitt, Kevin Reidinger, Kevin Forster and Kyle Cain are the key contributors who've reached double digits in points this season.

Hoops: On Thursday, Yale made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1962.

Lax: The Yale lacrosse team hasn't been to championship weekend since 1990. The Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and their top-ranked scoring defense this spring gives them a shot. Coach Andy Shay has developed a hard-nosed winning culture, but Yale's low strength of schedule will haunt it in the seeding and not maximize improvement and growth. You don't get better playing against scrubs.

Hoops: Since making the 2009 Final Four, Villanova hasn't made it out of the first weekend of the tournament. The Wildcats average 67.9 possessions per game, the slowest pace in the Big East.


Lax: 'Nova plays a high scoring brand of lacrosse, ranking No. 2 in scoring offense behind Brown. Coach Michael Corrado has made over his lineup with transfers, players recovering from 2015 injuries and freshmen. Princeton transfer Jake Froccaro is averaging 4.5 goals per game, the national leader in that category.

Hoops: Maryland coach Mark Turgeon led Wichita State to the Sweet 16 the first time he made the NCAA tournament as a coach. He hasn't seen the second weekend since.

Lax: The Terps lacrosse team is 0-8 in the NCAA finals since it last won gold.

Hoops: Notre Dame turns the ball over on 15 percent of its possessions, second fewest in the ACC. The Fighting Irish commit 15.5 fouls per game, fourth fewest in the nation.

Lax: The Irish defense has ranked in the top five nationally in seven of the past eight years. Defensive coordinator Gerry Byrne does a remarkable job of teaching and implementing a successful system. If Notre Dame's offense can catch up to its defense, the Irish can win their first NCAA title in lacrosse.