Division I Men's Lacrosse Final Four Preview
By Todd McElwee
Lacrosse's annual showcase commences at 2:30 p.m. May 25, when Cornell and No. 7 Duke open championship weekend at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., as part of the NCAA Division I men's semifinals. Top-seeded Syracuse and No. 4 Denver will play the second semifinal game sometime around 5 p.m. Who will emerge to fight for a title May 27 -- and why?
Cornell vs. No. 7 Duke
The Big Red and Blue Devils made it to Philadelphia on different paths. Cornell steamrolled Maryland, 16-8, and Ohio State, 16-6, to earn its championship weekend berth. Duke has eked out a pair of 12-11 victories, defeating Loyola during double overtime and Notre Dame during the final moments.
Duke has to keep the ball away from Cornell's lethal attack combination of Rob Pannell and Steve Mock. The Blue Devils will also need another huge game from faceoff man Brendan Fowler, who claimed 16 of 26 draws against Notre Dame and is 35 of 52 during the NCAA tournament. Thanks largely to the possessions Fowler granted Duke, it has outshot its two NCAA opponents (Loyola and Notre Dame), 104-69.
Duke also needs to play a clean game. Cornell converted two of three extra-man opportunities during the first round against Maryland and scored on its lone power play versus Ohio State.
The Blue Devils allowed four scores on seven Greyhounds power plays and surrendered tallies on all but one of Notre Dame's extra-man opportunities.
The Big Red need to establish themselves from the jump and put Duke away, as they did to Maryland and Ohio State. Cornell is 1-3 during games decided by a single goal and is not as battle tested as the Blue Devils when the game is on the line in the twilight moments.
Prediction: Cornell 13, Duke 11
Denver vs. No. 1 Syracuse
A big question for this game is whether Denver can be the team to make Syracuse pay for its faceoff shortcomings.
Saying the Orange have been dreadful at the X during the NCAA tournament would be too kind. They lost 12 of 17 draws against Yale and 22 of 23 -- yes, you read that correctly -- versus Bryant.
Denver has been slightly more successful, with Chase Carraro winning 17 of 26 draws against the Tar Heels and 39 of 61 overall during its tournament games.
Syracuse must limit Denver's man-up opportunities. The Pioneers were two of five with a man up against North Carolina and three of six the previous week versus Albany.
For two weeks, Syracuse has hung around, suffering through substantial scoring droughts. The Orange didn't score during the second or third quarters against Yale and cannot afford similar dry spells against the Pioneers. Syracuse is accustomed to playing it tight, having gone 6-3 during games decided by a single score. If the Pioneers let Syracuse hang around, it's likely they'll lose.
Prediction: Denver 11, Syracuse 8
Posted May 22, 2013