McAnaney: Syracuse lacrosse the favorite heading into NCAA Tournament

Faceoff Duke Wide

Syracuse has a huge advantage with Ben Williams

Eamon McAnaney is an on-air host, a play-by-play announcer and reporter for SNY and ESPN. He has also spent time at MSG Network, NBA TV and TNT Sports. Prior to his journalism career, McAnaney was a four-year letter winner at Notre Dame and captain in 1991 on men’s lacrosse as a defenseman.

McAnaney will be calling this Sunday’s Syracuse-Bryant game on ESPNU, and we sat down with him to break down Syracuse’s chances in the NCAA lacrosse tournament.

The Juice Online: What do you think about Syracuse lacrosse heading into the tourney?

Eamon McAnaney: I think there as good as any team right now and they have the X-factor in the faceoff game, Ben Williams. I’m surprised they didn’t get the one-seed. I know they lost to Notre Dame in the regular season on the road, but they have a stronger body of work. They got two wins in the ACC Tournament and they avenged their one loss to North Carolina. They’re rock solid. I look at their draw, and I think compared to Notre Dame, they got the easier draw despite being the number two seed. They may play Bryant, and I know there are some bad memories there, but in the next round, Virginia and Johns Hopkins, they’re two teams that Syracuse won against already. Then you get a third game against North Carolina in the national semifinals, another team Syracuse has beaten. So I expect Syracuse to be playing for the National Championship.

» Related: Syracuse named No. 2 seed for NCAA Tournament

TJO: Who else besides Syracuse has a chance to win it all?

EM: I still think Notre Dame is rock-solid, but they have a tougher draw. You could get a Towson team that’s been ranked in the top 20 this season. You could play Albany in the second round and there’s that ‘wow’ factor with Lyle Thompson. That’s a tougher game to manage and there’s more unpredictability. In the next round, you have a Denver team that’s already beaten you, or a Duke team that’s already beaten you, most likely. I think the top five teams can win it. A couple of weeks ago, I thought it was four teams, but I think you put Duke back in the mix. But I think the top two seeds are the favorites right now.

TJO: Outside of the top 5, are there any dark-horse teams that you see?

EM: Albany. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. If it’s Notre Dame and Albany in the second round, it’s going to be a tremendous matchup and a tremendous build-up to that game. Albany has the best player in the country, and there isn’t that psyche-out factor. Notre Dame isn’t unbeaten and Albany can pull off the upset. I’m not surprised if it’s all chalk in the brackets, but Albany is really the only one outside of that top five that I think could sneak into championship weekend.

TJO: Who do you see winning it all?

EM: I think you have to give Syracuse an edge over Notre Dame because of the faceoff game. Ben Williams is a difference maker. I think Notre Dame is struggling in the faceoff game right now. They’ve done a good job of managing it. It wasn’t a factor in South Bend, but Syracuse has the advantage. I think both teams have veterans on defense and they have talent on offense. Both teams have goalies that when they’re hot, they’re really good. But I think I give the edge to Syracuse right now because of the faceoff game.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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