Syracuse (12-2) will host Marist (14-3) on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Carrier Dome in the NCAA Tournament. The Red Foxes won their first NCAA Tournament game in program history on Wednesday, defeating Bryant 10-6. How will Syracuse fare in the 2015 tourney? Our panel at The Juice Online weighed in:
Dan Brannigan: This is the year Syracuse captures its 12th national title, its first since 2009. This is the team that proves the Orange still are the preeminent program in the ever-changing college lacrosse landscape. I’ve believed it from day one of spring practice, and I’m sticking to it. The team (12-2) lost two games, both on the road, by a combined three goals. It avenged one of those losses, the 17-15 setback at North Carolina, by beating the Tar Heels 9-8 in the ACC tournament.
As the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Syracuse may get the chance to face the No. 3 Tar Heels again before a possible rematch in the title game against No. 1 Notre Dame, which beat Syracuse 13-12 in double overtime. On a neutral field, I believe Syracuse has the edge, and it all starts at the faceoff X. Sophomore Ben Williams has been a relief—a revelation—after years of faceoff frustration, earning 67.6 percent of his draws, good for second best in the country. His success gives the Orange’s potent attack and deep, talented midfield possessions it didn’t have in previous years. It also means Syracuse can rally out of any deficits it may face this postseason.
Brad Bierman: Call it the NCAA Tournament of regular season rematches for the No. 2 seed Orange. After Syracuse disposes of stubborn Marist 15-9 in the Dome Sunday night (thanks to the Red Foxes play-in game victory at home over Bryant Wednesday night to prevent yet another rematch from last season’s embarrassing loss to Bryant), SU will meet Johns Hopkins in the second quarterfinal game at Annapolis (following North Carolina-Yale) on May 17. SU, which beat the Jays by three in the Dome March 14, will hold on against a JHU blitz at the end to win this time 15-13 and advance to Philadelphia and the Final Four.
The semi-final matchup with North Carolina ends a best two-out-of-three, season-long dual with the Tar Heels. As was the case in the ACC semi-final April 24, a couple of late goals, one by UNC transfer Nicky Galasso, provide enough of a margin in a 13-12 victory. After Denver edges Notre Dame in the other semifinal, it sets the stage for another Bill Tierney-coached team playing Syracuse for the title, another rematch of sorts, the teams having met as recently as the 2013 semifinals on the same field. As Tierney seeks his record-breaking seventh national title (six at Princeton) to surpass SU legend Roy Simmons Jr., while simultaneously denying John Desko his own record-tying sixth crown, instead it’s the Orange that wins yet another, tense, possession-by-possession post season game on a goal by, who else, Kevin Rice, with 0:23 to play, and the subsequent faceoff by Ben Williams to ice a thrilling 11-10 title clincher, win number 12 for the Syracuse trophy case.
Wesley Cheng: Despite Syracuse being the No. 2 seed this year, I think they have an easier route to the Championship Game than No. 1 seed Notre Dame. All due respect to Marist, but they just won their first tournament game in school history, while Syracuse is one of the blue-chip programs in the history of the NCAA. SU dodges the bullet of having to face a Bryant team that upended them last year. That will likely lead to a matchup against Virginia or Johns Hopkins, two teams Syracuse has already played—and beaten— this season. A tricky matchup looms in the National Semifinal against North Carolina, a team that SU lost to earlier in the year, and then squeaked by in the ACC Tournament. I could see the Orange’s season ending here, but I’m going to predict a spot in the Title Game for SU.
On the other side of the bracket, Notre Dame will likely need to go through either Duke or Denver to make it to the National Championship game. These are two teams that have already beaten the Fighting Irish this season, and my dark horse team, Albany, potentially awaits Notre Dame in the second round. I actually see either Duke or Denver emerging from this field to play SU in the finals. Either team will provide an exciting matchup for the 2015 National Championship, but SU will overcome them all. I’m calling No. 12 now.