Orange Watch: In wide open NCAA tournament, Syracuse looks to knock off No. 1 Maryland

Faceoff Duke Wide
Syracuse's season ended with a loss to Maryland
Faceoff Duke Wide
Syracuse and Maryland meet for the eighth time in NCAA tournament play Saturday in the 2016 quarterfinal round at Providence, R.I.

Item: The No. 2, 4, and 6 seeds have already been ousted following the first round of the 16 team field, with three of the four ACC teams still among the Elite Eight heading into the quarterfinal round this weekend, evidence of the high level, intense, almost even competition among the five teams in the league. Coming off a strong second half that carried it to an opening round win against Albany Sunday night at the Dome, No. 8 seed Syracuse next looks to extend the almost incomprehensible streak of Maryland not winning a national championship since 1975, when the teams face off Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU-ESPN3) in the quarterfinals at Brown Stadium in Providence.

You know there’s something out of kilter when it comes to all the metrics analyzed (and there are many, including a limit to three airplane flights) to determine the annual final seeding/first round game locations of the NCAA Division I lacrosse tournament, when the opposing coach of the team that just suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to end its stellar season questions the process, while simultaniously tipping his hat to his vanquisher and its next foe in the quarterfinal round.

“They did what they (the selection committee) had to do, I guess,” Albany’s 16 year head coach Scott Marr said following the Great Danes season ending so suddenly by a fabulous second half barrage of offense by the Orange to climb out of a four goal deficit and win 11-9. “I’ve been on that committee. It’s (seeding teams) not an easy thing to do, and this year especially with so many wins and losses between teams. (But) that’s a Final Four type matchup (SU and the Terps), you know?”

Yes, these two teams have met in Final Fours before (or the semifinals as it was simply known in 1983), four times to be exact, and even played for the championship in 1995. The last NCAA meeting was a game that Orange Nation would love to forget, 2011’s 6-5 OT quarterfinal loss to UM, played at such a slow pace at Foxborough that it set the game’s reputation back years with the lack of overall field speed and offensive output, and renewed the call for a shot clock, as the No. 8 Terrapins shocked the top seed ‘Cuse.

» Related: Second half rally by Syracuse lacrosse enough to silence Albany

This weekend, back in New England although at a different venue, the roles are reversed. Maryland earned its No. 1 seed with a 13 game winning streak to end the regular season against the strongest strength of schedule, losing only to Yale in February then eight days later to Notre Dame at a neutral site in Costa Mesa, Calif. while sweeping the Big 10.

In its opening round 13-6 NCAA victory Sunday over Quinnipiac, Maryland displayed a strong game at both ends of the field except for limited man-up opportunities, and as with SU standout Ben Williams at the “X,” the Terps start and go with freshman Austin Henningsen who won 14 of 17 draws against Quinnipiac.

Williams’ changing of his stick and aggressive wing play by his teammates off the faceoff whistle helped the Orange win 12 of 19 in the second half to spark the offense against UA, because when the Orange has the ball the scoring wealth is spread around among the attackmen and each middie group (eight players tallied the 11 goals against Albany), and opponents have to pick their poison.

Asked after the Albany win if he and his teammates have to play better against a team the caliber of the No.1 seed with less than a week to prepare, redshirt junior midfielder Sergio Salcido, who’s own individual play this year has brought plenty of smiles to the coaching staff with a team second-best 51 points (28/23), reiterated that at this stage of the season everyone in orange being on the same page, no matter the opponent, trumps all.

“(Maryland’s) a good team; they play a little bit different lacrosse. (But) we’ve just got to focus about us,” Salcido explained. “I don’t think we have to play better per se, I just think we need to capitalize on our opportunities like we’ve been, and mature as the week (of practice) goes on.”

That sounds exactly like the game preparation approach necessary to get Syracuse back to the lax Final Four for the first time since 2013.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.