March 31, 2014

McAnaney: ACC's Strength Isn't Hurting Them; Impact Games

by Eamon McAnaney | | Twitter

North Carolina's win over Johns Hopkins Saturday was nice, but it may say more about the Blue Jays' status right now. (John Strohsacker/

During the television broadcast of Champion Challenge from Florida in January, ESPNU showed the preseason top 10 and Paul Carcaterra, Quint Kessenich and I debated whether or not all six ACC teams would be able to remain in the top-10 and make the postseason.

As we get ready to turn the calendar to April all six are still there and I think on their way to the postseason. It's not that I think all of them are that much better than the rest of the country but by playing each other and high-quality non-conference opponents a high RPI is built into their tournament resumes.

What also is helping the ACC is inconsistent play across the rest of the country. Last year the ECAC sent three teams while the Ivy, Big East and CAA each had a pair qualify for the field. As of now the Ivy might be a two-team league and I think the other three leagues are all one-bid leagues. Upsets of conference tournament favorite could make ACC team No. 6 sweat a bit but it really looks to me like all are in good shape.

As for now, here's look back at the games that had the most significant impact on the landscape:

Brown 11, Princeton 10

This one is really tough to figure out and really puts the Tigers on life support. Their only way in to the NCAA tournament will be winning the Ivy League postseason, but with games left against Dartmouth and Harvard, Princeton is far from a lock to finish in the top four in the league and even make that tournament.

Penn 6, Yale 5

This one was huge for the Quakers to get off the schneid in league play and the effort started on the defensive end. I don't care what the conditions are, you are doing something right to hold a team with Brandon Mangan and Conrad Oberbeck to five goals.

"The biggest thing was we got back to our fundamentals on D," Penn coach Mike Murphy said. "It was the best team defense we played all year. Maxx Meyer is our QB and Matt McMahon did a good job on Mangan and Reid Tudor did the same on Oberbeck. To make that team earn their goals is a pretty good effort."

Syracuse 11, Notre Dame 10

No doubt you have to give a game ball to Chris Daddio and the maligned faceoff game for Syracuse in this one. After being embarrassed by Duke and Brendan Fowler a week earlier, Daddio and his wingmen won 15 of 24 against Liam O'Connor. The Cuse also needed a late goal from Kevin Rice and a key stop on Matt Kavanagh by Brandon Mullins to get its first ACC league win.

North Carolina 13, Johns Hopkins 9

Speaking of faceoffs, RG Keenan regained his All-American form just in time for the Tar Heels to turn this game around in the second half.

"We felt this was a good matchup for him and we were kind of lucky that even though the stats were so one-sided we were still close at the half," North Carolina coach Joe Breschi said.

After losing 13 of 14 faceoffs to Drew Kennedy, UNC turned that around in the third quarter winning 4 of 6 and Keenan even scored off one late in the quarter.

"Look, RG is a former All-American so we need him and we told him that at the half and it was good to see him get in a rhythm and develop some confidence," Breschi said.

This result is more meaningful for Johns Hopkins, however, as the thin ice they are skating on is starting to crack. I don't think you can ask for a worse matchup right now for the Blue Jays than an Albany team that I feel can play this game Friday night with house money because their only way into the playoffs is the America East AQ.

Maryland 9, Virginia 6

Maryland coach John Tillman told me last week that he wanted his young team to play with confidence and play loose against Virginia. Well, the Terps were anything but in a sloppy first half in College Park.

"I thought maybe we were a little too amped up early and tried to force things and jam the ball into small openings. We had to be more patient and make them play more defense and try not to take the first opportunity we saw," Tillman said afterwards. A key switch by the Maryland staff was moving freshman Connor Cannizzaro to attack in anticipation of Virginia double poling the midfield.

"He had been playing well for us and we had to come up with a way to get him on the field more," Tillman said.

Cannizzaro responded with two Goals and an assist while sophomore midfielder Henry West had a career day with three goals and two assists.

My Top 20

1. Loyola (9-1)
2. Cornell (9-0)
3. Maryland (8-1)
4. Duke (9-2)
5. Denver (8-2)
6. North Carolina (8-2)
7. Syracuse (5-3)
8. Notre Dame (4-3)
9. Virginia (8-3)
10. Johns Hopkins (5-3)
11. Bryant (8-2)
12. UMass (7-2)
13. Fairfield (7-2)
14. Penn (4-3)
15. Albany (4-4)
16. Yale (4-3)
17. Hofstra (6-3)
18. St. John's (6-3)
19. Princeton (4-4)
20. Colagte (7-3)

Eamon McAnaney is an ESPN lacrosse announcer and former Notre Dame lacrosse captain. Check back to for more commentary throughout the college season. For a list of upcoming ESPN and other lacrosse broadcasts, visit

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