May 19, 2014

McAnaney: Quarterfinal Thoughts from the Booth

by Eamon McAnaney | | Twitter | May Madness Home

Zach Miller is among multiple threats on offense for Denver, which remained patient and composed in Sunday's quarterfinal against Drexel. (Kevin P. Tucker)

ESPN lacrosse announcer and Lacrosse Magazine contributor Eamon McAnaney called all four NCAA Division I men's lacrosse quarterfinals this weekend. Here's his take on what transpired.

Albany vs. Notre Dame instant classic

I doubt I was the only person who left Shuart Stadium at Hofstra in the early evening Saturday saying to themselves, "I just witnessed one of the greatest sporting events of my life." Saturday's second game had it all and if you don't believe me just do a twitter search and you will find more than a handful of tweets echoing this sentiment...‏

The full house atmosphere was tremendous and there is no doubt the place was packed because the Magical Mystery Tour brought its show off-Broadway. The Thompson trio and then the entire Albany team fed off the crowd. Yes, I was guilty of putting the Great Danes into championship weekend early but the wave of momentum for Albany was so strong when Doug Eich and Matthew Bertrams delivered back-to-back transition goals with 11:49 left that there just didn't seem to be any way Notre Dame would be able to get back in it down by five.

Then even after a break sparked the Irish to pull within one the lacrosse gods delivered a cruel twist of fate when the Domers were denied on the doorstep three times, only to see Ryan Feuerstein go the other way and score. Ninety-nine times out of 100 that's a dagger goal but Liam O'Connor kept winning faceoffs and the Irish kept making plays.

You can win games with talent. You can win games with a game plan. Then you can win games with stones. Notre Dame has talent and the coaches plan to jump into the 10-man ride was a huge adjustment but trust me Notre Dame won that game with stones.

It's too bad for the sport of lacrosse that this game happened in the quarterfinal round because if it was played on Memorial Day, Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith would be screaming at each other about it today.

The emergence of Myles Jones

For the first two rounds of the tournament the face of college lacrosse was Lyle Thompson and Albany. Come 3:30 Monday afternoon it very may well be Duke sophomore Myles Jones. I don't think it's hyperbole to say we're watching the emergence of the next Paul Rabil. Rabil was a more complete player his first two years at Hopkins than Jones is right now but Jones is closing the gap rapidly.

He's bigger and stronger than anyone guarding him but he has also developed a feel for the game that is allowing him to set up teammates when the defenses bring the kitchen sink on slides. Plus, hie shot is cooking with gas and accuracy from both hands. Bill Tierney is a defensive genius but other than sneaking Von Miller into a Pioneer uniform I am not sure how Denver can plan for this matchup nightmare.

Jekyl and Hyde Maryland

While I was preparing for last week's first game I did a double take at Maryland's record because I did not feel they were being given the respect that a team that went 12-3 and won the ACC regular season deserves. I understand that sometimes the Terps can look like they are stuck in quicksand and they were more than on the ropes against Cornell. But on Saturday the Terps went out and showed just how complete a team they are.

Maryland has the best goalie in the country and Niko Amato and experience on the big stage. They have the best faceoff man in the country right now in Charlie Raffa and when Mike Chanenchuk is healthy he can stretch the defense to allow space for the baby turtles at attack.

The Terps were somewhat of an afterthought on Selection Sunday as the No. 7 seed but here they are again in championship weekend for the third time in four years.

Denver total package on O

Denver put on an offensive clinic Sunday against Drexel. As Quint Kessenich pointed out in the broadcast the stick skills of all six players are so high that the Pioneers can sling it around quicker than the defense can recover. Then you combine that skill level with the offensive mind of assistant coach Matt Brown and it's almost unstoppable.

I am well aware that the phrase "timer on" is a lightning rod in the lacrosse world but how the officials allow Denver to operate offensively will be a huge part of Saturday's semifinal game against Duke. The Pioneers don't really create unforced errors and they are so patient that they are either getting slam dunks or forcing the defense to foul. That's not a good combination for Duke's athletic but aggressive defense.

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