Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 1 Notre Dame (Men)
After making it to Memorial Day weekend in three of the past four years, but returning home without a trophy each time, could i t finally be the year of the Irish?
They have the talent necessary to make a run for the championship, including first-team All-Americans Matt Kavanagh, Sergio Perkovic and Matt Landis.
Notre Dame at a Glance
2015 Record: 12-3
3 Big Things
1. Is this finally the year?
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
There are a plethora of figures (like scoring offense or man-up offense) to display Notre Dame's offensive improvement in recent years, but the uptick in shooting percentage points to the shot selection of players like Kavanagh and Mikey Wynne.
Notre Dame has reached Memorial Day weekend three of the last four seasons, but has returned to South Bend with no trophies. The last four NCAA champions have had to go through the Irish, outscoring them by a total of six goals. Now, they hope it's their turn.
Notre Dame returns first-team All-Americans at each of the three field positions in attackman Matt Kavanagh, midfielder Sergio Perkovic and defenseman Matt Landis. You could make a case for any of the three being the best player in the country at his position. Add that with an already potent attack and an experienced defense, and the Irish seem ready to break through.
2. Kavanagh returns healthy and hungry.
Matt Kavanagh took a slight step back from his school-record 75-point season in 2014 with just 52 points last year. But the dip can be partially pinned on nagging injuries (a stress reaction in his pelvis and a torn glute muscle) that plagued the Tewaaraton finalist down the stretch of the season and into the NCAA tournament.
Kavanagh had offseason surgery and Notre Dame was careful to monitor his usage in the fall. He enters the season fifth on Notre Dame's all-time points list (175) and should easily reach at least second. "He will do whatever you ask him to do whenever you ask him to do it," Corrigan said. "He never has any other agenda other than 'How can we be more successful?'"
3. The schedule offers few breathers.
A trip through Notre Dame's schedule offers not only a dangerous course for the Irish but also a who's who of the lacrosse world. Seven different teams have reached the NCAA championship game in the last six years. Notre Dame is one, and the Irish play five others (Denver, Maryland, Duke, Syracuse and Virginia). That doesn't include 2015 NCAA quarterfinalist North Carolina, Big East finalist Georgetown and Patriot League finalist Army. After the brutal regular-season slate, the Irish enter the ACC tournament and then likely the NCAA tournament. "I don't think anybody has a better schedule than we do," Corrigan said.
Shane Doss (Jr.) *
* returning starters
He's the motor that powers the Notre Dame offense, racking up 52 points (27 goals, 25 assists) last season on his way to becoming a Tewaaraton finalist.
The flashy finisher and Under Armour All-American from New Hampshire took a post-grad year at Phillips Andover, putting up 47 goals and 46 assists last season. "He's very creative, intuitive in the way he plays the game," Corrigan said.
Collins arrived a semester late last year but now seems poised to claim a prominent spot in the midfield after a strong fall on the offensive side of the ball.
Biggest Question Mark
Sure, there's Perkovic. But Nick Ossello, Jim Marlatt, Will Corrigan and Jack Near combined to play in 252 games over the last four seasons. "You're looking at some deep holes there," Corrigan said. Young midfield lines will be tested.
There's no question Notre Dame junior Sergio Perkovic will lead the midfield, but is there the necessary depth to make a run for an NCAA title? (Marc Piscotty)
What rival coaches say about the Fighting Irish
"Kavanagh, Perkovic and Landis are all arguably the best at their positions and have plenty around them as well. If they can be better at the face off and be consistent in goal, they are as good as anyone."
"Talent on all ends of the field. Should be a very dangerous team and one that continues to get playoff experience. Losing Doyle to graduation is a much bigger loss than people think. Everyone wants to talk about Kavanagh and albeit he is a great player but Doyle did a lot for them on offense either taking pressure off of Kavanagh or if teams focused on Kavanagh being the guy to break people down. You know they will be good defensively and have some talented pieces in the midfield. They got away with a revolving door at the faceoff X last year. Can they continue to get away with that?"
"They have all the tools. Need to win on Memorial Day in 2016 because they lose some real charismatic personalities this spring."
"The best coaching staff in the nation; such an incredible duo with Corrigan and Byrnes. Gerry is the best defensive coordinator in the country, from the recruitment phase through graduation. The identification and development of high-level defensemen makes it a factory like Penn State used to be Linebacker U. This team is definitely in the final four again, but I see a loss prior to the title game. Landis can shut down just about anyone and Sergio Perkovic only needs to be told the game is a must-win situation and he will rise to the occasion."
"Notre Dame has enough back to be dangerous."
"Phenomenal. You know defensively they're going to be great. Gerry Byrne is a wizard. Second, they've got studs, one at attack and one on midfield. [Perkovic], the last couple years in the final four has taken games over. He's proved he's an awesome players in the big games. Kavanagh is a senior and one of those guys who will be revved up for his senior year and play great. They have all the pieces and I picked them No. 1 in our conference."
"Kavanagh's a first team All-American. He's really hard to cover. Wynne as a freshman last year played as well as any freshman attacker in the country. Perkovic, I don't know if there's anyone as strong and dominating in the midfield as him, and he has a great outside shot."
"Gerry Byrne plays great team defense and they are a hard group to beat. We spend as much time as we can getting our offense ready for their defensive tendencies. They're just good individual defenders and a good system."
Times in the past 10 years Notre Dame has returned all three of its defenseman plus its goalie. This year, Matt Landis, Garrett Epple and Edwin Glazener man the close defense while Shane Doss figures to be in the cage.
* at Atlanta, Ga.
April 10 vs. Duke
These two teams know each other very well. In the last six seasons, they have played just once (Notre Dame is 5-6), and this one will have national ramifications.
Notre Dame honored the late Bob Kemp (father of All-American Irish goalies Joey and John Kemp) with the inaugural Bob Kemp Lacrosse Classic in Washington, D.C., in the fall. The team scrimmaged Navy and hosted a networking event that raised money for the Washington Jesuit Academy.
Talent? Check. Experience? Check. Motivation? Check. Notre Dame has all the tools to make a deep tournament run possible, including perhaps its first national championship.
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