The remarkable about-face Syracuse pulled off in the Big East Tournament is enough to make anyone reconsider the Orange potential to win it all. Just a few short weeks ago, we debated whether SU would have a postseason at all on Fizz Radio. Now, The Fizz’s Lacrosse Insiders – Andrew Kanell, play-by-play voice for WAER and The Fizz’s lax beat writer Jake Moskowitz – take their best crack at just how far a re-energized Orange group can go.
- Kanell: Hopkins over Syracuse in the Final Four
It may not be the draw Syracuse itself could have even expected, but it still gives SU a navigable road to a potential 26th Final Four appearance. The players I spoke with all expressed a feeling of surprise, but also excitement, to battle the Blue Devils in a rematch.
This group is confident it can compete with Duke, or for that matter any team in the nation. The Orange was outlasted 12-10 by John Danowski’s squad on April Fool’s Day, but the game still served as a turning point for SU. The team had issues with effort and hustle up until the Big City Classic, but against the Blue Devils finally appeared to play with a winning spirit. The offense just couldn’t find the cage down the stretch.
Late-game problems have disappeared for Syracuse in the meantime, along with its faceoff and man-up difficulties. As a 3-seed, Duke received a raw deal having to face Syracuse in the first-round of the tournament. The momentum SU has is palpable, and the Orange will head down to Durham and grab an upset victory.
It’s tough to get much of a handle on UMass, which enters the tourney undefeated, but without any wins against teams in the field of 16. The Minutemen will stand strong at Garber Field (traditionally a brutal place to play) against Colgate, and move on the face the Orange in the quarterfinals. That will be UMass’s toughest test of the season, and Syracuse’s natural talent and athleticism will be too much for the untested Minutemen to contain. The Orange will head back to the Final Four.
That sets up a potential rematch against Johns Hopkins at Gillette Stadium. The Blue Jays were easily SU’s most impressive opponent to watch in-person. They can get up and down the field with Syracuse, and the Jays play terrific defense. Hopkins will end SU’s postseason run.
- Mosk: Duke over Syracuse in First Round
SU has impressed everyone with its tremendous turnaround to win the Big East Tourney. However, those were wins over Villanova and St. Johns. Even if both victories were dominant, there is an entire echelon between the best game Villanova can play and an average showing from an elite team like Hopkins, or in this case, Duke.
The Blue Devils present the stiffest test of any team in the field for SU. Unfortunately, that test is also the first. Duke has elite talent on every line. Starting with the face-off X, C.J. Costabile has mastered the art of using the longpole to win possession. It will be tough for even a red-hot Ricky Buhr or Brian Megill to best him at the X. From there, Duke sports one of the best single-threat attackers in the nation in Jordan Wolf. JW is Coach John Danowski’s go-to attacker, and Wolf will give freshman-goalie Bobby Wardwell plenty of tough shots to stop.
Since Duke will likely win the possession battle (barring a freak injury to Costabile), the Blue Devils will have the ball on offense constantly. The tuned-up Orange scorers will be waiting for feeds they’ll seldom get. SU’s defense will hold out, playing inspired lacrosse for 45 minutes, but fatigue will beat Megill & Co in the 4th, giving the Dookies a late win.
With question marks everywhere to begin the year, and needing a late surge in the Big East Tournament, just making the NCAAs is an accomplishment for SU. That said, high expectations set by program make it hard not to be disappointed with anything short of a Final Four. Desko’s squad doesn’t have the raw talent to bring back a 12th championship this year, but it does have a quickly maturing group complimented by a few top end recruits that will claw at the title for the next few seasons.
Posted: Jake Moskowitz