ESPN college lacrosse analysts Paul Carcaterra, Mark Dixon, Ryan Flanagan and Quint Kessenich offer their thoughts on the top storylines, players and teams as the start of the 2014 season approaches. ESPNU and ESPN3’s Old Spice College Lacrosse schedule – 29 men’s games – begins Sunday, Feb. 9, pitting No. 9 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Johns Hopkins at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU. The announcing team of Eamon McAnaney, Kessenich and Carcaterra has the call of the game.
Top Storylines Carcaterra
Notre Dame and Syracuse move to the ACC, adding two top-five teams to an already SEC football-like lacrosse league.
Albany and its top-rated offense return the Thompson trio (two brothers and a cousin) and all but 12 percent of team scoring from last year.
New Division I programs in Furman, Boston University, Richmond and Monmouth.
Cornell – which played in Championship Weekend in 2013 – has coach Ben Deluca controversially replaced by Matt Kerwick.
NCAA Championship play-in games.
NCAA Championship expansion – going from 16 to 18 with the play-in games featuring lowest ranked automatic qualifiers.
A Super-conference in the ACC with the addition of Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Duke repeat matching what Syracuse did in 2008 and 2009.
Johns Hopkins and Virginia rebound after not qualifying for the NCAA Championship in 2013.
The four new programs in Boston University, Furman, Monmouth and Richmond.
As athletes become bigger, faster and stronger in lacrosse, injuries are playing more of a role. Will Nicky Galasso be able to finally play for Syracuse and, if so, how does he impact team chemistry? Can Jordan Wolf stay healthy at Duke?
Which offense will be clicking on all cylinders this year? Duke has shown the impact chemistry can have on a team. Once they started to gel offensively last year, they never looked back. The chemistry of the Thompson trio at Albany helped the offense put up record numbers.
Maryland brought in a loaded freshman class and will need to lean on the young guys to have success. Will they deliver?
North Carolina coach Joe Breschi enters his sixth season. Will he finally crack into Championship Weekend play? His recruits are on campus and the team is loaded at attack and midfield. They have a solid young goaltender in Kieran Burke.
School administration has less tolerance for poor behavior by lacrosse programs than ever before. Coupled with today’s heightened media presence, too many off the field issues have been tarnishing the sport’s reputation. It is time for team leaders across the country to hold teammates accountable for behavior on-and-off the field. Clean up the image of the sport and represent the game the right way this season.
Four new programs join the fray with Furman, Boston University, Monmouth and Richmond bringing the men’s Division I total to 67 schools.
Cornell releases highly-successful coach Ben DeLuca in the fall and names Matt Kerwick interim coach.
The ACC dominance with Syracuse and Notre Dame joining the league – the conference is loaded like the SEC in college football. ACC teams comprise six of the top seven spots in the preseason poll.
Rules changes instituted in 2013 sped up the game with more shots, scoring and less down time for substitutions. Referees clamped down on stalling with their modified 30-second shot clock.
Top Projected Players Carcaterra Lyle Thompson, Albany Jordan Wolf, Duke Thomas Schreiber, Princeton Kieran McArdle, St. Johns Wes Berg, Denver
Dixon Thomas Schreiber, Princeton Lyle Thompson, Albany Jordan Wolf, Duke Kieran McArdle, St. Johns Joe Fletcher, Loyola
Flanagan Lyle Thompson, Albany Thomas Schreiber, Princeton Jordan Wolf, Duke Joe Sankey, North Carolina Joe Fletcher, Loyola
Kessenich Lyle Thompson, Albany Tom Schreiber, Princeton Jordan Wolf, Duke Kieran McArdle, St. John’s Wesley Berg, Denver
Top Projected Teams Carcaterra Syracuse North Carolina Duke Denver Notre Dame
Dixon Duke Syracuse Denver North Carolina Princeton
Flanagan Duke Syracuse North Carolina Notre Dame Virginia
Kessenich Syracuse North Carolina Denver Albany Princeton
Teams Playing in Championship Weekend Carcaterra Denver North Carolina Syracuse Duke
Dixon Duke Syracuse North Carolina Princeton
Flanagan Syracuse North Carolina Virginia Notre Dame
Kessenich Syracuse and North Carolina are a step ahead of the rest and strong favorites to win the NCAA title in Baltimore over Memorial Day weekend. Close behind are the usual suspects of Duke, Denver, Virginia, Princeton and Albany.