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Maryland Men's Lacrosse Preview: Terps vs Hopkins

The Greatest Rivalry in College Lacrosse returns. Maryland-Hopkins is back on Saturday night.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

When Maryland joined the Big Ten, it was looked at with a raised eyebrow from lacrosse people. Would Maryland still be able to play some of their old ACC rivals? How could they create rivalries in a league that had next to no tradition? What could the Big Ten do to solve that last question. Answer: Enter Johns Hopkins. Despite all of the memories and terrific games Maryland played against Duke, Carolina, and Virginia there was one rival and one rivalry that meant a little bit more. The rivalry that was THE game on Maryland's schedule every year. Johns Hopkins. The Terps and Blue Jays have faced off 111 times. It was a rivalry that no fan on either side wanted to lose. So the Big Ten did the smart move of adding JHU into the conference as an affiliate member for lacrosse. And so they'll once again meet this season, this time as conference members. The Terps looking to seal a Big Ten Regular Season title, and the Blue Jays looking to beat an old rival and maybe keep hope alive of a spot in the big barbecue.

The last two seasons have seen the Blue Jays inflict quite a lot of punishment on Maryland's defense, primarily through a two man game and feeds to the crease with their attack. The last two years it has been used by Wells Stanwick and Brandon Benn. Stanwick would trade passes with an attackmen behind the cage - in 2013 it was Zach Palmer, in 2014 it was occasionally Ryan Brown - before attacking from Goal Line Extended. His speed and ability to score it himself would draw a defensemen on a slide and therefore leave Benn open. Benn, an incredible inside finisher, would score. Stanwick also took it to the rack himself multiple times, as he's often had the edge athletically over the man guarding him. This kind've style, with the offense initiated down low, has generally been a spot of bother for the Terps. The good news? Brandon Benn graduated last year. And this has seen a change in the Blue Jays style.

Stanwick is still the conductor of this JHU offense, but the best player is undoubtedly Ryan Brown. The guy who holds in my opinion the best shot in college lacrosse has 43 goals on the season, which is good for 6th in the country. He's a pure sniper who will shoot from anywhere and score from anywhere. He's an attackmen who you'll often see pop up anywhere on the field, including the midfield. Maryland had troubles with a guy like that last week - Ohio State's Jesse King - but Brown isn't likely to dodge and feed. He's going to shoot the ball. And while it's great for Hopkins to have that kind of hasn't always been conducive to an all-around efficient Blue Jays offense. Let me share some numbers with you.

  • Hopkins vs Ohio State: 12 goals scored. Eight from Ryan Brown
  • Hopkins vs Rutgers: 9 goals scored, Four from Ryan Brown
  • Hopkins vs Penn State: 11 goals scored, Five from Ryan Brown
In those three games Brown scored over HALF of Johns Hopkins total goals. The offense has very often whittled down to "Brown and five other dudes."  They revamped their offense last season to become a bit more run 'n 'gun and not the defensive powerhouse  that they were in the past. The result? Success. They averaged over a dozen goals per game and had four players score over 30 points. This year they have only four players over 20. And their third leading scorer, Shack Stanwick, had a 1/3rd of his points in the first four games of the season. So while Ryan Brown has often saved the Blue Jays this year...he's perhaps hurt Hopkins with the style they play because of how good he's been. Then again, there's no Brandon Benn on this team. And Maryland fans will be happy for that.

On the Maryland side the key factor is undoubtedly getting off to a fast start. In their last two games the Terps have scored just two goals in the first quarter. They've required a combined 12-7 score in second halves (this includes Jay Carlson's OT tally vs Ohio State). In first quarters all year, Maryland has outscored their opponents 36-20, but this number is misleading. A combined 11 of those goals came against Robert Morris - a team from the Northeast Conference - and Penn State who is 4-8 on the year. Now don't get me wrong. I love the resiliency with this Maryland team and the fact that no lead is too insurmountable for them. But this is a game where they could really use a fast start. Don't let a team who's season really is this game get any sort of momentum.

It's not only been Hopkins' O that's caused problems for the Terps in the last two seasons. Their total goals scored in the last two games? 10. Last year they could hardly get anything going without a man advantage. Seven of those ten came from the midfield. Maryland's attack is often the difference in games. Their two best players, Matt Rambo and Jay Carlson, have to be able to get goals attacking from GLE and inside, which are the most higher percentage shots, to set up space for their snipers - Joe LoCascio and Henry West - to score. There often hasn't been much space for those Terp shooters in games against the Blue Jays lately. The good news? JHU's defense is nowhere near as good this year as they have been in the past. They give up an average of 12 goals per this year, compared to an average of seven in 2013 and 2014.

Maryland is 12-1. Johns Hopkins is 6-6. The Terps defense is a Death Machine, suffocating opponents and spitting out their remains like an anaconda. The Blue Jays give up goals like a leaky faucet that won't stop leaking and keeps dripping as you try to sleep. Maryland's offense isn't great, but it's a balanced unit that gets big goals when need be. Hopkins' offense often turns into just a one man show. One team is going to be a Top 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The other is extremely likely to miss the tournament. And you know what? It doesn't matter one bit. This rivalry does not care for who the better team is. Who's ceiling his higher, who's floor is lower. Who's got more talent. In this rivalry all bets are truly off. It'll be that way Saturday. And that's what makes it the best rivalry in the sport.

The game takes place 8 PM on Big Ten Network. You can also listen on CBS Sports Radio 1300 AM in Baltimore. Live stats are available here: