Here we are. After the first season of Big Ten lacrosse we've come to the first Big Ten Conference Tournament. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Who needs the AQ? Well, that's tough to say. Johns Hopkins is 7-6, just beat Maryland, and is....you know...Johns Hopkins. But that resume is still pretty weak. Maryland is safe no matter what happens, but would definitely love to win it to prevent a slide in the seedings. Ohio State looked like a solid Bubble-In team but they just got rocked by Rutgers. Penn State is 5-8. And really, anything can happen this weekend. Johns Hopkins did put in a great performance in a come from behind win vs Maryland...but they've been super inconsistent all year long. They only beat Penn State in 2OT in the regular season. Ohio State had Maryland on the ropes a few weeks ago but Maryland responds well to losses and you'd expect them too again. But with the uncertainty over Charlie Raffa...the Terps could have some problems. It's shaping up to be a very interesting tournament. Let's get to the preview.
How to Watch
When: April 30th-May 2nd
Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park MD.
How: Big Ten Network/BTN2Go
|Seed||Team||Big Ten Record||Big Ten Wins||Big Ten Losses|
|1.||Johns Hopkins||4-1||Maryland, Penn State, Michigan, Rutgers||Ohio State|
|2.||Maryland||4-1||Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Rutgers||
|3.||Ohio State||3-2||Johns Hopkins, Penn State, Michigan||Maryland, Rutgers|
|4.||Penn State||2-3||Michigan, Rutgers||Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Ohio State|
Semi-Final #1: No. 1 Johns Hopkins vs No. 4 Penn State. I don't know what's going to happen.
Johns Hopkins is a weird team. I don't mind saying it: I don't think the Blue Jays are very good. They have exactly one good win. Their defense gives up tons of goals to virtually everyone they play. They don't have good goaltending play. And up until this past weekend their face-off play was pretty poor too. Their offense has maybe a first team All-American, and Wells Stanwick, and some potentially exciting players down the line...but is it amazing? Eh. Problem? They just dropped 15 on the Terrapins of Maryland, they still have dudes because their Hopkins, and they're playing Penn State. They should win this game. Penn State is 5-8, they don't have any particularly great offensive players. They've lost to every good team they've played. But...they've got a very good goalkeeper, they've got a great coach, and play pretty hard. Oh, and Hopkins only beat PSU by one in the regular season. At Homewood...in 2OT.
For Hopkins on offense, the gameplan is pretty simple. Give Ryan Brown the ball, let em sling it, and go from there. In the regular season meeting against the Nittany Lions, Wells Stanwick was the Jays leader with seven points. The more Hopkins gets from Wells, the better they are. Another huge factor in the game will be the play of Hunter Moreland at the face-off X. Against Maryland on Saturday...Moreland was 7-8 on draws in the 4th Quarter. It was make it, take it lacrosse to a tee from the Jays. In the PSU game in the regular season...the Nittany Lions won more draws, 13-12. It feels simple to say, but JHU is a lot better when they have the ball. They don't play super fast, they don't have 3-4, 5 dudes who can get it done on their own. They need the rhythm of consecutive offensive possessions to really get going. If they have the ball a lot they'll be in great shape. If they don't this one could get ineresting.
On the Penn State side of things they'll need another tremendous effort from Connor Darcey in the cage. He saved 54% of shots faced in the regular season tilt including several huge ones late in the ballgame. They'll also have to get the variety of scorers and contributors they received in that game and have often lacked this season. Pat Manley scored four goals in that game, Nick Aponte had four points, to go along with the ever-reliable Mike Sutton's hat-trick. Look for them to employ a slow game as well. They rank 68th in the country in Estimated Pace, and 35th in the country in Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin. They value the opportunities they get and you think would need too. JHU doesn't play fast themselves, only 40th in Estimated Pace, but they have the ability to go up and down the field a lot better.
This game could go a lot of different ways. Despite the fact that Penn State needs more to fall their way if they're to win and they have less talent...they could manage to muck the game up a bit, beat the Blue Jays on the ground - PSU is 33rd in the country in Run of Play GB margin at +0.14, JHU is 51st at -2.55 - and make it a lot closer. Or Hop could open it up, let Ryan Brown shoot bullets into the net and coast home to an easy victory. I get the feeling we'll see the latter. Talent tends to win out in these types of games and there is some form being found by JHU that takes away some of the advantages Penn State could use. I'd look for a comfortable three to four goal win for Hop.
Semi-Final #2: No. 2 Maryland vs No. 3 Ohio State. The rebound game.
There were five minutes left. Ohio State was minutes from maybe the biggest win in school history, which was saying something for a school that's been to quarterfinal weekend twice. A chance to knock off a Top 5 Maryland team and move to 4-0 in Big Ten play. Win a share of the Big Ten regular season title when they were picked to finish 3rd behind two powerhouses. And then it all came apart. Four goals in 4:30 later, and then a goal in OT...and Maryland had stolen one in The Shoe. Now they meet with both teams needing bounce-back efforts. The Terps collapsed this past weekend after holding a 10-9 lead after 3Q's. And Ohio State was blitzed on the road in Rutgers. The stakes are undoubtedly higher for Ohio State. They're a bubble team who needs a quality win and a performance that makes the committee forget about their last five quarters of lacrosse. Maryland's in danger of falling way down the list of seeded teams if they suffer another loss though. And you know they'd want another crack at their arch-rival Johns Hopkins. Two desperate teams can create for some real high-leverage, exciting moments.
Usually in these types of games one of the big factors is who can dictate their style, their pace, and control the game on their terms. But these two teams are pretty similar and generally play in a similar manner. Maryland is 60th in Estimated Pace. Ohio State is 58th. Terps are 27th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. Ohio State is 38th. Both teams assist rates aren't generally high, they run individual type offenses. OSU's Offensive Assist Rate is 17.7, 36th in the land. Maryland's is just 14.7 and 53rd in the country. So no one's really going to be dictating this game because of style. It's going to come down to various teams opposite numbers winning the battles.
I think it's absolutely fair to say that Tom Carey outplayed Kyle Bernlohr a few weeks ago. And it was one of the big reasons for the Buckeyes being able to build a substantial lead in the second half. Carey saved 52% of the shots he faced, Bernlohr saved just 47%. Now OSU was generating more high percentage looks, more high quality looks, but Bernlohr just didn't seem to be seeing the ball well. If Maryland's goaltender - the likely 1st Team All American in net - can make a few more saves in tonight's game it should allow the Terps more offensive opportunities and prevent themselves from getting down three to four goals again.
It's also accurate that Jesse King outplayed Matt Rambo. King had six points, including four goals, one which was a highlight reel one handed shot that was roped into the roof of the net. Rambo kickstarted the comeback, but he only had two points. He's a guy that's got to be impacting the game nearly all the time. Maryland's offense has a lot of balance and that's one of it's good qualities...but #1 needs to be the guy for this team to have lots of success in May. If he can win his individual battle and use all those physical tools...the offense can speed things up a bit and get into a much better rhythm. Which is what King allowed his team to do in the first meeting.
And yes, face-offs are still a big part of things. As mentioned in the preview for the first semi-final...Maryland was 1-8 from the X in the fourth quarter. Hopkins did a particularly good job roughing up Charlie Raffa and he never seemed fully ready out there, even though he got off to a very good start. That also could be part of the fact he hasn't had much game time. When the Terps win face-offs and have more possessions than their opponent - they boast on average a +4 margin in Estimated Opportunities per 60 Minutes; how many possessions and opportunities you have compared to your opponent - they win games. They're so hard to beat. They have a vice grip lock on the game. That wasn't there last Saturday. They looked extremely out of sync. They'll need to win a lot of draws tonight and exert their force on the game.
Maryland's looked shaky the last few weeks. They came through with wins over Loyola, Rutgers, and Ohio State but those weren't vintage or terrific performances. Now with their seed in the Big Barbecue hanging in the balance and coming off a tough loss to their arch-rival...you'd expect them to respond. And that loss to Maryland just two weeks ago looks to have really rattled OSU. But in a game between two teams like this...it's not likely one team can really blow the other out of the water. It comes down to individual battles and who executes their similar gameplans better. Ohio State did that the first go around. But Maryland has more potential in the key areas they didn't do well in and haven't in the last few weeks, and again...talent usually wins out in these situations. It won't be easy, but I think the Terps should get through.
Semi-Final #1: No. 1 Johns Hopkins vs No. 4 Penn State - 5:30 PM, Big Ten Network
Semi-Final #2: No. 2 Maryland vs No. 3 Ohio State - 8 PM, Big Ten Network
Big Ten Tournament Final: Winner of SF #1 vs Winner of SF #2 - 8 PM, Big Ten Network.