Four teams remain in the 2016 NCAA men's NCAA lacrosse tournament, and Maryland faces the most intimidating of those this Saturday against the Brown Bears.
Maryland head coach John Tillman and Brown head coach Lars Tiffany took some time in an NCAA teleconference to reflect on the year, while looking ahead at what's at stake this weekend. The two will meet in Philadelphia at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in a national semifinal, with the winner drawing either North Carolina or Loyola for all the marbles on Monday.
Tillman isn't thinking much about Maryland's 15-game winning streak
No other program comes into the Final Four with more to prove than Maryland does. The culmination of the team's talent as well as the 41-year championship drought has raised the expectations for the Terps- and Tillman as a coach- higher than ever. Tillman's led Maryland three times in five years to the championship match, but fell just short every time.
Recent history certainly doesn't favor Maryland, but Tillman says it doesn't matter.
"Each team is unique," he said. "Each season is unique. We don't look at it based on rankings. It's the team that's hot at the end."
And it's hard to find a hotter team than Tillman's. The Terps haven't lost since Notre Dame beat them on a neutral site, nearly three months ago.
"Somebody mentioned how many games we'd won in a row, and the coaches looked at each other kind of surprised," Tillman said. "We don't judge ourselves on winning and losing. It's about what level you're playing at."
Tillman on Brown:
"Brown is very unique,' he said. "We've played teams that maybe have slight aspects of their style, but no one is fully committed to what they do. It's a unique animal."
The Bears are arguably the best offensive team in the country, averaging nearly 17 goals and 11 assists per game. They play a fast and frantically confusing style of offense, with an abundance of weapons that could be top-guns on any major program.
"They have no weaknesses," Tillman said. "If you take one out, they're still going to be great."
Brown is having one of the best seasons in program history, finishing the regular season 14-2.
Yet Tiffany still considers anything less than a championship a failure.
"Let's not be too content with what we've done," he said. "We've got to keep that chip on our shoulders and think 'We've done nothing yet.'"
Despite the absence of Dylan Molloy, the nation's best attack man with a monstrous 114 points, Tiffany coached the Bears past Navy to reach their first Final Four since 1994.
"Any good coach would say 'we don't have Dylan, so it's next man up.' But the key is that our guys actually believed it," Tiffany said.
Tiffany on Maryland:
"[Maryland] has a combination of extreme skill, with just phenomenal game sense and intelligence."
Tiffany had high praises for his opponent, even throwing in a comparison between Matt Rambo and Malloy. He admits that he accepts his team's turnovers on offense, and pointed out that Maryland is just as dangerous but is patient and methodical with their play style.
"They look like 28-30 year-old pro lacrosse players out there with their decision-making," he said.