Yesterday, I previewed the matchups involving the first four seeds in the tournament. Today, it is time to take a look at the last four matchups of the weekend as we near the start of the NCAA tournament.
2013 has been unpredictable to say the least, but in tournament games, few teams take their foot off the gas. With the new rules and increased pace of play, we should see a ton of scoring, and maybe a few upsets.
No. 5 North Carolina vs. Lehigh
North Carolina has been playing outstanding lacrosse as of late, but the Lehigh Mountain Hawks will certainly be a test for the Heels. Lehigh is on a seven-game winning streak, and won the Patriot League tournament in a great game against Bucknell. North Carolina has an extremely deep and talented roster, which bodes well in a year of increased pace of play. Lehigh is 12-4 and a win here would be one of the biggest in school history. Lehigh has the ability to win this game, but I'm afraid the depth of UNC and home field advantage will be the difference in the final few minutes. North Carolina wins a close one 14-11.
No. 6 Maryland vs. Cornell
Cornell is on the road in the first round. I honestly never thought I would say that this year. Cornell is one of the best teams in the country, and they are playing another elite squad in the University of Maryland Terrapins. Both teams have been ranked No. 1 in the polls this year, and the fact they are pitted against each other is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it will be one of the most intense games of the tournament, but a curse in that we must see one of these teams eliminated in the first round. Just two weeks ago, this was probably the most likely National Championship matchup, but in the wild world of college lacrosse, things change by the hour. Rob Pannell and a lethal Cornell attack will be matched up against Niko Amato and a veteran Terrapin defense. This one is the game to watch this weekend, and is almost too tough to call. I think Pannell takes over, Cornell wins it 11-10.
No. 7 Duke vs. Loyola
Another marquee matchup in the first round will take place as Duke hosts Loyola. Loyola is the defending national champion, but fell to Ohio State in the ECAC tournament last weekend. Duke started the year slowly, but has since become one of the hottest teams in the nation. An early ACC tourney exit saw them plummet in the standings, but either way, both of these teams have the ability to make a deep run in the playoffs. I will go with speed and home field advantage on this one, Duke wins 15-12.
No. 8 Penn State vs. Yale
Penn State lost the CAA tournament to Towson, and is lucky to have a home game this weekend. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, they will be facing Ivy League Champion Yale in the first round. Yale had no trouble putting away Princeton in the conference final, and looks to continue their hot streak in Happy Valley this weekend. Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni was a long time Ivy League coach, so he is no stranger to the Bulldogs. He will have his team prepared, but Brandon Mangan and the rest of the Yale offense should win this one on the road. Yale wins 13-7.