It's as Easy as A-C-C: Which Heavyweight Could Win Men's Lacrosse Title
The 2010 college lacrosse season was dominated by the Atlantic Coast Conference all year long.
With perennial powerhouses like Virginia, Duke, Maryland, and North Carolina tearing up the national landscape, it seemed only defending national champ Syracuse would pose any sort of threat to the ACC party that was sure to take place in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend.
Many a rabid lax bro dreamed of seeing a Big East vs. ACC clash in the Final Four or National Championship, hoping they'd get a chance to see the Orange from the North try and test their luck against one of the swagger-laden teams from the South.
All those potential match-ups will remain just dreams now.
Army pulled off the gargantuan upset over Syracuse on Sunday night, shocking the Orange faithful with a 9-8 double-OT win in the tent of cement.
Now, signs point to an ACC affair in Baltimore. All of the Big Four teams remain alive, and they are hungry as ever for a piece of the National Championship pie.
Of the four ACC teams still dancing, here's how they stack up in order of likelihood to go all the way.
4. Duke Blue Devils
After a 16-12 defeat in the semifinals of the ACC tournament by Virginia, Duke rebounded on Saturday by blowing the doors off of Johns Hopkins in the first round 18-5.
It was just the second win for Duke over the Blue Jays, who previously beat Duke three times in the NCAA tournament, including victories in the Final Four and the National Championship.
It was a promising opening game for the Blue Devils, but don't expect to see them go much further.
Duke is equipped with three assassins at attack: Tewaaraton finalist Ned Crotty, Lowe's Senior Class Award Finalist Max Quinzani, and not-a-finalist-for-anything-but-still-really-good Zach Howell.
Despite their skill on the offensive end, Duke lacks the playmakers in midfield like they were used to having in Shaun O'Hara. Their close defense is also susceptible to breakdowns, especially against formidable ACC offenses.
The Blue Devis now face UNC in the quarterfinals. The Tar Heels handled Duke rather easily in the regular season, defeating their Tobacco Road rivals 13-7.
Look for a similar result this time around.
3. North Carolina Tarheels
This is where it gets dicey.
Undoubtedly, the Tar Heels have been one of the best teams all year long. Attackmen Billy Bitter, Gavin Petracca, and Thomas Wood have shared the wealth on offense, along with a host of scoring options at midfield.
UNC also sported a stout defense this year, led by the long and aggressive tandem of Ryan Flanagan and Mike Jarvis.
UNC sustained two losses this year, one to Maryland and one to Virginia.
Granted, the Tar Heels beat Maryland earlier in the year, but the 'Heels have showed signs of cooling off coming down the stretch.
The Terps dispatched them comfortably 13-5 in the ACC tournament, and UNC has allowed goal totals of 14, 13, 13 and 13 in their last four games, raising questions about their defense.
UNC barely survived a shoot-out with Delaware in the first round. Expect them to defeat Duke again and reach Baltimore, but the future looks grim in the Final Four.
2. Virginia Cavaliers
The best team in the country isn't No. 1 in this slideshow?
Well, there wouldn't be a point in making this slideshow if they were, right?
It's been another banner year for the Cavs, with their only blemish coming in a prime time loss to Duke, but hey, it's the ACC—everyone beats on everyone.
Virginia then rebounded and captured the ACC title. Sophomore Steele Stanwick leads the attack, while the experienced trio of senior Brian Carroll and junior brothers Shamel and Rhamel Bratton control the midfield game.
Virginia also boasts Ken Clausen on defense and standout Adam Ghitelman in goal.
It's basically the same dominant team from years past, but therein lies the problem.
Virgina has lost in the Final Four two years running—in 2008 as the No. 2 seed, and in 2009 as the No. 1 seed. The 2010 team has many of the same players, with many of the same doubts.
The Cavs just have a knack for not showing up to play when it matters most. If their heads are not set in the right place—and with their own campus tragedy they very well might not be—they have a tendency to lose games.
Virginia smoked Mount Saint Mary's in the opening round, and a dangerous Stony Brook team now awaits them in the quarterfinals.
1. Maryland Terrapins
Fear the turtle indeed.
In years past, Maryland always sported a stingy defense coupled with a decent offense that, if they could build a slight lead, could grind out and win games.
The Terps still have goalie Brian Phipps and a strong defense, but it's their offense that has been the big surprise this year. Maryland can now stay with the high-fliers on the scoreboard and come back in games, something that was never in their repertoire.
The boys from College Park avenged a mid-season loss to UNC by smoking them 13-5 in the ACC tournament semifinals.
UVA has been the thorn in their side though, defeating Maryland by one goal in the regular season, then dispatching them 10-6 in the ACC finals.
However, I'm a big believer in the third time being the charm.
Snipers Grant Catalino and Travis Reed make a great team, with bruiser Will Yeatman down on attack. The scoring options are seemingly limitless for the Terps at midfield, and LSM Brian Farrell is a monster in transition. He's the motor that makes this new and dangerous Maryland offense go.
Maryland edged Hofstra by three in their opening round game. Next on the slate is Notre Dame. The Irish surprised a lot of people by downing Princeton, but Army's upending of Syracuse has exposed the Big East.
Look for MD to show just how dominant the ACC is.
Most importantly, the Terps will have the advantage of playing in M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore if they make the Final Four.
The NCAA lacrosse finals has attracted huge crowds in recent years, and Maryland would enjoy having the support of their hometown fans behind them.
Terp diehards would be fired up to watch their boys play on lax's biggest stage at the epicenter of the lacrosse universe, and they won't like those ACC foes trying to come into their house either.