NCAA Lacrosse Final Four: 10 Burning Questions for Memorial Day Weekend
Another Memorial Day weekend. That means cookouts, an extra day off and oddly enough...lacrosse.
The Men's Lacrosse Final Four is quickly becoming a sports staple on this beautiful spring weekend.
This year, the Final Four returns to Baltimore where four of the nation's best teams are all vying for a shot at a national championship.
Like any major sporting event, there are several questions to be had about the teams, players and issues that affect the event.
It just so happens that these questions are burning.
10. Do Notre Dame Fans Even Care?
Notre Dame has had an awe-inspiring run to the Final Four, beating sixth seeded Princeton and third seeded Maryland.
The University itself boasts one of the greatest fan bases and richest athletic traditions in the country. Just watch the movie "Rudy".
However, Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana—not exactly a lacrosse hotbed. Football and basketball command much of the school's attention and garner the majority of its support.
ND's run has been one of the best in recent tournament history, but their trip to Baltimore begs the question: "Do Fighting Irish fans even care?"
9. Is Duke's Offense for Real?
The Blue Devils offense is led by the best attack unit in the country.
Ned Crotty, Max Quinzani and Zach Howell have lit up the scoreboard this year, and they've been red-hot in the tournament.
Duke smoked both Johns Hopkins and North Carolina en route to the Final Four. Both teams were on the decline heading into the tournament, making their defenses easy targets for Duke's terrific trio.
The Blue Devils get their toughest test all season in Virginia at 6:30pm this afternoon.
We'll see if Crotty, Quinzani and Howell are up to the task.
8. Is the UVA-Duke Game Effectively the National Championship?
The national landscape has been dominated by the ACC all year long.
The conference has been a perpetual power struggle, but no one can disagree that Duke and Virgina are the two ACC teams that deserve to be playing for a National Championship right now.
Notre Dame's run has turned a lot of heads, but I'm not sure everybody's convinced they're a legitimate threat.
Cornell escaped an OT thriller against Loyola in the first round and then easily dispatched an Army team that upset perennial power Syracuse in their opening game.
Whether or not either of these two teams deserve to be here remains to be seen.
The 2010 Final Four is one of those classic "all eyes on one game" semifinals. We'll have to wait until Monday to find out if the national championship game was already played on Saturday.
7. How Big of a Role Will the M&T Bank Stadium Crowd Play?
Over 100,000 people are anticipated to turn out in Baltimore for the Final Four.
NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship Weekend is fast becoming one of the country's premier outdoor sporting events.
The Greater Baltimore Area is also well-known for it's huge lacrosse fan base and passionate supporters.
None of the teams in the Final Four have won a national championship since the event really caught fire about three years ago. The fans there know how much they can rattle a 20-year-old kid who has only played at his private university's small outdoor stadium.
We'll see who has the poise to shine on the big stage.
6. Can Scott Rodgers Go Out With a Bang?
The hulking fifth year senior was arguably the nation's best goalie in 2009.
Heightened expectations caused him to struggle in the early going of the 2010 season, but he's turned it on and been a huge reason why Notre Dame has a shot at the title game.
One of college lacrosse's most recognizable figures was dubbed as the man who was going to put Notre Dame on the lacrosse map two or three years ago.
He has a chance to bring them a National Title this weekend.
5. Can Cornell Avenge Last Year's Heartbreaking Loss?
Syracuse attacker Kenny Nims' circus goal with only seconds left in the 2009 National Championship game closed Cornell's late three goal lead and sent the game into overtime.
Cornell, perhaps still a little shocked from their collapse, watched as Cuse's Cody Jamieson took a pass all alone on the crease, dipping and dunking his way into the history books, giving Syracuse it's second Title in two years.
It was the type of game that could ruin a program, but The Big Red found a way to get back to the promised land.
Syracuse is out of the running, but there is no doubt that Cornell still has a bitter taste in their mouth from 2009.
I've heard the best cure for "National Championship bitterness" is actually winning a national championship.
4. Can Virginia Finally Get Over the Hump?
A National Championship in 2006 gave way to a first round loss in 2007, a 2OT loss in the 2008 and a good old fashioned smackdown in the 2009 Final Four as the one seed.
Virginia's been hands-down the best regular season team the past two years and they have no hardware to show for it.
They're hungry, and most likely pissed.
3. Will Duke Get the Monkey Off Their Back and Win Their First Title?
This is Duke's fourth consecutive Final Four, coincidentally they have zero rings.
The Blue Devils have been playing the best lacrosse in the history of the program these past five years, yet they haven't been able to bring the school its first national championship.
Johns Hopkins has played a huge role in all of this, as they beat Duke in the 2005 and 2007 title games and then again in the 2008 Final Four.
This year Duke got a chance at a little payback, facing Hopkins in the first round.
They beat the Blue Jays 18-5.
2. How Will the George Huguely Case Affect UVA?
Lacrosse faces its first real collision of off the field issues and on the field success in 2010.
In 2006 we saw the Duke rape scandal sweep the nation. However, Duke's season was discontinued and the three players accused were ultimately dismissed.
This year the altercations are all too real.
UVA senior player George Huguely's accused murder of women's lacrosse senior Yeardley Love flooded news mediums this spring and raised questions about the nature and culture of lacrosse as a sport.
Speculation as to if both Virginia teams could compete in the midst of such a tragedy was rampant.
The men's team is now in line for its fifth national championship as one of their own awaits ruling on first degree murder charges.
Media coverage will be hyped for the Final Four and the team will be as exposed as ever.
Hopefully lax will be the main focus of the day.
1. Is 2010 The Beginning of "The Lax Decade"?
Lacrosse has been dubbed as the "nation's fastest growing sport" for what seems like an eternity.
While it hasn't replaced hockey or basketball in the eyes of the nation, undoubtedly it has made progress in leaps and bounds.
In a few hours I'll be able to flip on ESPN and watch the best college teams in the nation have at it, something I could have never done when I first started playing the sport.
Philadelphia and Denver have officially been added to the list of "lacrosse hot beds" in the 2000's and the MLL has survived the worst economic recession since the 80's.
The 2010 Final Four showcases a superb blend of classic powerhouses, teams of recent success, and up and coming teams.
Another record crowd will be turning out in the original mecca of lacrosse for another successful weekend of the NCAA's premier spring sport, and it all eerily seems to be coming full circle.
No one can predict what another decade of lacrosse will hold, but we should be grateful that we get to have a glimpse of "what could be" this afternoon.
Who knows? Maybe the next time Virginia and Duke play each other it'll be on "Monday Night Lax".