Big Ten Lacrosse Tournament 2015: Johns Hopkins, Maryland Enter as Teams to Beat

Samuel Benson@@sambbensonContributor IIIApril 30, 2015

Casey Ikeda, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, will lead Maryland.
Casey Ikeda, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, will lead Maryland.Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — While the Baltimore riots are stealing the national spotlight, another—and much more welcome—event will quietly take place 30 miles to the south. 

The 2015 Big Ten Men's Lacrosse Tournament will feature some of the nation's top programs, beginning on Thursday at Byrd Stadium. The two teams to beat, though, are undoubtedly Johns Hopkins and Maryland, who are coming off of a heated head-to-head rivalry clash last weekend.

While Hopkins snapped Maryland's 11-game winning streak last Saturday, beating the Terps for a second time won't be easy. The two teams could be poised for a rematch in the championship game, and it will undoubtedly be an intriguing matchup.

FOXBORO, MA - MAY 24:  Kevin Huntley #24 of the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays runs by Tucker Virtue #38 of the Duke Blue Devils during NCAA Lacrosse Semifinals at Gillette Stadium on May 24, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The final score was 12-11. (Photo by J
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

But before any hope of a rematch can be entertained, both teams have to go through tough first-round contests.

Top-seeded Johns Hopkins faces Penn State on Thursday (5:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) in the first round. The Nittany Lions took Hopkins to double overtime two weeks ago and are surely hungry for a rematch.

Penn State is not a team that should be taken lightly by any means. Goalie Connor Darcey is among the nation's best, and the rest of the team is focused to get revenge on the Blue Jays.

“Guys are ready to play the game (against Johns Hopkins) because they love the game,” said Penn State caption Kyle Zittel, via The Daily Collegian. “Thinking about a loss and ending our season is not in the back of our heads. Guys are just excited to have another opportunity and one that’s historic.”

As tough as Hopkins' first-round matchup is, Maryland's may be even more so. The Terps play Ohio State on Thursday (8 p.m., BTN), which handed Hopkins its only conference loss this season and may be the Big Ten's most underrated team.

The Buckeyes dropped an overtime game to Maryland earlier this month, despite leading for the better part of three quarters. If any team aside from the Terps and the Blue Jays has a shot at the championship, it's Ohio State.

So, although a rematch between Johns Hopkins and Maryland is what all non-Buckeye and Nittany Lion fans want, it may not occur. It's been the year of the underdogs in conference tournaments, and the Big Ten may be no different.

If you're cheering for the favorites, keep doing so—but don't be shocked if we get an upset champion.

 Samuel Benson is a college lacrosse Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Contact him at bensonsamb@gmail.com.

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