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NCAA Preview

3/17/11 12:00 AM

NCAA Preview


There is an exciting weekend of lacrosse ahead in the NCAA with several top 20 matchups and it all gets underway Thursday night with a Tobacco Road clash.

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#8 Duke heads down the road to face #6 North Carolina in what should be an exciting contest. The defending National Champion Blue Devils struggled earlier in the season with losses to Notre Dame and Penn but look to be hitting their stride. Wins over Maryland and Loyola have Duke looking like championship contenders again. The Blue Devils own the nation’s ninth ranked offense, which is led by senior attackman Zach Howell, sixth in the nation with 2.83 goals per game. On the back end, Duke's defense, led by sophomore goalie Dan Wigrizer, has yet to allow an opponent to reach double figures this year. Wigrizer’s .604 save percentage ranks 12thin Division I this year.

UNC has also been on a roll after some early season struggles. The Tar Heels have pulled off four straight wins after a close game with Robert Morris and a loss to Ohio State. Constant attention to senior attackman Billy Bitter has opened up the scoring for freshman Nicky Galasso who leads the team in scoring with 11 goals and 11 assists. If senior goalie Chris Madalon  and the 31stranked defense can control Duke’s high powered offense, Thursday’s game should be quite entertaining.

This game will air live on ESPNU on Thursday night at 7 pm ET.

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The action continues on Saturday as #13 Johns Hopkins heads north to take on #1 Syracuse, live on ESPNU. Johns Hopkins boasts the nation's third ranked defense, holding opponents to just over five goals per game. The Blue Jays are led by sophomore goalie Pierce Bassett who ranks second in the nation with a .633 save percentage. Hopkins’ offense is led by two attackmen, senior Chris Boland, 21 points, and sophomore Zach Palmer, 20 points.

Top ranked Syracuse remains unbeaten on the year with all but one of their wins coming against ranked opponents. The Orange's main strength is its depth. The offense is powered by a number of players including JoJo Marasco, Tim Desko and Steven Keogh while the defense is led by Joel White, John Lade and goalie John Galloway. While Syrcause isn’t ranked in the top ten in either offense or defense, they have the depth and leadership to win the close games. Saturday’s game should come down to Hopkins’ ability to hold Syracuse’s large number of offensive weapons in check.

This game will air live on ESPNU on Saturday night at 6 pm ET.

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Another top 20 clash sees #20 ranked Ohio State head to Virginia to take on the #2 Cavaliers. The Buck Eyes will be looking to rebound after losing to Albany last Saturday. A strong defense has propelled Ohio State to a successful season early on. Freshman goalie Greg Dutton leads a defensive unit that is ranked 10thin the nation, allowing just under seven goals per game. The Ohio State's offense, led by sophomore attack duo Logan Schuss and Jeff Tundo, has struggled at times this year, but will be tasked with keeping pace with the high-powered Virginia attack.

The Cavaliers boast the nation’s second best offense scoring 14.57 goals per game. Virginia’s attack had carried them to a 6-1 record with their only loss to top ranked Syracuse. The Cavaliers are led by sophomore attackmen Steele Stanwick, 27 points, Chris Bocklett, 22 points, and senior midfielder Shamel Bratton, 18 points. Virginia’s defense has struggled at times this year but has come up with big stops when they are needed. Saturday’s match up of Ohio State’s stout defense and Virginia’s explosive offense should provide for a very interesting battle.

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The #4 ranked Hofstra Pride head to Delaware for their first conference game of the season this weekend. Hofstra’s defense, led by goalie Andrew Gvozden, ranks eighth in the nation, allowing six and half goals per game. The Pride’s offense struggled early on in the season but has come around of late behind senior attackmen Jamie Lincoln and Stephen Bentz, 14 points each. Hofstra is currently undefeated but has faced what some consider to be an easy schedule so Saturday’s game should be a tough test.

Delaware has been a very inconsistent team this season as their 4-3 record shows. They have been able to hang around with some top teams such as Albany and Stony Brook but couldn’t close out the victory. The Blue Hens need to get more production out of their senior midfield trio of Kevin Kaminski, John Austin and Nick Elsmo if they are going to be able to keep up with the Pride. Perhaps the first conference game of the season will give those seniors the spark they need to lead Delaware to victory.

Be sure to check back on Monday for a wrap up of all the weekend's action.



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