Simmons: Albany’s Inconsistency, Hopkins Uphill Schedule, Games for Next Week

Inconsistent Albany

If you can figure out what is going on with the Albany Great Danes, feel free to let me know. They play Syracuse into overtime, drop a dud against Drexel, have a good win against Harvard, stomp all over UMass, and then they follow that win up with a loss to Bryant. This Albany team seems like it is all over the place and simply not focused. In every game except for their overtime matchup with Syracuse, Albany goalie Blaze Riorden has had to make at least 15 saves. He is first in the country in saves per game and 12th in save percentage yet the Albany goalie is 51st in goals against average. That indicates his defense is hanging him out to dry. The kid is seeing more shots than just about anyone in the country, he has a very good save percentage, and yet he is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to goals against average. In my opinion he has kept them competitive in most games.

Even if you don’t know much about college lacrosse, many have heard of the Thompson trio at Albany. Last week they received national coverage with their front-page article in the New York Times. If you didn’t read it, check it out, it talks about how momentous a decision it was for these three to leave Onondaga County and go to Albany over Syracuse. Lyle Thompson is the nation’s assists per game leader while Miles Thompson is the leader in goals per game. Lyle is first and Miles is second when it comes to points per game, and even still Ty has 14 goals on the season to round out that starting attack. The three Thompsons have put together 79 goals, 50 assists and 129 points overall. What is crazy, is that considering their weak end of season schedule, it is not absurd to think that combined, the three of them could break the single season team record for goals, assists and points (the record is currently: 304, 200, 481, respectively). However, the problem is not at attack. With a .361 faceoff win percentage, there are only five teams worse than the Great Danes. They don’t create turnovers, their clearing game is mediocre at best, and they have a very poor groundball game.

Albany will not receive an at-large bid, but they should be able to win their conference.


Hopkins schedule back loaded

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the SU-John’s Hopkins game on Saturday you missed out on a classic rivalry game between these two old-guard powers. Hopkins never led after their 1-0 start, and the ‘Cuse took the win 12-10. Hopkins has problems. The Syracuse defense locked down their crease, forcing the Blue Jays to take long-range shots, something that they haven’t had to resort to all year. If it hadn’t been for Syracuse’s self sabotaging mistakes, the fact that any team who plays the Orange starts every faceoff with the ball and Ryan Brown’s unbelievable day, Hopkins doesn’t come close in that game.

The Blue Jays’ 5-1 record is very respectable, but think back to 2013. Last year Hopkins found themselves holding the very same 5-1 record. However, the Jays went on to finish the season at 9-5 and miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1971. Will this season be any different?

There is no question this year’s squad has improved, but take a look at the backend of their schedule. JHU takes on UVA, UNC, Albany, Maryland, Mount St. Mary’s, Navy, Villanova, and Loyola. First off, with this tough remaining schedule the Mount St. Mary’s, Navy, and Villanova games become must wins.

Hopkins has a very competent defense, but will not be able to shut down the UVA, Loyola, and UNC offenses. I see JHU losing two of those games. I would add Albany to that initial group of big offenses, but you never know what you are going to get from the Great Danes. Albany has a high scoring attack, but has so many accompanying weaknesses all over the rest of the field. Hopkins should be able to beat Albany. Maryland on the other hand has one of the best defenses in the country, but doesn’t have the same options that say a UVA does. I think the Terps are better and will probably end up with the win. So that leaves us with a potential 10-4 record with possible quality wins over UNC and Albany. Does Hopkins get in with that record? Probably not. To make the Tournament I believe Hopkins will need to get at least six wins of their final eight games. That means beating the Mount, Navy, Nova, Albany, and at least two of their games against Loyola, UNC, UVA and Maryland. It is definitely possible, as UVA and UNC have both shown weaknesses recently.

Games of the week for next week

Maryland at UNC 3/22, ESPNU

Last week UNC had a good game against Duke, but couldn’t take the Blue Devils down. This week they take on Harvard before facing Maryland on Saturday. UNC is 5-2 but is 0-2 in ACC play and desperately need an in conference win. Maryland’s defense is one of the best in the country with excellent long poles and allowing just 6.33 goals against them which is good enough for third in Division I. They give up the second fewest turnovers per game, are second in clearing percentage and pick up the most groundballs in the country. In net the Terps have senior Niko Amato, who nationally is fourth in goals against average and sixth in save percentage. The kid has been about as good as could be asked of him. Offensively they rely on Matt Rambo and Mike Chanenchuk. Raffa has a .598 faceoff win percentage and Chanenchuk is eighth in the country for goals per game.

Hopkins at UVA 3/22, ESPNU

Both these teams look suddenly weak. UVA had a very hot start and those wins against Loyola and Syracuse will end up helping them greatly at the end of the season. Sunday Virginia got absolutely destroyed by Notre Dame in a rare indoor game in South Bend. UVA had mistake after mistake as the game finished with a 9-3 Notre Dame run. As for Hopkins, they need a big bounce back win. If it were not for Ryan Brown, Hopkins would not have had much of a performance against Syracuse, not to mention that SU basically gave the Blue Jays two open netters.

Penn State vs. Albany

Penn State is basically an independent this year, as they cannot win the Colonial League’s AQ. After losing to Denver and UMass in back to back games last week, essentially the Nittany Lions need to either win-out or something close to that. This is the biggest matchup on the schedule for PSU and they need to win it. Albany has an incredible first line attack and a very good goalie, but otherwise might be the most inconsistent team in the country; I am not really sure how you put up 25 goals on UMass while only tallying 13 on Drexel.

Syracuse at Duke 3/23, ESPNU

We saw the fireworks that ensued when these two played their first in-conference basketball game, hopefully we see the same kind of excitement with their first ACC lacrosse matchup. Duke has had problems in net all season. Against UNC there were still some goals I didn’t like, but it was still a huge improvement over their Loyola game. On offense, Jordan Wolf is top 20 in goals and points per game in the country. In the Blue Devils’ OT win over UNC Wolf walked away with four goals and an assist, including the unassisted game winner. Syracuse is coming off their biggest win of the season. They have the momentum and they need to keep rolling. Against Hopkins they were able to prove to themselves that they could win so long as they got the ball in their offense’s hands. Forget the faceoff game, SU needs to focus on clears, groundballs, defense, and getting their offense the ball.