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NCAA Lacrosse: Final Four Preview

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The 2009 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament is heating up!

The remaining teams are headed to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts where Saturday, the Final Four will be played. At noon, be sure to watch Number 3 Duke face off against the Number 2 Syracuse, followed by top-seeded Virginia taking on Number 5 Cornell. The winners will play on Monday to decide who is the national champion.

Here’s my preview of the Final Four…

(2) Syracuse Orange vs. (3) Duke Blue Devils
In my opinion, this is the most evenly matched game in this year’s tournament. Syracuse won the championship last year (over Johns Hopkins), but since then they have seen significant changes in their starting lineup. Their most devastating departure may have been top all-around player Mike Leveille. Additional graduates that have affected the team include the great midfielder Steven Brooks, and the nation’s best face off expert, Danny Brennan. Meanwhile, Duke is red hot coming off a hard fought win over North Carolina (in an amazing 12-11 victory!). In that game, team leader Ned Crotty had two goals and six assists!
My Pick: The Orange had their turn last year. This year, I think the Blue Devils are the better team. After all, they do have the NCAA’s best player in Crotty, who leads the nation with 76 points. He also has a national best 53 assists! If Crotty is playing to the best of his ability, there is no doubt in my mind that Duke will prevail.

(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (5) Cornell Big Red
The Cavs’ road in the NCAA Tournament has been a pretty easy one so far. They crushed Johns Hopkins, 19-8, in the quarterfinals (senior attackman Garrett Billings had four goals and three assists, freshman attackman Steele Stanwick had two goals and five assists, and sophomore midfielder Shamel Brown had five goals). And before that, they easily defeated Villanova, 18-6. Meanwhile, Cornell has played in two close games. Each of their victories (over Princeton and Hofstra) have been by three goals or less.
My Pick: I think that the easy road for Virginia will continue. They possess two of the game’s best in Billings (37 goals, 20 assists) and senior attackman Danny Glading (30 goals, 30 assists). They will step up and lead their team to victory. Although Cornell strong attackmen in freshman Rob Pannell (21 goals, 38 assists) and junior Ryan Hurley (40 goals), Virginia has proven that they are the stronger team. After all, they defeated Cornell 14-10 earlier this year.

The truth is, this year, all four teams have a chance at winning the entire Tournament! This past season, many of these Final Four have faced each other with varying outcomes: Duke defeated Virginia, Syracuse beat Cornell, and Cornell beat Duke. Prepare yourself for a crazy finish to an already crazy year!