Quarterfinal picks: Part I

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A 6-2 record in the first round was about right. At least the misses came on the one upset of the first round (Maryland over Notre Dame) and one of the two legitimately close games on the weekend (North Carolina over UMBC).

Now the bluebloods come out to play this weekend, which means there aren’t many picks that would be stunning one way or another.

That said, the top four seeds weren’t seriously threatened last weekend. And while there’s a scare or two out there, it very easily could be a Virginia-Syracuse-Duke-Princeton final four.

Onto the picks for Saturday’s quarterfinals at Hofstra, with predictions for Sunday’s games at Navy coming tomorrow morning on the blog.

No. 2 SYRACUSE vs. MARYLAND

Here’s your quirky Maryland-related stat of the day: Since 2003, the Terps are 25-3 against teams they hadn’t played the year before.

Those losses came to Princeton (in the 2004 quarterfinals), Dartmouth (2005 regular season) and Massachusetts (in the 2006 semifinals). So it isn’t like Maryland is bulletproof in the postseason, though 8-2 in the NCAA tournament doesn’t stink, either.

But there surely is some truth to the idea coach Dave Cottle is best served not seeing a team too familiar with his schemes. And Syracuse, which scrimmaged Maryland earlier this decade but hasn’t played the Terps in a real game since 1997, is not terribly familiar with Cottle’s team.

Syracuse is an exceptional offensive team, but the Orange could be had. Of course, any evaluation of Syracuse needs to be updated with a nod to Cody Jamieson, who was cleared to play just a few weeks ago. He scored three goals in the first-round defeat of Siena.

Prediction: Syracuse 12-10. If Maryland can keep Syracuse to 10 goals or less, it has a legitimate chance to spring the upset. If the Terps cannot do so, they’re probably not going to win.

The unfamiliarity issue has a way of, at least temporarily, giving some life to offensive players. Not only could the likes of Grant Catalino and Will Yeatman get helped by this, but also Dan Groot and Jeremy Sieverts and Jeff Reynolds. Maryland needs an early leads, some patience and few turnovers. A track meet doesn’t suit the Terps, but knowing Syracuse they’ll have to deal with a fast pace at some point.

No. 4 PRINCETON vs. No. 5 CORNELL

Time to dispense with any sort of needless prattle. Cornell can win faceoffs, possesses its typically strong attack and has a do-everything midfielder in Max Seibald.

Princeton is strong all over the place, but probably needs to have a better faceoff day to reach its first final four since 2004.

On the surface, things look pretty even. But the man on the Tigers sideline has a fistful (plus one) of championship rings. And the preparation that earned him those baubles should be quite useful now that Princeton is again a title contender.

Prediction: Princeton 11-9. Cornell got the first game between the teams because it won faceoff after faceoff after faceoff. And that’s how the Big Red can win again. But the Tigers should be better off at the X (things went that badly the first time) and have played well in big-stage games (against Hopkins at M&T Bank Stadium and against Syracuse at the Meadowlands) throughout the season. Look for another strong day from midfielder Mark Kovler as Princeton moves on.

Patrick Stevens

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