With Saturday’s picks of Syracuse and Princeton in the books already, it’s time to move on to Sunday’s doubleheader in Annapolis.
It’s basically the ACC tournament, only with Johns Hopkins subbed in for Maryland. Yes, somewhere some idiot is observing that it means there’s a whole lot of blue throughout the stadium. Here’s hoping he isn’t in the postgame press conference to ask about it.
Anyway, time to move away from lousy postseason memories from the past and to weigh in on the final two quarterfinals of the weekend.
No. 1 VIRGINIA vs. No. 8 JOHNS HOPKINS
Virginia will score. That’s a fact of life. And since Hopkins is giving up goals at a rather rapid rate, there’s reason to believe the Cavaliers will score quite a bit.
So that leaves a big question. Can Hopkins score, too? That answer is yes. Can Hopkins score enough? That’s the key to Sunday’s game.
Virginia has a selectively leaky defense – one that has held up well when it wasn’t playing Duke or nursing a big lead against Hopkins or Syracuse. It’ll be that unit that decides the direction of this game.
Prediction: Virginia 13-11. This is not a pick based on most recent impressions; if it was, the Cavaliers would get a much larger spread. But as it stands, Virginia is just a little bit more talented all over the place (other than perhaps goalie).
Virginia has the two veteran attackmen, including one of the best players in the game (Danny Glading). The Cavaliers have the midfield depth. Virginia has the athletes on defense to create transition opportunities.
Hopkins is never to be discounted. But based on each team’s work to date, a two-goal margin in the playoffs sounds right.
No. 3 DUKE vs. No. 6 NORTH CAROLINA
Here we go again with the Triangle rivals, and you can be sure the Tar Heels are tired of losing and losing and losing in this series. But unless Billy Bitter has another eight goals in him, it probably will happen again.
Obviously, the Duke storyline is fascinating because the last two seasons were supposed to be the Blue Devils’ best chances to punch through and win a title. It didn’t happen, but Duke is playing as well as anyone at this stage.
A favored Duke team can lose in the postseason. That’s been demonstrated enough. But it hasn’t happened of late until the final four, and there’s no evidence to suggest North Carolina has the goods to take down the Blue Devils – just yet, anyway.
Prediction: Duke 14-11. Here’s hoping people get their shots in on the Tar Heels now, because they’re going to get back to the final four sooner or later – probably sooner. It’s been 16 years since North Carolina made it to the final weekend, and that streak probably will get extended by another season this weekend.
An upset is possible, though, if North Carolina can win faceoffs and avoid turnovers. Shane Walterhoefer might be the Tar Heels’ best weapon, and his proficiency at the X can greatly neutralize the likes of Ned Crotty and Max Quinzani if the Tar Heels value possession.
If not, it looks like Duke will head off to its fourth final four in five years.