In what is quickly becoming college lacrosse's biggest event not called the NCAA Tournament, the 2011 Big City Classic takes place Sunday, April 3rd and features some of the top programs in the nation. 16,000 tickets have been sold to date and its likely they'll break their own attendance record, set last season.
Featuring local schools, national names and traditional powerhouses, the Big City Classic is the perfect chance for the casual lacrosse fan to jump back in to the season. The games will be televised on ESPN3.com and ESPNU, so even if you can't make it out to the New Meadowlands, there's a chance to watch all of the games.
Let's take a quick look at the six teams in action on Sunday and what we can expect from these three match-ups, featuring insight from Matt Glaude at SB Nation's college lacrosse blog College Crosse.
Game 1: Rutgers (5-3) vs. St. John’s (2-6) - 1 p.m. EST, ESPN3.com
This Big East showdown is the "throwaway" game of the trio and to be fair, there isn't too much to get excited about in this game unless you're a fan of either team. The Scarlet Knights have been on the wane recently but are slowly starting to climb their way back into the rankings. St. John's still has a ways to go if they want to compete in the Big East. A really long way.
Here's the short of the long: Rutgers fires away, but simply can't finish the job. It's not like opposing goalies are standing on their head when they play the Scarlet Knights (opposing teams are making saves on about 31 percent of Rutgers' offensive possessions, which is right around the national average). This is, at best, a pedestrian offensive team that doesn't really share the ball all that well and should have pumped more goals in on the pitiful slate of defenses that it has faced thus far.
I'm not sure that this needs a lot of elucidation so I'll boil it down to a super scientific formula: Bad offense + Average defense that's needs to play on the man-down a lot =
. This isn't the worst team in the country, but it's definitely in the bottom-third.
Prediction: Rutgers 7, St. John's 5
Game 2: No. 6 Johns Hopkins (6-2) vs. No. 5 North Carolina (7-2) - 4 p.m. EST, ESPNU
If Rutgers-St. John's is the amuse-bouche, Hopkins-North Carolina is the first course that begins to satisfy your appetite. Hopkins is college lacrosse's Old Dame, winner of nine NCAA Titles and it's original super-power. North Carolina has four National Titles to their name but none since 1991. Both teams are young and coming off impressive wins against other elite teams. The winner in this game cements their spot in the Top 5 and puts their name in the hat for NCAA Tournament first-round bye consideration.
Johns Hopkins is pretty good this year. They may not be national champion good, but they're in the conversation for Memorial Day Weekend good. And after the season that Pietramala went through last year with all that youth, that has to be a relief to all those Blue Jays fans that I would like to karate chop (Ed. Note - He's not a Hopkins fan).
North Carolina has one of the most efficient offenses in the country (the Tarheels are ranked 10th nationally at 33.15 goals per 100 possessions). It is my contention that Nicky Galasso is the hub from which all the nasty North Carolina spokes eminate. As of right now, there are seven 'Heels with double-digit points: Galasso (36), Marcus Holman (23), Thomas Wood (20), Billy Bitter (20), Duncan Hutchins (11), Jimmy Dunster (10), and Pat Foster (10). So, if I want to slow a bunch of the Carolina offense down, I start with giving Galasso a hell of a time. I'd then move on to Bitter and hope to hell that Thomas Wood doesn't play (although Foster has filled in admirably).
Prediction: North Carolina 14, Johns Hopkins 12
No. 1 Syracuse (7-0) vs. No. 3 Duke (8-2) - 6:30 p.m. EST, ESPNU
With the first course done, Syracuse vs. Duke should be the main course and dessert wrapped up into one. You've got the Orange, currently undefeated and No. 1 in the nation as well as the most successful program in the history of the NCAA (11 titles). On the other side is Duke, the defending National Champion and riding a seven-game winning streak into this weekend. This has the chance to be the game of the year, at least until these two meet again in the Final Four (or beyond).
Syracuse is going to do what it needs to do to win. In other words, it doesn't matter that the defensive or offensive efficiency increases or decreases as the pace of play changes; the Orange's overall offensive and defensive efforts will always be (or at least have been) better than their opposition's efforts. That's the big takeaway, I think. Syracuse may want to play fast, but it doesn't have to. On each side of the coin there are trends, but overall, Syracuse is what it is: Undefeated and about three to four goals per 100 possessions better than every team it has played.
Duke is back -- riding high on a seven-game winning streak -- and are bringing their offensive showcase to New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday for the Big City Classic. John Danowski has weathered the storm of losing a ridiculous number of graduating contributors and has on his hands one of the toughest outs in college lacrosse.
Prediction: Syracuse 11, Duke 10