This look at the Big East conference to this point of the men's lacrosse season is going to double as our preview for Marquette's first league game of 2016, so let's get to the fine details related to that real quick before we do anything else.
Big East Game #1: vs Georgetown (1-7)
When: Saturday, March 26, 2016, at noon Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: FS1 will have the television broadcast, and it'll be streamed on Fox Sports Go, too. Live stats will be here.
Special Promotions: 1st 300 fans get a free MU Lacrosse shirt!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax
We move onwards into team profiles. For each team, you'll see their name, along with their record and current RPI, via Lax Power. There's also their stat leaders in scoring, faceoffs, and goaltending. After that is their best win and worst loss of the season, based on those self same RPI numbers. A reminder on the RPI rankings: There are only 70 teams playing Division 1 lacrosse this season, so 35 is the midway point, a far cry from the #175 mid-point for college basketball.
Denver (7-0, #1)
Cascade/Maverik Rank: #1
Goals Leader: Connor Cannizzaro, 18
Assists Leader: Connor Cannizzaro & Tyler Pace, 12
Points Leader: Connor Cannizzaro, 30
Faceoffs: Trevor Baptiste, 68.6%
Goalie: Alex Ready - 8.47 GAA; .514 SV%
Best Win: at #8 Notre Dame, 9-8 (OT)
The defending Big East and NCAA champions have now won 20 straight games. Their last loss was just over a year ago, on the road against a Ohio State team that was receiving votes in the top 20 at the time. They're tops in the RPI and tops in the Cascade/Maverik poll. They've already beaten three teams that were ranked at the time of the game, plus two more that were earning votes in the polls. They're sixth in the country in goals per game and a not shabby 16th in the country in goals allowed per game.
Oh, and they're doing this after losing the Big East's Attacker of the Year from last season, the starting goalie, and three other seniors that were named to either the All-Big East First or Second Team at the end of last season. Going with a freshman goalie in net this season? SURE THING! That'll work out just fine for the head coach Bill Tierney and the Pios.
I could probably go on and on and on for another 200 words about Denver, but I'm afraid I'll run out of superlatives. They were a scary team last year when they won the national championship, and even after losing all those pieces, they're still scary as hell. Six different players are averaging a goal per game or more, with five of them already breaking into double digit totals on the season. Four of those goal scorers average at least an assist per game.
On top of all of that, they've got Baptiste. No one has taken more faceoffs in the country than the sophomore from Denville, NJ, and no one has won as many as he as, either.
Georgetown (1-7, #44)
Goals Leader: Daniel Bucaro, 13
Assists Leader: Daniel Bucaro & Peter Conley, 9
Points Leader: Daniel Bucaro, 22
Faceoffs: Peter Tagliaferri, 37.2%
Goalie: Nick Marrocco - 11.39 GAA; .491 SV%
Only Win: at #34 Hofstra, 11-6
Worst Loss: vs #42 Hobart, 10-9
Georgetown was ranked #14 in the country in the preseason Cascade/Maverik poll. So, yeah, this has been one long disappointment. Losing on a neutral field against Notre Dame? No big deal. At a quality Towson squad? Not great, but hey, things happen. Home to Mount St. Mary's? DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER. The Hoyas pulled out of the tailspin with a road W against a Hofstra team that was ranked #8 in the country at the time..... and now they've lost thier last four games.
In fairness to Georgetown, the last two were against ranked teams. Unfortunately, you can't look the other way when you're losing to Fairfield and Hobart at home before getting drilled 20-6 by Duke on the road. To provide some context, Marquette lost 19-3 at home to Duke in the final game of MU's very first season as a D1 program.
On Wednesday, Georgetown played their third straight game without all-Big East midfielder Peter Conley, who will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury. It's the second straight season that an injury has wiped out a promising season for the New York native. You''ll notice that even though he has missed three straight games, Conley is still tied for the team lead in assists, which gives you an idea of what kind of firepower they're missing. He's still fourth on the team in goals and second in points, too. I'd say that his injury helps explain why this season has gone down the tubes for the Hoyas, but they were 1-4 with him in the lineup.
Marquette (5-1, #12)
Goals Leader: Ryan McNamara, 17
Assists Leader: Conor Gately & Andy DeMichiei, 7
Points Leader: Ryan McNamara & Conor Gately, 20
Faceoffs: Zachary Melillo, 67.0%
Goalie: Jimmy Danaher - 6.67 GAA; .519 SV%
Best Win: at #20 Richmond, 7-2
Only Loss: at #25 Ohio State, 12-8
The Golden Eagles are primed to punch their way into the NCAA tournament in just their fourth season as a Division 1 team. That RPI is sparkling, they have a legitimate threat at the X to maintain control of the game, and the defense is anchored by two preseason All-Americans in B.J. Grill and Liam Byrnes.
Thus the three questions: 1) Can the offense hold up without All-Big East midfielder Kyle Whitlow, who is lost for the season with a knee injury? 2) Can they avoid a major letdown loss like last year's defeat at Bellarmine? 3) Can they snag at least one win out of the machete wielding death circle that makes up four of their final seven games: Villanova, at Notre Dame, at Duke, and at Denver? MU has just one win in 12 games in program history against those squads. If they want consideration for an at-large bid to the Big Barbecue, then they have to get at least one win out of those four.
Providence (5-3, #38)
Goals Leader: Will Mazzone, 20
Assists Leader: Will Mazzone, 13
Points Leader: Will Mazzone, 33
Faceoffs: Alex George, 41.4%
Goalie: Tate Boyce - 9.50 GAA; .558 SV%
Best Win: vs #34 Hofstra, 12-7
Worst Loss: vs #26 Bryant, 12-10
I suspect that the Friars are destined to be the forgotten squad in the Big East in 2016. Denver and Villanova are killing it, Marquette's the pipsqueak younger brother that's jumping up and down shouting "HEY, LOOKIT ME," and Georgetown and St. John's are both atrocious. And then there's Providence, just scooting along, not doing too much, not doing too little, just chugging along through their season.
They've lost to all three top 30 teams that they've played, but beaten everyone else, including an upset of a ranked Hofstra squad this past week. (Aside: With losses to Georgetown and Providence, how the hell is Hofstra still ranked, anyway? At some point, they don't deserve credit for beating a three loss UNC team.) That's a perfectly acceptable season so far for Providence, especially when you look at who they're depending on. Sure, Mazzone is a senior, but he's responsible for 24% of their points on the season. Brendan Kearns (16G, 10A) is their number two option on offense, and he's a freshman hailing from Wantaugh, NY. George and Boyce are both freshmen as well, and those are two very serious spots to be depending on freshmen to produce for you.
St. John's (1-7, #55)
Goals Leader: Jason DeBenedictis, 19
Assists Leader: Eric DeJohn, 13
Points Leader: Eric DeJohn, 23
Faceoffs: Justin Corpolongo, 45.0%
Goalie: Joseph Danaher - 13.49 GAA, .518 SV%
Only Win: vs #67 Siena, 10-9
Worst Loss: vs #60 Jacksonville, 8-7
A clarification on the goalie situation for the Red Storm: Danaher does not lead the team in minutes this season. That honor, such as it is, belongs to Michael O'Keeffe, who has played nearly 100 more minutes than Danaher. However, his stats (14.04 GAA; .454 SV%) are worse, and Danaher has started the past four games. He has, however, given way to O'Keeffe at halftime of all four of those games, so I really have no idea what head coach Jason Miller is doing, other than giving O'Keeffe, a redshirt freshman, a little bit of cloud cover.
At the end of the day, does it really matter who's playing goalie for the Red Storm? While they've played only two home games thus far this spring, they went 1-1 in those contests, including a loss to Jacksonville, and the Dolphins haven't won since. While DeBenedictis is third in the league in goals per game this season, and DeJohn is leading the conference in helpers on average, St. John's has the worst offense in the Big East, managing just 7.71 goals per game, nearly a full goal less than Georgetown. It's like the bizarro version of the St. John's offense when Kieran McArdle was manning the attack for the Red Storm. Still incredibly productive for the star(s), but now it's doing absolutely nothing for the team as a whole.
Villanova (5-1, #7)
Cascade/Maverik Rank: #8
Goals Leader: Jake Froccaro, 27
Assists Leader: Jack Curran & Sean Cerrone, 10
Points Leader: Jake Froccaro, 32
Faceoffs: Luke Palmadesso, 67.8%
Goalie: Dan Willis - 9.45 GAA; .465 SV%
Best Win: at #22 Bucknell, 12-8
Only Loss: at #15 Harvard, 13-12 (OT)
Let's not get it twisted here: Villanova was supposed to be pretty good this season. They were #19 in the country in the preseason. I don't think they were supposed to be "+22 on shot differential per game" good. Forget +22, let's just deal with the fact that Villanova is averaging - AVERAGING - nearly 54 shots a game. To put it another way: Marquette has attempted more than 100 fewer shots this season in the exact same number of games.
Anyway, after opening the season with an overtime loss to a Harvard squad that's still ranked in the top 20 even after four losses, Villanova hasn't lost since. They've been doing it in fairly impressive fashion, too. They shelled a ranked Penn State team up in Happy Valley, and they've got two more top half RPI wins, including a road win over Bucknell in their most recent game. I'm actually kind of disappointed that I didn't get to see Nova's win over Delaware. Final score in that one? 23-13. THIRTY-SIX GOALS in just 60 minutes. There were 12 goals scored in the second quarter alone! Reminds me of Marquette's game against Rutgers, where the two teams combined for nine goals in the final nine minutes.
Froccaro is not just averaging a hat trick. He's the only player in the Big East averaging a hat trick. He's the only player in the country averaging FOUR goals per game. Amazingly, he's only one of five players averaging more than five points per game, and he's not leading the country in that category either. Pass the ball once or twice, buddy.