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2016 Big East Men's Lacrosse Tournament Semifinals Preview

Get yourself ready for tonight's semifinal action, including your Golden Eagles taking on Villanova in the first game from Denver.

Ryan McNamara and the Golden Eagles are looking for their first ever win in the Big East tournament.
Ryan McNamara and the Golden Eagles are looking for their first ever win in the Big East tournament.
MarquetteImages.com

Big East Semifinal #1

#2 Marquette (9-4, 4-1 Big East) vs #3 Villanova (9-4, 3-2 Big East)

When: Thursday, May 5, 2016, at 5:30pm Central
Where: Peter Barton Stadium in Denver, CO
Audio/Visual: CBS Sports Network has the broadcast, and there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteMLax

In the regular season meeting between these two squads, Marquette obliterated Villanova, 11-3.  The result itself isn't shocking, even if Villanova was ranked in the top 5 in the country at the time and Marquette wasn't ranked at all: it was a home game for the Golden Eagles and MU had been picking up a vote or three in the polls at the start of the season.  The shocker is the margin of victory, specifically how Marquette held Villanova down.  Even with that three goal effort in their past, the Wildcats are still the third best scoring offense in the country, trailing only Denver and Brown.

It's that Brown team that might have unlocked a key for Marquette head coach Joe Amplo.  Villanova had played the Bears earlier in the week before heading to Milwaukee, and Brown held Nova under 10 goals for the first time on the season on their way to an 19-8 victory.  Marquette is slightly better on the defensive end than Brown, but it had to play into Amplo's hands to be able to see a team shut down the prolific Wildcats offense just four days before he got to unleash B.J. Grill and Liam Byrnes on Jake Froccaro and company.

Speaking of Froccaro, he joined the long list of top scoring attackers that got completely neutralized against Marquette.  He averages three goals a game, good enough for the eighth best mark in the country, and 4.2 points per game overall, but MU held him to a lone assist on VU's first goal of the game.  That goal by Johnny Gallaway came with 48 seconds left in the first half and by that point, Marquette's Ryan McNamara already had a hat trick as the Golden Eagles led 7-0.

Marquette is in a bit of a funk right now, having lost three of their last four games.  There has to a slight asterisk attached to those losses, though, as they have come against three of the four best teams that Marquette has faced this season: Notre Dame, Duke, and Denver.  All three came on the road as well, and on top of all of that, Conor Gately was injured early in the game against the Fighting Irish, the first of the trio.  Gately, Marquette's all time leading scorer after he surpassed the also injured Kyle Whitlow earlier this season, ended up completely missing the next game, an 8-7 win over Providence on Senior Day, but returned to play against both Duke and Denver.  He didn't record a point in Marquette's 16-1 loss to the Blue Devils, but hey: neither did anyone else, essentially.  Gately got back on the board with three assists in MU's 14-11 loss to the top ranked Pioneers, so presumably his ankle is feeling much better now.

Villanova, on the other hand, has regained their mojo.  The Brown and Marquette losses were the first two in a three game losing streak for the Wildcats, with Denver topping off the lineup.  There's really no shame in losing to those three opponents, even with two of the games coming on the road.  Villanova actually was very close to beating the Pioneers, as they held an 11-10 lead with four minutes left in a snowstorm.  Turns out that Denver's pretty good on offense, though, and DU came away with the win.  Since then, Villanova is 3-0 and they were relatively easily won victories, with the smallest margin of victory coming in an 18-13 win against St. John's.

Big East Semifinal #2

#1 Denver (12-1, 5-0 Big East) vs #4 Providence (7-8, 1-4 Big East)

When: Thursday, May 5, 2016, at 8pm Central (approximately)
When: Peter Barton Stadium in Denver, CO
Audio/Visual: CBS Sports Network has the broadcast, and there's live stats.

Twitter Updates: @DU_MLAX

Look, I'm not going to try and hoodwink you into thinking I know more about these two teams than I know about Marquette and how they match up with Villanova.  Let's keep this really simple:

  • Denver hasn't lost a game to a Big East opponent since joining the league, running their record out to 16-0 in regular season games and 4-0 in Big East tournament games.
  • Denver hasn't lost at Peter Barton Stadium since April 20, 2013, a run of 21 straight wins spanning both the regular season and the postseason.
  • Denver beat Providence earlier this season 17-7 in Rhode Island.
  • Denver is 5-0 all time against Providence, with two wins at home.
  • Providence has two all-Big East First Team players: junior defender Jarrod Neumann and freshman goalie Tate Boyce.
  • Denver has seven all-Big East First Team players, including the Offensive Player of the Year (Connor Cannizzaro), the Co-Midfielder of the Year (FOGO Trevor Baptiste), and the Goalie of the Year (Alex Ready).
I'm not saying that Denver is guaranteed a win here.  I'm not saying Denver's going to win big.  I am, however, saying that *IF* Providence pulls the upset, then it's really in Marquette's best NCAA tournament interest for the Golden Eagles to already have advanced to the title game, and it's REALLY important that they swipe the automatic bid from the Friars.