It’s always a fun time when we can bring back The Inquisition outside of basketball season, and the first round of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament is a good reason to do exactly that. We traded questions with ND-Atl from 18 Stripes to get a better feel for what’s going on in Notre Dame lacrosse land ahead of the Marquette/Notre Dame game on Sunday at 11 am Central on ESPNU. Be sure to stop over to their site to check out our answers to their questions about Marquette, as well as follow ND-Atl on Twitter for info on the Irish heading up to game time.
Onwards then, with our questions in bold and their answer in........ not... bold.
1) The Irish are 8-5 on the season, but seeded #4 in the country in the tournament. The record seems not great, but that seeding is pretty darn good. Does Notre Dame deserve their #4 seed?
There is a not a lot to distinguish numbers 2 through 8, and frankly, the seedings don't matter other than for #1. Given the geographic proximity rule for first round games, it seems as long as ND got a home game, they were going to play Marquette, just like Denver would play Air Force. In defense of the #4, ND has wins over Maryland, Ohio State (who they thumped), and Marquette, as you know, and split wins with Duke an UNC. This stacks up well against anyone. There aren't any bad losses, either: one goal to Denver, Syracuse, and Army with a depleted roster. Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan decided upon a pure RPI boosting schedule with no fluff. As such, the Irish don't have the half dozen cupcake wins that teams like Ohio State and Penn State have on their docket that make them appear more worthy than they actually are. To answer the question directly, they do deserve the #4 seed, but we get that it's a very close call.
2) Notre Dame has been pretty great for the last decade or so under Kevin Corrigan. How does this team stack up against the recent squads, and how much expectation do the Irish faithful have regarding this particular squad making a run to the title game on Memorial Day?
This squad has more similarities with the balanced 2014 and 2015 Final Four teams that included Jack Near, Nick Ossello and Conor Doyle than it does to the 2016 team of 3 superstars Matt Kavanagh, Matt Landis and Sergio Perkovic. From a depth perspective, this year's team is deeper than any of them, albeit with some very young talent. Top to bottom, we'd put this roster up against any team in the tournament, and being more defense-focused, they are probably better constructed for the rigors of the tournament than most. However, no team this year can survive the loss of its #1 and #2 scorers and expect to make a deep run, so expectations are tempered by injury status. Having said all this, [noted offspring and blog contributor] ND-Atl 2.0, forever an optimist, reminds us that Notre Dame has the example of the 2010 squad which came into the tournament with a whole lot less and caught lightning in a bottle.
3) A lot was made on Selection Sunday of the health status of Sergio Perkovic (22G, 7A) and Ryder Garnsey (19G, 20A), all the way to the point of Paul Carcaterra picking Marquette to win the game if the ND duo aren't able to play up to their usual standards. Is there any update on their status and who will need to step up if Garnsey and Perkovic can't go?
We have no official news one way or the other. There were rumors earlier in the week that Perkovic was in but Garnsey was out, but Ryder is a bit too chirpy on Twitter to be a guy sitting the game out. Also, last week Garnsey was a game time scratch, suggesting he may be closer to recovery than we expected. Either way, there will be the question of their effectiveness even if they play. In this regard, Garnsey has an unusual style where his ability to run and cut isn't as critical. However, Perkovic absolutely needs there to be a legitimate fear of his bomb to be effective. He's developed a good dodging, passing, and left-handed game, but they are entirely set up by the respect defenses must give his overhand right. Brendan Gleason (20G, 5A) is doing a lot to cover for the loss of Garnsey in his scoring, but they're really short on options to get the ball to Mikey Wynne (28G, 4A) without Garnsey on the field and this is a problem. For Perkovic, the conventional wisdom is that Bryan Costabile (16G, 3A) and Pierre Byrne (4G, 5A) simply need to do more, but this ignores the uniqueness of Sergio and how his gravity entirely determined the play of these two throughout the season. We feel differently and suggest the contrasting style of the second midfield line (Brendan Collins, Bobby Gray, & Timmy Phillips) will need to play a big role, along with transition driven by John Sexton and Drew Schantz. The second midfield has had a strong end of season, so we don't see this as a silly thought. Of course, the defense will have to play at its peak like it did against Duke in the ACC tournament. In any event, we have to be honest and admit playing top-shelf teams without these two is a huge concern.
4) As long as Joe Amplo and Kevin Corrigan stay in their respective jobs, it seems likely that Marquette and Notre Dame will be NCAA contenders, and as such, likely first round opponents for the foreseeable future. I think this could end up being beneficial for lacrosse's profile in Wisconsin and the Midwest in general. Does this sound like fun to you?
Yes!! You already know we are fans of Joe Amplo and the Marquette team in general. We also believe we speak for the greater Notre Dame fanbase that a rivalry based on mutual respect with Marquette is infinitely more desirable than, for example, giving Michigan regular opportunities to validate themselves against Irish lacrosse. Notre Dame and Marquette are the Midwest lacrosse success stories, it seems natural that good rivalry should develop. We, of course, also agree that it would be great for the development of the game in the region. These teams bookend the Chicago area, and after these two, it's another 1000 miles before you get to the next Division 1 team.
5) The ACC, Notre Dame's home conference, doesn't have an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because they only have five members. Do you think it's fair that they still had a conference tournament, or, as my man Safe Fekadu at College Crosse calls it, their "RPI Party?" Let's be honest: That ACC tournament title is the only reason that North Carolina is in the NCAA field.
We have mixed feelings about the ACC Tournament presented by RPIBooster.com. It's hard to get around the fact that the ACC is gaming the system, especially with the showcase game to boost the RPI of the last place team. ND-Atl 2.0 argues that it's not appreciably different from scheduling a home-and-home series, and the ACC probably feels there is some protection in that the tournament is among the more popular lacrosse TV broadcasts. We were a whole lot more supportive when it took place at a neutral site, especially the last two years in Kennesaw where we were a 5 minute drive from four great games over a weekend. Now that they are simply playing on campus, we agree the optics are less than ideal.
6) I'll happily go on the record and declare that this has the opportunity to be one of if not the best game of the first round. However, it's probably not going to be high scoring if either of the last two meetings are any indication. Instead of a prediction in this likely tightly contested game, let's wrap up with an Agree or Disagree: 13 goals will be enough to win this game?
AGREE. The last two regular season match-ups were classics with highlight finishes, although we will understand if you were not as excited about the endings as we were. Any lacrosse fan would see these as great games. There is not much reason to expect the next version will be much different, and with altogether much more significant stakes. ND-Atl 2.0 notes 13 goals is likely more than enough, but to avoid the first-to-10 cliché, he's confident if either team scores a Spinal Tap-ian 11, they will win.