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2017 Big East Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals Preview: #1 Denver Pioneers vs #4 Marquette Golden Eagles

All the Golden Eagles have to do to reach the conference title game again is beat a team that just beat them by eight goals. Simple.

2014 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

2017 Big East Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals

#1 Denver Pioneers vs #4 Marquette Golden Eagles

When: Thursday, May 4, 2017, at 3:30pm Central
Where: Anderson Stadium in Providence, RI
TV: CBS Sports Network
Streaming: Only if you have 1 of 5 uncommon cable providers.
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @BigEastChamps & @MarquetteMLax

Marquette is 1-5 all time against Denver. GOOD NEWS: The win came in the 2016 Big East tournament, so the Golden Eagles have experience at beating the Pioneers in tournament play, and that game was in Colorado, too. BAD NEWS: Denver won 64% of the face-offs last Saturday and beat Marquette 16-8 in Milwaukee. The Pios had runs of at least four consecutive goals on three different occasions in that game, including twice in the first 19 minutes.

Denver’s not ranked #2 in the country for their health, guys.

In the regular season meeting, Marquette couldn’t do a thing to defend Ethan Walker. The freshman from Peterborough, Ontario, was just named Big East Freshman of the Year after wrapping up a 2017 regular season with seven points (4G, 3A) against Marquette. That ended up being enough to give Walker the team lead in points with 59 and assists with 26, along with tying him for the team lead in goals with 33.

The guy he’s tied with for the goals title? Connor Cannizzarro, who was just named Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year. Yeah, go figure, the #2 points guy on the team ended up tied for best in the league with someone that’s not Walker. If you can make that make sense, congratulations to you. Cannizzarro had “only” a hat trick against Marquette in the regular season finale, meaning he “only” finished fourth on the team in points in that game, as Colton Jackson tossed in four goals and Austin French had two goals and three assists.

I’m saying that Marquette might have trouble slowing down the Denver offense again.

They’re probably going to have trouble slowing down Trevor Baptiste, who was just named Big East Midfielder of the Year on Wednesday. (I hope you’re noticing a trend here. The Pios are frighteningly good.) Baptiste is the #1 face-off man in the country, winning 74.3% of his draws this season. I mentioned above that Denver won 64% on Saturday, but it was Baptiste that recorded all 18 of their wins for a personal mark of 69% against MU’s Zachary Melillo. When MU defeated DU in last year’s Big East title game, Melillo pipped Baptiste on draws by one, thus giving the Marquette offense a chance to match the Pios and also give the MU defense a chance to take a breather. The Golden Eagles will not win on Thursday unless they can slow Baptiste down even further.

Marquette will need someone to step up and have a massive offensive day to match Cannizzarro and Walker. Ryan McNamara, fresh off of All-Big East First Team honors, leads the team in points on 17 goals and 12 assists, but those 17 goals tie a career low for the Minnesota native, and he hasn’t had fewer than 13 assists in either of the past two seasons. Senior Joseph Dunn leads the team in goals with 20, and he’s been impressive as hell for head coach Joe Amplo, especially after assembling a hat trick against Denver last weekend. Tanner Thomson, Andy DeMichiei, John Wagner, and Kyran Clarke all have double digit goal totals this season, and someone - I don’t really care who - is going to have to have an explosive performance for MU to steal a victory.