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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Bracket Picks

May Madness reigns again!
For the first time 18 teams headed into the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. Two teams have already been sent home with Air Force defeating Richmond in their first year competing in Division 1, and Bryant edged out Siena for the right to take on Syracuse this weekend. With the expansion and conference realignment in lacrosse, the expansion of the tournament was necessary and I think they did it in a good way as well, sending the lowest ranked automatic qualifiers to the play in. But there is much more to dissect. This weekend will be chock-full of great lacrosse action. Get to a TV if you can. The full schedule of times and channels for the entire tournament are here. John and my brackets are below.

John picks Syracuse to win it all. I picked Duke to repeat. We both have Duke playing Syracuse in the National Championship. Unlike the NCAA Basketball Tournament, these games could go either way, so we both may end up way off when the Memorial Day Weekend rolls around. Leave your picks in the comment section. Either way, there will be some really great lacrosse to watch. And check out our friends at College Crosse for a ton of Tournament coverage. Check back here for Syracuse recaps. Go Orange!

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Lacrosse is Still a Thing!

It's turned out to be a heck of a season for the Orange

This blog has -- unintentionally -- neglected any coverage of the 2014 Syracuse men's lacrosse season. We hope you've gotten all your lax knowledge from the founder of this site, Matt Glaude, who runs College Crosse. But we've provided our share of coverage here traditionally, so it's time to play some catch-up.

The regular season started on Monday, February 10, as Siena visited the Carrier Dome. An easy 19-7 win for the Orange. The following Sunday, then-#10 Albany came to town, and this was my first in-person look at the 2014 squad. I remembered seeing some of the same issues that plagued the team last year: namely, faceoffs. "It's going to be a long year," I thought. The biggest problems with not winning faceoffs: the opponent controlling time of possession; and rapid-fire scores digging yourself into a deep hole. This game against the Great Danes went into overtime, and Syracuse was able to earn a win.

The next Saturday, Syracuse hosted its first ever ACC lacrosse game, as Maryland came to town. The Orange only managed eight goals, and was doubled-up by the Terps 16-8. Another loss at Virginia a week later left the Orange at 2-2. However, wins against St. John's in the "Cobb County Lacrosse Classic" (this is a thing?) and an impressive win at Johns Hopkins (#2 at the time) send the 4-2 Orange into a championship rematch against Duke with some momentum. Then the Orange got hit by a train. In what I would probably describe as the worst game of the year, Syracuse lost to Duke 21-7. How the team would respond to that loss would determine the fate of the season.

You knew from that teaser that something either really good or really bad happened to this team after the loss at Duke. It was good: consecutive wins against Notre Dame, Binghamton, Cornell, North Carolina, and Hobart leading into the ACC tournament. In those wins, Syracuse seemed to play more aggressively on offense, had better success at the faceoff X, and the goal-tandem of Lamolinara and Wardwell seemed to really play well in their "one half only" roles. I was in attendance for the Cornell game, having made the awful trek up Route 13 from Elmira to Ithaca. I was impressed at how much better Syracuse looked, compared to when I saw them in person against Albany. Offense was just clicking that night. I missed the UNC game due to a wedding, but how was that for a finish?!?

That string of impressive victories set Syracuse in a great position heading into the ACC tournament. It was the perfect time to play Duke. It was a game for revenge for last year's National Championship, and a game to right the wrongs from that 21-7 loss -- in fact, the last time Syracuse had lost. For much of the game, Syracuse was playing from behind. Both teams were playing at a high level, but Duke seemed to have the edge. And then the 4th quarter happened. Syracuse crawled back. With 4:29 to play, Syracuse tied the game it had been losing since Duke went up with 44 seconds left in the first half. Duke then answered with a goal with 3:15 left to go back on top. The Blue Devils controlled the ensuing possession, but in a costly mistake played too aggressively instead of stalling, which enabled the Orange to get the ball back with plenty of time. Using most of that time, and seemingly playing for the tie, Syracuse was able to create enough space for Billy Ward to even the score with 15 seconds to go. Then in the best-timed faceoff win of the season, Syracuse gets the ball, has enough time to set up a play, and Dylan Donahue got the game winner with less than a second to go!

It was the best finish to a Syracuse lacrosse game I had seen since the NCAA Championship game against Cornell in Foxboro.

That win -- Syracuse's sixth in a row -- catapulted the Orange into the ACC title game against former Big East foe Notre Dame. That's where the magic ended, as the Irish simply played better and won the title, 15-14.

In an odd schedule, Syracuse closes the regular season Saturday against Colgate for Senior Day in the Carrier Dome. Odd, because there's a final regular season game after the conference tourney. At any rate, we'll be saying goodbye to the seniors, notably Chris Daddio, Billy Ward, Derek Maltz, Scott Loy, Matt Harris, and Dominic Lamolinara. Colgate struggles offensively, a stat that should favor the Orange, especially how they've played as of late.

The NCAA Selection Show is Sunday, May 4 at 9:00pm ET on ESPNU. Most bracketologists have Syracuse near or at the top of their seedings which, due to this year's expanded bracket, means Syracuse likely hosts the winner of a play-in game next weekend. Stay tuned here and at for coverage and analysis.

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New Uniforms. Again.

Here they are.
Syracuse did what most of us suspected they would do. At the bizarre location of Destiny USA, Syracuse Football made a few announcements. One was that Syracuse was playing a home-and-home with LSU with the Tigers making their way tot he Dome in 2015. I love it. However, the big one was new uniforms from Nike. Did I love them? If you read my Twitter you know I did not.
It seems to happen at least every couple of years in at least one of the three major sports at Syracuse. It was football's turn this week as Nike and the school unveiled their latest set of uniforms for Syracuse Football. Obviously everyone can nitpick and pick various nits, but the overall idea I keep coming back to is fairly obvious. Isn't the nickname for Syracuse athletic teams "Orange"? Why yes, I think it is. No team, even Tennessee and Texas, are more closely identified with the color than Syracuse. Much like Alabama and the Crimson Tide, Syracuse has a color in their nickname. You can see from the photo above, there isn't a whole lot of orange on any of these uniforms. If you look at the full gallery here of all the designs there are orange pants and there are orange jerseys, but we didn't see them yesterday. I imagine they will make an appearance during a big game, and be sold in a store near you, but otherwise they are a mystery. I'm not a big fan of the font choice on the numbers. I HATE white helmets. I HATE gray jerseys even more. No team should wear gray ever. Not even as an alternate. You should have white for the road, your main home jersey and then your other color if you have one that isn't white. Anyway, none of that matters. Apparently "recruits love them". But this is one mile down the slippery slope to Oregon / Maryland territory. There's a reason people consider certain looks classics. I don't think this look 20 years down the line will be considered one. Then again, we'll probably have another redesign in 2-3 years anyway. So I guess while the Syracuse Orange are on the field playing football not wearing orange, I'll just wear an orange t-shirt or the same McNabb era jersey I've had since I got to Syracuse in 2001. As worn as it is.

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Dayton - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR Done

Well, it's been a pleasure, CJ

As I write this, it's about 15 hours after the Syracuse game ended last night. And I figured if I didn't write this now, I probably never would. It hurts to think about it. As fans, we invest in something -- in a belief, in a desire, in pride. So when that investment fails, we take it personally. We are at a loss. But, we're just fans. It's the players -- the ones we invested in -- that really feel the pain. They lived it. But with time and with perspective, we can all look back on this season, and be thankful for our investment. And the players can look back and be pretty damn proud of what they did this season, even if it all ended so badly. But that'll take some time. For now, Syracuse's 55-53 loss to Dayton is what permeates our thoughts.

  • CJ Fair finished his brilliant college career with a double double -- 14 points and ten rebounds. He was just 4-14 from the field, not quite finding that patented CJ Fair jumper we've grown to love.
  • Tyler Ennis was the leading scorer on the Orange at 19 points from 7-21 shooting. We'll remember Tyler's inspired play down the stretch that almost gave Syracuse the win here, but the ball couldn't drop in as the buzzer sounded. Tyler characteristically played all 40 minutes, but uncharacteristically had a couple turnovers, one of which was costly at the end.
  • CJ, Tyler, and Jerami Grant were the only ones to make it to the free throw line.
  • Jerami was basically nonexistent in this game. Four points, six rebounds, and a foul out.
  • To round out his own college career, Baye Moussa Keita's only registerable statistic is three minutes played.
  • Instead, Michael Gbinije got most of the minutes off the bench -- 22 -- and had a solid eight point effort on 4-5 shooting. We've seen some great things out of Silent G this season, and for Syracuse to be good next season, he'll have to be good.
  • Syracuse was 0-10 from three for the game. No made threes. First time Syracuse has done that since 1995 (or at least I think that's the stat I heard on SportsCenter)
  • Dayton played a decent game, shooting 41.3% for the game, and 43.8% from three. The Flyers got ten points off turnovers, eleven second-chance points, and had a more productive bench.
  • Shooting woes plagued the Orange, as they have for two months now -- a putrid 38.9%. Really, that's all the recapping I need to do there. Bad shooting.
And so, a season that started with four exhibition games in August has come to an end. Syracuse finishes with a final record of 28-6. We say goodbye to CJ Fair, Baye Moussa Keita, and maybe Jerami Grant & Tyler Ennis, too. We'll always remember the 25-0 start, the buzzer beater win at Pitt, the record crowd against Duke to see one of the best games ever in the Dome, Boeheim losing it in Durham, and our first season in the ACC. Mourn the loss now, but remember how good we had it this season. I'm still pretty happy with my investment.

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(11) Dayton - (3) Syracuse NCAA Round of 32 Preview

Syracuse students agree: You beat Ohio State. Prove you can beat us too.
The Dayton Flyers put on a good show on Thursday to advance to face Syracuse as they took out favored Ohio State. We appreciate it. Now you have to turn around and beat another good team in Syracuse.
This game comes down to a major factor. Whichever team's defense plays the best will win. Dayton limited Ohio State to 59 points. If Syracuse is only able to score about the same amount chances are Dayton is winning. However if Syracuse is able to keep scoring and Syracuse's defense is the one that is limiting points, they will be in a much better position. I actually see Dayton that would be a team that also can't handle the zone like W. Michigan was. Syracuse was able to get 13 turnovers on W. Michigan, as well as eight steals, six blocks, and led in rebounding. If Syracuse defense can again produce transition offense off steals and blocks and they can earn runouts, it will be difficult for Dayton to hold Syracuse under 60. I think the 2-3 will cause several problems for Dayton early, especially because they aren't the best outside shooting team. They were only 3-13 against Ohio State from beyond the arc. If Trevor Cooney gets going for Syracuse again, this game will be over early like it was against the Broncos for Syracuse on Thursday. I like the Orange to advance to the Sweet 16, just like I picked, by 18.
This game is available nationally on TBS (Very Funny!) with a scheduled tip time of 7:10pm. It is also available online and on phone applications everywhere. John's still in Buffalo covering things there and I'll be out enjoying the game with a few friends. Should be good times. If we win that is.

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My tourney seats are analogous to my Dome seats!

The big question for Syracuse coming into NCAA play was whether it would get over its horrible shooting woes, or continue its poor play to be prime for an upset. One game doesn't answer that question, but if that one game is any indication, we're seeing the Syracuse that was 25-0, not the Syracuse that was 2-5 down the stretch. In first ("second") round action, Syracuse beat Western Michigan in Buffalo 77-53

  • You knew the ability to score would be the difference in this one, and Syracuse responded: four of the five starters in double-digits, and eight players on the board -- one of them Ron Patterson -- BUSS!!
  • Trevor Cooney is your leading scorer. When was the last time I said that, Notre Dame? Cooney had 18 points on 5-10 shooting, which was 4-8 from three. That's the Trevor we need for this Tourney!
  • Tied with 16 points each was Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant -- which, is basically the production we expect out of those two. They each played a great game, and were key to Syracuse winning. They each shot well -- and were perfect from the line. I like all of this.
  • CJ Fair had a nice little game himself, with 14 points on 6-13 shooting and 2-2 from the line. His 11 rebounds gave him the requisite statistics for what they call a double-double, which is nice. CJ was active, especially inside and with the long jumper, and it mostly worked for him today.
  • While there wasn't HUGE production from the center position, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita did their jobs -- a combined four points, eleven rebounds, and three blocks. The Broncos had trouble getting inside, and that was a function of the zone doing its job and the centers holding it down inside. This was nice to see.
  • Syracuse shot 49.1% from the field, which is a marked improvement from, well, the last five or six weeks. So that was nice.
  • Also nice was the 82.4% number from the free throw line for Syracuse. Not quite Maui numbers, but respectable.
Top to bottom, Syracuse dominated. Recent memory doesn't know what this is. So, if you're a Syracuse fan who knows what's been happening recently, this is a very welcomed development. It sure helped that most of the First Niagara Center (nee HSBC Arena, nee Marine Midland Arena) was clad in Syracuse Orange. They had all watched Dayton upset Ohio State before this game, and rooted for it. Personally, I think Syracuse matched up better against the Buckeyes, but, I guess we'll never know. An off day Friday will give the Orange a day to regroup, rest, and prepare for Allen Griffin and the Flyers. AG will be working the door of the balcony, checking hand stamps, wondering "Where my boy BH at?"

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Syracuse students agree: You need to avoid the upset as a 3 seed.
Syracuse is back in the Tournament and heading back down I-90 to Buffalo to take on Western Michigan. Probably the least sexy team from the state of Michigan, the MAC Champions can definitely play. David Brown is the big star on the team, leading the MAC in scoring at 19.4ppg and was the MAC Tournament MVP. The Broncos faced Eastern Michigan twice, led by Coach Murphy's 2-3 Zone. They are familiar, but they aren't as good or as long as Syracuse at playing it. However, this team, with Brown, can really stroke the 3. This almost spells like the perfect storm for an upset. However, you can't beat Syracuse by just shooting the 3. They will have to get the ball inside. That's where the 2-3 will come in. Defensive steals will lead to some transition baskets. Syracuse should be able to earn some steals in this one and some blocks and get run outs. On top of that, this should be a home game for the Orange. And I think CJ Fair will be ready to explode after not making much of anything against NC State. I'll be taking the Orange by 14.
This game is available nationwide on CBS at about 2:45pm. It is also available streaming online at March Madness Live, and on the similarly named app. I'm stuck in the office during the game tomorrow, but hopefully I'l be watching. Either way, enjoy it if you can. It's the first day of the Tournament, the most wonderful sports day of the year.

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Orange::44 Bracket Extravaganza 2014!

 It's the most wonderful time of the year.
It's that time again when the staff here at Orange::44 post our brackets for the world to see, and subsequently learn how not to pick a bracket. The above bracket is mine. Below is John's. His scanner broke. Sorry. Enjoy that to satisfy your own curiosity. Click on the brackets to enlarge.

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