Updated: Feb 1
It’s Week One. And it’s barely Week One at that, because the Ivy schools aren’t even practicing yet and won’t play a game for weeks. Early February means we THINK we know a thing or two about college lacrosse. We have a guess about who’s good, who’s bad, who’s a contender, and who’s going to be watching from their couch on Memorial Day. Of course, none of this means anything. We don’t really know anything. Like Socrates said, the only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing. Embrace the wisdom that is understanding you have no idea who this year’s Luke Wierman is. No idea who is in the Top 10-15 right now but will finish outside the Top 20. Who’s an afterthought now and will get an NCAA tournament seed in a few months We know nothing.
With that out of the way, it’s always fun to venture a pick on some of these Week One games. There are some fun matchups to be found. Early tests for teams can help us learn a thing or two. There are plenty of questions about plenty of teams. We might not answer them all by the end of the day on Saturday, but we’ll know maybe just a little bit more.
Every week, I’ll pick three games to break down a bit. I’ll be looking for not just matchups that are interesting, but places where I think our friends in the desert have added some intrigue with the spread. I do track the results of just about every game available to me (geo fencing rules means I can’t always see all the lines for games), and over the course of the season I’ll look at trends for specific teams. As trends emerge we’ll talk about those, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Here are the three games I like for Week One:
The Game: Jacksonville vs Johns Hopkins
The Spread: Jacksonville -1.5
Hopkins Key Players: Garrett Degnon, Alex Mazzone, Matt Narewski, Russell Melendez
Jacksonville Key Players: Dylan Watson, Luke Millican, Max Waldbaum
Hopkins is not getting a ton of respect in the preseason. Frankly, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. They weren’t great last year, and they feel like a bit of an unknown coming into the spring. The Jays had a great offseason via the portal, adding Russell Melendez from Marquette and Alex Mazzone from Georgetown. Mazzone in particular should have a major impact on the defensive end, whether he plays at LSM or at close. Returning to Hopkins is Garrett Degnon, who should lead the offense with Brendan Grimes and Jacob Angelus. Inside Lacrosse report from the Hopkins fall made it clear this team is big. Like, the players are all very large. They have a physical edge in a lot of matchups and if they can take a positive step forward on the offensive end, they can steal wins early in the season. Helping them do that is new OC John Crawley, who is very well respected as an offensive mind among players. The Dolphins, as they always do, also had a solid year from the transfer portal. The top of the portal group is Dylan Watson, an attackman from Georgetown, and Cole Daninger, a two-way midfielder from Rutgers. Jacksonville, somehow, feels a little under the radar given how good they were a year ago. They weren’t even picked to win their conference this year (Utah was). It seems as though some are feeling a little uneasy about Jacksonville following a scrimmage loss to Lynchburg. I don’t put much weight on scrimmage results, but one noteworthy story to follow will be the health of Max Waldbaum, who apparently go hurt in that one.
If Waldbaum can go, the Jacksonsville attack is too good. Szuluk, if he's healthy, and Mazzone can only do so much for Hopkins. Narewski might have the faceoff edge in this one, and the Jacksonville defense is a question mark, but Luke Millican shouldn’t be. He’ll see a ton of rubber, be up the challenge, and the Dolphins get an everybody eats on offense kind of day.
The Pick: Dolphins -1.5. You can get it at +135 on DraftKings, and I think Jacksonville handles this one at home. Hopkins makes it a fight, and let’s everyone know they aren’t the same team as last year. But plus money makes me like a Phins bet here.
The Game: Syracuse vs Vermont
The Spread: Syracuse -2.5
Syracuse Key Players: The Freshmen, The Transfers
Vermont Key Players: Tommy Burke, David Closterman, Brock Haley
Syracuse is going to look like an entirely new team out there. They have the lacrosse equivalent of a “golden generation” with their freshman class. Joey Spallina, Billy Dwan, Riley Figueiras, Michael Leo, they’ll likely all be playing in meaningful roles. Figueiras suffered a lower body injury and may miss significant time this year but if he's healthy, expect to see him. They also scored some excellent talent from the portal in Will Mark, Cole Kirst, and Alex Simmons. And while the new faces will be the story for this team, there are players back from last year who shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. Owen Hiltz is healthy, and got HM AA honors despite not playing a year ago. Saam Olexo had moments at LSM last year that showed star potential. It’s still possible most of the Cuse top 6, on both ends, wasn’t playing for Cuse a year ago, and that’s something that feels unheard of. For UVM, it’s a bit of a similar story but for different reasons. New faces in plenty of spots. Thomas McConvey is at UVA now, Michael McCormack graduated, Ryan Cornell graduated, that’s three of their most important players from a year ago who aren’t in Burlington anymore.
So the rub here really is, who’s come the farthest the fastest? I’m inclined to say UVM, since so many of their new faces will be guys who had smaller roles last year, just in larger roles on the team, as opposed to Cuse where so many new faces were in another uniform or still in high school last year. But on just pure talent and potential, it’s a sizable edge to the Orange.
I think this game could have serious early February vibes. That is to say, it will be disorganized. The kind of game where clearing numbers aren’t great, turnover numbers are high, teams are still sorting out the special teams and the chemistry. Defenses (in the case of Cuse) and goalies (in the case of UVM) still getting their feet wet can lead to some gaudy goal totals. In this one, I’m in on Cuse and piling up plenty of them. The young guns start writing their legend.
The Pick: Syracuse -2.5 paying out at -120.
The Game: Air Force vs Ohio State
The Spread: Ohio State -5.5
Ohio State Key Players: Jack Myers, Colby Smith, Bobby Van Buren, Marcus Hudgins
Air Force Key Players: Brandon Dodd, Aiden Tolen, Jason Rose, Ethan Grandolfo
Ohio State is a trendy pick right now to make some noise this year. Some media pollsters consider them as high as a top five team in America. Personally, I they’re defense could be excellent. Bobby Van Buren is one of the best young defenders in the sport, and Marcus Hudgins, an All American caliber transfer from Army, has been deemed eligible to play. That alone gives them an edge on most attack units in the nation. Skylar Wahlund is solid in net, won’t blow you away but won’t lose you the game either. Honestly, the offense gives me pause. It’s a top heavy unit, with Jack Myers doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Jackson Reid is in the pros, so the question becomes for me who else is carrying the ball? Ohio State can’t simply give it to Myers every time down, they’ll need to find some more threats, whether it’s Colby Smith doing more with the ball in his stick, or possibly a player like Jason Knox with a bigger role. Richie LaCalandra is a transfer at attack who likely gets leaned on with Myers.
Air Force has a knack for surprising teams in February. Last year they played Denver close at the start of the year. The year before they stole a win from Utah. In 2020, before COVID cancellation, they handed Duke a loss on February 1st. Teams should be wary of looking past the Falcons early in the year. Brandon Dodd is taking over the Air Force record books. Last year he was the ASUN leader in goals (46) and points (70). He’s a 6’3, 220 lb Utah native who puts up nearly five points per game and has the agility to handle larger, slowing defensemen, but the size to overpower anyone smaller than him. Dodd matched up with Van Buren or Hudgins is the matchup to watch in this one, and should be quite entertaining.
The Pick: Air Force +5.5. Air Force has some outstanding talent, and has a knack for sneaking up on people in February. They’re not to be overlooked. They may not win, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they could keep it closer than six goals.