Midfielder Joe LoCascio has been one of several constants for the Maryland men’s lacrosse team in 2015. (Mandatory Credit: Greg Vasil/InsideLacrosse)
With the Big Ten men’s lacrosse tournament set to begin on Thursday, here’s our rundown of each team and how they got to this point. The top four teams in the conference qualify for the inuagural tournament with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament next month.
No. 1 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays
- The Skinny: Johns Hopkins comes in riding a three-game winning streak, and are playing some of their best lacrosse of the season. In their first season as a member of the Big Ten, the Blue Jays had their fair share of ups and downs. They didn’t win consecutive games until April 11 when they defeated Penn State, Michigan and Maryland, and gained a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Hopkins was expected to be one of the top teams in the nation, but early season losses to the likes of North Carolina, Princeton, and Towson made the Blue Jays like very fragile. Losses to Virginia and ACC tournament champion Syracuse in March furthered that sentiment, and left Hopkins in a tailspin. Perhaps it was the wake-up call that they needed as the Blue Jays won four of their final five games to cap off the regular season, including the regular season finale against Maryland to grab the No. 1 seed for the Big Ten tournament.
- Player to watch: Attackman Ryan Brown is among the most lethal scorers around, and showed Maryland that very fact on Saturday in his eight-goal effort. Brown registered 51 goals on the season, and is one of 25 finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given to the best player in collegiate lacrosse annually.
- Semifinal opponent: No. 4 Penn State
No. 2 Maryland Terrapins
- The Skinny: Maryland has been one of the top teams in all of college lacrosse in 2015. After losing the likes of Niko Amato, Connor Cannnizzaro, and Mike Chanenchuk, coach John Tillman and the Terps still have one of the deepest rosters in the entire country. Maryland found out what they were made of early in the season as the Terps dropped the second game of the season to Yale. Since that point, Maryland took down teams like Loyola (Md.), North Carolina, and Ohio State, and hadn’t lost prior to being defeated by Johns Hopkins on Saturday evening. Maryland’s defense was the story throughout most of the season, but the Terps’ attackmen and midfielders also had their fair share of the limelight.
- Player to watch: Attackman Matt Rambo is one of the most dangerous players in the Big Ten when he has the ball cradled in his stick. Rambo was one of three Maryland players that registered 20 goals on the season. The Pennsylvania native is a instinctive player as he is looking more for the pass as of late than creating his own shot. His patience makes him just that more dangerous, and is definitely one of several players that opposing teams have to attempt to hold in check.
- Semifinal opponent: No. 3 Ohio State
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No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes
- The Skinny: It’s been quite a two-week period for Ohio State. On April 17, the Buckeyes faced Maryland with the winner getting at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Despite leading by four goals late in the fourth quarter, Ohio State fell to Maryland in overtime then dropped a 17-10 decision to Rutgers on Saturday. While they’re not playing their best lacrosse at the moment, the Buckeyes have plenty of firepower to make some noise in the Big Ten tournament. It will starts with attackmen Jesse King and Carter Brown, who were both named to the All-Big Ten first team on Tuesday. King is an incredibly crafty player that doesn’t need much room to get his shot off. The duo is going to have to have a similar performance to the first game if Ohio State wants to advance to the championship game.
- Player to watch: Goalie Tom Carey has been a huge surprise for the Buckeyes, but there’s no telling where the team would be without him. The Bryant transfer allowed 8.5 goals-per-game, which was the second lowest among qualifying goalies (first was Maryland’s Kyle Bernlohr). In the first meeting, Carey stopped 11 shots and really kept Maryland off the scoreboard throughout most of the game.
- Semifinal opponent: No. 2 Maryland
No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions
- The Skinny: Penn State really had a difficult schedule in 2015, but battled through adversity to finish strong. It was an inconsistent start for the Nittany Lions with early season losses to Loyola (Md.) and Villanova. From March 14-April 11, Penn State suffered through a five-game losing streak. However, the Nittany Lions did nearly defeat powerhouse Denver in a game that the Pioneers had to rally for four fourth quarter goals in order to win 10-8. Penn State finished off the regular season with victories over Rutgers and Michigan. When it comes to the Nittany Lions, attackman T.J. Sanders (27, 12) and midfielder Mike Sutton (24, 4) pace the offense. Sutton is a very instinctive player, who isn’t afraid to pass up a shot for the setting up of a teammate. Penn State is a talented squad that fights for every possession, and could give Johns Hopkins all they can handle.
- Player to watch: Goalie Connor Darcey is definitely going to be a key player for Penn State against an offense that is as lethal as Hopkins. Darcey ranks in the top three in the Big Ten in goals-against-averages (third, 9.75), saves (second, 12.23), and save percentage (second, .554). For a team that only scores 9.23 goals-per-game (worst in the conference), stellar goalkeeping could be what decides this game.
- Semifinal opponent: No. 1 Johns Hopkins
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