#1 Notre Dame (8-1) and #16 Marquette (8-1) faceoff for a rare Wednesday home contest at Arlotta Stadium. There's not much that we know about the Golden Eagles. Other than a few grainy, Zapruder-like films, there's not much intel on them, but all available info indicates they are in fact a very good team.
Jokes aside, Marquette is a success story in the westward expansion of D1 college lacrosse. Despite having almost no facilities, no recruiting base, and no lacrosse tradition to speak of, in 2012 they formed a Division 1 team and went right into Big East play. Success has come fairly quickly, largely behind an excellent defense and disciplined, low-turnover play. Early on they even had former Notre Dame star goalie Scott Rodgers as a graduate assistant. Their appearance in the top 20 is no fluke. They spent a fair amount of time in the top 20 during the 2015 season as well.
These are the details:
They are firmly in the top 20 with an 8-1 record and the best goals against average in the country, 6.33, compared to Notre Dame's second best 6.56. They are also 9th in turnovers per game at 11.67, and sport an excellent faceoff win rate of .667, good for 3rd in the county (ND can't catch a break in the faceoff department).
Goalie Cole Blazer was last week's national and Big East defensive player of the week, and midfielder Andy DiMichiei just torched St. Johns for 7 goals and was today named the Lacrosse Magazine player of the week.
Our common opponents are Bellarmine, Detroit and Georgetown, whom they beat by smaller margins, and Ohio State, to whom they lost 8-12. Their signature win is the pounding of #19 Villanova (#6 RPI). At 8-1 one would expect a higher ranking, but they probably suffer from a pinch of East Coast bias, and we suspect voters think they'll fall to earth after playing ND, Duke and Denver in the next weeks.
They have an very outside shot of reaching the NCAAs. Their biggest obstacle it that they would likely have to win two of Notre Dame, Duke and Denver (who they should play twice including the Big East tournament) to gain an at-large bid.
Last year the teams played in South Bend as well, with the #1 Irish winning 14-7 over the #15 Golden Eagles. Of the returning players, Sergio had a big day with 3 goals and 2 assists.
*The Fighting Irish offense simply needs to get its act together and play disciplined lacrosse. Loose passes are simply inexcusable at this level. ND could learn something from Marquette in this regard. Even with Marquette's low GAA, the Irish should be extremely disappointed at anything below double-digit scoring. Goalie Cole Blazer may have been recognized as the defensive player of the week on debut, but he is brand new and looked less confident the second time out against St. John's.
*The faceoff unit, now with Garrett Epple available, should continue its aggressive wing play since winning faceoffs clean does not seem to be a strength of this unit. While the national trend is to use a pure FOGO and get clean possession into a 6-on-6, Notre Dame thrives off of unsettled situations, so creating them in the faceoff scenario is not a bad strategy.
*Both teams are coming off short rest, but this is a classic Admiral Akbar "it's a trap!" game for Notre Dame. Marquette has gained some confidence (albeit against lesser opponents). They want to catch ND asleep at the wheel and are genuinely excited for the opportunity to test themselves against the Irish. The Irish need to score early and score often. If this is a low scoring defensive struggle, the odds of an upset increase significantly. This will be a critical test of the Irish's focus and attention to detail.
Our thoughts: Marquette is fully capable of giving the Irish a good test, so a close game would not come as a surprise. However, Notre Dame has a significant size advantage, and their conditioning to date seems excellent. As noted above, scoring less than double digits would be a huge disappointment. Of course, holding them to a low score is firmly expected with this defense and ride. Again, the main key is plentiful early scoring as they will rely heavily on their excellent defense and limit foolish plays to avoid transition opportunities for the Irish. ND-Atl 2.0 and 2.1 are probably correct in their belief that Marquette will clog the middle and take their chances against Perkovic from the outside.
Our Marquette SBNation counterparts at Anonymous Eagles have their game preview.
Game is televised on
ESPN8 the Ocho ESPN3/WatchESPN Wednesday at 4:00 pm EDT.
Bonus feature: new video from Duke v ND game just came out. Great footage of pregame and locker room stuff, and different camera angle from ESPN footage.