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Notre Dame Lacrosse: Matt Landis Tewaaraton Update

While the #1 Fighting Irish men's lacrosse prepares to steam into the post-season, the process of determining the nation's top player reaches a critical point. #MattLandisTewaaraton

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

We're 3/4ths of the way through the lacrosse season, and the search for the nation's top mens' lacrosse player is coming into focus.  We've made no secret of our firm belief that Notre Dame's super-defenseman Matt Landis warrants serious consideration for the award.  Landis and the Irish defense continue to perform exceedingly well on the field, and with this there is momentum for the fair consideration of this defender.

It's not unfair to say that, as of today, there are four main contenders for the Teweaaraton:  Brown's Dylan Molloy, Duke's Myles Jones, Denver's Connor Cannizarro and Notre Dame's Matt Landis.  Molloy, Jones and Landis will all be in Atlanta next week for the ACC tournament where much of this may be settled on the field.   We're heading for a very exciting two weeks of lacrosse.

The current pros/cons for our contenders:

Dylan Molloy:  Brown's junior attackman has been churning up offensive stats like no one else this season.  He leads the nation in points per game at an astonishing 6.50 ppg, a huge margin over second place (Army's Cole Johnson at 4.92 ppg), and he had another 6-pt game this weekend against the then-#1 Yale.  So long as Brown continues to win and he piles up points at a rate challenging the season record of Lyle Thompson, he will be the front-runner for the award.  The challenge for the star from Long Island lacrosse powerhouse St. Anthony's is in that Brown has piled up wins and points in a schedule, which until the Yale game, was riddled with defensive patsies.  Brown is like Baylor football in the Big XII.  They certainly look good on paper, but will they hold up in the playoffs?  Molloy's chances will be linked to Brown's success and his continued pursuit of the season record.  During the ACC Tournament in Atlanta next week, Brown will play ACC 5th place Virginia in a showcase game, putting a lot of eyes on Molloy to see what he's all about.

Myles Jones:  Duke's senior midfielder was the preseason favorite for the award, and he has performed, on offense at least, better than any midfielder in the history of the game.  In fourteen games he has 27 goals, 31 assists (4.14 ppg), which are huge numbers for a midfielder.  He was also the #1 pick in the MLL draft (and will play for our home Atlanta Blaze, hooray!).  His downside:  0 goals, 1 assist, 6 turnovers against Matt Landis and co. in their 8-6 loss to Notre Dame, and Duke already has 6 losses and probably needs to win the ACC Tournament to gain an NCAA bid. Duke also needs to play a motivated Marquette this weekend, where he'll likely be matched up against the excellent LSM Liam Byrnes, who may be able to contain him.

Connor Cannizarro:  Denver's lead attackman has 34 goals, 18 assists (4.73 ppg) for the #2 and defending national champion Pioneers.  Denver should cruise into the NCAAs with only a matchup (or two, if in Big East playoffs) against Marquette as potential bumps in the road.  His numbers aren't as crazy as Molloy's, but Denver has the bona fides of being the defending champ.  If Molloy and/or Brown comes down to earth, Cannizarro should take his place as the favored attackman.

Matt Landis:  The shut-down defenseman on the nation's top defense.  The NCAA does not keep a defensive awesomeness stat, but he would be far and away at the top of the chart if they did.  Myles Jones left ND with his worst stat line, and former Tewaaraton candidate Dylan Donahue of Syracuse also laid an egg against Landis.  While Denver beat ND in overtime, Cannizarro didn't have his best day.  Landis' case is simple:  so long as Notre Dame keeps winning on the back of the defense, and as long as this defense keeps the opposition to season-low totals, Landis is a contender.  Jones, possibly Donahue, Army's Cole Johnson (#2 ppg), and the #8 offense of North Carolina (possibly twice) will cross paths with Landis before all is said and done, many for a second time this season to prove the first was no fluke.  If the last quarter of the season is anything like the first 3/4, Landis will have a defensive resume to rival the all-time greats.

A final note regarding the criticism of "team defense":   It chaps us at ND-Atl like you would not believe, the notion that a defender should not be considered because lacrosse defense is clearly a team concept.  Coach Gerry Byrne and Landis would eagerly agree, we are sure, that he is absolutely dependent on Edwin Glazener, Garrett Epple, Jim Sexton, Austin Gaiss, Jack Sheridan, Hugh Crance, Shane Doss, etc., etc., etc.  This is not an unfair assessment.  However, why are the offensive candidates not criticized in the same way?  Dylan Molloy would not be considered if it were not for Kylor Bellestri and face off specialist Wil Gural.  Myles Jones is reliant upon Deemer Class and Justin Guterding.  Cannizzaro needs Kevin Baptiste and Zach Miller, and there is no greater example of the "Team Offense" concept that Denver.  So let's put the "team" criticism to rest.  Just because we can mindlessly count goals and assists does not mean offensive players are better than their defensive counterparts.  Voters should watch the games and observe the work.

Notre Dame plays at North Carolina this Saturday at noon, ESPNU, and then against Duke in the ACC semifinals in Atlanta the following Friday (also on ESPNU).  Let's see if Matt Landis and co. can keep them to single digits so that the Notre Dame offense can have some time to find its way.