ncaa men's lacrosse semifinal preview

Virginia-North Carolina and Duke-Maryland highlight the Final Four portion of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament.

We knew the four quarterfinal matchups this past weekend were going to be must-watch television.

And even we didn’t expect them to be as great as they were.

Sure, No. 4 Virginia put together a miraculous performance in what was a blowout win over No. 5 Georgetown to commence the weekend. But following that, we saw three overtime finishes, two of which nearly ended in legitimate upset victories.

Here were the final scores for the quarterfinal round:

No. 1 North Carolina: 12

No. 9 Rutgers: 11

No. 5 Georgetown: 3

No. 4 Virginia: 14

No. 3 Maryland: 14

No. 6 Notre Dame: 13

No. 10 Loyola: 9

No. 2 Duke: 10

Following another action-packed weekend of men’s college lacrosse, we move onto the semifinal round, with either game on Saturday taking place in Hartford, CT. Like many may have expected, the top four teams in the country — North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, and Virginia — are still alive at this point and are legitimate contenders for the national title.

This tournament is currently wide open. There’s no team that’s head-and-shoulders superior to any of the other squads remaining, which should make this weekend’s slate that much more entertaining.

NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Semifinal Dates, Times, TV Info

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Virginia — Saturday, May 29, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 2 Duke vs No. 3 Maryland — Saturday, May 29, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

What to Watch for

The first game of the weekend is the one I’m looking forward to the most — expect this to be a high-scoring game given the pure strength of these two offenses.

North Carolina sports the top offensive unit in the country and is averaging 16.67 goals per game — a tremendous mark. Not to mention, the Tar Heels combined for 28 goals during their first two playoff games (16 vs. Monmouth, 12 vs. Rutgers).

Virginia, on the other hand, is averaging 14.63 goals per game and put on an offensive clinic in the quarterfinal round against Georgetown, scoring 14 goals on a Hoyas team that looked to be a darkhorse championship contender following a Round 1 victory over Syracuse.

UVA has combined for 27 goals through the first two rounds of the tournament, additionally putting up 13 against Bryant in the round of 16.

As for the second game of the day: Could Maryland finally lose for the first time all season?

Duke sports a scary offense led by one of the best feeders we’ve ever seen in Michael Sowers. The graduate attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist is the quarterback of this Blue Devil offense and will be facing a tough Maryland defense that’s allowing just 10 goals per game.

The same goes for the Maryland offense (16.23 goals per game) — the Terrapins possess a daunting task on their hands given Duke’s defensive unit is additionally letting up 10 goals per game.

Maryland attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Jared Bernhardt facing the strong Blue Devil defense should be a matchup to pay attention to starting Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Which Players to Pay Attention to

Of the top players remaining in the bracket, three are Tewaaraton Award finalists.

  • UNC attackman Chris Gray (86 points, 46 goals, 40 assists) — Tewaaraton Award finalist
  • Maryland attackman Jared Bernhardt (87 points, 64 goals, 23 assists) — Tewaaraton Award finalist
  • Duke attackman Michael Sowers (79 points, 35 goals, 44 assists) — Tewaaraton Award finalist
  • Virginia attackman Connor Shellenberger (67 points, 31 goals, 36 assists)
  • Virginia goalie Alex Rode (185 saves, 55% save rate)

As was previously mentioned, Michael Sowers against a strong Maryland defense and Jared Bernhardt against a Duke defensive unit of the same caliber should be matchups to watch.

While Chris Gray will certainly be a factor in the UNC-Virginia game, UVA attackman Connor Shellenberger will attract some eyeballs especially after his quarterfinal performance. The freshman put up six goals and one assist for seven total points in the crucial victory over Georgetown.

Virginia’s success on the defensive end could be greatly determined by the play of netminder Alex Rode, who recorded eight saves on 11 shots faced for a save rate of 73% against the Hoyas after racking up 18 saves against Bryant in the first round.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.