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  • Chris Jastrzembski

2023 Men's Lacrosse Week 1 Preview: We're even more back

Courtesy: G Fiume/Getty Images

Last Saturday featured the appetizer to the college lacrosse season. Now comes the start of a 3-month long all-you-can-eat buffet.

31 games are on the docket this weekend, with 26 of them on Saturday. We'll see the debuts of Virginia, Georgetown, Delaware, North Carolina, and Saint Joseph's among others. A few others, along with the Ivy League, will debut next weekend.

We'll also see the start of the women's lacrosse season on Friday. The Clemson Tigers will make their program debut Saturday against Wofford at 2:30 PM ET on ACC Network. I do have some women's lacrosse thoughts near the end of this in terms of potential new programs and conference realignment rumors that's been going on.

You can find every game, along with live stream and stat links, on this Google Sheet. It's the best place to get everything all at once for game day.

Let's check out some of the best games of the weekend (all spreads courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook).

The Very Good Game

Georgetown @ Johns Hopkins (1 PM, ESPN+); Georgetown -6.5

This is my game of the weekend with another meh slate of games. I'm not overly excited about this slate.

With their win over Jacksonville last weekend, the Blue Jays made this game a bit more interesting. Even if they're still heavy underdogs to the Hoyas.

The Hoyas got a bunch of talented players from the transfer portal including Tucker Dordevic, Nicky Solomon, and goaltender Danny Hincks. They were expected to make Championship Weekend last year but were bounced by Delaware in the opening round. They'll have Championship Weekend expectations again.

It'll also be Alex Mazzone facing off against his old team. Mazzone transferred to Hopkins in the summer and was great last weekend with a pair of caused turnovers and ground balls along with a goal.

Faceoffs could be a big focus with James Reilly for Georgetown and a combo of Logan Callahan and Tyler Dunn for Hopkins. Matt Narewski is reportedly batting injuries per Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse.

The Good Games

Stony Brook @ Rutgers (1 PM, BTN+); Rutgers -6.5

Before their win over Marist, I tweeted out to watch out for Dante Kulas. He did not disappoint with a game-high 5 goals and 8 points. They scored 20 against Marist with Bobby Russo and Kyle Mullin also having solid outings.

Stony Brook makes their season debut as a member of the CAA. They still have Dylan Pallonetti on attack and bring in grad transfer Jonathan Huber from St. John's. Delaware is the favorite to win the conference, but the Sea Wolves should be a contender.

Duke @ Jacksonville (12 PM, Dolphins All-Access); Duke -7.5

Duke won't lose this game. February Duke won't happen this weekend before a big matchup against Denver. Jacksonville didn't look great in the 2nd half against Hopkins last weekend. It didn't help that they didn't have Max Waldbaum either.

Dyson Williams has a phenomenal stat line of 11 goals and no assists. His fellow attack mates Andrew McAdorey and Brennan O'Neill also have 11 points, with O'Neill leading the Blue Devils with seven assists. William Helm has been great in goal to start the season with a .697 SV%. Games will get tougher though.

Marquette @ Utah (2 PM, Pac-12 Plus); Utah -1.5

This should be an underrated game to keep your eye on. Marquette looked good last week, granted it was against Division I newcomer Lindenwood, with Bobby O'Grady and Mason Woodward leading the offense and defense respectively.

Utah was a popular pick to upset Denver last weekend and came out with a 12-4 loss to the Pioneers. Jordan Hyde scored three of the team's four goals. Tyler Bradbury had three assists. Four players recorded points, with Hyde and Bradbury each recording three. That's not good. But what is good is that there's lots of lacrosse left.

Penn State @ Villanova (Sunday 12 PM, FloSports); Penn State -1.5

Intriguing game on Sunday afternoon. Penn State scored 21 last weekend against Lafayette. It was also indoors at Holuba Hall which can be tough on goaltenders. Good to see TJ Malone back and healthy after missing last year with an injury. He had a pair of goals and three assists.

Villanova has been consistent for the last handful of years as a team right around the top 20. They should be there again with the likes of Matt Campbell, Patrick Daly, and Chet Comizio back.

I do think it'll be a good game to evaluate where each program will be as early as it may seem. I'm not high on Penn State but a win against Villanova could change my mind. Hudson Bohn against Justin Coppola will be fun to watch at the faceoff X.

The Games With The Top Teams

Michigan @ Virginia (12 PM, ACC Network); Virginia -7.5

Virginia is still my top team in the country, even after Maryland's impressive win over Richmond. Primarily because Virginia hasn't played a game yet.

Big story for the Cavaliers is the status of Petey LaSalla who was spotted in a walking boot during last weekend's scrimmage against Georgetown as well as during practice this week. Head coach Lars Tiffany said that he won't "ever count him out" but if he can't go, freshman Mac Eldridge is the team's lone FOGO with Gabe Braun out due to an upper body injury as Zach Carey of Streaking the Lawn noted. Eldridge was Inside Lacrosse's top incoming faceoff specialist this year.

Their offense will be fun to watch with the likes of Connor Shellenberger, Payton Cormier, Griffin Schutz, "Slim Reaper" Xander Dickson, and Vermont transfer Thomas McConvey just to name a few.

I feel like we say this every year, but this is a big year for Michigan. We're waiting for them to do something big. Will it happen the first game of the season against Virginia? I doubt it. But I hope they put up a good fight. I do think they can finish in front of Penn State in the Big Ten but finishing at least fourth would mark progress. Can midfielder Justin Brown take the next step for the Wolverines?

Maryland @ Loyola (1 PM, ESPN+); Maryland -8.5

Maryland's defense limited Richmond to just one goal in the first three quarters last weekend. Brett Makar had four caused turnovers and five ground balls. Ajax Zappitello had three caused turnovers. Richmond's entire team had seven caused turnovers for the game. Offense was humming with Owen Murphy, Daniel Maltz, and even freshman Braden Erksa who's looking like a surefire member of an All-Freshman team this year (yes that will be back).

Not sure what to expect from Loyola this year. Aidan Olmstead and Kevin Lindley depart, but they'll have some solid midfielders back in Adam Poitras and Evan James. Eager to see if freshman Matthew Minicus gets the start at attack with more than likely Joey Kamish and Davis Lindsey. Their defense will be their strength this season for sure with Cam Wyers and Payton Rezanka leading the way.

The Others

Mercer @ North Carolina (Friday 5 PM, ACCNX); North Carolina -11.5

Tar Heels open up their season with the Bears. After that, UNC will travel to Baltimore for a midweek matchup with Johns Hopkins. A much different offense awaits for North Carolina, one that does not include Chris Gray. Lance Tillman will be the familiar name, but Bryant transfer Logan McGovern is one some people may know from his time in Rhode Island.

And oh yeah, you better know the man, the myth, the legend: Sean Goldsmith. A former Mercer Bear.

Also excited to see what they have on defense with Brown transfer Andrew Geppert and Marist transfer JT Roselle.

UAlbany @ Syracuse (Friday 6 PM, ACCNX); Syracuse -6.5

Syracuse being a roughly seven-goal favorite caught my eye. I don't think they'll win by seven. Fade me if you want. Of their 16 wins since 2005, the Orange have won by seven or more only three times with the last coming in 2019. Rules have changed drastically since 2005 as well and the Great Danes aren't like they were a decade ago.

Finn Thompson looked great last weekend for the Orange. And despite scoring only one goal against Vermont, it was good to watch Joey Spallina shoot the ball 15 times. It was only game one and while some would've hoped he would have scored more than once, at least he's not afraid at all to shoot.

Syracuse also plays against Holy Cross on Sunday in the JMA Wireless *cough cough Carrier* Dome.

Army West Point @ UMass (12 PM, ESPN+); Army West Point -1.5

I'm not sure what to expect from Army this year. The big question is who takes over Brendan Nichtern's spot. Or at least how will they play without him. He led the team with 60 assists last year. The next highest was Reese Burek with 15. He's back along with Paul Johnson on offense. After a stellar freshman campaign last year, AJ Pilate returns to lead the Black Knight defense.

UMass returns some good players in offense such as Gabriel Procyk and Mike Tobin but also bring in transfers Will Abbott from Quinnipiac and Conor Foley from UMass Lowell. Matt Knote is back in cage as well.

Boston University @ Vermont (12 PM, America East TV); Boston University -1.5

BU had a historic season a year ago after winning the Patriot League Tournament before bowing out to Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The bulk of the team's core returns this year and they're still the favorites to win the Patriot League.

Vermont played Syracuse tough last weekend despite only scoring five goals. Matt Shaffer made 16 saves in cage to keep the Catamounts in it. They're still my favorites to win the America East.

LIU @ Merrimack (1 PM, ESPN+); Merrimack -2.5

Merrimack is 2-0. They looked good against Hofstra and Holy Cross to open up their season. After LIU, they'll take on Dartmouth, Denver, and Quinnipiac before America East play.

Unfortunately, they're in the final year of transitioning to become a full Division I member and won't be eligible to participate in the America East and NCAA Tournaments. They've looked good early on. Is it enough to put them in my top 20? I was joking when I said that. Or maybe...

Hampton @ Guilford (1 PM, ODAC Sports Network)

This is Hampton's seventh season as a Division I program. It hasn't been the kindest to them with coaching changes, COVID, and now a conference change as the Pirates are now members of the CAA. It has 12 wins to their history, none against Division I opponents and none since April 20, 2019.

I think I can echo what many feel in the lacrosse community that we all want Hampton to succeed in college lacrosse. It's tough that it's taken this long and probably even longer for them to be a competitive program against fellow D-I programs.

They'll play 12 Division I teams this season, which includes a full CAA schedule. Their first Division I foe is Queens next Sunday. That's the most D-I teams they'll play in a season in program history after playing all 10 of their games against D-I teams last year. So there's some progress there.

I highly recommend you read Kenny DeJohn's piece about head coach Chazz Woodson on USA Lacrosse Magazine's website.

The Last Thing

As I mentioned at the very beginning, some thoughts on what's been going on with college realignment. Specifically recent rumors about the Pac-12.

From multiple reports, it looks like San Diego State and SMU are leading candidates for Pac-12 expansion. With Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC in 2024, it should move things along with Pac-12 and Big 12 expansion. The Big 12 has reportedly been looking at Gonzaga along with some current Pac-12 schools like Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

For this scenario, let's say the Big 12 doesn't poach from the Pac-12 and takes Gonzaga and another school elsewhere while the Pac-12 gets San Diego State and SMU. For the lacrosse sphere, it wouldn't do anything in terms of SDSU. Them and UC Davis will become affiliate members for the conference next year. Nothing there.

But what about SMU? This is all pure speculation but with the growing talent in the state of Texas (such as Charlotte North and Megan Carney) combined with a school with solid academics and a ton of money (a $2 billion endowment), along with a conference that has women's lacrosse, could SMU be the first Division I school in the state of Texas to sponsor lacrosse at the varsity level? It might not happen immediately with costs of travel and perhaps some behind the scenes politics. Facilities might not be a huge issue with the opening of a brand new soccer stadium this past year.

I think SMU could be really good pretty quick if it happened. But who knows if or when it does.

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