2023 NCAA Tournament Preview: Bottom Half

(Photo Courtesy of Virginia Athletics)

The NCAA Tournament bracket is set and the fight to be the final team standing on Memorial Day gets underway on Saturday at high noon.

Each half (top and bottom) of the bracket will see two teams advance to Championship Weekend in Philadelphia, Pa. This year, the road to Championship Weekend will run through Annapolis, Md., and Albany, N.Y.

The bottom half of the bracket features two of the best teams in the country this season in No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Notre Dame.

You can view the full NCAA Bracket (printable) here.

Here’s a look at some storylines and superlatives for the bottom half of the bracket:

National Title Favorite

Take your pick between No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Notre Dame. The Cavaliers have just three losses on the season with two of those coming to Duke. The other was against Maryland. Notre Dame has two losses on the season with both having come against the Cavaliers.

Virginia has been led this season by the attack dup of Xander Dickson and Connor Shellenberger while the rest of that crop, including guys like Griffin Schutz and Thomas McConvey, have filled in nicely as contributors. The same is true with Notre Dame as Pat and Chris Kavanagh have headlined the Irish offense while playmakers such as Eric Dobson have also proved to be invaluable pieces on that end of the field. The Cavaliers and Irish have been among the best teams in the nation this season and are two of the teams many have pegged playing on Memorial Day weekend.

Best First-Round Game

This one came down between Georgetown-Yale and Johns Hopkins-Bryant. Both could be very intriguing but I went with the latter.

No. 6 Johns Hopkins will welcome in the America East champion Bryant Bulldogs into Homewood Field on Sunday at high noon. The Blue Jays are amidst a bounce back season this spring after multiple down years. The Blue Jays have, been once again, headlined in part by its defense (11.19 goals per game allowed) that has Tim Marcille anchoring things in cage and a pair of talented poles out in front in Scott Smith IV and Alex Mazzone. However, this offense has gotten humming more this year with John Crawaley as the Blue Jays new OC. Bryant, who has pulled an upset in the tournament before, is a tough matchup with Nathan LaLiberte (60%) being a top-15 faceoff guy. Kevin Groeninger and Aidan Goltz headlined a top-10 scoring offense (14.56 goals per game).

Best Potential Matchup

No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Notre Dame have been two of the top teams all season long. The Cavaliers beat the Irish 15-10 in late March and then again by a score of 12-8 in late April. Shall these two teams advance to semifinals weekend they will meet once more for what would be the most highly-anticipated game of that Championship Weekend Saturday. Would Virginia be able to win for a third time would three be the lucky instance for the Irish?

Underdog to Watch

Bryant may have history on its side as a dangerous underdog. But this spot is going to go to the Utah Utes. The ASUN champions are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and enter with much fan fare. Utah is averaging 16.69 goals per game this season with an offense that is headlined by the attack duo of Jordan Hyde and Tyler Bradbury, who have combined for 112 points thus far. Cole Brams (59%) us a top-20 faceoff man in college lacrosse and defensive stars such as Sammy Cambere, Joey Bolston, and others have the potential to impact the game on both ends.

One Player From Each Team You Need to Know

Xander Dickson, Attack, Virginia: Dickson has enjoyed a breakout season for the Cavaliers, leading them with 56 goals and 18 assists for 74 points.

Dalton Young, Attack, Richmond: The senior leads the Spiders with 69 points off 30 goals and 39 assists.

Tucker Dordevic, Attack, Georgetown: The Syracuse grad transfer has been as advertised in a Hoyas uniform this season, leading the way for this team with 70 points off 57 goals and 13 assists.

Matt Brandau, Attack, Yale: A veteran of that Yale attack line, Brandau has notched 64 points off 34 goals and 30 assists this season.

Jacob Angelus, Attack, Johns Hopkins: Angelus has 15 goals and 36 assists for 51 points as the quarterback of the Hopkins offense.

Nathan LaLiberte, Faceoff, Bryant: LaLiberte has gone 183-for-305 (60%) this season and ranks 14th nationally in faceoff winning percentage.

Pat Kavanagh, Attack, Notre Dame: Kavanagh leads the Irish with 65 points off 20 goals and 45 assists.

Jordan Hyde, Attack, Utah: Hyde leads the Utah offense with 49 goals and eight assists for 57 points.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s