Who: Michigan Wolverines (4-4, 0-0) at No. 3 Maryland Terrapins (7-1, 0-0)
Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
When: March 29 at 5:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: BTN
So here we go, the inaugural season of Big Ten lacrosse is here, and Michigan will start it against the No. 3 Maryland Terrapins. That's one rough way to start when you also consider that Maryland has made a habit of appearing on championship weekend--three out of the last four years.
As always, Maryland is loaded with talent even though talent has left; I'll use a sports cliche and say that this is a program that never rebuilds, it reloads. Hell, they didn't even have to rebuild after Dave Cottle left; John Tillman has kept the program humming along quite nicely. Remember, three out of the last four years on championship weekend.
Mike Chanenchuk and Connor Cannizzaro (transferred to Denver) may be gone, but this Matt Rambo kid is filling in quite nicely with 15 goals and 6 assists through the first eight games. Also returning on offense are Joe LoCascio and Colin Heacock, who have combined for another 21 goals on the season. Jay Carlson isn't too bad, either, with 12 goals of his own along with 16 groundballs.
With 26 GBs and 10 CTs, freshman LSM Matt Neufeldt is probably the best defender for the Terps right now. My guess is that Neufeldt will be matched up against Michigan's Kyle Jackson, who is third on the team in goals (11) and points (13) along with scooping up 13 groundballs of his own.
Charlie Raffa is the guy at the face-off X for Maryland and he's winning 61% of his contests, compared to 54% for Michigan's Brad Lott.
I'm not expecting anything pretty for Michigan during this game. Although the teams' offenses are separated by only about one goal per game, Sunday isn't going to be close. With Ian King out of the lineup for the Wolverines, it's going to fall on Peter Kraus to carry the team once again. He's filled in well, but if Michigan is going to come away with the win in hostile territory, they'll need solid outings from not just their attackers, but the midfield as well.
And, of course, the oversimplified key to the game will also come down to how many stops Gerald Logan will be able to make; his 13.25 stops per game puts him fourth in the country, while the team ranks third at 14.50 stops per contest. For as good as Logan is, Maryland has a great goalkeeper of their own in Kyle Bernlohr. He's tops in save percentage at 70%, but his saves per game is almost 3.5 lower than Logan's. But when the Terps are allowing only 4.88 goals per game, who really cares if Bernlohr's saves are lower? Certainly not Maryland.
At the end of the day, Maryland is going to prove too strong for Michigan. I have no doubt that the Wolverines will be competitive, but for perhaps a period and a half; the final score will not be a pretty one: Maryland 17, Michigan 8.