January 13, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 20 Villanova Wildcats (MD1)

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | College Preview 2014

Returning first-team All-Big East pick John Kluh should see an increased role for 20th-ranked Villanova. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Next: No. 19 St. John's Red Storm

Vitals

2013 Record: 7-8 (5-1 Big East)
Coach: Mike Corrado (8th season)
Record at Villanova: 59-48

Power Ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 3
Defense: 4
Goaltending: 2
Faceoff: 4

Top Returner

LSM John LoCascio (Sr.)
LoCascio was invited to Team USA tryouts this summer. He's a do-it-all beast on the defensive-end with 85 ground balls and 53 caused turnovers in 2013. He also isn't afraid to get out in transition with six assists and two goals last season to prove that point.

X-Factor

M John Kluh (So.)
One of the smallest players in the game, the 5-foot-4 and 140-pound Kluh is a talented shooter and first-team All-Big East as a freshman. He tallied 17 goals and nine assists. Freshman attackman Devin McNamara from Loyola Blakefield (Md.) is another X-factor. His impact on a reworked offense, in personnel at least, will depend on his playing time.

NCAA Tournament Trend

2009 First Round
2010 DNQ
2011 First Round
2012 DNQ
2013 DNQ

What's New?

A Big East without Syracuse or Notre Dame and with Denver, all a result of conference realignment. Villanova had dealt with getting past the Orange and Irish for several seasons. Is the road to an NCAA tournament berth easier this year? Denver, under coach Bill Tierney, has already reached the pre-eminent national level where Syracuse and Notre Dame reside, and St. John's has been on a steady rise and brings back a prolific attack, so Villanova still isn't the conference favorite, but it looks a tad easier in conference play.

Telling Number

121
Goals scored by graduated attackman Jack Rice during his four-year Villanova career. Rice was a pure finisher — he scored 30 goals with no assists last season — that earned a tryout with Team USA over the summer. The Wildcats will need to develop a primary finisher in their unconventional, small-bodied motion offense.

Enemy Lines

"LoCascio is one of the best, if not the best, takeaway defender in the country and makes opposing offensive players fear him."

— One rival coach

What rival coaches say
"LoCascio is one of the best, if not the best, takeaway defender in the country and makes opposing offensive players fear him just like players feared Brian Karalunas a couple years ago... On defense, they are one of the few teams that still has the athletes and ability to press out on your players all over the field and create havoc, this is a philosophy though that has burnt them from time to time especially with the subpar goalie play they have gotten past couple of years... Run an unconventional motion offense that not many teams run nor know how to defend... Losing Rice on offense will be a huge loss as they always seemed to find him open inside and he would make things happen, he was a major asset to them for 4 years... Will be very good at the faceoff X again and on the wings... Excellent on offense, hard to prepare for... They lost Rice and Hart to graduation but will still be a solid team with lots of talent and a program that improves through the season year in and year out."

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: The 'Cats finished the season 7-8, but went 5-1 in Big East conference play and was the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. They beat Georgetown in the Big East semifinal before losing to Syracuse 13-9 in the championship. By the time Selection Sunday arrived, Villanova was even not on the bubble because they finished the year below .500, thus ineligible for NCAA tournament play. Although they did knock off Syracuse in a one-goal game in the regular season, Villanova's resume wasn't strong enough anyway with losses to Lehigh, Drexel, Princeton and Penn.

High Point: The aforementioned 11-10 win over Syracuse at home. Junior faceoff man Thomas Croonquist went 22-for-24 on faceoffs (see, Syracuse really did have its issues last year) and the Wildcats pulled ahead with just 2:44 left in the fourth quarter. It was Villanova's first win of the season over a ranked team.

Low Point: A 13-9 season-ending loss to the same Syracuse team in Big East title game. Villanova needed a win to get into the NCAA tournament by way of the Big East's NCAA AQ bid. A loss made them national tourney ineligible. It's tough to weigh the possibility of an extra few weeks of your season in pregame warmups than realize in the fourth quarter your season, or playing career if you're a senior, is about to be finished.

2014 Preview

Best Case: It's next man-up in Villanova's offense, which fills needed roles, like the one left open by the finisher Rice. Kevin O'Neil, the team's top returning scorer, was a midfielder last season, but could find a spot on attack should it be needed. The Wildcats' faceoff unit continues to be strong with Croonquist and wing play. Three starters are back at close defense, in addition to LoCascio at long-stick midfield. That will help as a new starting goalie to be determined is broken in. A three-game stretch against Penn (March 8), Maryland (March 14) and Princeton (March 18) could lift or drop spirits heading into Big East play and the second half of the schedule. Villanova gets at least one win in that stretch, nabs the second seed for the conference tournament behind Denver and is on the NCAA bubble come May.

Worst Case: They continue to get plenty of possessions, but the offense takes too much time to find a rhythm and doesn't consistently make enough of its chances. That holds the 'Cats back in close games, and they don't win enough of them. Upstart St. John's beats Villanova in the regular season, setting the stage for a must-win Big East tournament semifinal game a couple weeks later against the Red Storm.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


RELATED HEADLINES


FOLLOW US


Lacrosse Magazine on Facebook

FOLLOW THEM

LaxMagazine.com features news, scores and standings tailored to your favorite teams.

» NCAA Division I Men
» NCAA Division I Women
» NCAA Division II Men
» NCAA Division II Women
» NCAA Division III Men
» NCAA Division III Women
» MCLA Division I Men
» MCLA Division II Men
» MLL
» NLL
» U.S. Senior Men
» U.S. Senior Women
» U.S. U19 Men
» U.S. U19 Women
» U.S. Indoor Men

// show either all first or all second banners