McAnaney: The 2014 Season From the Booth
|A common theme on the year? Duke's dominance - the Blue Devils were near-perfect when playing at their best. (Bill Danielewski)|
For us on ESPNU, it all started on a chilly February Sunday at Homewood Field with Johns Hopkins beating Ohio State in three overtime periods, and then ended five miles away and about 60 degrees warmer when Duke held off Notre Dame for its second straight title and third in five seasons. In between, we had some great games, a ton of fun and way too many chicken wings at hotels and airports. Here are some of my thoughts as we have now closed the book on the 2014 season.
As I wrote on LaxMagazine.com after I watched Duke roll Syracuse and Virginia, the common theme of the year was that there was Duke – and everybody else – heading into the postseason. If you take away the final few minutes of the fourth quarter in the ACC tournament loss to the Orange, we would be talking about the most dominant team since Virginia in 2006. Now Matt Ward's Cavaliers had a perfect season and were never challenged, so they are clearly ahead of this Duke team. But I also think the Blue Devils faced tougher competition during championship weekend than UVA did, while battling adversity losing Luke DuPrey and then Josh Dionne. The middies were the breakout stars, but it was Jordan Wolf who refused to let this championship get away when Notre Dame was making its run. Duke coach John Danowski often told us throughout this year how much he thought of this senior class and how much he trusted them. They rewarded that trust with another trophy.
With three titles, I don't think you can argue if this is a dynasty or not, but obviously how Duke made it here is up for debate. If you want to put three championships and eight straight final fours in perspective, you cannot ignore the extra year of eligibility the players on the 2006 team received. If you want to marvel that they never had a rebuilding year in Durham, you have to point out that they had five classes for four years.
It's not unfair to ask, "Does Duke make it to the final four in 2008 without Matt Danowski, Tony McDevitt, Dan Loftus and Nick O'Hara? Do the Blue Devils win it all in 2010 if Ned Crotty is a rookie in Major League Lacrosse?"
That's not an attempt to put an asterisk on their success, but you can't put on blinders when trying to tell history.
Magical Mystery Tour
When John Desko used the term "Magical Mystery Tour" to describe the Thompson trio and Albany in a phone conversation with me before Syracuse hosted the Danes, I immediately thought, "Oh, that's good. I am going to run that one into the ground."
And we certainly did, but unfortunately for most of the year, Albany was just that – a mystery. It obviously would have been a huge boost for the sport if Albany had made it to Baltimore to play on the sport's biggest stage, but why did it need to come to that? It was as if Albany was the ultimate garage band that went from playing in bars to playing at Madison Square Garden overnight.
It's a shame that Albany versus Syracuse – or UMass or Penn State or Harvard – couldn't get on national television. Yes, I know that sounds like I am taking a shot at my main employer, but remember ESPNU isn't the only network that televises college lacrosse. If a network can find a five-hour window to show Jacksonville versus Notre Dame and UMass versus Ohio State, it can find a window to show Albany versus Penn State.
Trophy Due West?
The fact that Denver and Notre Dame were back in the championship weekend with a chance to finally bring the trophy to the lacrosse frontier was almost ignored as a story line in Baltimore. That is all you need to know about how elite these two programs have become. Yes, both the Pioneers and Irish played tight in the first half against Duke, but when you look at the star power Bill Tierney and Kevin Corrigan have coming back, do not be surprised if these two programs are No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason polls next year. I am firmly convinced that we will have lacrosse history with Corrigan or Tierney being handed the trophy before Matt Kavanagh or Jack Bobzien are handed diplomas.
After speaking with some of the most influential coaches throughout the season, it became pretty clear that they felt the timer on experiment did not work and a shot clock is inevitable. Whether it's 90, 60 or 75 or even visible is up in the air, but a shot clock is coming. I know this may come as a shock to our viewers, but I have come to the conclusion that the timer on could have worked if the officials were allowed to be more assertive with it. Their hands were tied by trying to define "creating offense" – what was attacking and what was a legitimate shot – that it became too much about the cat and mouse game and not enough about lacrosse.
Lacrosse Magazine welcomed ESPN lacrosse announcer Eamon McAnaney to its stable of contributors earlier this spring. Look for more from McAnaney, a sports broadcasting veteran and former Notre Dame lacrosse captain, throughout the college season here at LaxMagazine.com.
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