As good a TV weekend as one could really hope for, this final Saturday in March opens with lacrosse in high definition on ESPN2 and flows into a battle of unbeaten conference foes on ESPNU at 2 p.m. ET, with a lot of other big games between then and Lafayette's bid to stay among the unbeaten against Philly foe Drexel.
What else should you be paying attention to this weekend?
Johns Hopkins at Virginia
Saturday, noon ET on ESPN2
A big game kicks off the weekend, as fans across the country get to check out an ESPN2 HD broadcast from Klockner Stadium, where the Blue Jays hope to rebound from three losses in their last four games. It's too early for a must-win declaration, but this is a big one for the Blue Jays if they want to make a move back into the 'getting a seed for the tournament' picture.
Virginia has hummed its way through the season thus far, clocking wins over Syracuse and Cornell with a tough stretch of Maryland, North Carolina and Duke before the ACC tournament at the end of April, so a stumble going into this stretch would be a bad move. With folks like Steele Stanwick and Ken Clausen on your roster, stumbles are infrequent to say the least.
There's also a bit of history involved, according to Virginia's sports information department:
Saturday marks the 64th-straight season the Cavaliers and the Blue Jays have clashed in an all-time series that began in 1904. Johns Hopkins holds the all-time advantage with a 54-27-1 mark, however Virginia has won the last five meetings, including last year's 19-8 triumph in the NCAA quarterfinal round in Annapolis, Md. Virginia's 82 all-time games against the Blue Jays equals the most games the Cavaliers have played against any opponent in their history.
The game is the fifth annual battle for the Doyle Smith Cup. Virginia and Johns Hopkins joined together to honor E. Doyle Smith, Jr., for his lifetime of contributions to the lacrosse programs at both schools and on the national level with the annual regular season winner laying claim to the cup. Smith served as team manager and statistician for Johns Hopkins under coach Bob Scott from 1963-68.
Duke at Georgetown
Saturday, noon ET on ESPNU
A tough game to pick -- as both squads have shown both tremendous upside and the ability to underperform. Georgetown has played well in its two losses, falling to unbeaten Maryland in its opener and by three to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome earlier this month. A win here at home would go a long way toward legitimizing the Hoyas, whose senior class came in with massive expectations but hasn't yet performed up to that level.
Duke, which entered the year at No. 1 in Face-Off Yearbook hasn't yet capitalized on the wealth of talent on their sidelines, losing to Notre Dame, Maryland and North Carolina so far, with wins over Bucknell, Penn, Penn State, Loyola and Dartmouth. After this one, there are games remaining against Brown, Harvard and Virginia in addition to the ACC tournament.
Princeton at Yale
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
A series that saw its start on Oct. 14, 1882, Princeton travels to New Haven to take on a Yale team that is hoping to get its feet under it after taking the first loss in 2010 a week ago to Cornell.
Princeton took last season' meeting by an 11-7 score and owns a 67-20-2 advantage overall, with a four game win streak going into this one. The Tigers have had a full week to recharge the batteries since an OT win over Penn (which followed their lone loss thus far -- 12-11 to North Carolina).
Hofstra at UMass
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Already interesting for being the first-ever CAA matchup between these proud squads, this one got some extra juice earlier this week when the Minutemen got a big out-of-conference win over Brown, 11-10.
I wouldn't anticipate the scoring to be too low, since UMass comes in fifth in Division I at 14.1 goals a game, and Hofstra is sixth at an even 14.
Cornell at Penn
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Another big Ivy League showdown, this one pits a Cornell squad that comes in off a big win over Stony Brook that took some of the sting away from a 12-4 result against Virginia against Penn, which is 4-0 outside against the top 10 (the Quakers' losses are to Maryland, Duke, Lafayette and Princeton, which won in OT a week ago).
The pressure in a contest like this is a touch abated by the presence of an Ivy League tournament next month -- but I think it's safe to say that these guys are going to give us a good game anyway.
Hobart at Fairfield
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
One of those 'If I mentioned at the start of the season that on March 27, Hobart and Fairfield would play in a key ECAC contest, you'd say I was crazy' moments, this one has a lot of weight on it.
Fairfield (don't look now) has won three straight games, including beating Notre Dame, Colgate and Ohio State by identical 10-8 scores to improve to 4-2 on the year. Hobart is 2-4, but any team that can give Syracuse a run for its money like the Statesmen did this week deserves your respect.
Maryland at North Carolina
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Undefeated against undefeated, in a conference game, national television?
Sign me up.
Maryland has been solid all season, with wins over Georgetown and Duke out of the top 10 already, but a murderers' row of Virginia, Navy, Johns Hopkins and the ACC tournament awaiting after this key contest in the Triangle.
Carolina comes in ranked No. 2, having weathered a couple close calls in February to post some impressive wins, including a dominating show against Duke and a white-knuckler over Princeton. The last time these two teams played, the Tar Heels ended a 21-game ACC losing streak by dispatching the Terrapins 16-10 in the ACC semifinals.
Drexel at Lafayette
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Another 'bigger than you might have expected' tilt sees Lafayette host Drexel, a non-conference Pennsylvania affair that wouldn't raise eyebrows most seasons, but finds both in the Top 20 and with definite résumé building to do for a run at a NCAA tournament bid (one can never rely on a conference tournament, as history has shown).
The Leopards have been on a historical opening, taking the drivers seat in the Patriot League with wins over Navy and Bucknell already this season and a top 10 spot in the rankings. The Dragons are smarting from their second loss on the season, a 10-8 loss at Villanova on Tuesday, but a 6-2 record and win over Notre Dame make them a tough out in the last non-conference game for Lafayette.
Sean Burns is the web editor of ESPN affiliate InsideLacrosse.com.