Lacrosse Magazine released their 2013 Preseason NCAA D1 Poll, two days before High Point takes on Delaware to officially kick the men’s D1 season off. Let’s take a look at where LM has the teams placed, and add in some thoughts of our own regarding their rankings.
NCAA Division I Men
1. Loyola – With so many returning star players, and a couple of key transfers, Loyola is an obvious choice for the #1 spot. For how early it is in the year (the earliest), the Hounds’ performance against Team USA was scary. The passing, cutting, and shooting was all very much there. This might be the most justifiable #1 Preseason pick of all-time, and this squad might be even better than they were last year. The interesting thing to watch is how Loyola deals with having such a huge target on their back. My guess is Toomey and co. will be just fine, as they took a number of tough shots from the USA guys but only focused on trying to win the game. Attitude is everything.
2. Maryland – Loyola is going to be better, but Maryland looks better too. Is that even possible? The Terps look to make their third straight trip to the finals in 2013, and they have the horses to do it. I don’t see them going undefeated or anything, as their schedule is really tough, but there is no question that this team will be able to thrive under the new rules, and thrive when it counts. Depth, athleticism, and a desire to finally win it all. Maryland is a perfect #2.
3. Duke – Is Duke better too? They’d have to be to come in at number 3. Of course, if I had to guess which Top 5 team would drop the fastest, I’d also go with Duke. This isn’t a knock on the program at all though, it’s just sort of how they operate. Early losses and mistakes don’t happen twice for the Blue Devils, and Duke aims to be flying high and doing it right at the end of the year. Duke might go down in the Poll early, but they’ll be back up near the top when it counts. Word on the street is that Casey Carroll is out for the year with a ligament tear. Does that change my prediction? I think it just makes it more likely.
4. Notre Dame – The knock on the Irish is usually that they lack any real offense. They play possession ball, and try to out-athlete and scheme you. In 2013, we’ll still see a strong defense from Notre Dame, and some of the same possession ball, but we’ll also see a more well-rounded, and dangerous, offense. Things have been changing for the Irish, slowly, but surely, and they now have the guys to put up some serious goals if other teams aren’t careful. I like Notre Dame better than Duke, at least early.
5. Johns Hopkins - Pretty easy choice for Hop to be in the Preseason Top 5. Talent? Yup. Depth? Yup. Potential? Yup. It’s all there for Hopkins. The question with the Blue Jays is so simple though… how will they react to the new rules? Some of their slow it down style could be forced out, and I’d love to see them migrate towards a more run n gun style of play, at least at times. They have the personnel to put up insane goals. I’m actually glad they are on TV TWELVE times this year just to see who they change. Actually 12 games still seems a tad excessive.
6. Denver - With a more experienced defense, Denver should worry everyone. You say they graduated some great offensive players? I wouldn’t disagree. But the guys they have waiting in the wings are also REALLY good, and #22 is in good hands. I like Denver’s midfield better than any other midfield in the country. Their attack is still stacked. And their D is older, and better, AND they might have a killer goalie with them all year in 2013. Wowzas. I’d probably put these guys at #3 or 4 above Hop, and maybe even above Duke.
7. Cornell – Rob Pannell returns and Cornell hops over a couple of team into the Top 10? Is that fair? You bet it is. First of all, Cornell is really GOOD without Pannell, and probably a 15-20 type team. However, WITH Pannell, they get that much more dangerous and immediately jump to contender status. But you knew that already… now we just want to see it in action.
8. North Carolina – Ah, the talent. UNC is once again loaded up with premier level offensive players, some giant athletes on defense, and a couple of special teams units that have tons of potential (F/Os and Extra Man). Consistency in goal will give the Heels total confidence, and that would be dangerous. It all starts in between the pipes for UNC, and if that goes well it could definitely end with a title for the Heels.
9. Virginia – A lot of talent is gone for UVA, but talent keeps coming in the door, and it keeps working hard down in Charlottesville, as a team. The seems cheesy, but it’s true, so let it slide. With a defense that is capable of changing a game and imposing its will, but an unproven goalie, UVA is a bit of an enigma. Don’t expect that enigma to go quietly into any good nights. This team will bring it, and with Chris LaPierre beasting all over the field, the attitude should be infectious. I might have put Virginia at #11 this early, but new stars will emerge to complement the players they still have. Bank on it.
10. Lehigh – The Lao-Gosney brothers are gone, it’s all over for Lehigh. Just kidding. Kevin Cassesse has built a program in Mountain Hawk land, and they will be tough again in 2013. I like their defense especially, and think they could see plenty of time in the Top 10. The Patriot will be a tough road, but they’re still the top team in the conference.
11. Colgate – The Raiders won’t sneak up on anyone this year, but it’s not all Baum up there either. I expect another good season out of Colgate, and 11 seems like a fair ranking, but I don’t know that this team is built to win a title. We’re starting to get into “contender?” ranking.
12. Syracuse – Is Cuse really a #12 team? They graduated some serious talent, and their big transfer, Nick Galasso, is now out for the year with an injury. 2012 saw Cuse go 9-8, and I’m curious as to what makes them better in 2013. That being said, there is still a ton of talent there, and some good athleticism. If Cuse can play more run n gun within the new rules, they could actually see a big improvement. They’re typically built for this kind of game. Maybe this ranking wasn’t too high after all…
13. UMass – UMass, like Loyola, won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. And like Baum at Colgate or Pannell at Cornell, Will Manny will get a LOT of attention from opposing defenses. With players of his caliber I’m not sure it matters. UMass won’t have the same record as they did last year (more losses) but they should be just as dangerous. I’m a little surprised they are ranked this low. Okay, I’m more than a little surprised. One loss and you go from #1 to #13? Sure.
14. Penn State – Watch out lacrosse world, PSU is coming. I don’t know if it will happen this year, next year, or in 2015, but by that time, at the latest, PSU will be a Top 10 staple. Tambroni will continue to excel and bring in excellent players, and the Nittany Lions will get tougher and tougher. Is THIS the year they contend? I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t rule it out. PSU is capable of making a big jump, and it’s only a matter of time. And hard work.
15. Princeton – I love three or four of Princeton’s offensive players. They’re creative, in great shape (prepped for the up and down), and can straight up play. What concerns me is what happens after that. I think Princeton needs some serious midfield depth and athleticism if they want to compete this year. Their D and goalie will be mostly new, and this put more pressure on their middies. Early losses are certainly possible, and the Tigers could drop, but I expect them to rebound and claw their way back up later in the year. That was pun.
16. Yale – Yale started slow last year, got hot late and now everyone thinks they’re going to be good again. They very well could be as it wasn’t just Matt Gibson (although he was a big part of things). But I wouldn’t rule out more early season losses this year, and I also wouldn’t venture that those losses are the end of the world. Yale has a favorable schedule to build to something special, but could be over-ranked right now.
17. Villanova - Nova has five big time scorers back, and a bunch of others gone. They play a tough schedule and were very hard to predict last year. The key for Nova’s offense is chemistry, and if they can get that going again they will compete. If they struggle to find rhythm, it could be a long season of tight losses. I think it’s a stretch to have them in the Top 20 right now, but who do you replace them with? At the very least, I think they could be lower. Or not. They’re very hard to predict.
18. Fairfield – Fairfield has really improved year over year for a while now. I don’t expect them to make a big jump this year, nor do I expect any sort of fall off. 15-25 seems just about right, and their success last year, and returning personnel, certainly deserves Top 20 consideration. How do you sell Fairfield? You get to live on the beach in CT and play D1 lacrosse. That’s how.
19. Hofstra – Hofstra could be great, and they finish with a losing record. My gut says they will win more games than they lose, but not by much. This is one of the hardest teams’ fortune to predict in my opinion, which means they are PERFECT for the 17-22 range. After so many tight games in 2012, and enough core returners, the Pride is looking up in 2013. Expect some jaw dropping transition play from this group at times.
20. Bryant – I like Bryant. Pressler does a good job with those guys, and 2013 looks like another year where the Bulldogs will be the best team in Rhode Island, which is actually something. They should be the favorite to win their conference again, and this year (unlike 2012), that comes with an AQ bid. I could see Bryant climbing a bit higher, but they can’t suffer many upset losses as their schedule is not as tough some of the teams they need to climb over.