Preseason polls are pretty much the most arbitrary set of rankings that exist on the face of the planet. Ok, the Triple A investment ratings that helped usher in our economic apocalypse were worse, but not by much. In lacrosse arbitrary rankings and polls are fun. In economics, they ruin lives. So we’ll stick with lax thank you very much. IL came up with some rankings for 2012, 412 added some opinion to them, and now it’s my turn to turn the Top 20 on its head and try to do the impossible: rank D1 lacrosse teams before they’ve even played a game! Except I’ll actually come up with my own list.
I’m willing to bet my Top 20 will be AT LEAST as arbitrary as anyone else’s. And that is a point of pride. I’ll be very open with my reasoning as well, and really let you into the mind of a preseason pollster. The Coaches Poll doesn’t come out until January 29th, so until then you’ll just have to deal with me and the rest of the hapless prognosticators.
1 Virginia- They won it all last year and return a solid portion of their roster. I’d have them at number 1 even if they had graduated 20 guys. Until the season starts, they are my top dog. Period. That’s a pretty arbitrary start! But really, I’ve heard good things about a starting goalie battle and the overal direction of the team. Some might be concerned about the dismissal of one player from last year’s team but if last year, and the whole Bratton situation, is any example it only shows you how serious UVA is about cleaning house and running a reputable program. The Cavs are going to be tough to beat when it counts in 2012. Steele Stanwick is still there? Their chances are good.
2 Johns Hopkins – I liked where Hopkins headed and how they grew during the season last year. Yes, they had some flubs during the season, and still have room for improvement, but this is their year to make it happen. They have talent, depth and a couple of studs where it counts. I think Petro really saw how good his guys can be if he lets them play and create a little more, so that “create when you can” attitude should be in full effect for 2012. Go big or go home should be Hop’s motto for 2012. Anything less than a Final Four could be considered a real waste of talent and potential. It’s a lot of pressure, but JHU embraces that mentality. It’s a good thing, they’ll have to.
3 Cornell – Rob Pannell is usually all one would need to say here, but I’ll say a little bit more. Cornell has great team chemistry and a ton of talent on their roster. Guys who can play smart, play hard and play together… Cornell’s got ‘em in bunches. Combine that with the most dynamic college lacrosse player since Mikey Powell and you’re going to be good to go.
4 Duke – 412 is going to kill me for this. He’ll say 4 is way too low. And he might be right. I could see Duke being ranked anywhere from 1 to 10 for 2012 but one thing that seems for certain is that they’re going to be really good. The only reason I don’t have them higher is that they went 6-4 in their last 10 games of the year last season, even though they beat Virginia twice in that span. If 2012 is the season where this group of Dukies finds additional consistency then they could be world beaters with ease. I love that the top 4 is all this tight… at least in my own mind anyway.
5 Denver – Denver had a heck of a run last year! They made some serious waves and have enjoyed a ton of positive coverage and hype. And if this team were coached by anyone other than Bill Tierney, I’d expect them to have a drop off season. But since this is a Tierney operation, I have a lot more faith than I normally might. The focus out in CO is on building something truly special, and anything other than a NC is not meeting the ultimate end goal. I like Denver to struggle a little early as new pieces are really worked in but to be flying high by April and May.
6 Notre Dame- I like how Notre Dame plays. It’s team ball, predicated on good decision making and a cohesive effort. But I have the same concern with ND that I had with Hopkins at the beginning of last year in that I worry they are a little too robotic. Brenneman, for example, was a great player, but I found him to be extremely predictable as well. Last year ND showed some real spurts of creative play, but that must increase for them to see success this year. I really think 2010 was the last year we’ll see a slow it down team make it to the Finals. Phew, I just blew my arbitrary socks off!
7 Maryland – I’m a little concerned with all the guys that UMD graduated last year. I know they still have some absolute studs on the team, and I really like what Tillman did there, so I kept them in the Top 10 with some level of arbitrary confidence. The swagger is back at Maryland, and if they keep embracing the home-state is best mentality they’ll keep killing it. Guys WANT to go to Maryland to play again, and we could be seeing the resurgence of the Terps. Out of all the players who graduated I think they might miss Brian Farrell the most. Man, that kid was a beast. Although Bernhardt is a different player, I’m still expecting big things out of that pole. Love how he pushes the rock!
8 Syracuse – Of all the arbitrary and unfair rankings my Cuse ranking at #8 may be the strongest. Well, the strongest in that it’s the most arbitrary. I really do think they are solid at #8, but it’s possible that I just think of the program so highly that I’m ranking them lower than I really should. There is talent there as always and I think they’ll be hungry this year but with increasing parity in D1 lax that might not be enough anymore. I’m looking for a difference maker for Cuse for 2012 and I just don’t see one… yet. Can’t wait for the season to prove me wrong!
9 Villanova – Nov lost some guys from last year’s team, but the fact is that Villanova has been underrated for years. They NEED to make 2012 a good season to keep up the change in perception, and I hope that 2011 served as a good appetizer for the Wildcats. Nova bball has dropped off a bit… it’s time for lax to step it up! Team ball, hustle, good hustle and speed, and excellent shooters. Nova will be dangerous.
10 UNC- Consistency: it has been UNC’s problem since the mid 90s when they won it all. They’re usually really good but I just don’t see them jumping up to true contender status in 2012. Galasso will be back, and is dominant, but I didn’t see the flow of offense last year that I felt was needed, and I’m not sure we’ll see it in 2012 either. Very good program, but maybe not quite there yet.
And now for the 10-20 teams… I’m not going to actually rank them. But I will give you my second 10. See? I told you this list was completely arbitrary!
Hofstra, Bucknell, Penn, Yale, Colgate, Drexel, Ohio State, Army, Harvard and Hartford.
OSU and Hartford are my biggest gambles. OSU has been moving up for a while now in my opinion and I think 2012 could be the year this big time sports school makes a bigger splash in lacrosse. I’d like to see Hartford continue their success from last year, and while it will be a tough thing to accomplish, they certainly proved it is possible. That first successful season can do big things for any program.
I didn’t like UMass as much because from the outside it looks like they are having some identity and player retention problems. It’s less about kids getting kicked out or disciplined, and more about kids choosing to leave. That doesn’t lead me to believe they had a great fall.
I didn’t rank Penn State because they are yet to show me anything, and I do mean ANYTHING. I like Tambroni, and think the program has potential, but with the Sandusky quagmire still boggind the school down, I don’t know if 2012 is going to the year for the Nittany Lions.
I also didn’t rank Princeton, Stony Brook, Georgetown or Loyola. All could have been ranked in the top 20 with ease… some possibly as high as 13 or 14, but I had to leave some teams out, and these were the guys who got left off. Thankfully, this Top 20 means nothing and they have plenty of time to impress me.
We’ll compare this “poll” to the Coaches Poll when it comes out at the end of January and who knows, maybe we’ll at least have the Top 10 right. Unlikely, but arbitrarily possible.
Think I made some mistakes???? I would hope so! Give me your Top 20, or Top 10, or just tell me who I missed or who I included that I shouldn’t have. I’m pretty sure your list will be no more arbitrary and biased than mine!