As I continue down my Top 20 list, the job gets harder and harder. There are a lot of top level programs jammed into the top 10 and just trying to pick the 5 I thought belonged in the bottom half of the top 10 was hard enough. Putting them in any sort of intelligent order? Well, you be the judge…
Lehigh is the kind of team that many might drop further, simply because they don’t have the history of success that some other programs do, but in the Mountain Hawks case, I don’t think this is fair. The program has been building for some time now, and last year wasn’t a fluke, but a product of hard work and direction. The last steps are always the hardest, but Lehigh is right there and shouldn’t be counted out in 2013. It was tempting to rank them higher.
Unlike Lehigh, Princeton has a reputation of recent national prowess, but like Lehigh, the Tigers have been building something (in their case it was back up and not from the foundation), and last year the Tigers showed moments of excellence. If they come back ready to go, 2013 could be theirs for the taking, at least in the Ivy, and then the sky is the limit. It’s a risk to put them this high, but I’m not taking a wait and see attitude with this bunch.
#8 Johns Hopkins
Was I tempted to rank Hop higher than #8? You bet I was. I like this team offensively better than last year, and I think if they generate some looks in transition, they could be dangerous. The only area of real concern here is defensive foot speed, and I think it showed a bit last year. It’s not a glaring weakness, but it could prove to be fatal to their hopes of another title. If the D is back, and faster than last year, Hop has the potential to be a Top 5 team easily.
The only real hole for Denver last year was goaltending, and with their star keeper back, it seems like the Pioneers don’t have many holes. With a more experienced defense and one of the best midfield lines in the country (and some scorers on attack as well), Denver should improve greatly on their 9-7 record last year. Of the 7 games they lost last season, 6 were by one goal, and two came at the hands of Loyola, once in OT. Oh yeah, Denver is real.
I like UNC year in and year out and they haven’t ever quite lived up to my expectations… but this is the year, right? I think it is. The Heels need to find a better option in goal, or at least throw a scheme out there that creates predictible shots. The one thing that always surprises me about UNC is their defensive breakdowns. If they can shore that up? This is the year. Please keep in mind that all of the above comments acknowledge how good UNC is… I just think they could be even better.