What a week we just had! To say that my coming up with a solid top 20 list this week for my Inside Lacrosse 2020 NCAA Men’s Division I lacrosse ballot was challenging would be a drastic understatement.
Things actually weren’t too bad on Saturday. On Sunday, there were a few games that should have been routine, including one top-5 matchup that shouldn’t have shuffled things too much. But of course, that’s not how things went. My No. 1 (Penn State) lost to Cornell, Brown beat UVA, and Villanova followed their huge upset on Friday with a bad loss to Drexel (catch up on the news, storylines and memorable plays from last weekend by clicking here).
That all happened in the same week as when I typically reshuffle teams on my ballot anyway. It really started to complicate things.
Now that all the teams have a handful of games under their belts, the preseason expectations matter significantly less. With Penn State losing, it was a good time to really examine who should be in that top spot. Conventional wisdom would be just moving Syracuse to my No. 1 spot since they were my previous No. 2 team, and currently sit in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll as the No. 1 team in the country.
But that’s just going through the mechanics and not really thinking about who is the best team right now. So to determine who the best team was, I looked at who I felt was in consideration. For me that was Syracuse, Cornell, Princeton and UNC. And for me, the best team in NCAA men’s college lacrosse was…
2020 NCAA Men’s DI Lacrosse: Week 5 — Is This Poll Serious?!
My 2020 NCAA Men’s DI Lacrosse Media Poll Ballot For Week 5
1. Cornell (Last Week: 5)
National Poll: 2
W 18-17 vs Penn State
For me, it wasn’t just the win over Penn State that sent the Big Red to the top spot. That was of course big. But their season record thus far with wins over both Penn State and Ohio State, along with having the No. 2 scoring offense in the country, having the No. 2 best shooting percentage in the country, and currently ranking No. 5 in ground balls per game is certainly helping spell success for Cornell. The Big Red doesn’t have the best defense, but they sure did a great job against Penn State for much of that game. They’re not picture-perfect complete, but they’re looking great right now.
2. Princeton (Last Week: 6)
National Poll: 3
W 16-11 vs Rutgers
Princeton had a strong win against Rutgers and the Michael Sowers – Jeff Teat (Cornell) debate of who is the top player is going to rage on this entire year. The Tigers’ win against Virginia is still a strong one, and Rutgers is no slouch to beat either. They start their Ivy League slate next, with Penn and Yale to face of all the teams, too. If they really are this good, those should both be wins and you could see an undefeated Princeton face an undefeated Cornell in the final game of the season.
3. Syracuse (Last Week: 2)
National Poll: 1
W 15-9 vs Hopkins
Syracuse looked impossible to beat in its first quarter against Hopkins with its offense doing everything right. The question mark for the Orange is on defense. Right now, they’re a bad performance from Drake Porter away from a loss, especially with Nick Mellen and Peter Dearth missing time due to injury. Without those two, this upcoming game with Rutgers has some major trap potential with Duke on the horizon.
4. UNC (Last Week: 3)
National Poll: 4
W 18-11 vs Furman
UNC has one of the scariest offenses out there right now, and its man-up unit is downright lethal. The Tar Heels’ win over Denver is still the best so far, but the rest of their schedule has been extremely weak. Comparing things side-by-side with Syracuse, I feel like the Orange still has the slight edge for now.
5. Penn State (Last Week: 1)
National Poll: 7
L 18-17 vs Cornell
Following the Nittany Lions’ overtime win against Penn, Penn State certainly had something to prove against Cornell. When they started out by opening up the game with some quick goals, it looked like they were on their way. But Cornell took over from there and dominated the first half. This loss still doesn’t set off the metaphorical alarm at State College, though. They’re still a championship contender, and that is still a long ways away with time to prepare.
6. Maryland (Last Week: 4)
National Poll: 6
W 14-13 vs Albany
Basically, Maryland is still Maryland. But this narrow win for the Terps over Albany still raised my eyebrow (Note: Just one eyebrow. It was not a two-eyebrow raise sort of thing) a bit as it makes it their fourth game with a margin of victory of under two goals. That said, a win is still a win. Any questions about Maryland are about to be answered, though. Its next three games are Virginia, North Carolina and Penn State.
7. Yale (Last Week: 8)
National Poll: 5
W 17-11 vs Michigan
Following its surprise loss to UMass, the Bulldogs put things back on track with this win over Michigan. That brings them to a 3-1 record with Cornell, Princeton and Penn next. This is about to get “real”, real fast.
8. Denver (Last Week: 15)
National Poll: 11
W 14-11 vs Notre Dame
For all but the last six minutes or so of this game, Denver was in total control. It was actually a great display of everything: defense, goaltending and offense. Everything was clicking for the Pioneers. If they can keep that up, this will be like the Denver teams of championship weekends past. It’s one of the lesser known ghosts from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, but an important one nonetheless.
9. Penn (Last Week: 7)
National Poll: 16
L 12-10 vs Villanova
W 13-12 vs Saint Joseph’s
Penn fell victim to a huge upset with crosstown rival Villanova on Friday night. It was going to be a tough game that it “should” have won, but its inability to gain possessions on defense doomed the Quakers. Bouncing back against a dangerous Saint Joseph’s team was still good, though. But now they head into the toughest part of their season with Princeton, Cornell and Yale all in a row.
10. Duke (Last Week: 12)
National Poll: 8
W 13-10 vs Loyola
This was actually a very important win for Duke. Loyola was a team that at least in terms of rankings was close to its level. But what this game shows is that the Blue Devils are getting closer to reaching their potential and are heading towards where people saw them being from the preseason. They now have a two-game week before the ACC schedules start, which begins with hosting the Orange. But first things first — Jacksonville and Towson are next.
11. Lehigh (Last Week: 13)
National Poll: 18
W 15-10 vs Holy Cross
Lehigh is still strong at a 5-1 record, with its lone loss to Virginia the only blemish. Now, they are fully into its league schedule, staring down a match with Army next. That one is a must-watch if you can swing it. After that? In-state foe Penn State. These next two weeks are huge for Lehigh if it wants a ‘Plan B’ for a postseason if they don’t win Patriot League tournament.
12. Virginia (Last Week: 9)
National Poll: 9
L 14-13 vs Brown
This loss to Brown was nothing short of bad. Even then, they still lost only by just a goal. Nothing was going well for the ‘Hoos in this game. They were struggling with routine passes, and ground balls were even worse. And their shooting? Don’t get me started. They outshot Brown 54-46, but they were behind in shots on goal by a 29-31 shots on goal comparison. When it came to its man-up unit, the penalty-prone Brown gave them six chances, but the ‘Hoos could only convert one.
13. Notre Dame (Last Week: 10)
National Poll: 13
L 14-11 vs Denver
On a two-game losing skid to good teams, Notre Dame probably isn’t feeling great about things right now. If they play like they did in the last few minutes of the game against Denver, they might be borderline unbeatable. But they haven’t played that way for a game yet. The potential is there, but the Irish are in search for some consistency. They’re facing Ohio State today, we’ll see how the Irish respond.
14. Loyola (Last Week: 11)
National Poll: 14
L 13-10 vs Duke
Loyola has an odd trend developing within, and it has also led the Greyhounds to develop the No. 7 scoring defense in the land. If they allow more than ten goals, they lose. If they don’t, they win. It’s not shocking, but it’s an indication of a team with a pretty good defense and a pretty good offense. They don’t have the fireworks from a year ago to carry them when the defense struggles (will Pat Spencer please report to the locker room?) so the pressure on the long poles is going to grow. What does this mean? Loyola’s games against Army, Georgetown and Lehigh are about to become much more difficult.
15. Georgetown (Last Week: 14)
National Poll: 9
W 16-4 vs Towson
Georgetown is a team that I really struggled with in figuring out where to rank it. They’re 6-0, but the Hoyas’ schedule has been terribly easy compared to pretty much every other team in the top 20. They have great potential, but have yet to be proven by their peers. That’s about to change, though. This week, they travel down to Chapel Hill for the Tar Heels.
16. Army (Last Week: 16)
National Poll: 15
W 15-10 vs Binghamton
W 16-8 vs Lafayette
Army is still a team loaded with potential. It had a great start to the season and outside of its strange loss to Marist and the close loss to Syracuse, it’s still all wins for the Black Knights. But now that they’re into the heavy portion of their league schedule, the wins need to keep coming. Lehigh and Loyola are the next two games for Army, which will indicate both how their season goes, and how the league shapes up.
17. Ohio State (Last Week: 17)
National Poll: 19
W 12-10 vs Hofstra
Ohio State’s problem so far hasn’t been a lack of talent, it’s the lack of a good win. They have two good losses to UMass and Cornell, but that is already painting out of the automatic qualifier picture. This week gives them Notre Dame (see the preview here) and Denver, which has opportunity written all over it.
18. Villanova (Last Week: 18)
National Poll: 17
W 12-10 vs Penn
L 15-12 vs Drexel
‘Nova was poised to make some huge jumps in the rankings after its win over Penn. There were stretches of that game where it seemed like Penn would never even touch the ball again. But as good as that win was, the Drexel loss was completely in the opposite direction. The result? They hover for now on my ballot.
19. UMass (Last Week: Unranked)
National Poll: 12
W 17-12 vs Albany
There was no Yale hangover for the Minutemen as they took care of Albany. Now is when being in a weak conference hurts, though. The toughest games left on their schedule are probably Brown, Drexel and Delaware. When all of the other teams on this list are gearing up for top-20 battles, UMass may not see another one until May.
20. Saint Joseph’s (Last Week: 19)
National Poll: Unranked
W 10-9 vs Drexel
L 13-12 vs Penn
I kept the Hawks in there because they basically did what they were expected to do this weekend. I still like their win over Providence, and the Drexel one looked a little more impressive after the Dragons beat Villanova. From here on out, all eyes on are them finishing out their conference slate on top, which has proven to be difficult lately. With top-10 quality players at both the faceoff position and for its goalies, it is certainly looking better in Philly.
- Richmond (20)
Even though Richmond won two games, I still dropped the Spiders out of the top 20 this week because they still lack any notable wins. I do think they’re good. I do think they’ll win the SoCon. But they lack the wins to be in the top 20 right now given who is around them.
Next Teams In:
These are the ones with the best shot at making the top 20 in the coming weeks, not in order:
Who Did I Leave Out?
- Richmond (20)
Basically, the only difference in the national poll and mine is swapping Saint Joseph’s and Richmond. If that’s all, I’m not going to feel too bad right now.
Who do you have as your top 20 teams at this point in NCAA Men’s Division I lacrosse? Compare Ryan Conwell’s ballot to the actual poll for this week by clicking here.