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Syracuse lacrosse vs UAlbany 2015 credit Jeff Melnik America East

Too-Early NCAA DI Playoff Predictions

Is it too early to make my NCAA DI playoff predictions? Probably. But find out the eight teams Ryder is taking come May!

Predictions in the fall are almost always wrong. Teams overperform and underperform, injuries derail seasons, and players we all overlooked last season will explode into the spotlight. Trying to declare winners and losers in the fall is always crazy, but that’s my kind of crazy.

Let’s be honest: we all miss lacrosse season. We’re dying for any taste of lacrosse, and that means we might as well have a little fun speculating. Who knows, maybe we’ll even learn a thing or two to watch for in 2016. Next up in our Are We Crazy predictions comes the craziest yet: predicting the eight seeds for the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Sure, you’ve seen my Top 20. But we all know that rankings and seedings are two different worlds.

Is it too early to make my NCAA DI playoff predictions? Probably. But find out who I’m taking come May:

#8 Albany

The death of Albany lacrosse has been exaggerated. Sure, nobody can replace Lyle Thompson. He’s a freak-of-nature, once-in-a-generation type talent. So what? The Great Danes got to learn from the best player in lacrosse at every single practice, and I think that made every single one of them better.

Syracuse lacrosse vs UAlbany 2015 credit Jeff Melnik

Do you think those poles fear a lowly All-Conference attackman after having stared down the Thompson trio day in and day out? Not to mention that the attackmen returning aren’t exactly shabby. Connor Fields and Seth Oakes are going to score goals. Lots of goals. And if they can’t find a goal one game, let’s not forget that goalie Blaze Riorden is just as capable of putting the ball in the net as he is capable of keeping it out. Riorden might be the most underrated goalie in the country, and I think he’ll shore up this defense enough to keep Albany among the powerhouses. They get my eighth seed.

#7 Brown

Brown lacrosse tryout snow practice
Snow thanks!

The Ivy League winner is going to be a seeded team, and this year I think the Ivy League will belong to the Bears. It’s hard to be confident in any Ivy team this early. It’s a toss-up of a conference in 2016. Yale, Cornell, and Princeton are all likely to be very solid teams this season. What none of those programs seem to have right now is a star, and that’s where Brown gets the advantage.

Unlike the rest of the Ivy powers this season, Brown is a team that is built around its offense. These guys should rack up a ton of goals, and Dylan Molloy should lead the charge for them. I’m seeing the Bears offense winning games against teams like Yale, who struggle to consistently score in double-digits. If they win the Ivy, they’ll be seeded for sure.

#6 Maryland

I think Maryland will lose the Big Ten this season, and I think think that they will struggle early in the non-conference games as they get a new goaltender up to speed. But by the time May rolls around, I think the Terrapins will be firing on all cylinders, even if I think that early season struggles will keep them from being a higher seed.

Maryland Vs Loyola

No need to fear for Maryland though, as they’ve made two recent national championships without a high seed (#6 in 2015 and unseeded in 2012). The Terps can do it again; the question will be whether or not they can finish this season.

#5 Syracuse

Syracuse lacrosse vs UAlbany 2015 credit Jeff Melnik

Syracuse is probably getting really tired of losing early as a top seed. This season, however, I don’t see Syracuse securing that high seed, and maybe that’s what this team needs. ‘Cuse has suffered recently from failing to live up to expectations in May.

Perhaps lowering those expectations will help, and maybe it’ll provide the chip-on-the-shoulder these Orange seem to need to get back to championship weekend. The ACC is absolutely stacked, as always, and I don’t see the Orange winning it this season. However, a strong out-of-conference performance should still steer the Orange into a seed in 2016.

#4 Denver

Denver likes the look of that four seed just fine, having just won their first national championship as the four in 2015. The reigning champs will look to defend their title, as well as attend their third straight Memorial Day Weekend, and I think that they’ll come close.

Duke vs Denver mens lacrosse 2014 Final Four NCAA Championships Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan
Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan

While I don’t see them winning it all two years in a row, I think that they’ll be back to championship weekend. The four seed seems like a good place for the champs, as they look to replace a strong senior class that helped them win that title. Denver has talent, but will they still be hungry after finally nabbing the natty?

#3 Notre Dame

Notre Dame LaxAllStar Sighting The 2015 All Traditional College Lacrosse

Hello again, Notre Dame. At this point, part of me hopes that Notre Dame and Maryland somehow meet in the national championship in 2016 just so that one of these seemingly perennial bridesmaids will finally win a trophy. And why not now for the Irish? They return just about everyone from a team that often looked like the number one squad in 2015.

The key this season will be in helping Matt Kavanagh find his 4th quarter magic again in the playoffs. He seemingly disappeared in the 2015 tournament, and the clutch cannon that is the Motor City Hitman couldn’t quite carry the Irish through to the final. Like ‘Cuse, I don’t think that Notre Dame will win the ACC, but I think they’ll have been the #1 team in the nation before the ACC tournament, and that will be enough for the three seed overall.

#2 Johns Hopkins

Did any team have a better second half of the 2015 season than Hopkins? This was a team that sat at 4-6 last season before ripping off seven straight wins at the end of the season. Only a one-point loss in the semis kept this team from the championship game in 2015.

Duke vs Johns Hopkins mens lacrosse 2014 NCAA quarter final a great coach NCAA Lacrosse Final Four

Personally, I think that we’ll be seeing a lot more of that Hopkins team in 2016, and a lot less of the struggling program from the early part of 2015. Ryan Brown is a scoring machine, and Dave Pietramala knows how to coach up a defense. I see Hopkins taking down Maryland to win the Big Ten, and riding that win all the way to the two seed.

#1 Duke

Myles Jones Duke NCAA Div 1 Lacrosse Championship play college lacrosse

Shocking that my #1 team in the my too-early top 20 would also be my #1 seed, right? Duke is a stacked team with a fantastic coaching staff. They’re the closest thing lacrosse has to a current dynasty, and I think they’ll build on their legacy this year. I would not want to be the defender tasked with stopping Myles Jones from finishing his career hoisting up another trophy.

Beyond Jones, this is a team that is simply too deep for most teams to hang with in the fourth quarter. I believe that team depth will show up late in the season, as the Blue Devils cash in on how rested their players should be to once again beat Notre Dame on a big stage and steal the ACC title away from the Irish. If the Blue Devils win the ACC and don’t drop more than three games early this season, they deserve the top seed in the tournament, hands down.

UPSET SPECIAL

Which of these teams has the best chance to get upset? While it would be easy to pick on Syracuse for their current losing streak in or before the quarterfinals, or to pick one of the riskier teams in this pick, I’m going bold with this. I’m saying Notre Dame. The Irish have gotten very good at surviving the playoffs and making the later rounds, but maybe that just means that the upperclassmen on this Irish squad are starting to take that for granted.

I think Notre Dame spends most of the year as the #1 team, gets rattled by Duke in the ACC Tournament, and drops their first round game in 2016. Towson gave the Irish a fantastic fight in 2015, and the Irish easily could’ve lost that game. This time around, I think they do. Notre Dame is my pick to suffer 2016’s NCAA Tournament upset.

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