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Is This Poll Serious?!: NCAA Men’s Preseason Poll

It’s that time again! With Friday’s game between the University of Utah and the University of Vermont on the slate for this week, it means we are officially entering NCAA lacrosse season. As this exciting time nears, it also means that it is once again time for the weekly media poll! Inside Lacrosse organizes the weekly Men’s Division I poll (see the complete poll here), and they have given me a vote for another season. Fortunately, there are plenty of others voting in it to balance out my ballot’s weight. The preseason poll has been released, so let’s kick things off.

I took my ballot from the end of last season, post-championship. Given the number of factors at play, it’s not as simple as an ‘Are they better? Or, are they worse?’ comparison. With graduation, transfers, incoming recruits, injuries and several other reasons that players join or leave teams, things are highly variable. 

So, with last year’s list as a starting point, I tried to look at how each team was, in my perspective, better or worse than the team they were next to. This is also where I see them in the preseason, not at the end of the season. Hence the term, preseason poll. Someone could become a Final Four team, but that doesn’t mean they are there right now.

My NCAA Men’s Division I Preseason Poll Ballot

Rank/Team/Last Week’s Rank/Preseason Poll

1 Yale LW: 1 Preseason Poll: 1

Starting off with the champs! Yale does lose Ben Reeves, which cannot be understated. But, I also don’t put too much stock into TD Ierlan transferring in. Mainly because the guy he’s replacing was so good to start with. Will he help Yale? Absolutely! But I’m keeping Yale up on top because their defense will be incredible and Matt Gaudet will be finishing everything within 10 feet of the crease all year.

2 Maryland LW: 3 Preseason Poll: 3

I moved Maryland up a spot because…Maryland. Honestly, every single time I try to think they’ll take a half step back or even just pause for a moment, they seem to get better. Even though losing Connor Kelly, Tim Rotanz and Dan Morris will be tough, the Terps have more than enough talent in the system already.

preseason poll

3 Cornell LW: 5 Preseason Poll: 5

Cornell will have their hands full trying to figure out how to take Yale’s hands off the Ivy title, but they’ll rack up more than enough wins outside of their Bulldog battles. Their biggest losses were Christian Knight in goal and Jake Pulver from the defense. But with Jeff Teat running the show on the other end of the field, they’ll be fine. He had a summer that few could imagine competing for a gold medal for Canada and a Minto Cup with Brampton. He is going to be ready to go this spring.

4 Loyola LW: 4 Preseason Poll: 4

Loyola will be goooood this year. Going into Pat Spencer’s final season, get ready for plenty of highlights from No. 7. With Spencer on one end of the field and Stover in goal on the other, the Hounds are in good hands rolling into this season. As always, they’ll need to survive the inexplicable Patriot League where they’ll probably lose to Lafayette or someone weird like that.

5 Duke LW: 2 Preseason Poll: 2

Now we bring in last year’s runner up. It’s tempting to leave Duke higher, but I honestly feel better about the other teams ahead of them for a big reason: Justin Guterding. Everyone loses big players, but you have to remember how dominant Guterding was for the Blue Devils a year ago. I expect their defense to excellent from day one, but they need to have players learn some slightly new roles on offense to start. Without question they have the talent there, but I’m not going to lose sleep saying Duke is still a top-five team.

6 UVA LW: 9 Preseason Poll: 6

Virginia makes the jump for me mostly because of Ryan Conrad. Had he been in the lineup all year, their season would have had a much different ending. With Conrad back into the mix, expect the ‘Hoos to really build on what they had started a year ago.

7 Hopkins LW: 8 Preseason Poll: 7

My biggest question mark about the Jays is the loss of Joel Tinney. Not far behind is replacing Shack Stanwick. But for Tinney, it’s less about the pure points production, even though he was tied with Stanwick for 53 points last season (2nd on the team). Tinney did so much between the lines like extending possessions, helping on faceoffs wings and creating transition opportunities. That’s going to be tough to replace.

8 Syracuse LW: 10 Preseason Poll: 10

‘Cuse lost two big contributors from last year. Brendan Bomberry from the offense and Dom Madonna in goal. No disrespect to either of them, but both of those spots had plenty of capable players at their heels waiting to go in. Defensively for the Orange, they need a healthy Tyson Bomberry to help Nick Mellen all year. They’re a different team without him. Offensively, be ready for scoring from everywhere and plenty of balance game-to-game.

9 Denver LW: 7 Preseason Poll: 8

How Denver deals with the loss of Trevor Baptiste will be interesting, but not nearly as interesting as how Matt Brown’s offense adapts to the shot clock. Some people have found them boring or slow, but I’ve always thought they had an exciting offense to see. It felt like a jack-in-the-box, which was always waiting for a shot to happen at any second. But, that shot usually took awhile. That offense is designed with the optimal look in mind, so how they change it up to find that optimal look sooner will be interesting to watch. They could be the most fun group to watch if it all goes according to plan.

10 Notre Dame LW: 11 Preseason Poll: 11

For Notre Dame, they no longer have turnover and ground ball machine John Sexton wreaking havoc from the LSM spot. They also lose Ryder Garnsey to off-field issues. But, they do get leading scorer Bryan Costabile back to lead the charge and try to fight their way back to Championship Weekend after three straight years of not making it (twice at the hands of Denver).

11 Georgetown LW: 12 Preseason Poll: 19

The Hoyas came out of nowhere last year to play some top teams tough, beat some good teams, and really show the Big East that there’s another team to be reckoned with. They return nearly their entire offense and will look to build upon last year’s momentum.

12 Albany LW: 6 Preseason Poll: 14

The Dane Train rode all the way to Championship weekend, but things ended in a ugly fashion. Yale dissected this team to a degree I didn’t think was possible. Then, they lost Connor Fields and JD Colarusso to graduation while TD Ierlan transfers to Yale. Albany’s system relies on three major things: excellent passing on offense with a central hub, lots of possessions, and a goalie who can withstand lots of shots. They needed someone like Ierlan to feed the offense, and still had a few close calls. After the first few games, I’ll either be very impressed by replacements at FOGO and goalie, the Danes will be staring a 2-3 record, or worse.

preseason poll

13 UMass LW: 13 Preseason Poll: 18

One of the teams Albany will face in their first month is UMass, just over the border. This is a team who really turned things around in a major way in 2018. They had been really slumping, but have shown new life. This still may not be the team of old, but another 2018 would prove they are on the right track.

14 Lehigh LW: UR Preseason Poll: 13

I’m moving Lehigh up here for a few reasons. First and foremost, is how close they came to some major upsets a year ago. Even in the Patriot League regular season, they were coming close to the league’s top teams. The other reason is that I love their returners, but especially Craig Chick at LSM.

15 Penn State LW: 19 Preseason Poll: 9

Penn State does return some incredible firepower. While I do understand why some are saying this is a top 10 team, I don’t agree right now. This is a team that even with some great talent and coaching still missed both the conference tournament and NCAA’s a year ago. If they come out of the gates on fire, I’ll be more than happy to move them out of this valley. Get it? Happy Vall…nevermind.

16 Villanova LW: 15 Preseason Poll: UR

Nova did lose some firepower up front, but their entire close defense and both goalies are back. If you’re going to start with anything as a base, that’s a great place to go. But this was a group that beat Yale a season ago, but struggled towards the end of the year. I’m looking for a big bounce back from them this season.

17 Robert Morris LW: 14 Preseason Poll: UR

Robert Morris became the darlings of the lacrosse world last season by responding with a thrilling conference championship win and putting a real scare into Maryland in the NCAA tournament. What’s in store for this year? For one, Goalie Alex Heger is back, as are three of their top scorers. They won’t sneak up on anyone this year, but they may not need to.

18 Rutgers LW: 17 Preseason Poll: 12

Rutgers keeps returning a ton of talent, but just cannot make it out of the Big Ten alive. Once again, no NCAA tournament in 2018, but they are so close. Just like every year, they have dangerous scorers and will have a tough defense. But, as in years past, it’s all about how they can finish the year.

19 Navy LW: 18 Preseason Poll: UR

While they did lose matchup nightmare Jack Ray, Greyson Torain and Ryan Wade are back and have some great potential. They also need to deal with the loss of Joe Varello, which could be trouble. This may be one of my shakier picks, but we’ll see how it plays out.

20 Jacksonville LW: UR Preseason Poll: UR

Shout out to the SOCON! Jacksonville may have been one of the most improved teams last year. If they even have a fraction of that again, they’ll be sitting on top of the league at the end of the year. There is still plenty of work to do in the Sunshine State, though.

Who did I leave out?

#15 UNC
#16 Ohio State
#17 Princeton
#20 Michigan

UNC has me scratching my head here, but I can understand an argument for the others. Each has a first or second team All-American somewhere on their roster, too. I also would not be shocked if I’m voting for some of these in just a few weeks once games get going. Ohio State is right around 21 for me, so they’re right on the edge.

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