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Penn State Is My True No. 1, UMass Drops Out Of My Top 20: Is This Poll Serious?!

It’s time again for “Is This Poll Serious?!”, covering my ballot for the NCAA Men’s Division I lacrosse poll for Week 4.

All losses are not created equal. We’re still in a strange period of the year where teams’ strength of schedule is highly variant and still difficult to compare how squads stack up. The lucky teams have two solid good wins or losses. The unlucky ones have either soft wins or no good losses.  But with every huge upset like UMass over Yale, you have several other less significant games in terms of positioning that just muddy the waters.

The result? Five different teams in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll had first-place votes. The No. 2 of Penn State had almost double that of the No. 1 team in Syracuse. Six teams are receiving votes that sit just outside of the top 20. You also had climbs and falls of up to 14 spots contrasted to having teams staying exactly where they were the week prior. Needless to say, it’s a crazy week in the life of a poll.

2020 NCAA Men’s DI Lacrosse: Week 4 — Is This Poll Serious?!

My 2020 NCAA Men’s DI Lacrosse Media Poll Ballot For Week 4

1. Penn State (Last Week: 2)

National Poll: 2

W 18-17 vs Penn

This is the rebound game that Penn State needed. Following its disappointing Yale loss, the Nittany Lions were able to make a good play on a ride in overtime and force a quick, unsettled goal before Penn even had a chance on offense. It’s been a common refrain among commentators this year, but it goes to show how important riding is for good teams. Especially when you have weapons like Penn State does, trying to stop them in settled situations will be tough enough, but in transition and unsettled situations there’s only one piece of advice I can offer: good luck.

2. Syracuse (Last Week: 3)

National Poll: 1

W 21-13 vs Hobart

Dropping 21 points on high-scoring Hobart was a great sign for Syracuse as was limiting the Statesmen to just 13 goals. This matchup showed how important the Orange’s epiphany during the Army game was to the team. That game taught the Orange middies that they really can just dodge to create their own shots. With six legitimate dodging threats at midfield, they just need to find the hot hand each game. And that doesn’t even get you into who they have going at attack. But at the end of the day, this team will go as far as their defense allows.

3. UNC (Last Week: 5)

National Poll: 4

W 15-13 vs Denver

UNC continues its slow climb to the top. Following a very weak opening three games to the season, the Tar Heels have shown much more prowess in their wins over Hopkins last week and Denver this week. Boston transfer Chris Gray still leads the way with 31 points, by way of 18 goals and 13 assists. They still have a few more easy games before their ACC schedule roles around in addition to Georgetown and Maryland.

4. Maryland (Last Week: 8)

National Poll: 7

W 14-9 vs Notre Dame

Bouncing back from the Villanova loss was very important for Maryland, and continuing that trend with the Notre Dame with was big. I do have them higher than most, which is OK. I do see the argument about Princeton and Cornell being undefeated, and therefore would be considered more deserving, but I also think that if we put these teams head-to-head, I would expect Maryland to come away with the win. Like every year, this is a solid team from front to back with a number of dangerous scoring options.

5. Cornell (Last Week: 9)

National Poll: 5

W 17-16 vs Ohio State

In what is setting up to be the Ivy League version of “anything you can do, I can do better,” Cornell’s Jeff Teat is fighting to keep up with Princeton’s Michael Sowers. Following the 17-point effort against Ohio State, Teat sits at 20 points, good for a cool five points per game average. That actually puts him one point behind the Big Red’s leading goal-scorer John Piatelli, who has 18 goals and three assists. Having Piatelli and Donville and midfield are hugely important for why I have Cornell just ahead of Princeton at the moment.

6. Princeton (Last Week: 10)

National Poll: 3

W 18-11 vs Hopkins

The 4-0 Tigers have yet to score fewer than 16 points in a game. This is due entirely to Michael Sowers at attack. His scoring pace is just unreal. Current with 42 points, that puts him over the 10 points per game average. For reference, the NCAA Men’s Division I record is from 1978, and is 8.17 points per game. In more recent memory is Grant Ament’s previous season with 7.41 points per game, and Lyle Thompson in 2014 with 7.11 PPG. So yeah, 10 PPG is pretty good.

7. Penn (Last Week: 6)

National Poll: 9

L 18-17 vs Penn State

Although it goes down as a one-goal loss, this was still definitely Penn State’s game. A major penalty at the end gave Penn State a one minute non-releasable opportunity to close the game on the Quakers. And, they did. If not for that penalty, this would have been looked at very differently. That said, Penn is absolutely in the Ivy League mix and is deserving of its top 10 ranking. A few Philly games are up next, with Villanova and Saint Joseph’s.

8. Yale (Last Week: 1)

National Poll: 5

L 13-10 vs UMass

This was easily the most shocking result of the weekend. Is Yale all of the sudden bad? No. But they certainly had a bad game. UMass still gets all the credit due for the win, and Yale certainly pushed them at the end to come back but still fell short. In what is good news for Yale, they have Michigan next. Bad news? The next three are Cornell, Princeton and Penn. Woof.

9. UVA (Last Week: 7)

National Poll: 8

W 18-15 vs High Point

W 15-5 vs Air force

Virginia slipped one spot for me despite the pair of wins because of Princeton’s continued rise. I try to avoid drastic changes week-to-week, which is why the Tigers were still behind going into this week. While UVA may not be the top-3 team we saw them as going into the year, they are still looking like a top-10 team. They have Brown next, but their games after that are Maryland and Notre Dame, which aer really going to help shape the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll rankings even further as we get deeper into the season.

10. Notre Dame (Last Week: 4)

National Poll: 10

L 14-9 vs Maryland

The Irish had their first big test of the year… and failed it. Their eight-point win over Richmond was still definitely good, but I expected more out of them against Maryland. But their inability to generate any offense against the Terps is what cost them this game. They’re still early in their season, having just three games under their belt. But Denver and Ohio State are up next.

11. Loyola (Last Week: 11)

National Poll: 11

W 15-6 vs Towson

The Hounds started out with a tough game against Virginia, and have had what has turned out to be a much easier path than originally thought to figure things out for Loyola. They now take their 4-1 record into a game with Duke before diving into their Patriot League regular-season portion of the schedule. This will be one of the tougher years in-conference that they’ve had, but still look to be the favorites. A win over Duke this week will go a long way towards establishing an at-large bid should they not secure their automatic qualifier.

12. Duke (Last Week: 12)

National Poll: 13

W 16-15 vs Richmond

W 19-6 vs Furman

The Blue Devils lost to Penn last week, but were able to rebound with a strong win over Furman and a great comeback against Richmond. The Richmond game really showed what Duke is capable of. They were completely outplayed for much of this game, but showed the benefits of having plenty of talent on the roster to help dig out of the deep hole that they found themselves in. Freshman Dyson Williams was nothing short of performing like an electric goal-scorer.

13. Lehigh (Last Week: 13)

National Poll: 17

W 14-6 vs Navy

Lehigh may have been the slight beneficiaries of being the first team to face Navy after their taking a week off due to the team-wide norovirus outbreak, but that does discredit Lehigh a bit. Navy is a good team, but Lehigh is a very good team — definitely in contention for the Patriot League title. Holy Cross is next on the list for the Mountain Hawks before a tough two week stretch with Army and Penn State looming.

14. Georgetown (Last Week: 14)

National Poll: 12

W 14-7 vs Mount St. Mary’s

W 13-4 vs Bellarmine

A two-win week for the Hoyas has Georgetown still undefeated, but they have yet to play anyone tough yet. That said, they’re winning all of their games handily. Towson could be an interesting matchup this weekend, but looking ahead to the next week to North Carolina is very tempting.

15. Denver (Last Week: 15)

National Poll: 17

L 15-13 vs UNC

I let Denver hover after the loss. To be fair, this is the closest anyone has come to making UNC looking mortal. So far, the Pioneers are 0-2 against the ACC, and they have Notre Dame up next. You can fault this Denver team for a few things, but not loading up their non-conference schedule with tough games isn’t one of them.

16. Army (Last Week: 16)

National Poll: 16

W 12-5 vs Holy Cross

Army needed this Holy Cross win badly after their two-loss week to Marist and Syracuse. It also really helped that this was a league game to boot. What is not much of a surprise, though is how they won. Seven points from Brendan Nichtern and 70 percent save percentage for the game by Wyatt Schupler seemed to be their winning combination.

17. Ohio State (Last Week: 17)

National Poll: 19

L 17-16 vs Cornell

Ohio State was looking for a signature win against the Big Red, but could not pull it off. It had a late push and had its chance to force overtime, but still wound up with the loss. Fortunately for Buckeyes, the UMass loss isn’t looking as bad, and they have plenty of big games still left on their schedule to work through. Hofstra won’t do much this week, but the two-game week following that with Notre Dame and Denver will either cement their position heading into the heart of their Big Ten schedule or be leave them looking for answers halfway through the season.

18. Villanova (Last Week: 18)

National Poll: 14

W 10-19 vs Delaware

I do have the Wildcats a tad lower than the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll for this week which may not be fair, but I won’t lose sleep over four spots of a difference. In my mind, the Maryland win is still offset by the two large losses. Following their 0-2 start to Penn State and Yale, they’ve put together three good wins. Penn, up next, has the term “opportunity game” written all over it.

19. Saint Joseph’s (Last Week: 20)

National Poll: Unranked

W 10-3 vs Monmouth

I added Saint Joseph’s to the top 20 a week ago after its win over Providence, and it answered with a good win versus Monmouth. Crosstown-rival Drexel is up next, which “should” be a win. But Saint Joseph’s will follow that up with Penn on Sunday, which is a completely different story. It will also do a great deal for telling us how good this team really is.

20. Richmond (Last Week: Unranked)

National Poll: 20

L 16-15 vs Duke

I added Richmond in this week following a loss, which is a little odd. But this situation falls into the “eye test” category for me. For most of that game against Duke, they were the more physical team. They were faster compared to Duke and they were great on offense  Some defensive lapses definitely cost them the game, but in looking at its Notre Dame and Maryland match-ups ahead as well, this is a good lacrosse team. They are the team to beat in the SoCon and are therefore highly likely to be in the NCAA tournament. The Spiders can be a wrecking ball in May.

Dropped Out:

  • Hopkins

This had become more of a question of when the Blue Jays would drop out of the poll, and not if. Not dropping them a week ago after their seven-point loss to UNC seemed to delay the inevitable with red-hot Princeton last weekend. The result? Another seven-point loss to the Tigers. Things get worse before they get better with now No. 1 Syracuse coming to town. A win there would do wonders for them, but things are not looking promising for the Jays.

Next Teams In:

These are the teams with the best shot at making the top 20 in the coming weeks, not in order:

  • Hofstra
  • Marist
  • Hobart
  • UMass
  • Providence
  • Navy

Who Did I Leave Out?

  • UMass (15)

Hobart did have one of these spots of being left of from last week, and now its the next team in for the “Receiving Votes” group. Make no mistake, it did look very good in its loss to Syracuse, but UMass’ win over Yale forced them out of the poll. I completely understand having UMass now in the poll, as I did for a few weeks, but I still can’t overlook the Minutemen’s two really bad losses to Army and Harvard. Maybe the Harvard loss improves over time, but I’m leaning more toward this was UMass at its ceiling. That said, it could also win out the rest of their schedule and the chances are high that I’ll have them in my top 20 once again.

Who are your 2020 NCAA Men’s DI Lacrosse top 20 teams? Who would you vote for in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll? Share in the comments or tag us on social media (@LaxAllStars).