horrible great thing about a preseason poll is that each voter is really left up to decide what it means to them. That also means each reader decides what the poll SHOULD mean to them. This is really why I feel it is important that beyond just submitting my top 20 NCAA Lacrosse Poll to Inside Lacrosse this week, some sort of explanation should go along with it. I never expect everyone to agree with my rationale, let alone my picks, but it is what it is.
For the preseason poll, my choices are based on who I think will win a game again a generic opponent in game 1. If you’re number 1, that mean I do not think there are any other teams who I think would beat you in the first week. As you can infer, this flows down the list to number 20. It’s important to note this, because it does not mean #1-#4 are my planned final four teams. Nor does it mean that someone I have lower isn’t GOING to be good or improve through the season.
So, onward to the picks!
NCAA Lacrosse Poll, Conwell Style
This was actually a tough one for me, but Albany is a team that starts the season at full speed. They return nearly every playmaker that had, and picked up one of the most talked about recruits in a while. They’ll be dangerous from week one and absolutely will be in position to make their first final four in May.
I wanted to put Duke at one, but Danowski is a coach that flat out doesn’t care about being at his best in the first week. But, with how much of their offense returns from 2017, they will be ready to go. This team’s ceiling is more a factor of how their defense performs, though.
Despite winning the championship, the Terps lose over half of their scoring to graduation. All that means is that this team will be different. They still return more All-Americans than any other team in the country and Coach Tillman has proven time and time again that he knows how to sustain success year to year.
#4 Ohio State
With first team AA Ben Randall anchoring the defense and guys like Tre Leclaire scoring goals, the Buckeyes are not going to lose much of a step this year. Yes, they lost a TON to graduation, but they return some serious talent. They had been knocking on the door for several years, and they finally broke through. I would be shocked to see much of a drop off in 2018.
This is the year for Trevor Baptiste to prove that FOGOs can win the Tewaaraton. He’s been putting up gaudy numbers, but with this being his senior season, he’s poised to do things we’ve never seen. Denver never seems to drop off much year to year, so the expectations are still high for the Pios.
Ben Reeves. That’s all. OK, it isn’t, but it pretty much is. Reeves is one of the most dominant players in the country and is primed for an outstanding senior campaign. Considering how wide open the Ivy League is right now, their conference games with Villanova and Albany are huge for making an NCAA bid.
I honestly doubted Towson for way too much of last season. Playing in the conference they do, you only have a few measuring points to really gauge them nationally. Add that to the brutally physical defense they play, their games were tight. Seven of their wins were with 10 goals or less. Only Ohio State, Denver, and Loyola were able to score more than 10 against them too. The major knock against them now is they lose more scoring to graduation than any other team. But with their defense, that can be mitigated.
#8 Notre Dame
While they golden domers have yet to win their final game, they are a true mark of consistent success. They never seem to take much of a step back year to year and always are able to battle with the best in the country. When you return guys like Mikey Wynne, Ryder Garnsey, and John Sexton? Yeah, they’ll be good.
#9 Penn State
Penn State is finally up at the level where they were able to host an NCAA game. Sure, they lost to eventual final four team Towson, but they’ve steadily been building. They are still loaded with talent from last year’s roster. Maryland still runs the Big Ten, but Penn State is not far behind.
I’m big on Army this year. Led by guys like Ted Glesener, this team will be ready to go. As is usually the case, how they handle the Patriot League schedule will be the biggest factor. It’s a ton of games, and makes their season incredibly early.
The Tar Heels did not respond to their Championship the way they had hoped and left the tournament in the first round, on the road in Albany. They still have a good chunk of that Championship team around, so perhaps with a little less weight of a trophy on their shoulders, they’ll make a bigger push this season.
The Patriot League really should come down to Army and Loyola, but that’s May. This is now. The Hounds are led by Pat Spencer who pretty much only knows how to put up gaudy points. He had 83 last year, 89 as a Freshman, and he still has two more season left. With a guy like that running the offense, the sky is the limit.
The one goal kids in Syracuse ran out of magic in the NCAA tournament, but they also lose a ton from midfield with Sergio Salcido and Nick Mariano moving on. Defense will be a strength for this Orange Team with Austin Fusco, Nick Mellen, and Tyson Bomberry. SSDMs are a little more unknown, but they have a ton of untested talent on offense. The Orange always seem to have some surprises in the lineup, so we’ll see who emerges in 2018.
What Providence has been building for the past few season was supposed to be a long term build. Despite losing nearly the entire supporting coaching staff, the Friars made huge strides in 2017 and are making themselves a force in the Big East. Having Tate Boyce back in net should not be understated.
Right there with the Friars is a team that was a much quicker jump to the top of the league. Marquette should have taken a bigger step back last year than they did, but they proved what Joe Amplo has built out in Wisconsin was not reliant on a few good seniors. Look for them to score an upset or two as they continue to carve out their place in the midwest.
Hopkins is so frustrating for things like this. They should be a solid top ten team year in and year out with no questions asked. With names like Marr, Tinney, and Stanwick back on offense, they should be ready to go. But that’s the same group that suffered the biggest lost in the first round of the NCAA last year putting up only six goals against Duke. But, I will love to be proven wrong and adjust week to week accordingly.
The Spiders are going to be the team to beat in the SoCon this season. The toughest thing for them is going to be recovering from the loss of goalie Benny Pugh. He was one of the best in the country last year and a big reason why their defense played as well as it did.
I would have put Rutgers up much higher, but they once again lost one of their best players right before the season began. They’ll certainly recover and are right on the verge of making a run at the Big Ten title. But, this will not be a week one effort. This is a team that will be improving as the year goes on.
Hofstra returns what may be the best goalie in the country with Jack Concannon, but they are not a team that is going to be turning heads at the beginning of the season. They’ll still have to knock off Towson to win their conference and get an NCAA bid, so time is not of the essence. They’ll build through the year and be a force in May.
The Cavs still have not won an ACC game since 2014, and that was in the ACC tournament consolation game. They also have not had more than 10 wins since the 2012 season. They SHOULD be better this year. They have to be. Based solely on past performance, they probably should not get top 20 consideration, but it just seems like a good season is well overdue.
Argue with me in the comments below. I dare you.