You may be thinking along these lines: “Ryder, are you crazy? You can’t possibly predict the 2016 season in the fall!” And you’re right, but, with fall ball ramping up the excitement for the return of lacrosse, I’m making these predictions anyways.
For today, it’s time to take a look ahead at the best players in college lacrosse for the 2016 season. The reigning Tewaaraton winner (the great Lyle Thompson, a back-to-back winner) is gone now, leaving the field wide open for a new winner. With plenty of time for this prediction to be proven horribly wrong, here are my five finalists for the 2016 Tewaaraton:
Myles Jones, Duke
There’s no better way to start off this list than with a Tewaaraton finalist returning for his senior season. Regarded early in his career for his size and athletic presence, Jones proved last season that he has the smarts and the stick skills to be so much more.
While his highlight reel bull dodges will draw the most attention, Jones is actually quite the passer. He put up 36 assists last season, which ranked him ninth in the nation (second among midfielders) and helped the Duke offense truly flow. An insane combo of size and speed allows Myles Jones to score, but strong stick skills also allows him to beat early slides with a pass inside.
As the senior leader of a Duke offense that should score in bunches in 2016, Jones should be a finalist once again, and this could be his year to take home some hardware.
Connor Cannizzaro, Denver
Usually, finishing sixth in the nation in total points while winning a national championship is enough to be considered for the Tewaaraton. However, Cannizzaro found himself in the shadow of senior Wesley Berg in 2015, who lit it up late in the season to help Denver capture its first ever title.
In 2016, Cannizzaro should be the top option for the Pioneers once again, and it is easy to assume his point total will go up with Berg gone. He’ll have plenty of support in Denver to keep the assist numbers up, and Denver has the talent to make another deep run in May.
Should Denver continue its recent success in 2016, expect Cannizzaro to be leading the charge towards their title defense, and perhaps snag a Tewaaraton on the way.
Connor Fields, Albany
Lyle Thompson graduated, and instantly the bandwagon fans unhitched themselves from the Great Danes and went to go find a new star to root for. I get that. The Great Danes rose to relevance because the Thompson brothers put up three of the greatest seasons in lacrosse history. However, I’m not ready to jump off the Albany bandwagon just yet. Lyle might be gone, but he had an entire season to train the freshman phenom Fields as his successor.
The results showed, as Fields led the nation in goals. I think that Albany ends up being way more relevant this season than most people think, and I think that’s because Connor Fields is going to step into the shoes of the Thompsons and keep this offense churning out goals. Fields will never be Lyle Thompson, but that doesn’t mean he can’t become one of the best players in college lacrosse.
I see Fields taking over as the quarterback of this offense, and finding himself in line for his own spotlight in the process.
Ryan Brown, Hopkins
Ryan Brown is one of the best pure scorers in NCAA lacrosse. This is a kid who put up eight goals in one game against Maryland last year (yes, the same Maryland who played in the national championship). Hopkins had a pretty up-and-down season in 2015, starting out with a losing record in the first half of the season before winning five straight games to make the tournament.
I see Hopkins building on that successful end of the season run to become a force again in 2016, and I see Brown leading the charge for the Bluejays.
You can trust that Brown is going to score a lot of goals. If he can score those goals on the big stage, and boost his assist totals in 2016, then expect Brown to get an invite to New York for the Tewaaraton ceremony.
Dylan Molloy, Brown
I’ve written about Molloy twice already this fall, but I’m giving him the shout-out again here because I think he’s criminally under-hyped. The Ivy League has become such a strong conference in recent years, and they’ve proven that they can produce Tewaaraton-caliber players.
Despite the strong league, Molloy managed 92 points last season. Molloy finished third in the nation in total points, and Brown reached the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Despite all that, Molloy got ignored by Tewaaraton voters in 2015. With Connor Buczek and Mike Macdonald both having graduated, expect Molloy to become the biggest name in the Ivy League in 2016.
If he can post similar numbers and bring Brown back to the playoffs, I think the Tewaaraton voters will give him a longer look in 2016.
Dark Horse Central
These are a handful of players that I wanted to add to this list, but that couldn’t quite beat out my final five. In no particular order, they are:
James Pannell – You only need to look back at his domination against Cornell last season to remember that the younger Pannell might prove to a Tewaaraton player in his own right.
Matt Kavanagh – A returning finalist is hard to call a dark horse, but Kavanagh’s stats weren’t amazing in 2015 and he disappeared in playoffs. Still, you can’t write him off in 2016.
Zach Herreweyers – The Patriot League is wide open. If Loyola can fight back into the spotlight, I expect that’ll have a lot to do with the prolific scorer that is senior attackman Herreweyers.
Sergio Perkovic – The Motor City Hitman has been astounding in the playoffs recently. He has the cannon and the star power to win it, if he can find some more consistency.
Matt Rambo – Rambo had a strong post-season in 2015, and he has the billing to be a star. Can the former #1 recruit prove that he’s also the #1 player in the NCAA?