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With the 2021 NCAA DI men's lacrosse season beginning to start, the weekly rankings are back, listing out the nation's top-20 teams.
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Weekly Rankings: NCAA DI Men’s Preseason Ballot

Welcome back to my NCAA DI men’s lacrosse weekly rankings!

First, I’m happy to again be part of the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll crew. A few years ago, the voting group was broadened to include others who cover the NCAA DI level for different outlets. One of the great aspects of this approach is it spread the poll’s voters across many locations and publications. That means not all the voters are talking to each other constantly, and there’s no inherent bias to, say, Baltimore or New England schools. Being part of this each week continues to be something special every season.

Now, onto the lacrosse. The end of last season was quite an odd way to leave my weekly rankings. Some teams hadn’t even hit conference play, and nearly everyone had just a handful of games to work from. This year? This year is quite a bit tougher. Due to the strange end to the year with COVID-19, we now have to consider a slew of major transfers, some graduations, a canceled season, and even more question marks as we’re still in a pandemic a year later.

On top of that, there are the complications of when to start ranking teams. The biggest question mark here is what to do about the Ivy League. At this point, we don’t actually know what’s happening with all the Ivy League teams. In terms of rankings, we are assuming the Ivies will play, sans Yale. That has its own impacts, because I also have to assume major players like Jeff Teat will not transfer like TD Ierlan has already said he intends to. Even though Ierlan has publicly said he’s “95%” likely to transfer to Denver, I can’t have that impact the poll until it actually happens (or not).

So, now we are in a situation where games have started being played, and we still don’t even know if an entire conference will play this year. We also didn’t have a full fall ball slate of scrimmages and a month or more of practices before the first game for most teams, so there are a lot of unknowns for the coaches, let alone the media.

But next week will be the first official Inside Lacrosse Media Poll. In preparation for that, I made my preseason poll before the first games were played (this was also before the Yale news), which is where I will be working from as a base for next week.

Special note/disclaimer: This was made before ANY games were played, and it was never submitted, because we did not do an official preseason ballot.

So with all that said, here’s the start of my weekly rankings and my crack at a preseason top 20, which as this season rolls on, will be as volatile as a meme stonk.

2021 NCAA DI Men’s Weekly Rankings – Preseason Top 20

1 Syracuse

My 2020 Final Ranking: 3

2020 Final National Poll: 1

Final 2020 Record: 5-0

I had Syracuse at No. 3 to end last year but am bumping them up to No. 1 in my initial 2021 weekly rankings. The Orange were looking incredible and essentially lost nobody while they added transfers, redshirts, and new freshmen. But they’re going to be a team with established roles, chemistry, and a lot to prove as they were on target for a Championship Weekend run for the first time since 2013.

2 Duke

My 2020 Final Ranking: 10

2020 Final National Poll: 8

Final 2020 Record: 6-2

I had the Blue Devils at No. 10, the national poll was No. 8, and while the number says 2, they’re really 1a and 1b with Syracuse. Fortunately, these two will see each other on the field to sort things out. But this is a very different Duke team than a year ago. Its talent ceiling shattered in the offseason, but I give Cuse the slight edge just due to pure familiarity to start the season.

3 Cornell

My 2020 Final Ranking: 1

2020 Final National Poll: 2

Final 2020 Record: 5-0

I had Cornell as No. 1 to end the season last year, and if everything stays the same and it sees the field, I would expect it to still be in the Championship Weekend conversation. Cornell’s fall to No. 3 really is no fault of its own. Syracuse and Duke are just a little too much right now.

4 North Carolina

My 2020 Final Ranking: 4

2020 Final National Poll: 4

Final 2020 Record: 7-0

This will be short. The Chris Gray Experience continues! UNC was looking incredible running up to the season shutdown, and there’s no indication that it’ll take a step back, especially after its opener this past weekend. I had the Tar Heels at No. 4 to end the year, and I still think that’s the right spot for now.

5 Maryland

My 2020 Final Ranking: 6

2020 Final National Poll: 6

Final 2020 Record: 5-1

It’s Maryland, and they’re loaded. The big talk is around Bernhardt making his return to the lineup after trying out some football over the fall. But he’s still barely even the focal point of the Terps when they have the ball. Expect yet another Championship Weekend run out of this group.

6 Denver

My 2020 Final Ranking: 8

2020 Final National Poll: 11

Final 2020 Record: 4-2

Denver walked into this season with huge potential and did great with transfers. This past weekend reinforced that there is plenty of work to do, but the Pioneers are not a bad team by any means. I still think No. 6 was a good spot to start them at, but they’ll probably drop a few spots by the next weekly rankings.

7 Virginia

My 2020 Final Ranking: 12

2020 Final National Poll: 9

Final 2020 Record: 4-2

UVA’s relatively low spot here was more due to its 2020 season than anything. The Cavs hadn’t found their rhythm, then introduced some new players into the lineup. But after their opener, it seems they have things figured out. Expect their stock to rise.

8 Penn State

My 2020 Final Ranking: 5

2020 Final National Poll: 7

Final 2020 Record: 5-2

With no Grant Ament, Penn State is going to be a different team, but its not going to be a bad team. This is still an excellent group of players, and head coach Jeff Tambroni will have nothing less than a Big Ten championship on his team’s list of expectations.

9 Yale

My 2020 Final Ranking: 7

2020 Final National Poll: 5

Final 2020 Record: 3-1

Yale had lots of work to do this year anyway, but I still felt like the Bulldogs were more than capable. Moot point now, though, as they are getting removed from the weekly rankings from here on out.

10 Lehigh

My 2020 Final Ranking: 11

2020 Final National Poll: 18

Final 2020 Record: 5-1

I had high hopes for Lehigh last year. The team will be primarily playing a Patriot League schedule this year, which usually comes on the heels of a longer non-conference schedule. Lehigh still returned eight of its top 10 scorers from a year ago and should be able to carry that chemistry forward. They are engineers, after all.

11 Loyola

My 2020 Final Ranking: 13

2020 Final National Poll: 14

Final 2020 Record: 4-2

Loyola was dealing with a lot of change last year, trying to grapple with what life was like without Pat Spencer on the field. It also lost Chase Scanlan to Syracuse, which left everything in the hands of Kevin Lindley. The results were pretty good, and the Hounds are still at the top of the Patriot League. But they have Richmond, UVA, and Utah to handle before they dive into their league games.

12 Ohio State

My 2020 Final Ranking: 14

2020 Final National Poll: 19

Final 2020 Record: 5-2

Can a SSDM make a team? Well, when you have Ryan Terefenko, it can. Still one of the best all-around players in college lacrosse, he’s a weapon once again. The Buckeyes also still have leading scorer Tre Leclaire, which is kind of a good thing.

13 UMass

My 2020 Final Ranking: 19

2020 Final National Poll: 12

Final 2020 Record: 5-2

Here’s a little secret: the UMass offense is one of the most entertaining groups to watch in the country. It’s so crazy under the radar, it’s not even funny. But when this group is on, it is on. The current CAA favorites are stalled to start the season due to campus-wide COVID-19 issues, but once they can see the field, expect some fireworks.

14 Penn

My 2020 Final Ranking: 9

2020 Final National Poll: 16

Final 2020 Record: 2-3

Penn is a team that has been just so close to breaking through to be a real top-10 threat every year. But with the Ivy uncertainty, the Quakers may still be on pause for yet another season, we don’t know. If they’re able to field a team with everyone, they’ll be right in the mix.

15 Princeton

My 2020 Final Ranking: 2

2020 Final National Poll: 3

Final 2020 Record: 5-0

The biggest drop by far for me was Princeton. Of every ranked Ivy, this team lost the most in the Michael Sowers transfer. Losing him changes the offense. The Tigers still have players with All-American potential on the squad, but their wins are going to look different.

16 Army

My 2020 Final Ranking: 16

2020 Final National Poll: 15

Final 2020 Record: 6-2

Army did lose a few big graduates on each side of the ball, but it return Brendan Nichtern, which is really what this team needs to be successful. Also, the Black Knights have an amazing goalie. Shocker. I don’t know what it is with Army goalies, but some combination of a great defense each year and probably some of that soldier mentality means they are always great between the pipes. Their season starts at 100 with a trip to Charlottesville this weekend (a makeup for UMass postponing), and then their annual voyage to the Carrier Dome.

17 Notre Dame

My 2020 Final Ranking: 17

2020 Final National Poll: 13

Final 2020 Record: 2-3

Ready for an insult that’s not really an insult? Notre Dame is the worst ACC team. That said, the Irish are still a top-20 team in my opening weekly rankings and a program that’s known for consistency. Is No. 17 a little low? Probably. But if they are able to show some improvement from last year’s underwhelming start, they’ll move right on up. Also worth nothing that as of this being written, their website has no 2021 schedule and nothing else published since last May.

18 Rutgers

My 2020 Final Ranking: UR

2020 Final National Poll: UR

Final 2020 Record: 2-4

Rutgers is just always so close. So, so close. It has had to deal with fighting against the likes of Maryland and Penn State for the league’s automatic qualifier, but the Scarlet Knights never quite get there. However, picking up transfer Connor Kirst to go along with Adam Charalambides and Kieran Mullins might be what they needed to get pushed over the top.

19 Georgetown

My 2020 Final Ranking: 15

2020 Final National Poll: 9

Final 2020 Record: 6-0

Fighting with Denver in the Big East are the Hoyas. I was still not as big as others were on them last year despite the 6-0 start. Placing them in my weekly rankings is complicated further by their almost-exclusively Big East schedule. It’s reasonable that Georgetown could beat everyone but Denver and maybe Loyola. It still has Jake Carraway leading the team, along with most of his supporting cast from a season ago.

20 Richmond

My 2020 Final Ranking: UR

2020 Final National Poll: 20

Final 2020 Record: 4-3

Richmond is once again likely to be at the top of the SoCon, but the question remains how farit can take things at the end of the season. The Spiders have proven time and time again that they can play with anyone, as well as dish out some major upsets along the way, but the monkey on their back is getting some NCAA wins together. I still hesitate to put them too high in the top 20. But they have a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule this year. Loyola, UNC, Towson, and Duke are who they start up against. Starting 2-2 with that group would be worthy of a top-15 spot without question. Going 3-1 is top 10. At 4-0, you might be fighting for a top-three spot in the country.