December 23, 2009

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LM Rankings Breakdown: NCAA Division I Men

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Lacrosse Magazine released its 2010 college preseason rankings and players of the year Tuesday.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the top five teams in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse and five questions we can take away from these rankings.

(Small college fans can check out Jac Coyne's breakdown of the NCAA Division III men's and women's top 20, as well as MCLA Divisions I and II rankings.)

NO. 1 DUKE

2009 Record: 15-4, 2-1 ACC
Breakdown: There’s some discord about who should be No. 1. Duke over two-time defending national champion Syracuse? You bet. Here’s why: closure. Speaking with Blue Devils head coach John Danowski recently, he said that the extra year of eligibility given to Duke’s 2006 players -- including current players Crotty, Steve Schoeffel, Sam Payton, Dan Theodoridis, Devon Sherwood and Tom Clute, who were freshmen when their season was derailed by false rape allegations -- has been difficult to manage. “The whole fifth-year thing has been a blessing and a curse,” Danowski said. Whether it was fourth-year guys mulling an extra year or fifth-year guys trying not to step on the fourth-year guys’ toes, the Blue Devils lacked a sense of urgency, he said. After this season, however, the jig is up. Between the Crotty-led super seniors or the Max Quinzani and Parker McKee-led natural seniors, there’s no next year for any of them. The sense of urgency is palpable, and that bodes well for a team so stocked with talent and depth.
Biggest Question: Who will step into the starting goalie role. Freshman Dan Wigrizer was surprisingly strong in the fall. If called upon, can he carry Duke between the pipes?

NO. 2 SYRACUSE

2009 Record: 16-2
Breakdown: On one hand, Syracuse graduated its entire starting midfield. On the other, the Orange presumably get a full season of stud attackman Cody Jamieson. Let’s see what kind of magic the lefty can work with righty counterpart Stephen Keogh. Some midfield help is on the way in Onondaga Community College transfer Jeremy Thompson, provided he can avoid the kind of eligibility troubles that plagued Jamieson last year. Head coach John Desko is counting on Josh Amidon to become the Orange’s top midfield threat. Amidon can shoot 100-plus mph and has great wherewithal around the ball -- as witnessed several times in the NCAA championship game -- but it remains to be seen if he can initiate offense on his own. Goalie John Galloway and defensemen John Lade and Matt Tierney anchor a defensive unit that nonetheless lacks the lock-down presence that Sid Smith had.
Biggest Question: With a boatload of prototypical finishers on deck, who’s going to be the prototypical feeder? Somebody has to get these guys the ball.

NO. 3 VIRGINIA

2009 Record: 15-3, 2-1 ACC
Breakdown: Virginia boasts star power at each position -- Steele Stanwick at attack, Shamel Bratton and Brian Carroll at midfield, and Ken Clausen at defense. The Wahoos also have some beef in long poles Bray Malphrus and Matt Lovejoy, both of whom boast breakout potential. Head coach Dom Starsia emphasized more physical play in the fall. It’s just a matter of finding team chemistry, which UVA lacked last year.
Biggest Question: Minus Danny Glading and Garrett Billings, can Stanwick carry the load? Candidates to replace Glading and Billings on UVA’s starting attack include Chris Bocklet and John Haldy, but expect a big push from freshmen Connor English and Matt Cockerton.

NO. 4 NORTH CAROLINA

2009 Record: 12-6, 0-3 ACC
Breakdown: Billy Bitter, Billy Bitter and more Billy Bitter. There’s no one sleeping on this player of the year candidate any longer. Bitter has a great rapport with Gavin Petracca on UNC’s dynamic attack. Joining them is Ed Prevost, a junior college standout from OCC. Sean Delaney and Ryan Flanagan are more than capable of carrying the midfield and defense, respectively. The most interesting development over the offseason in Chapel Hill was getting transfer goalie Steven Rastivo from Penn State. Rastivo was expected to start for the Nittany Lions. He’s never started a collegiate game and has a huge upside over sophomore James Petracca -- who was inconsistent when forced into action due to a Grant Zimmerman injury in 2009.
Biggest Question: Is Rastivo really the answer between the pipes?

NO. 5 JOHNS HOPKINS

2009 Record: 10-5
Breakdown: Defense has been the hallmark of Hopkins’ teams during the Dave Pietramala era, and yet it was the Blue Jays’ biggest weakness in 2009 -- evidenced by an embarrassing 19-8 loss to Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals. So as juiced as Hopkins fans want to get about a preseason All-American laden attack of Steven Boyle, Chris Boland and Kyle Wharton, a midfield led by Michael Kimmel and the potential of freshman John Greeley, the bottom line is shoring up the back line.
Biggest Question: Does senior goalie Michael Gvozden have Pietramala’s full loyalty and confidence, or could a controversy be brewing?

FIVE QUESTIONS

1. Is Cottle’s job in jeopardy?
Maryland has not been to the final four since 2006 and, according to LM’s rankings (Terps at No. 8), at least, a return does not appear imminent in 2010. Entering the final year of his contract, Terps head coach Dave Cottle joins Towson’s Tony Seaman -- also in his final year -- on college lacrosse’s coaching hot seat.

2. Stony Brook at No. 18 – really?
Really. Both LM staff and the coaches consulted for these rankings agree that the Seawolves have great sleeper potential. Behind Adam Rand’s faceoff dominance, Kevin Crowley’s do-it-all presence between the lines and Jordan McBride’s continued emergence as an offensive star on attack, Stony Brook won nine of its last 12 games before bowing to UMBC in the America East championship game in ’09. All those players return.

3. Will Jamie Lincoln help or hurt Hofstra?
Call it the Canada-Long Island Expressway, what with Crowley and McBride at Stony Brook and Denver transfer Jamie Lincoln joining Jay Card at Hofstra. While it’s easy to get excited about Lincoln playing alongside Card on the Pride attack, he was among the clubhouse cancers that led to Jamie Munro’s dismissal and Bill Tierney’s hire at Denver. Ironically, Lincoln is now playing for Tierney’s nephew, Seth Tierney, at Hofstra. Lincoln’s talent is unquestioned and can stir up Hofstra’s offense, just as long as he doesn’t stir up anything else in the locker room.

4. What about Cornell? No respect?
The Big Red certainly has the potential to make us eat our No. 6 ranking just a year after they took Syracuse to the limit in the NCAA championship game, but it’s hard to ignore the burden of replacing Max Seibald, John Glynn and, to a lesser extent, Rocco Romero on that first midfield line. If opponents don’t respect Cornell’s midfield, they’ll key in on Rob Pannell, taking away his creative abilities with the ball. An X-factor for the Big Red could be David Lau. The junior could be poised for a breakout season after seeing increased role in Cornell’s NCAA tournament. He can play attack or midfield.

5. How quickly can Bill Tierney reverse Denver’s fortunes?
Well, he inherits a pretty darned talented team, especially after convincing defenseman Dillon Roy and midfielder Charley Dickenson to return to the team after they left the Pioneers amidst the 2009 fallout. The most exciting players, however, are Mark Matthews and Chase Carraro. Matthews, a big, left-handed attackman from Canada, can also feed pretty well off double teams, which he’ll almost assuredly draw. Carraro, a freshman from Louisville, Ky., has great speed and handle, and will likely face off for the Pioneers.


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