#LMranks: No. 17 Villanova Wildcats (Men)
|Role players like Nick Doherty
will be asked to step up in a revamped Villanova offense that no
longer has Kevin Cunningham.
© Kevin P. Tucker
Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.
Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Friday with profiles of the 16th-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.
*Out of 5
A Jack Rice (Sr.)
Rice is a finisher — 31 goals and one assist last year — and he'll be called on more without Kevin Cunningham, the 2012 Big East attackman of the year. Rice has appeared in all 46 games of his career while making 44 starts, and he ranks seventh all-time on Villanova's goal-scoring list with 91. His career average is 1.98 goals per game, third best in program history.
FO Thomas Croonquist (Jr.)
The second-team All-Big East pick had shoulder surgery in the offseason. If he's healthy, Croonquist's continued dominance at the faceoff X (60.2 percent for his career) will help the Wildcats offset personnel losses all over the field.
No more Cunningham. One of Villanova's all-time best players was drafted by Major League Lacrosse's Hamilton Nationals No. 2 overall in December's supplemental draft. He was the 'Cats offensive leader, compiling 150 points over a four-year career. He's not the only loss, though. Villanova also must replace its starting goalie, two defenseman and four midfielders.
For now, the Big East schedule and tournament. Nationwide conference realignment moves won't kick in until 2015, so Big East lacrosse continues with an automatic qualifying bid to the tournament, although decisions yet to be made leave the conference's future cloudy. Syracuse and Notre Dame already have said they will join the ACC, leaving just five men's Big East programs as of now.
#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown
Record: 8-7, 4-2 Big East
In a Nutshell: Villanova entered 2012 with a good amount of expectations — including a preseason Top 10 billing from Lacrosse Magazine — after a stellar 2011. The Wildcats didn't necessarily live up to their billing — they beat most of the teams they should have, but still lost seven games — yet still made the Big East tournament, where they lost to Syracuse in the semifinals.
High Point: An 11-10 win at Syracuse on March 25. It was Villanova's first win against Syracuse since 1991, and the Wildcats handed the Orange their first-ever Big East conference loss since the formation of the league in 2010. Rice had two goals and his lone assist of the season.
Low Point: A 15-11 loss at Providence on April 28 to end the regular season. The defeat was one of the most shocking scores of the season. Providence won just one other game, while losing 12, and underwent a coaching change this offseason. The win was the Friars' first-ever in Big East play and it surely didn't do much for 'Nova heading into the Big East tournament.
Best Case: Villanova fills the void left by Cunningham, led by Rice and senior attackman Will Castertano, who had 17 goals and 20 assists last year. Midfielders Max Hart (18 points in 2012) and Kevin O'Neil (23) and attackman Nick Doherty (10 goals, four assists) step up, and the defense becomes a strength behind second-team All-Big East long-stick midfielder John LoCascio.
Worst Case: This may just not be Villanova's year with too many personnel losses. Re-energized Syracuse and another strong Notre Dame team will stand in the Wildcats' way. There's always the Big East tournament and the chance at an NCAA tournament automatic qualifier, but does Villanova even make the conference postseason? Georgetown should have new energy with a new coach, St. John's is a nice darkhorse pick for a breakout year, and maybe Providence gets a few surprise wins under its first-year coach.