February 5, 2013

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Best of the Rest: Breaking Down the Top 20 (MD1)


The return of Rob Pannell brings some uncertainty to Cornell's preseason value.
© Lee Weissman

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Lacrosse Magazine counted down the preseason Top 20 NCAA Division I men's and women's teams throughout the month of January. The Loyola men and Florida women earned top billing. Here's our own analysis of the rankings.

Visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks for our complete preseason coverage.

The Big Theme

Among Division I men's coaches that Lacrosse Magazine surveyed in the preseason, there seemed to be a consensus Top 5 — Loyola, Maryland, Notre Dame, Duke and Johns Hopkins — followed closely by North Carolina and Denver.Last year's Cinderella stories, Colgate and Lehigh, got respect but not elite-status recognition. There's a group of returning NCAA bubble teams or first-round losers that fill out the top 15, then a conglomerate of teams that could be ranked anywhere from 16 to 30, if the rankings extended that far.

The Big Question Mark

Cornell ranked anywhere from No. 3 to No. 14 among the coaches that we polled. Clearly there is some uncertainty surrounding the Big Red.

Is Rob Pannell going to be the Rob Pannell of old? That's the biggest question for Cornell and one that lingers in the minds of preseason prognosticators. It turns out the uncertainty isn't limited to the men's team; in Clare Lochary's #LMranks Division I women's analysis, the Big Red are also listed as The Big Question Mark.

Underrated

No. 5 Johns Hopkins
One coach we asked ranked the Blue Jays No. 1, and there is an argument. In general, the Baby Blue Jays are all grown up. They have an 11-member senior class and returning starters with experience at nearly every position, including reigning USILA defenseman of the year Tucker Durkin. Its final four or bust for Johns Hopkins after a pair of quarterfinal losses the last two years.

No. 9 Virginia
It's easy to drop the Cavaliers down a few pegs on the preseason ladder with the graduation of Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet. But let's not forget who the Cavaliers have coming back. Virginia's stockpile of talent all over the field has not shrunk. Just a few: Chris LaPierre could be a Tewaaraton candidate, Rob Emery is a seasoned vet now and look for Ryan Tucker to emerge with a larger role this season. The staff has plenty of talent with to tinker on offense. The only question is in goal, where freshman Dan Marino could start.

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Rankings

No. 1 Loyola
No. 2 Maryland
No. 3 Duke
No. 4 Notre Dame
No. 5 Johns Hopkins
No. 6-No. 20: Click here
Also considered: Best of the Rest
Preseason Player of the Year: Peter Baum

More: #LMranks Landing Page | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

No. 15 Princeton
The Tigers had a great turnaround in 2012, going from a four-win 2011 to 11-5, and Tom Schreiber is one of the best midfielders in the country. Princeton has a very legitimate shot to win the Ivy League title.

Bold Prediction

Our sixth-ranked men's team, Denver, will win the national championship because they have the blend of experience, talent, motivation and coaching to get it done.

Yes, Mark Matthews is now playing in the MLL and NLL, but the cupboard is not bare. Midfielder Jeremy Noble returns along with Wes Berg, who will play attack. The defense, which was entirely new a year ago, is entirely back this time around. And the Pioneers are strong up the middle, with veteran faceoff threat Chase Carraro, and two capable goalies on the roster, sophomore Ryan LaPlante and Jamie Faus, who has come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Two healthy, and good goalies has also complicated the decision on whom to start.

"The worst part of this problem is for them. For us it's a blessing. People forget that Jamie brought us to a final four as a freshman, it's kind of unheard of," Denver coach Bill Tierney said at the Pioneers' Tuesday media day. "We have two great ones. We're probably going to start Ryan on Saturday [against Duke], but Jamie is battling to the end. You're going to see them both play a lot of lacrosse this year."


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