May 30, 2013

Way Too Early Rankings for 2014: MD1 Nos. 11-15

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Miles Thompson, one-third of the Thompson attack trio notched 73 points this season. Expect the Great Danes to run roughshod over the America East next year.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

It's never too early, right? Patrick Stevens continues his look ahead to the 2014 season with Nos. 11-15 in a Way Too Early Division I men's Top 20. For 16-20, click here. Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Friday for 10-6.

No. 15 Albany (13-5)

Last seen: Exiting in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but very much on its own terms. Albany’s 19-14 loss at Denver was the highest-scoring postseason game since 2004, and the Great Danes were a blast to watch until the end.

Senior starts lost: 41 of 180 (22.8 percent)

Scoring departing: 57 of 453 points (12.6 percent)

The skinny: The Great Danes are not going to be dull, not so long as they have some Thompsons to deploy. Miles (73 points) and Ty (team-high 54 goals) will be seniors; Lyle (113 points) will be a junior. And as such, you can expect Albany to run roughshod over the America East and make it back to the postseason.

In fact, it will be difficult to find a team that looks like more of a sure-thing heading into 2014 than the Great Danes. They won their seven games against league foes by an average of 8.9 goals, and only one of those contests (a 17-15 triumph at Stony Brook in the conference semifinals) came by less than six goals.

So how will Albany handle that onus? Almost certainly by allowing the Thompsons to do their thing. Albany averaged 15.94 goals per game in 2013, the highest-scoring team in Division I since Virginia’s blistering 18.21 average in 1997. The Great Danes weren’t flawless last year, and they could stumble a few times against deep and balanced teams capable of matching their explosiveness.  But they’ll be a fun team to keep an eye on.

No. 14 Bucknell (12-4)

Last seen: Getting squeezed out of the final at-large spot in the NCAA tournament field on Selection Sunday; the Bison were pretty clearly the last team out

Senior starts lost: 48 of 160 (30 percent)

Scoring departing: 50 of 270 points (18.5 percent)

The skinny: Attackman Chase Bailey’s team-high 36 goals will be missed, and Bucknell will also have to find replacements for goalie Kyle Feeney and defenseman Mike Huffner. But the bulk of this bunch is back, including third-team All-America pick David Dickson (48 assists).

It would be interesting to see how the Bison would be perceived if they did earn an at-large bid (or, put another way, if they hadn’t lost to Mount St. Mary’s  in mid-February). As it stands, they appear to be the best threat to deny Loyola a championship as the Greyhounds enter the Patriot League.

Of course, Bucknell has a bit of a Lehigh problem — namely that it has gotten progressively worse at dealing with the stingy Mountain Hawks’ defense over three games in the last two seasons. Lehigh’s lost enough for the Bison to be able to close the gap and then some next year, and Bucknell has the talent to take advantage and remain in NCAA contention for at least another season.

No. 13 Cornell (14-4)

Last seen: Nearly completing a rally from eight goals down against Duke in the national semifinals, capping a riveting three-game run in which the Big Red scored 46 goals

Senior starts lost: 100 of 180 (55.6 percent)

Scoring departing: 255 of 401 points (63.6 percent)

The skinny: The Big Red has some practice at replacing Rob Pannell, and the result in 2012 when he went down with a season-ending injury was a missed NCAA tournament.

That has to be on the table again in 2014, as there’s no easy way to replace the NCAA’s career scoring leader — not to mention a 60-goal crease attackman (Steve Mock), a nearly 30-goal midfielder (Max Van Bourgondien), a first-team All-America defenseman (Jason Noble), a turnover-creating pole who can spark transition (Thomas Keith), a three-year starter at goalie (A.J. Fiore) and 10 other seniors as well.

After an uneven second half of the 2012 season, the Big Red reasserted itself as a relentless, ferocious and prideful bunch this year, especially after being unseeded at the start of the postseason. Playing Cornell will not be a pleasant experience next year, but it won’t have the presence of the best player in the country to make the 60 minutes quite so excruciating for foes. A step back is almost inevitable; it’s just a matter of how substantial it is.

No. 12 Johns Hopkins (9-5)

Ryan Brown was solid as a freshman, and will return to the Blue Jays' offense with veteran attackmen Wells Stanwick and Brandon Benn. 
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Last seen: Missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1971, putting an end to a remarkable 41-year postseason streak

Senior starts lost: 79 of 140 (56.4 percent)

Scoring departing: 102 of 253 points (40.3 percent)

The skinny: There’s simply no getting around it — the Blue Jays were built to win this year and they didn’t get it done. Sometimes, a team struggles right after a loaded senior class departs. This one missed the NCAA tournament with a cast of veterans who played significant roles since 2010.

The rolling suspensions couldn’t have helped, and the offense sputtered mightily in the second half of the season. Now, Hopkins must move forward without the elite defenseman who anchored things at that end for three years (Tucker Durkin) and a stellar faceoff man (Mike Poppleton).

The combination of Wells Stanwick and Brandon Benn at least provide some certainty on attack, and Ryan Brown looked solid as a freshman. A healthy Rob Guida will provide some punch in the midfield, and chances are Hopkins will ultimately be fine on defense. Nonetheless, the final four drought is now five years at Homewood, and there’s much work to be done to prevent it from reaching six.

No. 11 Maryland (10-4)

Last seen: Completing its second-half fade in spectacular fashion, losing 16-8 on its home field to Cornell in the first round less than a month after it was perched as the nation’s No. 1 team

Senior starts lost: 61 of 140 (43.6 percent)

Scoring departing: 148 of 253 (58.5 percent)

The skinny: The Terrapins’ championship window slammed shut on them after a stellar start to the season as their balanced but superstar-free offense couldn’t manage much over the final five games. Maryland graduates five of its six offensive starters from its NCAA tournament loss, so it will be on freshmen and role players from 2013 (as well as midfielder Mike Chanenchuk) to improve next year.

The good thing for the Terps is their defense will be filled with known quantities, including goalie Niko Amato, to provide a predictable element next year. Maryland was miserly on defense, the Cornell loss notwithstanding, though it might find creating transition goals more difficult with the losses of the exceptional Jesse Bernhardt and reliable Landon Carr. Still, they’ll be tough to score on in six-on-six settings.

Now the bad news: The addition of Notre Dame and Syracuse to the ACC is going to make the Terps’ final year in the conference even more difficult. Extending Maryland’s 11-year postseason streak would qualify as a success for John Tillman and Co. in 2014, with any sort of NCAA tournament run an added bonus in what figures to be a transitional year on offense.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Friday for Nos. 10-6. Click here for 16-20.


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