January 27, 2014

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#LMRanks: No. 10 Albany Great Danes (MD1)

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | College Preview 2014

Returning Tewaaraton Award finalist and LM's Preseason Player of the Year Lyle Thompson leads the Great Danes into 2014. (Marc Piscotty)

Previous: No. 11 Loyola Greyhounds

Vitals

2013 Record: 13-5, 5-0 America East
Coach: Scott Marr (14th season)
Record at Albany: 108-95

Power Ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 5
Defense: 2
Goalkeeping:
3
Faceoff: 2

Top Returner

A Lyle Thompson (Jr.)
Lacrosse Magazine's
Preseason Player of the Year is the front-runner for all the major awards for which he's eligible. Can he top his 113 points from a season ago?

X-Factor

G Blaze Riorden (So.)
Riorden got his feet wet during his freshman season, and had some monster games (20 saves against Johns Hopkins and 13 against Syracuse). His continued development could help a defense that is vulnerable to as many transition chances as Albany creates.

Tournament Trend

2009 Did Not Qualify
2010 Did Not Qualify
2011 Did Not Qualify
2012 Did Not Qualify
2013
First Round

What's New?

A road game at Penn State, replacing Bucknell on the schedule. Albany also has a transfer from the Nittany Lions in midfielder Riley Lasda.

Telling Number

6
Returning double-digit point producers, other than the Thompsons. Multiple players have shown ability to play well off the attention the star attractions draw from opposing defenses.

Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say

"Thompson, Thompson, and Thompson. Top attack unit in college lacrosse and it isn't even close... Can they slow anyone down? Can anyone in the country cover Lyle Thompson?... If they can play any defense, they will be tough to beat... Lyle has to be the frontrunner for the Tewaaraton, and Miles and Ty also put up some ridiculous stat lines that make any opposing coach fear trying to game plan for these guys."

"If they can play any defense, they will be tough to beat."

— One rival coach

"The thing that maybe makes the Thompsons so great is how hard they ride, they help to create a lot of chaos in that aspect of the game and is surprising because many of the top attackmen today do not focus on the ride probably as much as they should... This is a team though that struggled to stop anybody defensively last year and these constant shootouts with other teams may catch up to them again just like it did at Denver in last year's tournament."

"An easy conference schedule doesn't present a lot of challenges which may hurt them come tournament time if they have to make a run against some opponents who are more battle tested... Best attack in the country. Lyle Thompson is the front-runner for player of the year. The defense will improve with another year under their belt and the tutelage of Coach Marr and Gleason."

"Lyle Thompson with 113 points in 2013 makes Miles Thompson's 43 goals and 30 assists seem very pedestrian. Amazing. Scott Marr has his boys believing and playing a wide-open style of offense that disregards all Stop signs. Goalkeeper Blaze Riorden proved himself to be a winner in his freshman year, with wins at Syracuse and Hopkins. This team is clearly the class of the America East and a threat versus anyone on their schedule."

"Albany has to manage expectations. They think they're great, and they do have outstanding offensive players. But how they handle those expectations will be critical this year. Nobody is going to be surprised by them. Teams have a better sense of how to defend them. With the wide-open way that they play, they led the nation in turnovers, and it's hard to be a better defensive team when you give the ball up like that. They need to figure out how to do that."

2013 Recap

Miles Thompson dropped about 40 pounds ahead of last season and has kept in shape heading into his senior year. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

In a Nutshell: The Thompson-led Great Danes reached their first NCAA tournament since 2007 after going undefeated in America East play, beating UMBC for the conference's automatic bid to May Madness. They lost in the NCAA first round to Denver, 19-14, in the type of high-scoring game Albany trademarked throughout the season. Lyle, Miles and Ty Thompson formed a transcendent attack group, one that combined for 254 points, more than the single-season total for 40 other Division I teams. The nation was put on notice when Albany beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome to open the season, and the Great Danes affirmed their position as an NCAA tournament team down the stretch, beating Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Albany averaged 15.94 goals per game, a total that was the most in D-I lacrosse since Virginia's 18.21 in 1997.

High Point: Either Albany's season-opening double-overtime win at Syracuse, or the Danes' one-goal win at Johns Hopkins. The former was the first time Albany had beaten the Orange in program history and was the coming out party for the Thompsons, on one attack line. The latter victory was historic in its own right; it was the Danes' second win over the Blue Jays in 12 meetings.

Low Point: No NCAA tournament team wants their season to end in the first round, so Albany's opening round loss at Denver could be considered a low point, but it's hard to give that distinction to a program that made its first national postseason in six years. No, how about March 2 and a 15-8 loss to Yale at home. It was the only time all year Albany lost back-to-back games. It was cold, 32 degrees, and cloudy. Dirty snow piles lined the sidelines. Lyle Thompson finished with six points, Ty Thompson scored twice, but the Danes were held to their lowest scoring output of the season. Miles Thompson didn't play. "We realized that that game we weren't a fun team to watch," Lyle Thompson said. "For the rest of the season, our motto was, 'Be a fun team to watch.'"

2014 Preview

Best Case: The Danes run through the America East and clinch their second straight NCAA tournament AQ bid. Albany does not have a strong strength of schedule, but wins key non-conference games on the road at Syracuse, Penn State and Johns Hopkins, and gets some help from other circumstances, to earn a first-round NCAA home game. While the Thompsons put together a season similar to 2013, the defense improves and a faceoff man establishes himself to fuel a final four run.

Worst Case: Albany takes the America East title again, but a porous defense doesn't allow them to get signature out-of-conference victory, making them an unseeded NCAA tournament team for the second straight year. The Danes are sent on the road to a top-eight seed and while the offense puts up enough goals to a beat most teams, the defense just doesn't make enough stops.

Self-Examination: Scott Marr on...

A Lyle Thompson (Jr.), A Miles Thompson (Sr.) and A Ty Thompson (Sr.)
"We couldn't have been more excited to have them coming into the program. We really felt that with their abilities, they could take the rest of the team to another level. The harder they practice, it raises everybody else's level in practice. We've become a real fast-playing team. It makes everybody else step up. It makes those guys better. When you talk about great players, that's what great players do: they make other people around them better. That's what these three guys have done for our program."

"What people may not realize is the ability that they have to turn the ball over with their ride. Their ride is like nobody else's. The chemistry with how they ride is just like how they play offense. They know where the next guy is going. When the ball gets turned over, there is absolutely no hesitation to turning the switch to become a rider to get the back ball. They want the ball, so they're going to bust their behinds to do what they can to get the ball back."

"Another thing is how hard they work to be in shape, to be able to ride like that. They run on their own. They run outside of practice. They run hills, they do training. Miles the last two years, he lost about 40 pounds sophomore year into junior year. To do that is a real discipline. It's not easy to have that discipline. How hard they work in school, going to class and doing what they're supposed to do. They've done very well. There were a lot of doubters when they first got out of high school that they would even get in a four-year college, let al one be able to stay and do the schoolwork. They've pretty much silenced that because they are all on track to graduate in a 4-5 year period. Lyle in four, Miles and Ty in four and a half or five, depending. How hard they work outside of the game. That has made them the players that they are."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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