Well, I'm not going to rank the teams one to ten or even one to 20. Instead, I'm ranking teams one to 12. And I'm not even going to expand on why I ranked a team where I did past slot six. There's a twofold reason for this approach:
- First, I don't think any team outside of this top 12 will have a legitimate shot at making the Final Four this season. It takes a whole lot of muscle to bust into the rarified air that is the NCAA lacrosse final four, and if a team doesn't have the pedigree to do so, there's no chance in hell it's going to unseat a Hopkins or Syracuse.
- Second, I don't think that any team outside of these top six have a real shot at raising the trophy on Memorial Monday. That's why I don't really care whether you, my loyal reader, know what Princeton is returning this season.
Thus, without further ado, my preseason top 12.
Mike Pressler spent years underachieving down in Durham, N.C. But following his team's heroic performance in 2005, the captain of the S.S. Blue Devil is poised to set sail for Philadelphia this coming Memorial Day as the favorite to hoist the championship trophy.
Led by attackman Matt Danowski and Zack Greer, Duke will once again be a force to reckon with offensively, much like the Roy Simmons, Jr.-era Syracuse Orange. The only question unanswered for Duke is whether Dan Loftus will be able to fill the large shoes left by former keeper Aaron Fenton.
2. Johns Hopkins
Nobody has more talent in the country. And nobody deserves a kick in the stones than Blue Jay head coach Dave Pietramala.
2006 will not be an easy year for Hopkins. Faced with the task of trying to replace a large senior class, the baby-faced Blue Jays will need to rely on Jake Byrne, Final Four hero Greg Peyser, and super stud Paul Rabil to carry this team on their backs if it expects to repeat the glory of last year.
If it weren't for an ill-timed monsoon, we might be talking about Virginia going after a back-to-back titles. Also, I'd still have the ability to laugh at every Hopkins fan I meet under the age of 30.
Outside of Matt Ward, Virginia isn't loaded a talent pool that will make you gasp. Danny Glading looks to be a pretty nice player and Kyle Dixon has some talent to fill out the Cavalier midfield. All in all, Dom Starsia has a solid roster of role players, but I'm not sure it will be enough to catapult them to the title on Memorial Monday.
Everyone knows the questions dogging Syracuse this year: 1) Will they have enough at close defense; and 2) who's going to be in the cage.
If the Orange can answer either question affirmatively, this team is a title contender.
That's all you need to know.
After a year of looking on the outside in, brusing attackman Ian Dingman is back in a Midshipman uniform. Two seasons ago, the Carthage product bullied his way to the Final Four, where his efforts were ultimately all for naught as Navy dropped a nailbiter to Syracuse in the national championship game.
Navy is backstopped by maybe the nation's finest 'tender in Matt Russell. He's been the starter for Richie Meade since 2004, and as his talent has grown, so too have the fortunes of the Midshipmen.
10. Penn State