The first Nike/USILA Coaches’ Polls might come out later today, so I’m gonna try and get my rankings out before they’re released.
I wish I could say that I watched the Colgate/SU game, or the Duke/High Point game, or any number of the many D-I games that have been played since the season started on February 1. The fact is, I haven’t.
As a matter of fact, the only game I’ve seen so far this “spring” was the Syracuse vs. UConn women’s game this past Friday afternoon in the Dome, but that’s another story…
Still, like many of us, I’m anxious to follow the many plot lines of 2019 as they unfold:
• How will Utah and St. Bonaventure’s do in their first seasons?
• Is this the year Syracuse makes it back to Memorial Day Weekend lacrosse?
• Does Cornell deserve its #5 ranking?
• Can Albany re-load the Dane Train?
• How will Yale look after losing Ben Reeves but adding TD Ierlan?
Let’s take a look at how things have gone so far…
According to Inside Lacrosse
, the Nike/USILA Preseason Coaches’ Poll looked like this:
7. Johns Hopkins
9. Penn State
10. Notre Dame
14. North Carolina
15. Ohio State
Also receiving votes were: Michigan, Robert Morris, Penn, Bucknell, Navy, Air Force, Bryant, Towson, and Hofstra.
I’ll admit that I didn’t pay much attention to this poll; I figured I’d wait till they started playing to see how well it stood up.
Well, in case you haven’t heard, the season has gotten off to an interesting start. Unranked High Point beat #2 Duke , unranked Colgate beat #11 Syracuse, and unranked Towson throttled rival # 7 Hopkins. In smaller upsets, unranked Hofstra beat #13 Lehigh (4-3? Really? Sounds like an old-fashioned mud bowl, but I doubt that the playing field was a factor), and unranked Army knocked off UMass in overtime.
#6 Virginia lost to #4 Loyola, but if those rankings are valid, that’s not an upset; it just affirms those slots. And hats off to Coach Tiffany’s Cavaliers; I believe they’re the only ranked team to open their season against a higher-ranked opponent.
Meanwhile, defending national champion Yale and its Ivy League brother (sisters?) haven’t played games yet; most of them will join the fray this week. They’re to be excused for not playing yet – Ivy League rules prohibit them from starting practices until February 1. Meanwhile, Coach Scott Marr’s UAlbany Great Danes haven’t played yet, either, but that’s more on principle than anything else. Representing what I believe to be the minority of coaches, Coach Marr doesn’t like early February games, so he and his squad resist the temptation to push the calendar up every winter.
Which brings us to my poll – the first-ever D-I RTD Poll. Remember; you read it here first.
1. Yale 0-0 Hosts Villanova on Saturday in their opener…
2. Maryland 2-0 Slow and steady… wins over Bucknell and Richmond… Coach Tillman’s Terrapins play at Penn’s opener on Saturday
3. Loyola 1-0 Beat Virginia by an impressive margin… Game of the Week candidate next Saturday as they travel several blocks down Charles Street to Homewood Field for a great rivalry game against Hopkins.
4. Penn State 2-0 Opening wins against Robert Morris and Villanova may not seem too impressive to you, but the Nittany Lions lost to those two teams last year, and this time around, they beat ‘nova by 10 and RoMo by 17… Here’s hoping Coach Jeff Tambroni’s boys stay focused and hungry…
5. Cornell 0-0 Coach Pete Milliman’s Big Red don’t open until February 22, so we’ll have to wait another week before we see where they fit in best. For now, we’ll keep them at #5…
6. Denver 1-0 The Pios are 1-0 after a convincing win against in-state rival Air Force. In another Game of the Week possibility, Coach Tierney’s boys travel east to play Duke on Saturday. Should be a good one!
7. Towson 1-0 The Tigers have beaten Hopkins before, but Saturday’s 17-8 waxing of the Blue Jays was something special. Coach Nadelen’s squad needs to avoid the proverbial trap game at Mt. St. Mary’s on Friday.
8. Virginia 0-1 OK, so the Cavs lost to Loyola; it’s not the end of the world. The Cavaliers have a chance to get back on the horse when they host Lehigh on Saturday… and then giant-killer High Point on Monday.
9. Notre Dame 0-0 Like Albany, the Irish squad is no rush to play early-February games. They’ll host Detroit Mercy on Saturday in their season opener.
10. Rutgers 2-0 Coach Brian Brecht’s Scarlet Knights are back, and although their wins against Lafayette and St. John’s aren’t exactly head-turners, they’re showing that they’re ready for another season. They’ll have their hands full on Saturday when they host Coach Joe Alberici’s Black Knights from West Point. Talk about smash-mouth lacrosse! Buckle up, boys!
11. North Carolina2-0 The Tar Heels have knocked off Southern Conference neighbors Furman and Mercer; they should continue their winning ways when they host the lads from Harvard as the Crimson opens their season on Saturday.
12. Duke 2-1 Coach John Danowski’s teams have a reputation for starting slowly and peaking in May, so maybe the High Point loss is really just par for the course; time will tell. In the meantime, they’d better be ready on Saturday when Denver pulls into town. Why-oh-why do we have to wait till March to get games on ESPNU?
13. High Point 2-0 You might argue that the Panthers should be ranked ahead of Duke, but I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to the Blue Devils. National championships and John Danowski influence me that way. If this helps motivate High Point this weekend, when they play at Drexel on Saturday and then at Virginia on Monday, then so be it. You can thank me later.
14. Ohio State 2-0 Yes, the Buckeyes are 2-0, but the scores had me scratching my head. 12-9 over Cleveland State? 17-10 over Boston University? Sure, a win’s a win, but I think this weekend’s game at UMass will tell us more than the first two games did.
15. Albany 0-0 I get and completely agree with the later start, but Coach Marr’s scruffy group of ruffians have the dubious task of opening their season with Syracuse University – in the Dome, where, the Orange has been practicing since early January. Syracuse will likely be in an ornery mood, so this one has all the makings of a Time Warner “Instant Classic” – except that we lost Time Warner Sports when Spectrum took over… Don’t get me started.
16. Princeton 0-0 The Tigers poke their noses out of their winter den with a safe, in-state trip all the way up to Monmouth on Saturday. Rumor has it they won’t even get meal money for this one; they’ll be back on campus in time for dinner.
17. Colgate 1-0 The Red Raiders also need to avoid the dreaded trap game and take care of business when the travel down to Binghamton on Saturday.
18. Hofstra 1-0 I would love to be at Hofstra this Saturday, when the Pride host the Utah Utes. To once again use my favorite, oft-quoted line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
, I can hear those LonGuyLand fans asking “Who are
those guys?” Sure, the Utes lost to Vermont in their opener, but then they beat Mercer, and heck, Hofstra only scored four goals in its win against previously-ranked Lehigh, so who knows?
19. Syracuse 0-1 Yes, we’re all used to watching SU win, but the lacrosse landscape has changed (hey, Hopkins and Princeton used to win a lot of national championship games, too). Was Friday’s clunker a sign of bigger problems, or will the Orange regroup and have their way with the Great Danes on Saturday? Either way, Syracuse has a great schedule and they get to play the very best teams week in and week out, so they’re always in the spotlight.
20. Johns Hopkins 0-1 See 19, above. Yes, I was surprised by last weekend’s game – not so much about which team won, but the margin! The Blue Jays face Loyola on Saturday; a win makes everything good in the world again, but a loss or two might knock them off this list entirely…
Also receiving votes: UMass, Army, Hobart, Lehigh, Georgetown, Marquette
UMass and Army are ready to move up if/when someone loses ground. UMass hosts Ohio State and Army travels to Rutgers this weekend. Hobart got off to a great start last week, and the Statesmen will be looking to keep things going at Siena on Saturday. Lehigh faces a big test at Virginia, Georgetown hosts Robert Morris, and Marquette looks to have fun in the sun at Jacksonville on Friday.
Like I said at the start, I don’t know if the weekly Nike/USILA Coaches’ Polls start this week or not, but if they do, mine is done some 12 or more hours ahead of their release. Can’t really put a time stamp on this [Editor's Note - But I can . . . received at 12:11AM Monday]
but trust me – it’s midnight on Sunday, February 10/Monday, February 11, and I’m sending this in to JustLacrosse Upstate from my parents’ house in Lakeland, FL (sorry, had to remind you all that, as of today, I am no longer in Upstate NY, but don’t worry; I’ll be back at the end of February). If the Coaches’ Poll does come out today, it will probably get published around 12 noon.
It’ll be interesting to see how the experts think.
Drive carefully, everyone!
- Dan Witmer
Dan Witmer is the author of two books. The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland. ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.