The life of a Hopkinspendent is a double-edged sword: You can pick and choose your opponents -- partly because there are no conference restrictions, partly because you're Johns Hopkins, and partly because television needs programming or else it isn't television (it's just weird furniture sitting in your house) -- but you also need to appease sociopathic Blue Jays fans that reside on the Internet that view nothing short of undefeated seasons and the eventual fall of Berlin as acceptable results. It's a delicate balancing act, serving a bunch of masters all in the context of being one of the most decorated college lacrosse programs in history.
Johns Hopkins has the potential to be very solid in 2013, returning core contributors all over the field to try and build on a 12-4 campaign in 2012. The Jays haven't been to Championship Weekend since 2008, and while Hopkins' schedule doesn't directly indicate in any way exactly what Dave Pietramala thinks he has for the spring, this could be an important season at Homewood Field: With the continued growth of non-traditional programs, if the Jays don't advance to Philadelphia this season, the natives -- rightly or wrongly -- may start to get increasingly restless. Hopkins does championships, and there is championship-caliber on the roster and a schedule that is conducive to getting the Jays over the quarterfinals hump.
Let's break down the slate.
Bright Lights, Big Television City
March 1: Princeton; March 16: @ Syracuse; March 23: v. Virginia; March 30: @ North Carolina; April 13: @ Maryland; April 27: Loyola
Given Johns Hopkins' relationship with ESPN, the Jays are going to, once again, dominate ESPNU and ESPN3 this spring. There are some questionable inclusions on the broadcast slate, but the noted six games are balloon-animal-party worthy. Not only will these six teams be among the most competitive in the country in 2013, it's also how Hopkins will see a chunk of these games during the season.
What jumps right out is the back-to-back-to-back games against Syracuse (Carrier Dome), Virginia (M&T Bank Stadium), and North Carolina (Fetzer Field). That's a brutal stretch of games all away from Homewood Field and Hopkins could get into a little bit of trouble in the mid- through late-March stretch. The Jays will only be significantly tested once before they enter that three week period (a March 1st game against Princeton in Baltimore), and that stretch will really show the world where Hopkins plans on going in late-spring.
Difficult dates also dot the month of April. The Jays' historic rivalry with the Terps is renewed at newly resurfaced Byrd Stadium the second week of April and Johns Hopkins will engage in the Battle of Charles Street against Loyola at the most important point in the year. Those are tough tests at the end of the year, and could be top-five affairs with seeding considerations for the NCAA Tournament on the line (as well as bragging rights at the local bar). This is making my pants tight in December.
I See You
February 8: Siena; February 16: @ Towson; March 5: Mount St. Mary's; March 9: UMBC; April 5: Albany; April 20: Navy; May 3: @ Army
There's all kinds of sneaky RPI value sitting on the rest of Johns Hopkins' schedule. While the RPI is a pretty miserable way to value teams, if you're putting together a schedule designed to get into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection, the Jays did a decent job at getting mid-level opponents on the slate that should win a bunch of games during the year. (In case you don't know by now, the RPI -- for lacrosse, especially -- tends to reward teams for simply playing opponents that have winning records, somewhat regardless of whether the team actually wins the game. Stupid, right? I know.) Siena is likely the class of the MAAC, Towson is moving in the right direction under Shawn Nadelen and won't idly kiss the Jays' rings, The Mount may have enough to top Bryant and Robert Morris in the NEC in 2013, Albany and UMBC are among the contending mess in the America East, and Navy and Army are always tough games (especially the Midshipmen given what Navy did to Hopkins last season at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium).
These are all likely wins for the Jays (unless things go really sideways), but their value isn't necessarily in that Johns Hopkins can notch a win, but rather that these teams may not totally fall apart in the rest of their seasons. That's the silliness of this whole thing.