The Highlander. Can there be only one? via media.syracuse.com
Getting you ready for the 2012 college lacrosse season. What, the season already started? Drats.
The most dangerous man on a college lacrosse field is Cornell's Rob Pannell. There is no discussion about this. You don't assume the role of the Highlander and then, you know, just not be the Highlander. In order to not be the Highlander you have to be killed or get a banker disease like dysentery on the prairie. (I think.) Then -- and only then -- is there a new Highlander.
That is the law of the Highlander and it doesn't change just because college lacrosse has a restraining area instead of the rolling hills of the Highlands. An Internet computer writing can't change that rule.
The issue, though, is that the Tewaaraton doesn't always go to the Highlander. Sometimes it goes to some other cat, like Steele Stanwick of Virginia last year who would be Highlander material in another other age other than the Rob Pannell one. This isn't to say that Steele Stanwick isn't a tremendous college lacrosse player (he is, no doink), it's just that he wasn't as good as Rob Pannell last season (despite the fact that Stanwick's outfit hoisted hardware on Memorial Monday). Them's the facts and them's are also the breaks.
So, what will the Tewaaraton race look like in 2012? Right now, given that only a dozen or so games have been played, my magic eight-ball is telling me, "Shut up. It's too early, stupid." (That didn't seem to deter the Tewaaraton selection committee, however.) What we can kind of see right now, though, is that there are probably four or so Division I players that will receive early juice given prior year performance. Here's a quick list detailing that group, along with some positives and negatives that may impact Tewaaraton voting:
ROB PANNELL, Cornell (A)
Positives: Is the Highlander; Cornell should be nationally competitive and relevant in 2012; will play good competition week-in and week-out to prove strength of statistical output; good surrounding cast that won't overshadow him but will still help him succeed; incredibly balanced offensive talent that stuffs the stat sheet.
Negatives: Cornell probably isn't going to win the national championship in 2012; is stuck in a ridiculously talented pool of attack nationally and is going to have to generate tremendous output to separate himself; will face double teams and an opponent's best defeseman all season (again).
More after the jump.
STEELE STANWICK, Virginia (A)
Positives: Awesome name that should sway any yacht club members on the Tewaaraton selection committee; won the damn thing last year even though he wasn't the best player in the college game; plays on a team that is a legitimate threat to win the national title; balanced offensive player; will have sky-high name recognition in 2012 via a digusting level of television and print exposure.
Negatives: Is not the Highlander; surrounded by tons of talent that may syphon his stat production even though he will be the focal point of the offense; opponents will try and limit him every single game in which he puts on pads; two-time Tewaaraton Trophy winners are a rare breed (Mike Powell is the only repeat men's winner); stuck in an attack talent pool with comparable players, like Nicky Galasso.
MARK MATTHEWS, Denver (A)
Positives: Is an animal scoring zillions of goals; will show up on highlight reels all season with his tallies; team's profile is raised with Bill Tierney as head coach; team should win its conference this season and will see tournament action.
Negatives: Is not the Highlander; plays out west in Colorado or something; he may not even be the most important player on his team with the likes of Cameron Flint and Alex Demopolous; is Canadian, and screw those guys; predominantly a goal scorer, which the Tewaaraton hasn't always smiled upon.
NICKY GALASSO, North Carolina (A)
Positives: Is Steele Stanwick with an iron constitution; team is a legitimate national title contender; plays for a recognizable team on big stages in the country's most recognizable conference; is a member of the Death Squad of Death, which means high statistical kill totals; will play in the national tournament; will have ink all over him again in 2012.
Negatives: Is not the Highlander; is currently broken, getting a flat tire fixed; playing on the Death Squad of Death, which could limit his point production despite the fact that he will be the focal point of the offense; puts a "y" at the end of his name despite being older than eight; difficult to differentiate performance in a field full of players that do similar things (even if Galasso does it better).
OTHERS TO WATCH
For whatever reason, these guys are going to have a tougher hill to climb: Connor Rice (Marist), Logan Schuss (Ohio State), Chris Boland and John Ranagan (Johns Hopkins), Peter Baum (Colgate), Tom Schreiber (Princeton), Garret Thul (Army), and Kevin Cunningham (Villanova).
Alright, what do you knuckleheads think? What does this race look like to you? Who are the favorites? Who else should be included in the early returns?