The 2013 season is six months away. Let's punch fate in the face and make wild assumptions about what could be the best 20 teams in the country next year.
Important People: Dylan Levings (FOGO); Deron Dempster (A); Brandon Mangan (A); Michael McCormack (D); Peter Johnson (D)
Formerly Important People: Matt Gibson (A); Mark Dobrosky (SSDM); Greg Mahony (M)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 12; Coaches: 11
2012 Record: 11-5 (4-2, Ivy)
2012 Snapshot: You're aces, darlin'!
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Matt Gibson -- a cat that looked like he fell out of a B movie that involved a guy that has "had it up to here!" with the zombie problem currently plaguing his city -- was one of the best attack in the country last season. His ability to share the ball and finish on his own turned Dempster into one of the best finishers not only in the Ivy League but the country as a whole. His exclusion from any All-America lists continues to prove that making lists while intoxicated is a really bad idea, but that doesn't erode the following fact: The Elis don't have anyone to step into Gibson's shoes and assume the role that he had in Yale's charge to the Ivy League Tournament title in 2012. Graham Niemi needs to reassess what his offense is going to look like in 2013; while it may still be attack-oriented with Dempster, Mangan, and Conrad Oberbeck, the load-carrying is going to greatly change with Gibson's absence as the Bulldogs -- at least right now -- don't definitely have a guy that can slice and distribute from all areas of the attack box like Gibson could. Gibson wasn't the entirety of Yale's offense, but his usage (and responsibility) was incredibly high and without that kind of pace-setter, the Elis could struggle a bit until they figure out what they're going to be. (Cf., Johns Hopkins 2012.)
Oh, and Jack Meyer and his 48.7 save percentage returns to man the pipes. So, yeah.
A Thousand White Doves
While Yale may struggle to find its offensive identity in 2013, they should have plenty of opportunities to figure things out on the fly: Levings and his 63.2 faceoff winning percentage -- fourth in the nation last season -- returns to help the Elis dominate possession margin. Yale played about four more offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play than their opponents last season (a mark that was good for sixth nationally), and the primary motivator for that was Levings' (and Cole Yeager's) work on the whistle. With the type of raw offensive talent that the Elis have, excessive opportunity (combined with skill) could provide Yale with the ability to utilize volume as its greatest asset. The other benefit of all this extra offensive opportunity is also fairly notable: the ability to insulate Jack Meyer (and his uneven play in the cage) from heavy exposure. (Although, with big pieces of the team's field defense also returning -- Johnson, McCormack, and Harry Kucharcyk -- Meyer will be insulated in other ways.) It's always odd to write that a faceoff specialist is potentially the reason for (or against) a team's success, but that's definitely the case with Levings and Yale.