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: Peter Baum (A); Ryan Walsh (A); Brendon McCann (A); Connor Murphy (G); Robert Grabher (M/FO); Bobby Lawrence (D)
Formerly Important People: Jeff Ledwick (M); Jared Madison (G); Kevin Gordon (LSM); John Donnally (SSDM)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 8; Coaches: 9
2012 Record: 14-4 (5-1, Patriot)
2012 Snapshot: Hey, afternoon delight!
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Jared Madison fought through an ongoing injury last season but eventually stepped aside in the NCAA Tournament for Conor Murphy. Murphy, in his limited action in the cage, was pretty much put under siege, forced to contest Massachusetts and Duke offenses that were among the strongest in the nation in 2012. There isn't enough in that data set to try and extrapolate what Murphy could be for the Raiders, but it is indicative of where he was -- in a cold position, admittedly -- and where he needs to be to direct Colgate's defense in 2013. There are some options around Murphy -- Gabe Lord and DeWitt DeLuca (that name has to come with a pair of deck shoes) -- but both of those keepers are walk-ons and, unless something dramatic happened this offseason (like a complete alien intervention that provided them with super ball stopping powers (very unlikely)), Murphy is going to get the nod next year. And it's that fact -- Murphy's inexperience combined with uneven performances against the nation's best -- that causes worry going into next year.
You don't need an all-world goaltender to win a national championship, but you need at least a serviceable one to get near the prize. Murphy hasn't definitively shown the world that he's there yet.
A Thousand White Doves
The more I think about Colgate, the more I think they're moving from a darkhorse pick for Philadelphia to a legitimate contender. The entire attack returns -- Baum (the 2012 Tewaaraton winner and a guy that Rob Pannell called "one of the best shooters, probably the best shooter, I've ever played with"), Walsh (the Patriot League's rookie of the year in 2012), and McCann (a rising-junior that managed 10 multi-point games last season) -- as well as the entire close defense -- Lawrence (one of the better defenders among rising juniors in the country and the heart of the unit), Kevin Boyle (a 44-groundball-and-20-caused-turnover fire-starter), and James Queeney (the size and strength of the unit that will assumedly carry his captaincy into the 2013 season). It's that kind of returning contributions, especially the entirety of the close defense that should provide exposure-mitigation to Connor Murphy until he gets his sea legs, that will give Colgate an edge throughout the year.
Sure, there are concerns about the midfield -- other than Matt Baker and Matt Clarkson likely running with the first offensive unit -- but Peter Baum (and all his destructive glory) returns to anchor what was the fourth-best offense in the country last year and the defense will only be asked to do what is capable of accomplishing as it won't be -- nor should it be -- the focal point of the Raiders' potential success. Even if Colgate stumbles out of the gate in 2013, this team -- given its constitution -- has all the makings of a club that is only going to get better as the season goes on and pistons start firing together.