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.
Team: Johns Hopkins
Important People: Zach Palmer (A); Brandon Benn (A); Rob Guida (M); John Ranagan (M); Tucker Durkin (D)
Formerly Important People: Chris Boland (A); Marshall Burkhart (SSDM); Gavin Crisafulli (D); Mark Goodrich (M)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 7; Coaches: 7
2012 Record: 12-4
2012 Snapshot: Ain't you somethin'!
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I haven't bullet-pointed a lot of concerns in the countdown, but Johns Hopkins' situation seems to merit it. It's not just one particular thing that makes Jays fans worry endlessly on the Internet whether they'll win 10 or 11 games (Manhattan rolls its eyes in pure jealously at such concerns), but rather a combination of things, intersecting at Oh, Crap! Lane and Whatinthehell? Boulevard:
- I'm going to say something about Hopkins' offense last season in the most straightforward way possible: What the hell was it? The Jays were riddled with injuries -- Boland was out for a while, Greeley went down due to treacherous stems, and Wells Stanwick was banged up for a bit -- but . . . what the hell was Hopkins attempting to accomplish last season (other than, "Hey, Palmer! Take the ball and do something ridiculous!")? The attack has some nice pieces, the midfield has some nice pieces, but these two issues remain: (1) Will these pieces finally get it all together, unlike in 2012; and (2) If Greeley can't find any effectiveness, is Lee Coppersmith ready to step onto that first line and make things happen?
- To dovetail that last point, is Hopkins' midfield ready to really contribute to the offense as a whole in 2013? Rob Guida and John Ranagan had fairly pedestrian seasons last year in light of their capability; they need to assert themselves more next year. Moreover, this is a unit that contributed very little to the offense at the outset of the season. Hopkins needs the midfield to provide greater contributions in 2013, something that it didn't do particularly well in 2012.
- What kind of keeper is Pierce Bassett? Bassett has all kinds of ability, and after a solid 2011 campaign, looked poised to really break out in 2012. But Bassett appeared to stall at times last season in his development, looking fairly average despite his inherent physical gifts. Where does Bassett go from here?
A Thousand White Doves
Even if Hopkins' offense sputters, there is two huge things working in the Jays' favor: (1) The defense should, once again, look like DeathForce Alpha, ripe with DeathForce Mercenaries; and (2) Dave Pietramala is Chief General (Four Pain Stars) for DeathForce Alpha. Assuming that Phil Castronova is fully rehabilitated from his injury from last year, Johns Hopkins' defense looks like pure terror wrapped in the loving arms of anger and resentment: Durkin, the Schmeisser Award winner last season as the nation's top defensemen, returns with Chris Lightner, a 6-2, 200-pound glowing ray of disinterest in opposing offenses desire to score, to anchor the close defense; Jack Reilly will man the pole again through the defensive midfield; and Pierce Bassett, a mountain of a goalkeeper that showed extended flashes of ability over the past three seasons, will patrol the crease. If Michael Pellegrino -- at little undersized at 5-9 -- develops a stronger role in this defense throughout the fall and early spring, Hopkins becomes even more stout. With that kind of defense, Hopkins shouldn't need its offense to generate buckets of goals to find success (much like in 2012). Rather, the Jays' offense will just need to kind of do its part and get timely scoring. Moreover, if Mike Poppleton continues to dominate the dot like he did in 2012, the overall difficulty in addressing Hopkins for opponents becomes more pronounced: That Hopkins offense is going to be able to limit the exposure to the defense (providing fewer opportunities for opponents to score) while the Hopkins offense can incessantly hammer the brick until something good happens.