The Best Lacrosse Team in the History of History Tournament: (13) 1984 Johns Hopkins at (4) 1997 Princeton

It feels good to get that first one out of the way, right? Phew. I didn't totally screw it up. Look out! Hot one comin' at you!

To the truncated profiles! (There's a poll at the end for you to cast your vote.)

(4) 1997 Princeton Tigers

Details of Incredible Importance

Record: 15-0
Tournament Seed: 1
National Champion?: National champion
Four Really Important Names: John Hess (A); Jesse Hubbard (A); Christian Cook (D); Chris Massey (A)
Hall of Famers: One -- Jesse Hubbard
All-Americans: 10 -- John Hess, Lorne Smith (First Team); Jesse Hubbard, Becket Wolf (Second Team); Chris Massey, Todd Eichelberger, Christian Cook (Third Team); Jason Osier, Kurt Lunkenheimer, Patrick Cairns (Honorable Mention)
Scoring Margin per Game: 8.00

Brief Notes For/Against

  • The pivot point for three consecutive national championships, the first that had happened since Syracuse turned the trick and Johns Hopkins before the Orange. It's hard to pick apart 1997 from the preceding and proceeding years -- mostly due to the fact that everyone remembers the 29-game winning streak that spanned the three seasons -- but something big does stand out about 1997 above the rest: the team's scoring defense (at 6.87 goals per game) was the best during this period.
  • Princeton had 10 -- 10! -- All-Americans on its roster in 1997. That is a ridiculous collection of talent in an era of relative talent dispersion. There will be additional members of the Hall of Fame that come out of this group -- Hess, Cook, and Massey (of note) -- and it may go down as the strongest Ivy team that the league has ever seen (seven of the league's 11 first-team All-Ivy positions went to the Tigers).
  • Princeton didn't explode in the tournament until it trounced a surprising Maryland team in the final, 19-7; opened the season with back-to-back overtime games against Johns Hopkins (7-6) and Virginia (14-13). Six of the team's 15 games were decided by three or fewer goals; nine of those games were decided by eight or more goals. Over the course of the year, played (and defeated) five of the other seven teams that were seeded in the tournament with the exception of Syracuse (3) and Loyola (6); the aggregated margin of victory for Princeton in those games was +17.

(13) 1984 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays

Details of Incredible Importance

Record: 14-0
Tournament Seed: 1
National Champion?: National champion
Four Really Important Names: Brian Wood (A); Del Dressel (M); John DeTommaso (D); Larry Quinn (G)
Hall of Famers: Four -- Brian Wood; Del Dressel; John DeTommaso; Larry Quinn
All-Americans: Eight -- Peter Scott, Del Dressel, John DeTommaso, Larry Quinn (First Team); Brian Wood, John Krumenacker (Second Team); Willy Odenthal (Third Team); John Tucker (Honorable Mention)
Scoring Margin per Game: 6.86

Brief Notes For/Against

  • Won the national championship -- and a worthy champion -- but a solid argument could be made that, like Syracuse the year prior, Hopkins may not have been the clear-cut best team in the country despite hoisting the crown at the end of May. The Orange that year were a dominating beast, holding an 8.50 scoring margin per game mark, and entered the tournament as a stealthy two-seed behind the Blue Jays. (The programs did not meet in the regular season.) The Blue Jays ultimately dropped the Orange in the final, 13-10, snapping Syracuse's 22-game winning streak. There's tons of talent and notables regarding this Hopkins team, but if it's going to be compared to the team that it beat in the finals in 1984, and if that 1984 Syracuse team was behind a handful of others in terms of determining the best team ever, can that Jays squad really be considered one of the best teams ever?
  • Beat six teams in the regular season that were, at the time they met, ranked in the top 10; the average margin of victory in those games was 5.5 goals (that includes a 21-10 thrashing of Rutgers which was ranked sixth at the time and entered the NCAA Tournament as the seven-seed (and played Syracuse to an 8-7 defeat in the first round)). In an era that is assumed to be higher scoring than contemporary play, Hopkins held opponents to just 6.71 goals per game; 11 of the team's 14 games saw the Jays limit their opponents to fewer than 10 goals (four games saw the Jays hold their opponents to fewer than five). This team wasn't necessarily a defensive juggernaut -- nor was it an offensive one, either -- but it was well rounded and squeezed opponents to death.
  • This was Don Zimmerman's first year with Johns Hopkins and he managed to guide the Jays to the title. Think about that for a second: Zimmerman takes over for Henry Ciccarone; doesn't play the "Uh, well, I'm kind of new here" card; and wins a national championship. Granted, Zimmerman walked into a nice situation -- the Jays had been to the national championship every year since 1977 -- but the fact still remains that he managed to land on the moon on his first attempt at the launch pad.

So, who are you taking: 1997 Princeton or 1984 Johns Hopkins? Back up your expression of freedom in the comments, homeslice.

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