College Crosse's Impossibly Early, Definitely Perfect (Sort of), Rock-Solid (Maybe) Pre-Fall Ball Top-20: Number 1 (Loyola)

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: Loyola

Rank: 1

Important People: Mike Sawyer (A); Josh Hawkins (SSDM); Reid Acton (D); Scott Ratliff (LSM); Justin Ward (A); Davis Butts (M); Joe Fletcher (D); Jack Runkel (G)

Formerly Important People: Eric Lusby (A); J.P. Dalton (M/FOGO); Dylan Grimm (D); Sean O'Sullivan (M); Pat Byrnes (M)

Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 1; Coaches: 2

2012 Record: 18-1 (6-0, ECAC)

2012 Snapshot: I feel pretty!

* * * * *

Nightmare Fuel

Unless something terrible happens -- a freak invisible dinosaur attack takes the legs off of all of Loyola's roster; etc. -- the 'Hounds are going to be fine in 2013. That doesn't mean that Loyola is a lock for the national championship, but the Greyhounds should kick around the nation's top-10 all year. And, that's the issue, right? Can Loyola -- saddled with expectations for the first time in their history -- keep it all together next year and rise to the occasion? Since 1971, only four programs -- Syracuse (1988-1990; 2008-2009); Johns Hopkins (1978-1980; 1984-1985); Princeton (1996-1998); and Cornell (1976-1977) -- have turned the trick as repeating as champions. Loyola will not have the luxury of lying in the weeds next year; they'll have the bulls eye on their back from the beginning of February until the end of May. Playing with expectations, especially expectations this high, can cripple a team if they're not ready for what lies ahead. Playing with about a dozen seniors should alleviate some of those problems, but this is still a senior class that hasn't seen these kind of expectations at Loyola.

The nightmare here isn't that Loyola is going to be a nightmare in 2013; it's that Loyola won't be a nightmare next season. That's a different kind of reality that the 'Hounds are going to have to deal with.

A Thousand White Doves

Losing Lusby, Dalton, and Grimm are icky things for Charley Toomey, but Loyola does have something really good going for them: Virtually everything else -- plus Harry Kutner -- returns to Baltimore next year. Sawyer will again be a Tewaaraton candidate in 2013 and will anchor an offense that should be really balanced between the attack and the midfield. The defense looks dangerous and athletic -- again -- with Acton, Ratliff, Hawkins, Fletcher, and Runkel comprising the core of the unit. And while Dalton was so important to giving Loyola large possession margins throughout the year in 2012, the Greyhounds' overall efficiency -- both at the offensive and defensive ends -- shouldn't drag too much even if they can't dominate the possession game in 2013 as they did last year.

This is a team with the staff, the talent, and the momentum to do drastically impressive things next season. With its championship last yea the 'Hounds have joined the nation's elite, and there's plenty kicking around to make things happen again next year.

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