I eat a fruit salad pretty much every weekday for lunch. This is for two reasons: 1) Fruit salad is delicious, and the only salad that could beat it would be a Sour Patch Kids salad; and 2) I prefer being an out-of-shape-yet-adorable-blogger rather than a human-dump-truck-blogger-relegated-to-a-sweatpants-existence. The beauty of a fruit salad is that when all the pieces work in concert -- the pineapple playing well with others, a solid balance between melon assets and things from the berry family, no kiwi because kiwi is concentrated devil's blood -- Earth stops spinning for a moment and enlightenment is achieved. To get to that point, though, you need to have an eye picking a pre-packaged fruit salad of suitable quality.
That's kind of the issue with picking a top 20 during the fall ball period: I know what the ingredients are (for the most part), but the opaque packaging makes seeing the totality of the offering difficult; I'm basically building a decision based on prior fruit salad purchases and what is directly visible.
The below top 20 isn't without issues, but those issues are impossible to eradicate at this stage of the year. I reserve the right to edit this prior to the 2014 preseason, but this is kind of how I see things right now. In the coming days we'll walk through these 20 teams -- and those that just missed the cut -- to try and provide some context as to why I slotted teams where I did. Until then, though, here's the run with some brief comments. If you have urgent feelings that need to be expressed, the comments are your launch pad to unleash them.
- I don't think that I'm going to change the top three prior to the start of the 2014 season. The order may or may not change, but I have confidence that those three teams -- Duke, Carolina, and Syracuse -- are the favorites entering next spring.
- I'm not sure where other people are slotting Princeton in their minds, but the Tigers -- I think -- are poised to be a menace next spring. The variable is going to be how the roster adopts to a revamped coaching staff, but Princeton is talented, experienced, and full of potential.
- Positions five through nine are interchangeable in my mind. That block saw the most shuffling, and it's likely where I'll move teams around the most prior to any preseason balloting.
- Maryland is hard to position at the moment, mostly due to the team's offensive losses. The Terps have a hell of a recruiting haul in College Park, but I think Maryland is going to be a different team in April than they will be in January (or even now in October). The defense is top notch, but there are tons of holes to fill on the offensive end of the field.
- If this doesn't work out, I know that the Pennsylvania positioning will likely result in the most garbage thrown in my general direction. I am fully prepared for this and have purchased an anti-garbage cloak. Sorcery!
- Teams I also considered for the top 20: Villanova, Hofstra, Towson, and Harvard (in no particular order). These all have legitimate cases for top 20 consideration, but I ended up giving a nod to Cornell due to what the Red have accomplished on a year-in and year-out basis and am giving Lehigh -- despite the losses of David DiMaria and Dante Fantoni -- the benefit of the doubt right now.
- Loyola is weird and I'll leave it at that.
Again: More detail on all of these teams will follow in the coming days. Stay sharp out there.