2014 College Lacrosse Preview: College Crosse's Preseason Rankings

USA TODAY Sports

20 teams, one ballot. Where's your favorite team slotted?

It's getting to be about that time, pals and gal pals. Inside Lacrosse will release its preseason media poll in the stunningly near future. College Crosse, once again, will contribute a ballot to the poll.

As a firm believer in transparency, I'll post my rankings for each ballot cycle throughout the year so that everyone can see just how stupid I really am or how intelligent I may be (dependent, of course, on where your favorite team ends up in my run). Also, so you understand my process behind ranking teams in my ballot, here are some notes on how I plan to put together my vote each and every week:

  • My ballot is not intended to be predictive. Rather, it's a snapshot of where I think teams fall in terms of power/strength/ability/competitiveness/Gatorade-bath-potential at the time of balloting. This may or may not cause volatility on my ballot, and I'm comfortable with that.
  • I don't ascribe to the idea of "You win, you automatically move up; you lose, you automatically move down." Wins and losses are important to ranking teams (no doink), but getting into a rigid win-ascend, lose-descend habit creates three problems: 1) The transitive property never works out well after a few weeks anyway, and I don't want that issue existing in my universe; 2) It somewhat ignores the subtler aspects of what is taking place on the field, both in production, quality of play, and overall performance; and 3) Wins and losses can be deceiving. So, if Maryland beats Duke, I may not necessarily move the Terrapins ahead of the Devils and, depending on the circumstances, may not move one team or the other all that far from where they were previously ranked (if at all). I'm sure this is going to cause you pain, but I do not care.
  • I am going to utilize advanced statistics in ranking teams, but they will only be used as a tool. Statistics never tell the entire story (and it's stupid to believe so), and to submit a human ballot that ignores what eyeballs see is a special kind of stupid.
  • I am going to take this seriously, and I'm not looking to do something controversial just to do something controversial. (Eat fire, Skip Bayless.) How and where I rank a team is honestly what I believe, and I'll do my best to explain my decision in each piece that features my ballot. If you ever have questions or comments about my ballot, please let me know. I'd be happy to give you an explanation, and if I'm wrong, I'll change my voting posture.

With that out of the way, here's what my preseason ballot looks like:

College Crosse's Preseason Top 20
RANK TEAM RANK TEAM
1. Duke 11. Bucknell
2. North Carolina 12. Maryland
3. Syracuse 13. Pennsylvania
4. Princeton 14. Johns Hopkins
5. Denver 15. Albany
6. Notre Dame 16. Loyola
7. Virginia 17. St. John's
8. Penn State 18. Lehigh
9. Ohio State 19. Cornell
10. Yale 20. Drexel

That run should look fairly similar to my fall ball top 20. In fact, every team that appeared in my fall ball top 20 also makes an appearance in this preseason ballot.

Some brief notes about this ballot:

  • Just Missed the Cut: Towson and Villanova, in that order. Those are the only two teams that I seriously considered moving into the top 20. Both have interesting potential in 2014, but I want to see what they're going to do on the field before I move them forward. The Drexel-Towson-Villanova situation is just about as tight as it could be.
  • Regret?: I may have Virginia and Princeton too high to start the season; I may have Loyola and Maryland too low to start the year. The Tigers and Cavaliers take their positions due to the anticipated ceilings of the programs this coming season. Those two teams are probably the most susceptible to see early reverse movement on my ballot if they fail to produce out of the gate. Contrastingly, the losses that the Greyhounds and Terrapins suffered after the sunset of the 2013 season moved each team back in my ballot, despite the fact that each could accelerate at the sunrise of 2014 (especially Loyola). I don't mind being wrong on these four teams, but I want to make it clear that some effort went into understanding each team's situation and the reasoning behind slotting them where I did.
  • Et Cetera:
    • I would be shocked if any media poll ballots didn't have Duke, Carolina, and Syracuse in some order at the top of their tallies. I think that the Devils are going to enter the season as the media poll number one, but I could foresee first-place votes going to each of these teams. That's a tight mess in that tier right now.
    • Here's the reasoning on Pennsylvania going into the 13th hole despite finishing around .500 last season: (1) The Quakers were violently underrated last year; and (2) The Quakers lose only two major assets from 2013. Mike Murphy is poised to raise a ruckus this season.
    • Here's the reasoning on Albany residing further back than where most folks likely have the Great Danes: I need to see some defense from that team. Everyone knows that Albany can light up opponents with offense (especially inferior teams); where there is lingering concern is how the Great Danes' defense will perform against elite opposing offenses.
    • If I had to break this ballot into tiers: Tier I -- 1-3 (deep and strong); Tier II -- 4-10 (lots of potential but some value concerns relating to development or filling holes); Tier III -- 11-16 (need to see the picture but I like the painters); Tier IV -- 17-20 (a whole bunch of questions).

The comments are yours if you have anything to add.

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