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.
Important People: Will Manny (A); Kyle Smith (A); Colin Fleming (A/M); Zach Oliveri (G); Ryan Hollenbaugh (LSM); Jake Smith (D)
Formerly Important People: Tim McCormack (G); Tom Celentani (D); Art Kell (A); Anthony Toresco (FOGO); Anthony Biscardi (M); Greg Rushing (SSDM)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 10; Coaches: 1
2012 Record: 15-1 (6-0, THUNDERDOME!)
2012 Snapshot: *wink* *smirk*!
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Outside of Massachusetts' strength of schedule, all anyone wanted to talk about last year was the Minutemen's offense. (Which is fine because, well, it was a deathray from 200 miles above.) Lost in the shuffle, though, was Massachusetts' defense, a unit that did a nice job throughout the year until things got a little loose at the end of the season against Drexel and Colgate. With that defense working at a fairly efficient rate, the Minutemen were able to supplement their laser cannon offense, allowing Massachusetts to swallow their opponents whole.
Unfortunately for UMass, however, that defensive unit is going to go through a big transition in 2013. Gone are goalkeeper McCormack, defensemen Celentani and Greg Anderson, and short stick soul-eater Rushing. That's almost 60 percent of Massachusetts' defensive posture that needs replacement (not to mention the senior leadership and experience that is especially important on the back end of the field). Where the Minutemen were able to excel last year was in that they were able to get into personal shoot outs; with so much defense out of the door going into next season, Massachusetts may not have the luxury of dancing the robot by themselves in 2013.
A Thousand White Doves
Will Manny is Will Manny, and when Will Manny plays like Will Manny, Will Manny becomes an optimized Will Manny, which is a Will Manny that strikes fear in the heart of even Will Manny. Will Manny.
The Tewaaraton finalist -- a cat small enough that you could probably fold him into luggage in a pinch -- returns as the focal point in Brian Jacovina's offense. Surrounded by Smith and Fleming, Massachusetts isn't quite as deep as it was a year ago from an offensive perspective but is still violently potent. Even if the Minutemen can't wash their opponents under with almost five extra offensive possessions per 60 minutes of play as they did in 2012, there is plenty of offense here -- with guys like Bobby Tyler and Connor Mooney -- to supplement Manny and still make the scoreboard blink at a fairly efficient rate. Massachusetts isn't likely to score 40 goals per every 100 possessions, but they're likely to have THUNDERDOME!'s strongest offense, which is probably enough to make the Minutemen contenders in the league with a legitimate shot at another NCAA Tournament experience.