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: Tom Schreiber (A/M); Jeff Froccaro (M); Forest Sonnenfeldt (A); Tucker Shanley (M); Rob Castelo (D)
Formerly Important People: Alex Capretta (A); John Cunningham (LSM); Tyler Fiorito (G); Jon Meyers (D); Chad Wiedmaier (D)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 13; Coaches: 12
2012 Record: 11-5 (6-0, Ivy)
2012 Snapshot: Hey, pretty pretty!
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The entire core of Princeton's defense -- Fiorito, Meyers, Wiedmaier, and Cunningham -- is gone, man, and they aren't walking through that door any time soon. Under Chris Bates, this unit had been Princeton's cornerstone for competitiveness, keeping the Tigers in games even when the offense devolved into Schreiber screaming around the field attempting to single-handedly put Princeton atop the scoreboard. It's not just that the Tigers are losing 75 percent of their poles or that Fiorito -- one of the Ivy League's best goaltenders ever -- are gone; it's that they're gone at the same time and it isn't clear what the Tigers have to fill the void and keep Princeton among the stronger defensive teams in the country. Eric Sanschagrin looks to take up residence between the pipes, and while he was serviceable in 2012, he won't have the luxury of playing behind a hardened defensive field unit. Derick Raabe looks to fill one of the close defense positions and Jack Strabo could see increased responsibility at the short stick defensive midfield position, but this is still a unit that is going to need to find its way against a schedule that will definitely feature two offenses -- Cornell and Yale -- that has the potential to whitewash a green defensive unit that formerly served as the program's push toward success. This isn't a good situation for the Tigers to deal with; all that senior leadership paid dividends in 2012 but with a bit of a vacuum behind them, it could be serious trouble in 2013.
A Thousand White Doves
Of Princeton's top-six scorers in 2012, only one player -- Capretta -- departs the Tigers program. It's odd to think of Princeton as an offensive showcase given how the Tigers play the game (slowly, pragmatically, and preferably with a highball in hand). Tom Schreiber is every bit the match-up nightmare that Colgate's Peter Baum is, dodging from either the top or below, goal line extended or otherwise. He is one of Division I's most valuable offensive assets and has at his disposal a flurry of moves to beat his man and share the bean. Around him is a treasure trove of offensive talent -- Froccaro, Mike MacDonald, Shanley, and Sonnenfeldt -- all capable of beating opponents in different ways. It's not the inherent individual value of all these guys that makes Princeton's offense a fireshow; it's that all these pieces have different strengths, and when put together, become a force. So, while Princeton was led by its defense in recent seasons, it's the Tigers' offense -- a prism of destruction -- that can take Princeton back to the NCAA Tournament in 2013.