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College Crosse's Impossibly Early, Definitely Perfect (Sort of), Rock-Solid (Maybe) Pre-Fall Ball Top-20: Number 3 (Maryland)

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: Maryland

Rank: 3

Important People: Owen Blye (A); Niko Amato (G); Jesse Bernhardt (LSM); Michael Ehrhardt (D); Brian Cooper (D); John Haus (M)

Formerly Important People: Kevin Warne (Ass. Coach); Joe Cummings (A); Drew Snider (M); Michael Shakespeare (M)

Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 2; Coaches: 10

2012 Record: 12-6 (1-2, ACC)

2012 Snapshot: Raaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwrrrrrr!

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Nightmare Fuel

There are two things that push me toward putting Maryland in the three hole rather than having them as a definitive two entering 2013:

  • I have a mild case of anxiousness about Maryland's history (and it has nothing to do with the lack of a championship since 1975). Since John Tillman took over the Terps program from Dave Cottle, Maryland has only one -- one! -- four-game winning streak (2011 when the Terps knocked off, consecutively, Bellarmine, Towson, UMBC, and St. Joe's). That's . . . that's not really what elite programs do. Now, I understand that Tillman is still changing the culture down in College Park and that Maryland has been to back-to-back national title games, but the fact remains that Tillman is still changing the culture; elite programs are built for multiple-game winning streaks and the Terps haven't really done that over the last two seasons. If Maryland is truly going to make a run at its first title in over 30 years and hang around the top of the polls all season, I want to see the Terps start acting like unabated murderers instead of dropping mid-week games to UMBC in early March.
  • The heart and soul of Maryland's 2012 attitude -- Warne -- is gone, taking the formerly vacant head coach position at Georgetown. The mosh pit was Warne's embodiment of commitment and drive; with Warne out, how will Maryland respond? (Then, of course, there is the stuff about Warne's defensive acumen and how it will impact Maryland's overall defensive production. That, of course, is subordinated behind something as drastically important as how the Terps will slam their bodies against each other.)

A Thousand White Doves

Outside of the above nonsense (which I should probably alleviate with a Xanax and a beer), Maryland has as much returning in 2013 as any program in the country: The entire close defense -- Cooper, Ehrhardt, and Goran Murray -- returns along with Jesse Bernhardt at the long-stick position and Niko Amato (who, when streaking, is as good as any stopper in the land); the offensive midfield loses Snider and Shakespeare, but Mike Chanenchuk, Jake Bernhardt (coming off a season-crushing injury), John Haus, Kevin Cooper, and Landon Carr return (a fivesome as strong as any in the ACC); and the attack will see Blye and Billy Gribbin anchor the unit with Kevin Forster and Jay Carlson looking to fill the third spot in-close. This is a ton of experienced talent roaming around newly-renovated Byrd Stadium, and if Curtis Holmes has his injury issues in check and can return to the form that he showed in 2011 at the dot, Maryland has the ability to overwhelm their opponents with a serious dose of efficient offense combined with a rarely exposed -- and solid -- defensive unit.