The 2014 season is 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: Connor Buczek (M); Matt Donovan (A); Tom Freshour (D); Doug Tesoriero (FOGO); Jordan Stevens (D); Brennan Donville (G)
Formerly Important People: Rob Pannell (A); Steve Mock (A); Mike Bronzino (D); Max Van Bourgondien (M); Jason Noble (D); A.J. Fiore (G); Thomas Keith (LSM)
Final 2013 Poll Positions: Media: 3; Coaches: 8
2013 Record: 14-4 (6-0, Ivy)
2013 Snapshot: Kaboom!
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It's not that Cornell lost four of its top six point-generators from 2013, including one of the best players to ever shellac his competition; rather, it's what those four offensive players meant to Cornell's success and the situations that they created: Pannell and Mock -- a chainsaw symphony of pain-inducement -- were dominating forces, drawing an important degree of attention from opposing defenses and still generating an obscene volume of offensive value; English was a versatile option, long on experience, with notable contributory ability; and Van Bourgondien was an opportunistic weapon through the midfield that crushed opposing defenses if they concentrated too heavily on the Red's other offensive strengths. It's a different kind of reality for Cornell in 2014: Gone is the availability of throwing the ball to Pannell and letting the soul-crusher operate from behind the cage; in is new role responsibilities and fitting pieces into the puzzle that haven't been necessary cogs for success in the past. If the Red had been stockpiling elite offensive talent -- at least according to recruiting rankings -- through the years the transition from 2013 to 2014 wouldn't be as much of a concern; instead, Cornell is looking to develop talent and exist in a universe where a new approach may forcefully press itself upon Cornell if the Red hope to stay among the nation's elite programs. Growth on the offensive end, despite the return of Connor Buczek and Matt Donovan, is the primary issue for Cornell, and how the team's offensive unit matures may dictate the team's ceiling in 2014.
A Thousand White Doves
There are few coaching staffs that command as much blind faith as Cornell's group. Ben DeLuca -- almost incredibly -- has built upon the foundation that Dave Pietramala and Jeff Tambroni did before him, erasing the messy memories attached to the end of Richie Moran's tenure in Ithaca. The Red have simply chugged along in recent seasons, an overlooked outpost that has been as good as programs traditionally tied to the country's hyper-elite. Outside of DeLuca, Matt Kerwick returns to Schoellkopf, one of the strongest offensive minds in the game; given what Kerwick has accomplished in his coaching career, if anyone can pull production out of a depleted offensive roster, Kerwick has the ability to do so. Peter Milliman, who joined Cornell this summer, recreated Princeton's defense in 2013, a unit that was wounded with graduation and injuries but still managed to perform at a manageable level. There are systematic advantages that Cornell has, thanks to the minds directing the program, and that should work in the Red's favor. Now, Cornell hasn't exactly been in the position that they're in right now, but Cornell has rallied from somewhat similar scenarios in the past. This is a manageable situation in Ithaca, and the team's greatest weapon in maintaining its position in college lacrosse's hierarchy is that the cats paid to ensure that it happens are some of the best in the business.
The Stars, The Moon, Six Feet Under
The Stars: Top 10-type of campaign; leadership vacuum is resolved; participation in the Ivy League Tournament final and an NCAA Tournament invitation.
The Moon: NCAA Tournament bubble team; struggles against elite competition; doesn't beat Princeton but makes the Ivy League Tournament; team guts out wins despite consistency issues (especially on the offensive end).
Six Feet Under: Finishes behind Princeton, Pennsylvania, Yale, and Harvard and rolls in the mud with Brown; decidedly average team that shows flashes of power but can't find consistency; under-.500 record despite performance points that should yield more wins.