Jacksonville was always an odd fit in the MAAC -- a geographic outsider to the league's core, the Dolphins were dancing with partners that were tapping their feet at a different beat than Jacksonville. With the birth of Atlantic Sun lacrosse, the Dolphins finally have membership in a league that looks more like Jacksonville's existence, one that could immediately offer the Dolphins something the program has been fruitfully chasing since the program's inception just a handful of seasons ago -- entrance into the NCAA Tournament.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
10,000 Miles per Hour in One Second
February 8: @Duke; February 16: v. Notre Dame (at EverBank Field)
I watched Indie Game: The Movie the other day. I don't care much about video games, but the documentary was pretty good. It follows the efforts of a few independent video game developers and highlights all the problems associated with making something that people like. During one part of the film, the producers of Super Meat Boy -- an apparently well-received game -- spoke about how they approached putting their game together, focusing early levels on teaching the gamer the rules of the game and developing gamer skills for tackling tougher challenges later in the game. That's the exact opposite of what Jacksonville is doing it 2014: Right out of the gate the Dolphins will face two top-five teams, reach efforts for a program that hasn't established itself as a giant killer in minor conference clothing. These are impressively difficult dates for Jacksonville, but two things are potentially in the Dolphins' favor in each game: (1) Duke is historically poor starters (although, despite the Devils poor starts to campaigns, Duke has still generally taken care of inferior opponents in their uneven starts to seasons); and (2) the Moe's Southwest Grill Classic -- the event in which the Dolphins will face the Irish -- has a bit of a history of featuring upsets and surprising results.
February 22: Bellarmine; March 8: Marquette; March 15: Air Force; March 22: @Robert Morris; March 29: @Ohio State
Jacksonville hasn't exactly put together skull-crushing slates the last two seasons; in fact, the Dolphins' schedules the last two seasons have ranked 59th (2013) and 58th (2012) in the nation. That erodes -- just a shade -- the 14-12 record that Jacksonville has put together in their last two campaigns. That changes, I think, in 2014: In addition to the two chainsaw-wielding sociopaths that the Dolphins will face to open their year, Jacksonville loaded up their nonconference schedule with a host of other capable opponents, including an expected nightmare in Ohio State and solid ECAC teams in Bellarmine and Air Force. The true value in this out-of-conference effort, though, is the dates against Robert Morris and Marquette: Those teams are sneaky capable and will help Jacksonville develop before the Dolphins' full attention is turned toward the Atlantic Sun portion of their agenda.
March 1: @High Point; April 5: VMI; April 12: Mercer; April 20: @Richmond; April 26: @Furman
I'll listen to arguments as to why Jacksonville isn't the Atlantic Sun's preseason favorite, but I question the strength of those that disagree with the Dolphins' presumed position atop Division I lacrosse's newest conference. There aren't a lot of land mines on Jacksonville's league slate, but the importance of the Dolphins successfully navigating that portion of their schedule is clear: The Atlantic Sun regular season champion has the right to host the Atlantic Sun Tournament. The ability for Jacksonville to make three teams travel to its home field is a valuable tool in the Dolphins' quest for NCAA Tournament inclusion, and maintaining focus against conference opponents is a necessary attribute as Jacksonville's season comes toward its sunset.