The first in-season media poll goes live tomorrow morning. With Division I currently featuring a chunk of teams that haven't played yet and even more that only have a game or two under their belts, it's a little difficult to feel completely comfortable about where teams should be ranked (especially considering it's only February, and this month tends to have some results that aren't necessarily congruent with where teams actually are on a competitive basis). As a result, I focused on trying to get teams situated into the tiers at which they currently reside and then moved on to trying to rank those squads based on where they are relative to the teams in their tier.
So, yeah. I feel okay about this ballot, but I don't feel great. In fact, outside of the top five, I could be right on the money or completely wrong, and with Cornell not yet engaged in any regular season fist fights, I may not be right about the Red at all. Good times.
In the interest of transparency, here's how I voted in the Inside Lacrosse media poll this week. Some brief explanations follow the ballot.
- New this week: Fairfield. Dropped out this week: Bucknell. I may have underestimated the strength of the Stags to start the season after their defeat of Bryant in the snow in Rhode Island on Saturday. As for Bucknell, the Bison are probably going to return to the rankings soon, but a somewhat disturbing loss to The Mount (driven by some very unstable performances on the defensive end and in the ability to shoot the ball at a strong rate) and a close victory against an odd Delaware team prompted me to knock Bucknell back a bit (I had the Bison ranked 18th in my preseason ballot).
- Duke tumbled a bit in my rankings for two reasons: (1) I have no idea what that defensive situation is in Durham, and Saturday exposed a lot of the Devils' problems at that end of the field; and (2) Putting a beating on Jacksonville and Mercer isn't grounds to stay within the top five, even if Duke and Denver had an interesting go in the opening week of the season. I wouldn't read too much into this as John Danowski will have his team ready to make a May run in short order.
- Denver is a big mover on my ballot for two reasons: (1) Despite Duke's issues at the start of the season, the Pioneers' resolve in that game leads me to believe that I had Denver ranked too low in my preseason ballot; and (2) While the Pioneers lost against Penn State in Jacksonville, they ran with the Nittany Lions and avoided a "FINISH HIM!" scenario by staying competitive with limited services from Chase Carraro.
- Massachusetts absolutely earned the increase in poll positions, crushing Army and surging back against North Carolina without Will Manny. The Minutemen are starting to look sneaky good and Zach Oliveri is doing a nice job in the net.
- I dropped the Tar Heels back a little bit for a simple reason: I don't know what they are, and as such, I didn't feel comfortable with them in the top 10. Carolina played fairly well against Massachusetts, but an uneven fourth quarter ultimately stole their chances for starting the season 2-0. Do I feel wonderful about this? Not particularly, but hammering Air Force and then spitting the bit against the Minutemen creates discomfort, and with discomfort comes a bit of a deflated poll position. This is still the team that I think will have the most poll volatility in the early part of the year as people try to get a read on them.
- "Virginia wins and moves back?! What gives?!" Simple: They got railroaded by Massachusetts being underrated at the start of the year and Penn State also gaining ground. The Cavaliers are right where I thought they'd be, but some other teams are just a little more impressive at the moment. These things happen.
- I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do about Syracuse. The team's defensive failures against Albany are going to be well documented, and the Orange's inability to net a winner in the first overtime despite opportunity after opportunity may be a sign of an offense that is going to need some extra time to find its way. Like Carolina, that kind of discomfort caused me to drop Syracuse a bit more than one would expect, but the team's ability to similarly rise is also something that could occur in the coming weeks.
- I was tempted to rank Maryland or Johns Hopkins at the top spot over the Greyhounds. I didn't have the guts to pull the trigger on either at this point in the year. Both the Terrapins and Jays have been the most impressive teams this February (Notre Dame would be in the mix if Duke hasn't had their 2-2 start to the season) and Loyola is officially on notice.
I'm always willing to hear what you guys think. Have something to add or want to call me a moron in a few sentences? The comments are your launching pad.