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: None. Dropped out this week: None. Also seriously considered: Albany, Villanova, Drexel, and Ohio State (in that order). Massachusetts was the only team that was a candidate to fall out of the poll: The Minutemen have lost three of their last four, the only win coming against Hartford. None of the teams that Massachusetts has lost to are exceptional, and it's getting really hard to make an argument that the Minutemen are a legitimate top 20 team given the team's recent results. Massachusetts hosts Hofstra this coming weekend which could both put a nail in the Minutemen's top 20 residency as well as its THUNDERDOME! hopes.
- Duke/Loyola: Loyola hasn't necessarily done anything "wrong" to fall behind Duke, but what the Blue Devils have done since losing to the Greyhounds -- beating North Carolina, smashing Syracuse and Notre Dame, stepping on Virginia and Harvard's necks -- is more impressive than what Loyola has done in recent weeks against competition that isn't nearly as difficult as what the Devils have faced. The body of work that Duke has put together is too hard to ignore, and simply keeping Loyola ahead of the Blue Devils because the 'Hounds haven't lost isn't fair to Duke. The balance of all legitimate considerations tips toward Duke, even though Loyola has the "we haven't lost and also beat Duke" bullet in their chamber. I almost made the Blue Devils number one last week; Duke went over the top with how they played against a solid Virginia team.
- Spots three through 11-ish are fungible in my mind. Any team in this group could fall anywhere in that part of the ballot. I'm not too worried about a team being a spot or two too high or two low; the function of the aggregated poll will smooth out the edges. A few considerations went into the actual positioning of teams: (1) Maryland's putrid showing against Hopkins required a sizeable drop for the Terrapins, even though the Terps have a solid resume in the overall; (2) Cornell beat Pennsylvania earlier in the year, but the Red's tough week -- getting stomped by Syracuse and coming up just short against Hofstra -- pushed Cornell behind the Quakers; (3) I didn't know exactly what to do about Carolina or Syracuse, but gave the Orange a bit of a bump because they beat the Heels head-to-head and Maryland lost in awful fashion (I do still remember the hurt that the Terps put on Syracuse, but that only goes so far considering where these teams were last week); and (4) Notre Dame moved up only because Cornell and Virginia moved back. Again -- this part of the ballot is a mess because these teams are in similar shades. It's more important that they're in the three-through-11 tier rather than their specific position.
- Hofstra: I want to wait a week to reconsider the Pride. Patience with Hofstra is probably going to pay off in the long run. Topping Cornell was a big kill, but I don't know how many times -- in a 100-game series -- the Pride beat the Red.
- Fairfield: I could have dropped the Stags further but exercised some caution in my reaction to Air Force's obliteration of Fairfield. Going out to Colorado causes a lot of problems for teams, and I'm willing to see how the Stags rebound before making a hard decision on what the loss to the Falcons means for Fairfield.
- Harvard: The Crimson rose a position only because Massachusetts fell. The original intention with Harvard was to keep the Crimson at 18 -- an overtime loss to Penn was little reason to punish Harvard -- but the Minutemen's fall bumped the Crimson up one spot. Whatever.
- Lehigh: I didn't punish the Mountain Hawks for losing to Princeton in double overtime. I waited a while to put Lehigh back into the poll; it's only fair to exercise the same patience when Lehigh loses a heartbreaker on the road.