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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: The Tewaaraton Race

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Which cats look like they have a decent shot at winning the Tewaaraton this season?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Four Tewaaraton cycles have seen the award's winner come from a team that did not participate in the national championship: 2001 (Doug Shanahan, Hofstra), 2012 (Peter Baum, Colgate), 2013 (Rob Pannell, Cornell), and 2014 (Lyle and Miles Thompson, Albany). In all other years, the highest honor in college lacrosse was bestowed upon a player that took runs on Memorial Monday. The Tewaaraton's history is still one of postseason admiration, but the award is trending -- based on the winners the last three seasons -- toward recognizing full-season performance and not isolating the honors to just those players that have helped programs reach the ultimate peak of Division I lacrosse. This may or may not indicate a shift in the voting paradigm, but the relevance of an increased focus on what's happening across the national landscape could impact this season's Tewaaraton race (assuming, of course, that Lyle Thompson doesn't already have a lock on the trophy).

LEADING CANDIDATES

The following candidates for the Tewaaraton are generally recognized as hyper-elite talents or primary combustion points for teams that are expected to reside among the nation's best in 2015. There's nothing particularly mind-bending about tabbing these cats as leading candidates, but protocol requires that they receive such treatment.

Lyle Thompson -- Albany
If Lyle approaches -- not matches, approaches -- his incredible effort from 2014 he'll likely walk away with the award for the second straight season. I mean, c'mon:

Thompson isn't a foregone conclusion to corral high honors in 2015 given the turnover that Albany has experienced on the offensive end of the field and what that may mean for Thompson's production, but Lyle is still Lyle which means that he's going to create a resume and highlight tape that few other players in the nation are capable of generating.

Wes Berg -- Denver
Wes Berg was the centerpiece of a Denver offense that ranked first nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency last season. Returning for his senior season, Berg will once again serve as the primary plotline to an offense that should assault the nation in 2015. With a rocket attached to his shoulder and pinpoint accuracy making his explosiveness even more dangerous, Berg's ability to carry, finish, and distribute make him a unique volume shooter with a layered skill set. Berg's candidacy is likely heavily influenced by what the Pioneers achieve as a team given Berg's western residence, but there's no question that he is as valuable an offensive talent as any in the nation.

Matt Kavanagh -- Notre Dame
The Irish's carry-on-sized quarterback holds the stigma of only owning a junior classification, but Notre Dame's offense -- one that will receive increased attention in 2015 -- doesn't detonate without Kavanagh pressing the plunger. Kavanagh put up an impressive 75 points in 2014 despite playing for a team that ranked 26th nationally in tempo, and cutting deeper into Kavanagh's impression on the Irish's offense yields greater potential value in the attackman: Notre Dame ranked eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency last season and Kavanagh accounted for around 35 percent of the Irish's buckets in 2014. Kavanagh's prolific ability to both get goals and distribute the bean makes him a prism of offensive force, and his multitude of strengths platforms him well to make a solid case for Tewaaraton honors.

Connor Buczek -- Cornell
Buczek probably isn't going to put up the kind of raw numbers that Thompson, Berg, and Kavanagh will in 2015, but Buczek has something that those guys don't: He's made of concrete and adrenaline, a combination that leaves a path of destruction in his wake. Buczek is the kind of midfielder that stands out on every single offensive possession -- a highly skilled power dodger with a relatively low turnover rate, Buczek anchors an offense that is balanced through the midfield and attack, relying on Buczek's presence to create preferable action conducive to embarrassing opposing defenses. Buczek is the core contributor to what should be an exceptional offense in Ithaca this coming spring, even if his statistical profile doesn't illustrate that of an unstoppable offensive talent.

SECONDARY CANDIDATES

Myles Jones -- Duke
Bill Brasky should have already won 15 Tewaaraton awards.
Joey Sankey -- North Carolina
If Carolina gets over the Championship Weekend hump (that's a big "if"; the Heels are in a 20-year drought), Sankey will likely appear in the Tewaaraton conversation. The half-sized attackman had almost 60 points last season and shot almost 36 percent while dishing out 24 helpers for one of the nation's best offenses.
Kevin Rice -- Syracuse
Randy Staats earns most of the ink for the Orange relative to the team's offense, but Rice has been the team's steady offensive pivot. He has had a stealth existence, but his profile is rising.
Wells Stanwick -- Johns Hopkins
Serious question: Why is Wells Stanwick an afterthought as an offensive weapon? His pro ceiling isn't as high as other players, but Wells is the cornerstone piece to Bobby Benson's developing offense. No part of his game is definitively the best in the nation, but the total product is still of high caliber.
James Pannell -- Virginia
You can't teach genes.
Colin McLinden -- Fairfield
He's hidden in Fairfield County, but McLinden is another cat that just makes things happen. The Stags' offense was among the best in the nation last season from an adjusted efficiency standpoint and McLinden accounted for around 30 percent of the team's total buckets last season. With Fairfield expected to continue its offensive volition in 2015, McLinden's profile could quietly increase if the Stags are able to progress to the NCAA Tournament.
John Glesener -- Army
There are few guys in the nation that get goals the way that Glesener does. His usage rate will be through the roof, but Glesener is still going to make the scoreboard blink a ton for the Black Knights.
Dan Taylor -- Lehigh
Taylor may have the most chatter around him this preseason as a dark horse Tewaaraton candidate.
Jesse King -- Ohio State
This assumes that King's team doesn't go into cold storage like it did for much of 2014.

DEFENSIVE GUYS

A defensive player has never won the Tewaaraton, but five look like potential candidates should they perform at an exceptional level:

  • Matt Poillon -- Lehigh: Poillon is possibly the best netminder in the nation and he'll anchor a highly effective Mountain Hawks defense.
  • Goran Murray -- Maryland: This assumes that Murray is eligible to participate this coming spring.
  • Will Haus -- Duke: Haus is a pure destroyer, but a long-stick midfielder will win the award before a short-stick defensive midfielder.
  • Bobby Schmitt -- Bellarmine: Maybe the strongest long-stick midfielder in the nation, Schmitt won't win unless he puts up beyond bonkers raw numbers.
  • Mike Pellegrino -- Johns Hopkins: A Jack Russel Terrier with the best thing in the world going for him from a Tewey standpoint -- he plays in Baltimore for the city's most prominent program.