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The 2016 College Crosse Conference Preview: Big East.

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It's the the Big East's turn today in our 2016 College Crosse Conference Preview.

Are the Pioneers are going back to Philly, Philly, Philly?
Are the Pioneers are going back to Philly, Philly, Philly?
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Let's meet our teams!

2016 Big East Preview
Team 2015 Overall Record 2015 Conf. Record 2016 Preseason Top 20 (USILA)
Denver 17-2 5-0 1
Georgetown 10-6 4-1 13
Marquette 10-6 3-2 --
Villanova 6-8 1-4 19
Providence 5-9 1-4 --
St. John's 3-11 1-4 --

(Italicized = #TheBigBBQ2015 participant.)

In 2015, the Big East was a one-bid conference, with eventual national champs Denver snagging the conference AQ. But Georgetown and Marquette both made valid arguments for at-large bids. 2016 might be the year when the Big East ups its number of tournament teams. Don’t be surprised if this comes to fruition, as you’ve been warned.

The Big East is a six-team conference and when we’re talking about contenders and pretenders it’s not entirely unfair to split the conference right down the middle. Now this isn’t as clear-cut as slicing 81 bottles of water with a samurai sword, but it’s not too far off.

The top half of the conference remains Denver, Georgetown, and Marquette, although I’m more than willing to welcome Villanova to the party too if they can prove that last year was a fluke and not a trend.

Denver

The Pioneers lost Wesley Berg to graduation, and that hurts. Berg ran out of the box to start the year, but when Jack Bobzein went down, Matt Brown moved Berg to attack and he flourished. Ryan LaPlante was a stalwart in goal for the Pioneers for four years. Granted he spent two seasons sharing time with Jamie Faus, but he more than proved his mettle in 2015 as a full-time starter. Carson Cannon is gone on defense, but Christian Burgdorf remains the Pios #1 defender.

Head coach Bill Tierney and the rest of the coaching staff will be the first to admit that they graduated some serious talent after their championship run, but that doesn’t mean they accept natural attrition as an excuse. There is plenty of firepower left in Denver’s offense.

The Pioneers don’t start their conference schedule until their ninth game of the season. That gives the defending champs eight opportunities to get battle-hardened before their second season begins. Their non-conference schedule is no cakewalk; it includes three ACC opponents (Duke, UNC, and Notre Dame), and two potent B1G teams (Ohio State and Penn State).

Keep an eye on sophomore midfielder Brendan Bomberry. He saw action early last year and flashes of brilliance, but after DU’s winter quarter he didn’t step on the field again (this suggests academic ineligibility, but that’s just an educated guess based on when DU’s terms ended). Since then Bomberry dominated Canadian Junior A, leading his team to a Mento Cup. Expect big things from this native sharpshooter.

Georgetown

If the only game you judged Georgetown on last year was their meeting against Denver then you missed a lot of great lacrosse. The Hoyas have two major holes to fill in their attack unit after losing Bo Stafford and Reilly O’Connor to graduation, but junior midfielder Eduardo White is poised to take a big step, and sophomore goalie Nick Marrocco was easily the second best goalie in the conference last year as a freshman.

Marquette

What Coach Joe Amplo has accomplished in a mere four seasons in Milwaukee is astounding. No other new program has ascended as fast as the Golden Eagles. I assume a steady supply of cheese curds helps. Not only did this squad see its first player taken in January’s MLL collegiate draft, but a total of three Golden Eagles made the cut. At the top of that list is LSM Liam Byrnes, who emerged as one of the best LSMs in Division I last year. I’d put him right up there with Brown’s Larken Kemp.

Marquette won seven straight games to start the season in 2015 before faltering down the stretch. No doubt Amplo made sure that his squad learned from that experience. Their last four games are against Notre Dame, Providence, Duke, and Denver. Is it possible to win at least half of those? Late season consistency will be a mark of true progress.

Providence

The Friars’ 2016 schedule is very similar to that of the previous campaign. That one didn’t turn out too well, and the prospects for this year seem to be about the same. LSM Jake Cook was a pleasant surprise for coach Chris Gabrielli’s squad, but the Friar’s tend to come across as bulk vanilla ice cream amongst a range of Ben & Jerry’s competitors. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Providence is Bill Lumberg, and that’s not a good thing. A rise out of the Big East basement would be a major surprise.

St. John’s

The post-Kieran McArdle/Kevin Cernuto era has been a bumpy one for the Johnnies. Last year’s team leader in goals scored, and crafty Canadian Stefan Diachenko is gone, but senior (and MLL draftee) Eric DeJohn will be back. DeJohn lead the team in overall scoring last year and will likely do so again in 2016. Of the Johnnies eleven losses last year, six of them were by two goals or fewer (and two of those were OT losses, including a thriller against Yale in the snow).

Coach Jason Miller hasn’t put together an easy schedule for the boys of Jamaica, Queens either, as the Red Storm’s non-conference schedule is by no means a walk in the park. If they can survive that slate in good stead then their chances in conference are a lot better, but at this point the old magic 8-ball isn’t prognosticating too well.

Villanova

The Wildcats are where my neat and tidy bifurcation of the Big East into the haves and have-nots potentially falls apart. Villanova was a team snake-bitten last year. If those wounds have sufficiently healed and the collective memory of how that happened in the first place can be recalled at will during 2016, the Cats will make me look like an idiot.

Ironically, I’m pulling for them to do just that. The big coup for Villanova was Princeton Jake Froccaro, who will suit up alongside his brother, freshman midfielder and faceoff specialist Joey. Senior midfielder Jack Curran will continue to play an important role in running the show in Philly this year, and bright spot, sophomore Sean Cerrone looks to build upon an impressive freshman tour of duty that saw him drop 36 points (12G, 24A).

Official College Crosse Conference Prediction:

1. Denver

2. Georgetown

3. Marquette

4. Villanova

5. St. John's

6. Providence

I’m playing it safe with the middle of the pack here. These are the same four teams that made the Big East tournament last year, but aside from Denver being at the top, spots 2–4 could be re-arranged in virtually any configuration and let’s just say I wouldn’t be anywhere near a Fred Sanford heart attack level of surprise.