Things are certainly shaking down on Shakedown Street.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of being a media voter is watching the responses and reactions to these polls. More and more voters make their votes public, usually on the Twitters, and it can be like mentioning politics or religion at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s helpful to remember that a voter’s poll is tantamount to an op-ed column in a newspaper. Reacting with stunned incredulity makes sense, but when someone, even another voter tries to tell you your opinion is wrong it simply becomes comical.
Everyone has their own criteria when making their selections and that’s the beauty of having a broad range of voters. By and large, the outliers get smoothed out and teams end up right about where they should be. (Unless you’re Virginia).
That’s one of the reasons that I like writing this article each week because regardless of whether you agree with me or not, at least you know my rationale. We’re finally getting a large enough sample to get an idea for which teams are the real deal, what some teams’ weaknesses are, and who are the pretenders.
Although I always have tiers in my mind when deciding on these rankings I haven’t been explicit with those the past few weeks. I’m going re-visit that this week because I think it’s once again relevant to do so. With that said, I’m less concerned with putting teams in a specific slot than with getting them in the right zone. This was by far the hardest poll to put together heretofore this season. Probably 3-4 times I thought my poll was done only to realize I left out an important team. Oy!
Remember, no one’s poll is the right one, not even mine.
Tier 1: The Contenders
1. Denver: What a win. That game was everything we thought it would be. My prediction was that Ready would need 10+ saves and that DU couldn’t allow 4–5 goals from the ND attack AND 4–5 from Perkovic. Well Ready was ready for Perkovic, stifling him all day. Zach Miller continues to show why he’s one of the best midfielders in the country.
2. Notre Dame: The Domers looked terrible early on, but these DU/ND games are all about the fourth quarter. Findley did excellent in the faceoff matchup all day, but when lost when it mattered the most, in OT. If both ND and DU aren’t playing on memorial day weekend I will be shocked.
3. Yale: The Bulldogs rattled off two wins this past week over St. John’s and Fairfield. This is also the team that made a mockery of the same Bryant team that upset Harvard. Their win over Maryland still holds enough weight to keep the Elis at three. I think that’s a higher quality win at this point than what the following contenders have.
4. Syracuse: I wavered on this selection because Syracuse hasn’t blown the doors off the place this year. Their schedule hasn’t been a walk in the park, but they don’t have a win comparable to Yale’s Maryland win – yet.
5. Brown: I was this close to bumping Brown up to #4, but when considering their entire 2016 resume it came down to Bruno beating Stony Brook and ‘Cuse beating Albany. I barely give Albany the edge here, but it’s really a push. Consider these 4a and 4b.
Tier 2: On the Precipice
6. Villanova: The Jake Froccaro Show continues, and while I wasn’t sure about this Wildcats team at the beginning of the year they have really impressed. It’s not just that they’re winning, it’s that they’re winning like Brown, by blowing out other teams. The Big East should be at least a two-bid conference if this continues.
7. Maryland: The Terrapins’ offense lit the lamp with sense and color, and held away despair against Princeton. Have the hardshells righted the ship? Obviously Princeton is having a down year, but they’re not a push over either. Maryland went through the Tigers like a ball bearing through wet toilet paper. Remember their two losses are to top 5 teams. Maryland looks like they’re figuring things out right now and I think they’re still a top 10 team at the moment. Next on the docket are Albany and UNC so we’ll find out more about Maryland very soon.
8. Albany: I admit that this is probably a little high for Albany, but the Scoobies are clicking right now. Their last victory had them crushing a UMass team that beat Ohio State and UNC, so there’s a bit of the transitive property at work here. I’m not comfortable ranking any of the 9–11 teams as high as #8, so the Danes are here for now. A mid-week game against Maryland and a test against conference foe Stony Brook are on the docket this week, so we’ll find out soon if this ranking was prescient or just plain nuts.
9. Boston: The Terriers only have one loss thus far and they get some major dap for that. This includes going 2–0 thus far in the always crazy Patriot League. This week they dispatched last year’s conference chance and tourney representative Colgate pretty soundly. Those two factors get the Scrappy Dogs a major bump this week.
10. Johns Hopkins: The Jays have two losses, both to top 20 teams, and just drove a Mack truck through the vaunted Towson defense. Those two losses are why the Jays aren’t higher, but this team is starting to figure it out. Last year showed how this staff is capable of getting that something extra out of their personnel and that same dynamic is emerging now.
11. Towson: The Tigers acquired their first loss of the season to Hopkins at Homewood Field. Therefore, I can’t in good conscience put them ahead of Hopkins, and because #10 was the right place for the Jays, Towson gets the #11 slot. Tyler White looked human in the second half of that game, but one look at Coach Nadelen’s face on the sideline tells you that this game will only steel that team’s resolve. With the right draw, Towson could make it back to the final four for the first time since 2001.
Tier 3: Could go up or down and neither would surprise me
12. Stony Brook: I’ve been high on the Sea Wolves all year and they just decimated previously undefeated Rutgers this week. Stony Brook surrendered the first three goals of the contest, and led 5–3 at half. The final tally was 15–6. For me this was a major test for both team, and the team from the Island passed with flying colors. Games against Hofstra and Albany this week will soon tell me how right or wrong I was to put Stony Brook this high.
13. Hofstra: The Pride didn’t win pretty against Ohio State, but a win is a win and that Georgetown loss is looking like it’s more of an aberration than any real predictor. The CAA is shaping up to be pretty crazy this year with Towson, Hofstra, and an unpredictable UMass club. I’m not totally sold on Hofstra at #13, but this is a solid team.
14. Harvard: Man, the Crimson had a rough week, eh? After the high of beating Duke they fall in a trap game to Bryant and drop an OT decision to Penn State. Four of Harvard’s six games have needed OT, and it’s hard to win that many extra periods in such a short time. But the Crimson looked very good in the second half, and were a Dwyer post away from a regulation win. There are no moral victories, but Penn State wasn’t a bad loss.
15. Richmond: The Spiders have been in my "also considered" category for three straight weeks, but they lacked that statement game to actually crack my poll. Well, beating Duke in Durham certainly checked that box. Their one loss is to a good Marquette squad. Between Richmond, High Point, and Air Force, the SoCon is going to be very fun to watch this year.
Tier 4: The Logjam
16. Duke: The Blue Devils remain in my top 20 this week, which is shocking. The thing that saved them was a complete game against a very good Loyola team. Losing to Richmond at home stands as a major red flag and Duke already has 3 losses on the season. Duke would have been outside my top 20 without that win at Ridley. I’m not convinced that Duke will "turn it on like they always do." Consistency is an issue for this team so will the real Duke Blue Devils please stand up? I’m very intrigued to see how they fare in ACC play.
17. Loyola: I still really like the Hounds, but that Duke game was pretty ugly. Faceoffs were an issue and those extra possessions hurt Loyola again and again. The Hounds have already been in a couple Patriot League dogfights, and the rest of their slate will be really interesting to see. They’re still one of the best teams in the conference and a top team in the country, but they’re not the top 10 team I thought they were up until now.
18. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights took one on the chin on Long Island this week. Was that a regression to their natural state or an aberration? This remains a team with only one loss, and at this point of the season one-loss teams have become increasingly scarce. All the talk of parity in D1 combined with a single loss earns some dap from me so Rutgers stays in the top 20 for now.
19. Marquette: The Golden Eagles haven’t played the most difficult schedule this year, but having only one loss keeps them in the conversation. With the emergence of Villanova this year and Georgetown faltering I think that Marquette is the third best team in the Big East this year. Their schedule down the stretch gets much more difficult, but for now Marquette keeps winning so they stay in my top 20.
20. Army: The Black Knights have two losses by a combined 3 goals to top 20 teams (2 goal loss to Rutgers and a 1 goal loss to Syracuse). They beat a very good Lehigh team this week in a conference battle. There are a lot of teams that could get this slot, and Penn State might be the better pick, but the boys from West Point get the nod this week.
Dropped out: Lehigh, North Carolina
Also Considered (alphabetical order)
Air Force: Six straight wins are impressive, but I question strength of schedule at this point.
Bucknell: Monster rally against Holy Cross was impressive, but not quite top 20 material.
High Point: Virginia win is big for the program, but 3 losses are too many right now.
Lehigh: Only two losses, but one of those was to Army.
Mount St. Mary’s: 4-2 looks good, but quality of those wins raises questions.
Navy: Two losses, both in double OT to ranked teams, but Army resume is better in my opinion.
North Carolina: Three losses cost them dearly, but none as much as UMass. They may be back, but for now they’re on the outside looking in.
Ohio State: Same issue as MSM. 4-2 looks good on paper, but quality wins are an issue.
Penn: Right in the middle of the Ivy league at 3-2, but lacking a signature win right now.
Penn State: Beating Harvard was big, but losing to Villanova by 10 still makes me wary.
St. Joseph’s: Another 4-2 team that lacks a notable win and questions about win quality.