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The B1G Boys Roundup, late March edition

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A close look at the Big Ten conference through mid-March.

John Crawley of Hopkins does work against the Terps in the semifinals last year.
John Crawley of Hopkins does work against the Terps in the semifinals last year.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It's late March, conference play is nigh, and the B1G is extremely confusing. What else is new?

The Big Ten was poised for a big year after it went 4-0 against the ACC in the NCAA tournament last year. Hopkins beat Virginia and Syracuse. Maryland beat North Carolina. And Ohio State beat Duke. Those cowards in the Ivy League went 0-3.

But that was last year, and this is now. The B1G has been a wild, weird, inconsistent conference to date. Hopkins and Maryland have both flashed the brilliance that got them to the Final Four last year, while also showing some of the struggles that have prevented either team from winning a title in awhile. Rutgers, Penn State, and Ohio State have made some noise outside of conference play, but have yet to make the leap into true contender status. And, well, Michigan is Michigan.

Here's a look at the B1G through March 20. This may be a weekly thing, a bi-weekly thing, a monthly thing, or perhaps a never-again thing. It depends how the conference shakes out.

The B1G Dogs

1. Johns Hopkins

  • Record: 4-2
  • IL Media Poll: 7
  • Good wins: Syracuse, Towson, Navy
  • Bad losses: None
After losses to Loyola and North Carolina, Hopkins has come on strong with three straight wins. The hapless Princeton Tigers did not pose much of a challenge. But then the Jays soundly beat Towson (little brother doesn't dominate Baltimore yet) and squeaked by Syracuse in a thriller. The key for Hopkins during this winning streak has been its defense. Nick Fields is developing into a stud 1-on-1 defender, limiting Ryan Ambler, Ryan Drenner, and Dylan Donahue to a combined 1 goal (and Donahue's goal came when Fields wasn't covering him).

Additionally, freshman Pat Foley and junior Austin Spencer (transfer from UMass) are really settling into their roles. Sophomore goaltender Brock Turnbaugh might not light up the stat sheet but he's been solid in the cage for the Jays.

Clearing is still a debacle for this team, and that's going to need to improve if they have any hope of making a serious tourney run. But if the defense can continue playing sound lacrosse—not fouling, forcing bad shots, limiting the opponents' best players—then the offense, led by Stanwick, Brown & Company, will give Hop a shot at beating anybody.

2. Maryland
  • Record: 4-2
  • IL Media Poll: 6
  • Good wins: Albany
  • Bad losses: None
Hopkins gets the nod over Maryland for one reason: wins. Hopkins' three marquee wins over Syracuse, Towson, and Navy are more impressive than Maryland's win over Albany. The Terps' three other wins are against teams combined to go 9-12. They've had a lot of trouble scoring against good defenses, namely Yale and Notre Dame. The offense came to life against Princeton, led by UMBC transfer Pat Young. But they still need to prove they can put some points on the board against quality opposition.

Maryland's plenty deep on offense, with guys like Rambo, Heacock, Maltz, Cole, Rotanz, and Young. But we all know the Terps' bread and butter is that stud defense. Tillman always has these guys ready to go come May. For now, though, I just think Hopkins' has shown more in their wins than Maryland has in theirs.

The "Could Make Some Noise" Tier

3. Rutgers

  • Record: 6-2
  • IL Media Poll: unranked
  • Good wins: Army
  • Bad losses: Princeton
Rutgers is the quintessential noise-maker. After starting the season 5-0 with a nice little win over Army, the Scarlet Knights made some serious noise in the Big Ten. They made so much noise one might even be tempted to call it racket. But since then, Rutgers lost to Stony Brook (not a big deal, the Brook is solid this year) and then Princeton. Rutgers' vaunted offense could get nothing going against their Jersey neighbors.

Here's a fun fact: I grew up 10 minutes from Princeton, and about 20 minutes from New Brunswick. I take Intra-NJ Lacrosse Rivalries (TM) extremely seriously. Rutgers didn't look good in that game. Top scorers Bieda and Charalambides combined for 1 goal and 3 points. The Jays come to town April 2nd. We'll see if they are mere noise-makers or true ruckus-bringers.

4. Penn State
  • Record: 5-3
  • IL Media Poll: unranked
  • Good wins: Harvard
  • Bad losses: Penn, UMass? (debatable)
The Nittany Lions are hard to figure out through the first month and a half of the season. They scored 37 goals in their first two games (against weak competition, but still, that's a serious number). Then they beat Cornell in Ithaca. Then they got smashed by Villanova. Then they lost to Penn. Then they beat Furman. Then they beat Harvard in a game that they controlled for three quarters, let Harvard back into it, but ultimately came up huge in overtime. And then they lost to UMass, because they refuse to let us decide whether they're good or not.

Look, Penn State has serious talent all over the field. Grant Ament might be the best freshman in the country right now. TJ Sanders is a stud (how is he still in college?) and they've got some pieces on defense. I think some of this team's inconsistency can be explained by the tragic death of star goalie Connor Darcey. Ryan Brown said last week that Darcey was the best goalie he had ever faced. Not only is that a massive hole to fill on the field but a lot more important than that it's a hole that can't ever be filled in the hearts of the Penn State players and coaches.

Johns Hopkins went through a similar thing last year with the death of Freshman defenseman Jeremy Huber. They were wildly inconsistent through the first half of the season before finding their groove in April on the way to a final four run. If Penn State makes the B1G Tournament (I think they will), then they have the talent to do well there.

5. Ohio State
  • Record: 5-4
  • IL Media Poll: unranked
  • Good wins: Marquette
  • Bad losses: UMass? Hofstra? (again, debatable)
Eri won't like hearing this but the Buckeyes just don't seem to have it this year. I predicted before the season that losing Jesse King would be huge and so far that looks like it's the case. They did not look good in losses to UMass and Hofstra. They hung with Denver for awhile before the Pios violently shut the door on any hope for an upset. The Buckeyes nearly came back against a good Towson squad but they just didn't have enough. That might be the story of their season in 2016. Just not quite enough.

I like Shanks and Carter Brown. Haus is a quality defenseman. Carey is solid in goal. But they don't have a guy like Jesse King that can just take over a game and make the difference. Their team defense is commendable, allowing 9 goals a game (good for 26th in the nation), but it's not Yale or Notre Dame good to the point where it can make up for offensive struggles. OSU's dwindling at-large hopes rest on upsetting the Irish at home this weekend.

The "Sound of Silence" Tier sponsored by Jim Harbaugh's $8 pleated khakis

6. Michigan
  • Record: 3-4
  • IL Media Poll: unranked
  • Good wins: beating Tulsa in one of the NCAA play-in games oh wait wrong sport
  • Bad losses: DARTMOUTH
Ah, the Wolverines. My sweet, sweet Wolverines. The team that half of the LaxPower forum said would make some noise in the B1G this year. Consider them noiseless at this point thus far. Michigan was annihilated by Brown two weeks ago before falling in a close one to the class of the Ivy League, Dartmouth. That was Dartmouth's first win of the season after losing to Sacred Heart and Wagner. Not a good look for the Wolverines.

This team does have some talent, but it just isn't coming together yet for the nascent program. Kyle Jackson is a ton of fun to watch. Ian King is as well-rounded an attackman as they come. But the Maize and Blue isn't getting it done defensively. You can't let Dartmouth outshoot you 47-29. That's not how you make some noise. Football season starts in five months for Harbaugh and the boys.