If this season were the movie Zoolander, right about now is the point where Mugatu screams, "doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!" It’s almost time to rethink what is considered an upset.
We’re getting to the point now where teams are starting to show their true colors. Many teams whose armor once seemed impenetrable have now exposed design flaws. Some teams are still better than their records reflect, and surely a few paper tigers remain, but we can’t think too much about what might happen and focus on what has happened.
Here’s how my media poll shakes out this week.
1. Denver: The reigning champs downed Carolina in Chapel Hill in OT. Honestly, I thought this might be a game Denver dropped, mirroring last year. However, the Pios’ stars came to play and ended up on top. And on top is where they remain in my poll.
2. Notre Dame: A 1-0 hockey game can be very entertaining, especially playoff hockey. A 4-4 lacrosse game skews more toward boring. Sure, the Irish opened it up late in the game, but that doesn’t mitigate what preceded that onslaught. What the Irish win does do is set up a huge 1 vs 2 battle next week. I would expect another back-and-forth affair. Don’t be surprised if there’s only a one or two goal margin, or even overtime with that one. Denver/ND is appointment television.
3. Yale: The Bulldogs kicked a solid Bryant team in the mouth. Definitely a top 5 team in my book, and I have no reservations putting them at 3, for now.
4. Syracuse: Classic ‘Cuse/UVA was on display Friday night. Warren Hill looked rattled early, but finished strong. I’m not as high on this Orange team as I once was, but they’re showing they can close out close games against tough competition. That type of steeled resolve pays dividends down the line.
5. Towson: I had Loyola at #6 last week and Towson’s defense, and more specifically Tyler White, suffocated almost everything the Hounds threw at them. I can’t leave Loyola higher than the Tigers, and I still really like Loyola. A good win against a top 10 opponent deserves recognition and I’m giving it to the Tigers.
6. Brown: The Bruno Barrage continues to keep scoreboard operators busy. The Bears more than doubled up UMass. Now the Minutemen remain a question mark, but Brown is not.
7. Harvard: Some may quibble that Harvard should be higher considering the fact that they spent most of Saturday embarrassing Duke. That’s fair. I’d argue there isn’t a huge difference between 6 and 7, because that’s about as high as I’d move them in my poll. So consider Brown and Harvard 6a and 6b in whatever order you prefer.
8. Loyola: If the Hounds had lost both of their games this week they would have dropped a lot further. The Towson loss stings, but a conference wins helps soothe the pain a bit. Granted Loyola only beat Holy Cross by one, but that’s a very tough Crusader team; remember they beat Loyola at Ridley last year. Is there a better 0-5 team than Holy Cross right now?
9. Maryland: The Hardshells only fall one spot in my poll and they remain the major anomaly here as a sub .500 team in the top 10. A big part of that is because their two losses are to, in my book, top 5 teams. Do the Terps have some things to figure out, especially on offense? You bet. Hopefully the Terps will have some inspiration to move them brightly, if they want to remain contenders.
10. Rutgers: Perhaps an unexpected B1G pick here, but the Scarlet Knights are 5-0 right now. This week’s test against Stony Brook will go a long way toward determining if Rutgers is for real, but 5-0 earns respect.
11. North Carolina: The Heels showed a ton of fight against Denver, especially with their fourth quarter rally. But two losses hurts them right now, and Hofstra losing this week doesn’t do them any favors. I might have UNC too high still, and we may not know if that’s true until they play Maryland at the end of the month. They’ll have plenty of time to get their bearings, but for now the Heels are here for me.
12. Albany: The Scoobies downed Cornell this week. This looks like a down year for the Big Red, but that doesn’t mean they’re an easy out. This is the type of win that Albany needs to remain in the conversation, and so they are.
13. Stony Brook: Similar to Brown and Harvard, consider Stony Brook and Albany as 12a and 12b. In my book they’re so close that that needs to be reflected here. I still don’t know why other voters are snubbing the Seawolves. Different strokes I guess. Stony Brook has shown they can win multiple ways already this year. That type of versatility is getting rewarded this week.
14. Duke: I can hear the whinging about this now. Duke suffered the most dramatic fall in my poll. I had them at #3 last week. But here’s my rationale. I had no idea what to think about Harvard with 3 OT wins. Then the Crimson just pounded the Dukies. Looking at Duke’s record this year they’ve played two ranked teams and lost both. Their other wins aren’t very impressive in my book. Even in winning against Lehigh, Duke didn’t look great. Danny Fowler made some great 2nd half saves this week, but the defense in general remains a huge question mark. Impress me Duke and I’ll move you up.
15. Villanova: The Wildcats might even belong above Duke right now because they have certainly impressed. That opening OT loss to Harvard isn’t looking nearly as bad as it once did and this team is a juggernaut (or is that a Jake-rnaut?) on offense. The Big East is going to be very interesting this year.
16. Hofstra: The Pride took a tumble this week, but a large part of that is due to the fact that I have no idea what to make of Georgetown. The Hoyas lose to Mt. St. Mary’s mid-week and then beat a ranked Hofstra team on Saturday? Although Josh Byrne has one of the sickest goals of the year it didn’t matter in the end. The Pride have two chances to right the ship in the next ten days with games at Stony Brook and at Ohio State.
17. Johns Hopkins: The Jays throttle Princeton, yet remain static in my poll. This team lacks the consistency I want to see that would earn a higher ranking. Princeton may be down this year, like Cornell, but getting pummeled like that by the Hop was unexpected.
18. Boston: The Scrappy Dogs went into Buffalo and handed Canisius a loss in the Griffins’ first game of the year. BU sits at 5-1 overall, and shares a seat near the top of Patriot League table right now.
19. Lehigh: I’ve reserved judgment on Lehigh until now. As mentioned above, I thought they finished well against Duke, but I really wanted to see how they’d fare in conference. Two straight league games in a row, and the Mountain Hawks are 2-0 in Patriot League action. They eked out a win over Holy Cross last week (see a pattern with HC?) and downed Colgate this week. Again, this might be 18a and 18b, but Lehigh deserves a place in the top 20.
20. Marquette: The loss to an unranked Ohio State squad hurts the Golden Eagles, but they salvaged their weekend by making short work of Detroit. They stay ranked for now, but they’re on the precipice. If anyone wants to get into the Hofstra/UNC debate about ranking Marquette higher than OSU after losing to said team, I say go look at OSU’s record this year. Before beating Marquette, OSU’s 3 wins were against teams with a combined record of 0-12. They lost to a UMass team that isn’t as good as we once thought. Their strength of schedule is abysmal right now. One win over a ranked opponent doesn’t automatically earn a spot in the top 20. Let’s see how they fare in their next two games against Hofstra and Towson before getting too up in arms.
Dropped Out: Penn State
Also considered (alphabetically)
Air Force, Army, High Point, Navy, Ohio State, Richmond