(Donny Hathaway is the man, and this old gospel tune is, as they say, "the jam.")
The most depressing stat I’ve seen this week is from LaxPower. As of Sunday night’s tilt between Hopkins and Penn State, 84% of the regular season is complete. Couple that with the foot of snow we got in Denver this weekend and you get a whole different breed of seasonal affective disorder.
We’re a week or two away from the end of the regular season and only now do I start to feel like I’ve settled into what I think reflects the top 20 for D1. This week I’ve got 19 of the 20 teams that I had last week, albeit in a different order.
There’s no sense in ramblin’ on, so let’s get to the poll.
1. Denver (10-1): I admit that this is probably a bit of a homer pick. But I explained last week why I still had Denver over Notre Dame when I had them at 2 and 3, and that rationale still applies this week. Yale’s loss just resulted in an upward shift. I’m going to pretend that St. John’s was some sleeping giant that Denver vanquished. Denver won a game they should have won.
2. Notre Dame (9-1): The Domers eked past Marquette in overtime. Once the clock hit 0.0 in regulation I knew that ND would win it in the extra frame. Notre Dame’s defense may get them to the title game, but I’m still not sold on their offense being able to put them over the hump.
3. Brown (10-1): Having young kids in the house means that you can never just sit and watch a game. I turned on the Brown/Yale game in the 4th quarter after following online. What a great time to make the switch! Bruno went for the jugular and Dylan Molloy made a strong statement for the Tewaaraton.
4. Maryland (9-2): Remember when Rutgers was an also-ran? Well they’re solid this year, and the Terps used a strong second half effort to out-score the Scarlet Knights 8-4. Maryland has the depth to inspire confidence at this point, and they’re piling up the wins in the B1G.
5. Yale (10-1): I feel like this drop was a long time coming. Yale kept winning, but their games against solid competition seemed to have a decreasing margin of victory. Well that finally caught up with the Elis, which is why I put them at 5. Winning glosses over a lot of flaws, but once the other shoe drops – POW! Right in the kisser!
6. Navy (9-2): Rivalry game. Final regular season conference game. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. The Mids took overtime to dispatch Army this weekend, in what was probably one of the best games of the weekend. Even if they lose to Maryland on Tuesday, they should still get in the tournament at this point, AQ or not. Their offense is finally catching up with their defense. Full steam ahead!
7. Albany (9-2): Is Albany a paper tiger? Well this weekend’s game against Yale should be very revealing. One thing that has impressed me about Albany on the offensive side of the field is that it seems like someone new steps up to be the hero every game. When the Thompson’s were there it made sense that they would be fulcrum of the offense. But now it can be Fields, Oakes, and this week Oshawa’s own Bennett Drake was the man of the hour.
8. Air Force (11-2): The Falcons crushed VMI this weekend, as most teams are wont to do. That makes it 11 straight for the boys from the Springs. Both Air Force and Richmond are undefeated in the SoCon and they faceoff this weekend. How many people predicted fans rubbing their hands together in eager anticipation of a SoCon game this year?
9. Marquette (9-2): The Golden Eagles took Notre Dame to the brink on Tuesday, but fell short in the end. They followed that up with a conference victory over Providence on Saturday. Two years in a row they back loaded their schedule. Three of their four last regular season games this year are against ND, Duke, and then Denver. Last year was the same and they lost them all. Duke is the big question mark here, and Denver should be really interesting.
10. Loyola (9-3): The Hounds are back in my top 10 this week. Having Zach Herreweyers back in the line up was good for Loyola. Freshman stud Pat Spencer played the role of distributor against Boston this weekend, dishing out 6 apples.
11. Syracuse (7-4): The Orange had a weird week. They lost a one-goal game to Cornell in OT on Tuesday, and I was planning to drop them hard. But then they came out and torched UNC at the Dome. A lot of teams I had ahead of ‘Cuse lost this week, so despite their trials on Tuesday, the Orange are a big winner this week.
12. Towson (10-2): The Tigers drop from #6 to #12 this for me this week. In all honesty, that might be a bit generous. I thought that Towson might lose a league game, but I was expecting that to come at the hands of almost anyone that wasn’t Delaware. Cluck, cluck, ouch.
13. Stony Brook (10-3): The Seawolves lost to Marist on Tuesday. That was a bit nuts, eh? They when went and beat UMass Lowell, on Saturday, but that was expected. It’s looking more and more like the AQ is the only way in for Stony Brook, but they would be a fun team to have in the Big BBQ.
14. Rutgers (9-3): The Scarlet Knights’ losses are to Stony Brook, Maryland, and the outlier, Princeton. Two of those aren’t terrible. Before the season Lax All Stars’ Ryan Conwell told me to keep an eye on Rutgers and that proved prescient. Here we are in the dusk of the season and Rutgers is batting .750, and in good standing in the B1G, including a statement win over Hopkins. The B1G tournament should fun this year.
15. Johns Hopkins (7-4): An OT win over Penn State gives the Hop a needed win overall and in conference. Right now their only bad loss is to Virginia and that was an OT loss at Klockner, so I’m not going to get to up in arms about that.
16. St Joe’s (9-2): Last week I said my faith in St. Joe’s was riding on the Bryant game this past weekend. The Hawks delivered with an OT win. Right now this team is simply winning. As I mentioned above with Yale, winning helps all.
17. Villanova (7-4): When I first looked at the score of the Nova/Georgetown game this weekend, it was neck-and-neck. It seemed like a trap game for the Cats. Of course, the final ended up being 16-4, so "normalcy" returned, or so it seems. This was a nice follow-up to last week’s heartbreaker against Denver.
18. Penn State (7-5): Five losses are a lot, especially at this point in the season, to be included in the top 20. But this is the team that beat Denver. Honestly, I don’t think that any of their losses are that bad. Even the UMass loss. The past two weeks they’ve dropped OT decisions to Maryland and Hopkins. Rutgers is up next and should be a game to keep an eye on.
19. North Carolina (7-5): I could just copy and paste the above blurb, change a few team names and call it good. The Heels welcome Notre Dame to Tobacco Road this weekend. How much fun would it be if the Tar Heels win? (Hint: A lot. The answer is a lot of fun.)
20. Bucknell (8-4): Yeah, the Colgate OT loss isn’t pretty, especially because the Raiders have gone downhill fast. Again, their other three losses are to top 20 team. The Patriot League is always so wonderful in a crazy way. I think that the more PL teams in the tourney, the better. Could the Patriot League be a three-bid conference? (And there’s no guarantee that Bucknell would be one of those three, but I digress.) One can hope.
Dropped out: Army
Also considered: Army, Richmond