I actually spent part of this past week on the campus of Notre Dame. It was my first time ever in South Bend, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the Irish studies conference I attended, the campus underwhelmed. Being reunited with Midwestern weather patterns didn’t help either.
I’m on record as not being a ND fan at all, but the first thing I did when I saw the conference dates was to check to see if the Domers had a home game. Let’s just say everyone should be glad they didn’t have to sit out in the dreadful wind and rain, or the cold rain and snow.
Imagine my surprise, when after a full slate of conference events, I check the scores for the day. Let’s just say that some of my friends and colleagues didn’t quite understand what was going on. Luckily, UNC/Duke was on at the restaurant Friday evening, and Michigan/Maryland at lunch on Saturday.
In my opinion, at this point of the season if a team has 2 or fewer losses they’re doing something right. I’m going with my gut this week, and considering the steady diet of fried food and Guinness the past few days that may not be the best idea,but here’s where things are shaking out for me.
1. Brown (8-0): The Bears are undefeated and crushed a top 10 Villanova team on Tuesday. Then on Saturday, Dylan Molloy went off against Princeton (6, 5). Wowzers. I started following Alec Tulett last season as part of my Canadian tracking column at 10 Man Ride, and the kid has just gotten better. I’d say he’s one of the most versatile long-poles in the country right now.
2. Denver (7-1): Controversial, perhaps, but I still think Denver is the team to beat right now. The Pios bounced back in a big way against Big East foe Georgetown this week. Props to DU for the margin of victory and resiliency here. With Villanova showing weakness, it may be Marquette that gives Denver fits in conference this year?
3. Notre Dame (7-1): If Denver is #2 then ND at #3 only makes sense to me. DU gets the nod because of their head-to-head victory and I still think that DU’s total resume is better, but with ND getting into conference play and some Big East teams fading that may change quickly. ND’s offense showed up against the Orange. Now is the time for that to start.
4. Yale (8-0): All of the teams above Yale won by considerable margins this week, and Yale spent most of Saturday trailing a very good (albeit very young) Penn team. The Elis eked out a win, and they showed some grit at the very end of the game to force OT, but now I’m just as intrigued as ever about the upcoming Brown game.
5. Maryland (7-2): A two-loss team at #5? When those two teams are #3 and #4 that’s not bad. Plus, the hard shells won three games in the span of eight days against UNC last week, and then Penn and Michigan this week.
6. Towson (9-1): I tend to reward offense, but this week it seems that the defensive teams are all making moves in my poll. The Tigers downed Drexel, which is one of those teams that I think is a much harder out than their record would suggest. Towson has only given up double-digit goals in one game this year, their loss to Hopkins.
7. Albany (7-2): Between Seth Oakes, Connor Fields, and Blaze Riorden this team just wins. It seems like Oakes and Fields take turns being the hero on any given game day. The Scoobies beat Harvard and UMass Lowell (a team that has made great strides this season) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
8. Marquette (7-1): The only reason the Golden Eagles are a one-loss team and this far down on my ballot is because I don’t think their resume turns heads. That was until they made Villanova bite the curb on Saturday. The Wildcats were reeling and Marquette has one of the best defenses in the country. Still, it was a shock to see that the boys from Milwaukee allowed only three goals.
9. Navy (7-2): The Mids beat Holy Cross this week, which doesn’t really come as a surprise. But they’re starting to coalesce right now, and winning conference games is the number one focus right now. Mission accomplished for one more week.
10. Stony Brook (8-2): The Seawolves beat Lehigh this week, which is a good win. They’ve eased off the offensive onslaught type of play a bit, meaning they’re not blowing people out like Brown. But it’s kind of crazy to think that Stony Brook is arguably the second best team in their conference.
11. Air Force (9-2): Bellarmine took the Falcons to OT this week, but the boys from Colorado Springs got their ninth straight win – the longest current streak in the country. If that doesn’t deserve some respect I’m not sure what does.
12. Penn State (7-3): The Nittany Lions followed up their beat down of Denver with a one-goal victory over conference foe Ohio State. This team can win tight games and knows when to keep their foot on the gas as well. The B1G should be very interesting to watch this month.
13. Syracuse (5-3): Will the real Syracuse Orange please stand up? Three straight losses do not look good in Orange. Even if all three were to ranked teams and two are conference games. In fact, that could make it worse. The OT losses to Hopkins and Duke are one thing because they gave up a lead and OT is first come, first serve. But the trouncing by Notre Dame should raise some concerns across Orange nation.
14. Rutgers (8-2): I was high on Rutgers until Stony Brook crushed them. The rest of their resume is that great. The Army win is looking better and better, but I wasn’t expecting the final result from this week. A 16-9 win over #9 Hopkins certainly sends a message that the B1G is wide open.
15. Loyola (6-3): The Bucknell win last week got the Hounds headed in the right direction. This week’s conference win over Colgate was more about maintaining momentum, as far as I’m concerned. They’ve got a tough Patriot League slate to end the year, @Lehigh, Boston, and Army. However, going 2-1 in that stretch is totally feasible.
16. North Carolina (6-4): The Heels needed that win over Duke. Badly. They still have Virginia, @Syracuse, and Notre Dame left during the regular season. Going .500 in conference would be great, but .750 is becoming more attainable as things continue to progress.
17. Johns Hopkins (5-4): Was it a case of over-looking Rutgers? I mean, what the hell happened? Did the Jays use up all of their good shots against UMBC on Thursday? Right when you think this team has figured things out they go and hit reset on the console.
18. St. Joseph’s (8-2): Strength of schedule is a concern, which is why I’ve considered St. Joe’s for most of the season but never given them the nod. Well, even so two-losses at this point is impressive so I’m giving the Hawks some love.
19. Villanova (6-3): It was a rough week for the Wildcats. They went into it 6-1 and dropped two straight to Brown and Marquette. Now, the former is the top offensive team in the country, and the latter is almost the same on the defensive side of the ball. The total goal differential in those two games was 30-11. Eleven goals is what we’ve come to expect from Jake Froccaro in a single game, not Villanova’s total output over two games. Things don’t get any easier as Denver comes to town next week.
20. Boston (8-3): A one-goal loss to conference foe Lehigh is not what this team needed. This spot was a toss-up between Boston and Army, who lost to Bucknell this week. I opted for the Terriers this week, but Boston and Army square off next week so we’ll find out who actually deserves this soon enough.
Dropped out: Duke, Hofstra, and Army.
Also considered: Army, Duke, and Penn