Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
The first full week of Big Ten lacrosse action saw its fair share of surprises. A young and talented Michigan team moved to 2-0 while perennial powerhouse Johns Hopkins suffered a loss to a local rival, Towson. With the amount of surprises and mix ups that the conference saw, my power rankings were forced to undergo a mix up of their own.
#6 – Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Preseason – #5)
Rutgers has gotten off to a 1-1 start. With a two goal win against St. John’s and being more than doubled up by Richmond, I think it’s safe to say that Rutgers won’t be able to contend this year in the B1G. Richmond is a tough team and could be a sleeper come tournament time, but the fact remains that Rutgers didn’t really compete with them at all.
Rutgers has the ability to win some quality games and make a run for a lower seed in the Big Ten Tournament. After the top two seeds in the Big Ten the competition is pretty tight, and Rutgers has some talented guys, including Joseph Nardella, who won 13 faceoffs at the X.
This week: Saturday, they host Virginia in a matchup against a top 10 team. I believe Rutgers will fall below the .500 mark this week.
#5 – Michigan Wolverines (Preseason – #6)
I really wanted to put Michigan higher in the rankings than this given their 2-0 record, but I had to be hesitant with them. They have had two very convincing victories over Bellarmine and Detroit. Despite their undefeated record, something they have in common with only Maryland, the wins are against mediocre teams.
Now I know some of you might say: “But the Wolverines beat Detroit, and Detroit beat Ohio State.” This is true. And this is what made fitting Michigan into these rankings so difficult. The gap is very close right now between Michigan and Ohio State. But with the upcoming schedule, I think putting Michigan here at No. 5 will prove to have been the right decision.
This week: Saturday, the Wolverines host the #3 Irish from Notre Dame. This game will be a huge test for Michigan, and if they can somehow pull off this upset, they will surely fly up the power rankings and even get themselves a ranking in the national polls.
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#4 Ohio State Buckeyes (Preseason – #4)
The Buckeyes have really done everything so far to disappoint me. This was a year where I thought they would be able to rival Penn State as the third-best lacrosse team in the conference. So far, that has not been the case.
Buckeye fans won’t like me going back to this fact, but Detroit beat the Buckeyes only to turn around and lose to the Wolverines. If there is one thing the Buckeyes won’t stand for, it’s to play second fiddle to the Michigan
But, two bounce-back victories for the Buckeyes have gotten them back on track and above the .500 mark. Although the victories were not very impressive, a win is a win.
This week: The Buckeyes host Dartmouth in what should be another victory for the team. Theoretically, the Buckeyes should be able to put some space between themselves and Michigan until they meet Marquette on March 1st.
#3 Penn State Nittany Lions (Preseason – #3)
Penn State’s season has gone exactly as expected this year with a victory over Vemont followed by a loss to Loyola.
The difference for me was how close they played Loyola. They trailed 7-2 before putting together a four-goal run midway through the fourth quarter. Loyola however, tamed them and put in a dagger goal with 1:36 remaining in the game. Penn State turned the ball over 22 times. They are a tough team. If they can work on ball security, look out because they can hang with the best of them.
This week: The Nittany Lions travels to Villanova. This should be a victory for them, but Nova did play a very tough game against Hopkins this week. Penn State needs to focus on fundamentals and they will continue to hold their national ranking.
#2 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (Preseason – #1)
The shock of the season: The Blue Jays were beaten by the Towson Tigers for the first time since 1996.
But, if you read this article, I explain why people shouldn’t overreact and jump to conclusions about Hopkins being done for the year. Hopkins suffered a setback and have already bounced back with a solid victory against Villanova. It is very early in the season, and Coach Pietramala will have this team focused once they hit the teeth of it’s schedule.
This week: The Blue Jays face their first top 5 team of the year as they travel to Chapel Hill to take on the Tarheels of North Carolina. This is a huge test to see where this young talent is at in terms of playing in a top 10 game.
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#1 Maryland Terrapins (Preseason – #2)
I’ve been watching Maryland lacrosse for as long as I can remember, and the one thing that always remains true year after year? Don’t doubt them.
Against Navy, the defense was incredible, the attack was efficient, and the fundamentals were there for most of the game. And the biggest question was how Kyle Bernlohr was going to replace the likes of All-American Niko Amato between the pipes. Bernlohr made 12 saves and looked like he was playing in an elimination game.
The loss by Johns Hopkins gives Maryland an early inside track to winning the Big Ten. It’s still early, though, and there are many games to be played. The Terps have three straight games against ranked teams so it might be likely that the Terps hand this early advantage right back over to the Blue Jays.
This week: The Terps travel to Yale to take on the 16th ranked Bulldogs who are coming off a 19 goal game. With the way the Terps play defense, I don’t see an offensive outburst coming from Yale again. Look for the Terps to grab the victory.