Todays episode we’re going to talk about my #13, #12 and #11 picks, getting us ready for the episode this Sunday covering the top 10.  The season is close so I have to rip through these, and of all my picks so far, I’m really questioning two of them I’ll talk about today and may end up making an adjustment to my list before handing in my first poll.

But here goes, let’s talk about my #13 team first…

#13 Denver
(9-6, 4-1, Lost to Villanova in the Big East Semi’s) 

Denver was a team last season that fell victim to a new term I’m coining “schedule creep”. This means some of the games you scheduled that would traditionally be wins ended up turning into more losses than expected due to your own issues mixed with teams simply being better than expected. 

In 2022, Denver was more than likely hoping to come out of their top 4 non-conference matchups vs Duke, UNC, Yale and Ohio State with 2 wins and 2 losses. In a better world they’d go 3-1 but instead they went 1-3 dropping games to Duke, UNC and Yale. They beat Ohio State. 

But Jacksonville’s success turned ugly for Denver dealing them an additional unexpected loss which put them at 5-5 after their loss to Georgetown. 

Sure, they got to 9-5 prior to entering the Big East semi’s, but that momentum wasn’t enough to carry them to victory against a scrappy Villanova squad that dropped them by a goal to end their season.

Gone are Jack Hannah, Alex Simmons and Ted Sullivan. Simmons, the Pio’s 3rd leading scorer a year ago took his talents (and 45 points) to Syracuse.  Hannah and Sullivan (2nd and 4th leading scorers respectively) both lost to graduation.

So Denver loses 5 of their top 6 scorers from a year ago but retain JJ Silstrop, last season’s leading scorer and most productive player overall.

Bright spot, Alex Stathakis is in fact back and his 56.4% win percentage at the face-off dot will be a big factor in helping Denver’s offense find some sort of groove.  He’s not a top-5 face-off guy overall, but he’s a top-10 guy in my book.

Defensively they bring back 4 long poles that started the bulk of the games between close defense and LSM headlined by Malik Sparrow.  Overall they have a solid returning core of players on the defensive side of the ball and should be improved compared to last season.

Jack Thompson started 13 of 15 games last year and put up a respectable .523 save percentage.  He’s not necessarily going to “win you games”, but after a shaky start through Denver’s tough non-conference sprint to start the season, he settled in during Big East play and had himself some good games down the stretch.

If the defense in front of him can play better than last year, and they have enough experience returning that could be the case, he could easily get himself into the 54 or 55 percent range as a ball stopper.

Key Returners

  • JJ Silstrop (A), 30g, 18a, 48p off 33.3% shooting, 17 turnovers
  • Richie Connell (A/M), 14g, 4a, 18p, 37.8% shooting, 6 turnovers
  • Michael Lampert (A/M), 7g, 9a, 16p, 38.9% shooting, 4 turnovers
  • Alex Stathakis (FO), .564 face-off percentage, 111 gbs, 3g, 1a, 7 turnovers
  • Malik Sparrow (LSM), 19 caused turnovers, 28 gbs, 1a
  • AJ Mercurio (D), 12 caused turnovers, 19 gbs, 1g, 1a
  • Jack DiBenedetto (D), 11 caused turnovers, 16 gbs
  • Jake Edinger (SSDM), 9 caused turnovers, 15 gbs, 1g, 4a
  • Adam Hangland (D), 8 caused turnovers, 14 gbs

In the end there are a ton of question marks offensively that Denver will have to answer.  Of all of the teams I’ve ranked thus far I think they are the most likely to fall out of the top 20 over the first few weeks of the season, but once they figure out who they are offensively I like their chances of ending the season somewhere between #15 and #20.

#12 Brown
(10-6, 4-2,  Lost To Virginia In NCAA First Round)

Brown was a big surprise last year.  They started out 5-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of UNC, but then hit a 3 game skid listing to Harvard, UMass and Princeton and dropped to 5-4.

They then had a “come to Jesus” moment and rattled off 6 straight wins to end the regular season.  They dropped Penn, Yale, Cornell, Bryant and Dartmouth over that stretch.  That got them into the Ivy League tournament where they lost to Penn in a rematch, but that was enough to get them into the NCAA tournament.

Did they lose in the first round?  YES.  But did they play a respectable game and simply lost to a very good Virginia team that was out for blood?  YES.

Brown in 2022 played blue collar lacrosse which a lot of the Ivy league teams play despite their Ivy roots.  They are physical on defense and they aren’t afraid to go blow for blow offensively.

Example of their ability to run and gun? They scored 20 goals in their 7 goal win over Yale in Providence.

Example of their defensive toughness? They held national runner-up Cornell to just 8 goals in their road win over the Big Red on April 23rd.

The best way to describe Brown.  They play gritty lacrosse.

Devon McLane is back to lead this offense. McLane had a breakout year in 2022 putting up 47 goals and 24 helpers.  He’s quick, shifty and has a knack for finishing the rock.  Exactly what coaches like to see.  Coaches would love to clone the kid.  The issue is after losing both Cook and Antonelli at attack to graduation, they may wish they really could clone McClane.

My new favorite player for Brown is Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, the SSDM. He put up 7 goals with 6 assists last season, took the ball away 5 times and picked up 27 groundballs.  He only had two games all year that he didn’t factor in the stat book and had a goal, an assist, 5 groundballs and a caused turnover in Browns 12-10 regular season win over Penn.  I think he’ll have another solid year in 2023.

The big issue I see with this team is they lost all three starting close defenders.  Andrew Geppert, Luke Gaydos and Silas Newsome have all gone bye bye and between the three of them they started all but one game in 2023.  Colin Hart is the only long pole returning with real experience.  They even graduated their LSM.

But have no fear because they do have “The People’s Goalie” returning, Connor Theriault.  He stopped 53.7% of the shots he faced last year and posted a 9-6 record playing in the Ivy League.

Despite those big numbers and the fact he’s coming back, I don’t expect him to have the success he had in 2022 due to the fact he has a very inexperienced group of defenders in front of him.  I don’t think he’ll dip below 50% or anything crazy, but Brown is going to have to be extra scrappy and tough in 2023 to keep pace with last years success.

Key Returners

  • Devon McLane (A), 47g, 24a, 71p off 33.6 shooting, 26 turnovers
  • Griffin King (M), 13g, 7a, 20p off 27.7% shooting
  • Trevor Glavin (A), 8g, 8a, 16p off 30.8% shooting
  • Jack Kelly (M), 6g, 7a, 13p off 22.2% shooting 
  • Matthew Gunty (FO), .516 face-off percentage, 96gbs, 1g, 3a, 6 turnovers
  • Colin Hart (D), 10 caused turnovers, 28gbs, 3g
  • Connor Theriault (G), .537 save percentage, 9-6 record

I think they may have some non-conference success early, but as I work through this list, right now they are the most likely team I have on this list to finish outside of the top 20, and they certainly won’t finish higher than where I have them, #13.  They lost too much talent defensively and I just don’t think they will be able to repeat their “in league success”.  7 or 8 wins is what I’m thinking and that would put them out of the top-20 by season’s end.

#11 Ohio State
(10-6, 3-2, Lost to Rutgers in the Big Ten Semis)

Ohio State plays Notre Dame on Saturday, March 12, 2022 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

I really like what I see on paper for Ohio State.  Jack Myers is one of the best five attackmen in the country in my opinion and the addition of LIU transfer Richie LaCalandra is going to go a long way in making sure Ohio State doesn’t lose a lot of steam offensively.

Forget that they only lost Jackson Reid in terms of offensive production.  Reid will be tough to replace, but the list of guys coming back includes Colby Smith (47p), Jason Knox (27p) and Scott White (15p).  Throw in LaCalandra’s 70 points from 2022 and they also add a transfer at midfield in Kyle Borda (Fairfield, 37 points), another transfer at attack, Kyle Lewis (Lynchburg, 94 points) and I think Ohio State will be just fine offensively in 2023 and may even improve a touch.

What has me most excited about this team is what they bring back on defense.  They weren’t good on defense last year finishing 37th in goals against average.  But they get a solid group of long poles that return, a solid SSDM coming and so long as Army transfer Marcus Hudgins is eligible to play Ohio State should be able to get enough stops to help the offense get going.

Skylar Wahlund and Caton Johnson are both back.  Wahlund finished the season as the starter, but Johnson got some starts early and then one or two later in the season when Wahlund was hurt (I believe).  Wahlund was the better goalie statistically by roughly 5 percentage points so I’d presume he’ll be in net to start, but both are solid goalies so long as the defense in front of them plays tough.

Key Returners

  • Jack Myers (A), 38g, 45a, 83p off 35.2% shooting, 34 turnovers
  • Colby Smith (A), 41g, 6a, 47p off 30.6% shooting, 13 turnovers
  • Jason Knox (A), 24g, 3a, 27p off 46.2% shooting, 13 turnovers
  • Scott White (A), 12g, 3a, 15p off 24% shooting
  • Richie LaCalandra (A, LIU Transfer), 32g, 38a, 70 off 29.1% shooting, 26 turnovers
  • Kyle Lewis (A, Lynchburg Transfer), 31g, 63a, 94p off 30.4% shooting
  • Stephen Zupicich (D), 13 caused turnovers, 31 gbs, 1g, 2a
  • Greg Langermeier (SSDM), 11 caused turnovers, 28 gbs, 2g, 1a
  • Bobby Van Buren (D), 11 caused turnovers, 22 gbs
  • Jacob Snyder (D), 10 caused turnovers, 10 gbs
  • Skylar Wahlund (G), .525 save percentage, 6-4 as a starter

All in all, I think Ohio State has a chance at finishing right around where I’m putting them here and could even sneak into the top 10 early in the season.  They start with two very winnable games in Air Force and Cleveland state before taking on North Carolina who they put the big hurt on last year and I think they could do it again, this time at home.

But make no mistake, their non-conference schedule is brutal.  After the two gimme games, they have North Carolina (at home), Virginia (at a neutral site in Florida), Cornell (at home) and then Notre Dame (in South Bend) before playing another easy game against Detroit Mercy.  Then they have Denver on the road before getting into their Big Ten schedule.

So even though I think this team is going to be BETTER in 2023,  winning 10 games is by no means guaranteed.  In fact, I think getting to 8 or 9 wins with their schedule would be a solid accomplishment.  They’ll need to upset some big boys to have a chance at the NCAA tournament.

If there ever was a year that Ohio State could win the Big Ten, THIS WOULD BE THE YEAR.  Penn State, Hopkins and Michigan should all be W’s and that leaves Rutgers and Maryland as their big tests.  Maryland has a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the ball, and Rutgers could go either way.

Audio version…

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