Here is the fourth installment of an attempt at a preseason and premature poll for next season.
The top 20 was broken up into four installments with Thursday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 5 to 1. Monday featured Nos. 20 to 16, Tuesday Nos. 15 to 11, and Wednesday Nos. 10 to 6. Friday will include three schools not mentioned in the poll that could make some waves.
Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2010 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here’s a spin anyway.
5. Johns Hopkins (2011 record: 13-3; Tournament finish: quarterfinals)
Losses: Only one starter in attackman Kyle Wharton (34 goals and 8 assists) and four key contributors in faceoff specialist Matt Dolente (119 ground balls, 194-of-291 for .667), long-stick midfielders Ben Smith (25 GBs, 12 CTs) and Orry Michael (12 GBs, 6 CTs) and short-stick defensive midfielder Tim Donovan.
Returners: Nine starters and seven of the team’s top eight scorers including senior attackman Chris Boland (34, 20), sophomore attackman Zach Palmer (22, 25), sophomore midfielder John Ranagan (18, 14) and sophomore midfielder John Greeley (14, 12).
Reason for pessimism: The departure of Dolente leaves the Blue Jays with only two faceoff specialists with considerable experience on the collegiate level in Ranagan (15-of-31 for .484) and sophomore Mike Poppleton (13-of-19 for .684).
Reason for optimism: Among the four Under Armour All-American recruits are defensemen John Kelly and Michael Pellegrino, who further solidify a defense that returns all three starting defensemen in sophomores Tucker Durkin (35 GBs, 11 CTs) and Chris Lightner (21 GBs, 9 CTs) and freshman Jack Reilly (17 GBs, 10 CTs) and sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Bassett (7.07 goals-against average and .570 save percentage).
4. Denver (15-3; semifinals)
Losses: Three starters in defensemen Steve Simonetti (31 GBs, 19 CTs) and Jeff Brown (24 GBs, 19 CTs) and attackman Todd Baxter (31, 18) and four key contributors in midfielder Andrew Lay (10, 6), long-stick midfielder Jamie MacDonald (15 GBs, 4 CTs) and short-stick defensive midfielders Alex Drexler (12 GBs, 5 CTs) and Emerson Eichler (12 GBs, 6 CTs).
Returners: Seven starters including the entire starting midfield of sophomores Cameron Flint (27, 11), Eric Law (17, 15) and Chase Carraro (19, 2) and two-thirds of the starting attack in juniors Mark Matthews (46, 24) and Alex Demopoulos (30, 28).
Reason for pessimism: After the Pioneers became the first program west of the Mississippi River to advance to the Final Four, all eyes will be on them to see if they can repeat or if they wilt under expectations.
Reason for optimism: The void created by the departure of Baxter should be mitigated by moving Law to attack and inserting freshman Jeremy Noble (18, 16) on the first midfield. The offense shouldn’t miss a beat.
3. Virginia (13-5; NCAA champion)
Losses: Five starters in midfielders Shamel Bratton (20, 8), Rhamel Bratton (17, 5) and John Haldy (7, 8), defenseman/long-stick midfielder Bray Malphrus (34 GBs, 17 CTs) and goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman (9.54 GAA, .535 save percentage) and two key contributors in faceoff specialists Garett Ince (32 GBs, 76-of-149 for .510) and Brian McDermott (23 GBs, 64-of-131 for .489).
Returners: Five starters including the entire attack of juniors Steele Stanwick (32, 38) and Chris Bocklet (44, 5) and sophomore Matt White (20, 7) and two-thirds of the defensemen in junior Chris Clements (46 GBs, 13 CTs) and freshman Scott McWilliams (20 GBs, 16 CTs).
Reason for pessimism: Junior Rob Fortunato registered a 9.58 goals-against average and a .543 save percentage in eight games (including one start). Can he replace Ghitelman as the starting goalie?
Reason for optimism: The midfield returns junior Colin Briggs (29, 12) and freshman Rob Emery (13, 7), and the Cavaliers demonstrated that White, sophomore Nick O’Reilly (8, 13) and freshman Mark Cockerton (13, 4) can also initiate from the midfield.
2. Cornell (14-3; quarterfinals)
Losses: Three starters in attackman David Lau (28, 21), midfielder Jack Dudley (12, 3) and defenseman Max Feely (34 GBs, 15 CTs) and a key contributor in short stick defensive midfielder Shane O’Neill (13 GBs, 8 CTs).
Returners: Seven starters including junior attackman and reigning Player of the Year Rob Pannell (42, 47), sophomore attackman Steve Mock (40, 3) and junior midfielder Roy Lang (27, 9) and freshman midfielder Mike O’Neil (13, 4).
Reason for pessimism: The departure of Lau saps the Big Red of a versatile player who could switch between attack and midfield and a capable playmaker who complemented Pannell as a feeder on offense.
Reason for optimism: The defense should be solid with the return of a pair of starting defensemen in sophomores Jason Noble (71 GBs, 30 CTs) and Mike Bronzino (57 GBs, 26 CTs), sophomore goalie A.J. Fiore (8.31 GAA, .504 save percentage), sophomore long-stick midfielder Thomas Keith (37 GBs, 20 CTs) and sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Tom Trasolini (15 GBs).
1. Duke (14-6; semifinals)
Three Two starters in attackman Zach Howell (43, 16) and defenseman Tom Montelli (55 GBs, 28 CTs) and four key contributors in midfielder Tom Rynn (9, 4), attackman Jesse Fehr (10, 2), short-stick defensive midfielder Terrence Molinari (3, 2; 37 GBs, 7 CTs) and goalkeeper Mike Rock (9.06 GAA, .492 save percentage in three starts).
Seven Eight starters and six seven of the team’s top eight scorers including freshman attackmen Jordan Wolf (31, 20) and Christian Walsh (21, 13), sophomore midfielder David Lawson (23, 9), junior midfielder Robert Rotanz (23, 5) and redshirt junior midfielder Justin Turri (14, 11).
Reason for pessimism: Sophomore goalie Dan Wigrizer can get hot and appear to be impenetrable in the net. But he must lower his 9.20 goals-against average and raise his .550 save percentage to give the Blue Devils a shot at their second NCAA title in three years.
Reason for optimism: Wigrizer should get some assistance when defenseman Mike Manley (44 GBs, 17 CTs in 2010) returns from knee surgery that sidelined him for 2011 and joins sophomore Bill Conners (34 GBs, 6 CTs) and freshman Chris Hipps (19 GBs, 7 CTs) as starters. (Thanks to reader Paul Thomson III for catching the errors.)