#LMranks: No. 16 Yale Bulldogs (Men)
|Yale won the Ivy League
tournament, earning a first-round NCAA tournament game with Notre
Dame. It was the Bulldogs' first NCAA berth in 20
© TD Paulius
Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.
Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Monday with profiles of the 15th-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.
*Out of 5
D Peter Johnson (Sr.)
A four-year starter and an honorable mention All-American in 2012, Johnson returns alongside senior captain Mike McCormack, giving Yale arguably the top returning defensive unit in the Ivy League. The rangy Minnesota native picked up 50 ground balls and caused 29 turnovers in 2012, while also holding down Princeton's Tom Schreiber in the Ivy League. Besides limiting shots to the kind junior goalie Jack Meyer likes to see, Johnson's also a strong threat in transition.
FO Dylan Levings (Jr.)
The Bulldogs ranked sixth nationally in possession margin in 2012, thanks largely to Levings. The honorable mention All-American finished fourth in faceoff win percentage, at .632 (187-for-296). With Matt Gibson now playing in the MLL and crafty finisher Deron Dempster missing the season, Yale will need to replace its offensive firepower, but Levings should at least make sure they get plenty of chances. Another player to keep an eye on: sophomore attackman Conrad Oberbeck, a lefty who scored 20 goals as a freshman and will be asked to shoulder a bigger load.
The defensive leader. Six-year assistant Ryan Polley was named the first coach at Boston University, and Andy Shay replaced Polley with Andrew Baxter, the former defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Baxter certainly has a ton of talent with which to work: Johnson, McCormack and Phil Gross all return, though two short-stick defensive midfielders are gone. And there's no shortage of challenging players to contain in the conference, from Schreiber to Cornell's Rob Pannell.
A highly competitive conference slate. Even if the Ivy League seemed "down" in 2012, Yale played the seventh-toughest schedule in the country last year. With Pannell back, Cornell will be a handful. Princeton should take another step in Schreiber's junior season, and Harvard, Brown and Penn are nipping at their heels. It's hard to envision a scenario where three Ivy League teams make the postseason. But as several coaches told LaxMagazine.com, Yale is the "toughest team in the Ivy League."
#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown
In a Nutshell: Yale posted its third straight season of double-digit wins, even though that once looked like an impossible task. The Elis dropped four consecutive games to Sacred Heart, Lehigh, Cornell and Princeton in March, but by the end of the season won the Ivy League crown and earned an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 1992. After that five-overtime loss to Princeton, the Bulldogs didn't lose another game until their NCAA tournament first-round loss to Notre Dame, 13-7.
High Point: The Bulldogs clinched their first postseason appearance in 20 years by handily beating a pair of rivals in the Ivy League tournament, Cornell and Princeton. In the championship game, Gibson totaled six points and Dempster posted a hat trick, opening everyone's eyes to one of the most unheralded-yet-dangerous 1-2 attack combos in the country. The Ivy League championship capped off a run of nine straight victories, setting a new school record for consecutive wins.
Low Point: One of the best seasons in program history had a sour start. Yale blew a 7-2 lead at home to Sacred Heart, which ended up winning four games in 2012. The loss sent the Elis spiraling south, as they lost each of the next three — albeit against tournament teams Lehigh and Princeton, and tournament contender Cornell. Levings didn't have a great day at the faceoff dot, while Gibson was held scoreless.
Best Case: Andy Shay uses the us-against-the-world rallying cry to overcome the losses of Gibson and Dempster. The defense is stout as ever, while junior Brandon Mangan, a strong dodger from up top who also has good range, and Oberbeck, take big steps forward. Hyper-athetic Harry Kucharczyk thrives at his natural midfield spot, after spending 2012 at close defense. The Elis avoid slip-up losses like last year, and they end the season with road victories over Maryland and Harvard before capturing the Ivy League crown for the second straight season.
Worst Case: The loss of Gibson, the MLL Rookie of the Year who had one of the finest sticks in the country, is even tougher than anticipated to overcome. Yale struggles to generate consistent offense, and its defensive middies get picked on. The trend of "upset losses" continues, and the Bulldogs never get going in the Ivy League. They finish fifth in the conference.