Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 6 Johns Hopkins (Men)
Ten games into the season, Johns Hopkins was just 4-6 and its postseason hopes looked bleak. A strong run to close the season resulted in the Blue Jays winning the Big Ten and reaching the NCAA semifinals.
Hopkins accomplished that despite a subpar season from its usually strong defense, but the offense was more than up to the task. The offseason losses of Joel Tinney and Connor Reed to the offense will put more pressure on the defense to turn things around.
Johns Hopkins at a Glance
2015 Record: 11-7
3 Big Things
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
In what was an unusually wobbly season defensively in 2015, Hopkins allowed 12 or more goals on eight occasions. The Blue Jays went 2-6 in those games, including a 12-11 loss to Maryland that ended their season in the NCAA tournament semifinals.
1. A Hopkins legend is handling the goalies.
By bringing in Larry Quinn to coach the Johns Hopkins goalies as a volunteer assistant, head coach Dave Pietramala added a huge dose of instant credibility to his staff. Quinn had a Hall of Fame career between the pipes at Homewood, where he anchored back-to-back NCAA title teams in 1984 and 1985 by earning the nation’s Enners Award as the top player in college lacrosse. Quinn still holds the Blue Jays’ single-season (70.4) and career (67.3) records in save percentage. “Larry is all about back-to-school fundamentals and confidence and poise,” Pietramala said. “He’s been great."
2. There are few perceived stars on defense and that's just fine.
Other than Nick Fields, who could be a serious candidate for first-team All-American honors, there is little star power in a cast of relative unknowns. But this unit’s talent looks intriguing. Austin Spencer did some great work in the shadows for struggling UMass. Ben Kellar shined for a Bucknell team that often didn’t. Patrick Foley is a promising freshman. Will Ryan’s name does not inspire intimidation. “We’re at our best when we’re a bunch of no-names who follow the system,” Pietramala said. “We have self-less guys who just want to fit in."
3. With Joel Tinney lost for the year, John Crawley could shine.
When Joel Tinney was ruled ineligible for the 2016 season for committing an NCAA rules violation, it marked a potentially season-changing moment. Tinney, who tied for second on the team with 28 goals, was the first freshman midfielder to be named an All-American since Paul Rabil 10 years ago. His absence puts more pressure on a unit that suffered another blow when Connor Reed injured his knee in late January and was lost for the season. But Tinney’s loss creates a big opportunity for John Crawley, who scored 21 goals on 41.2 percent shooting in 2015.
Will Ryan (Sr.)
* returning starters
Brown totaled a school-record 61 goals and 77 points, earned second-team All-American honors and took a team-high 182 shots. His 118 career goals are the second-most ever by a Johns Hopkins player before his senior year.
Spencer, who transferred from UMass, is a ground ball machine who gives the Blue Jays a faceoff wing weapon, a transition igniter and strong cover ability. He led the Minutemen with 58 ground balls last season.
The one battle for a starting job on attack features freshmen Kyle Marr and Jack Concannon, but Dismuke, a 6-foot-2 lefty, has remained in the conversation at Homewood. He started four of the 13 games he appeared in last year and contributed five goals on 12 shots.
Biggest Question Mark
One could name the entire defensive unit here, but Ryan stands out at the back end with the most to prove as the replacement for Eric Schneider, whom Ryan backed up for two seasons.
After a 51-point rookie campaign, Shack Stanwick will take on a bigger role for the Hopkins offense following the graduation of his brother, Wells. (Peyton Williams)
What rival coaches say about the Blue Jays
"Their offense is skilled and will be tough to handle. Brown is a stud and Stanwick will continue to progress. They will need some new faces to step up defensively."
"Losing Tinney is a tough blow as he did so much for them on offense, wings on face off, and going back and playing defense but their coaching staff will have had plenty of time to prepare without him in the lineup which will help a little bit. Would assume Shack just steps into Wells's shoes and take over all the things Wells did for them, which was a lot and very undervalued by a ton of people in lacrosse. Obvious question mark for this team is in the goal but it did not seem to matter last year as they rode their late season momentum into the final four."
"Losing Tinney hurts. Real uncertainty at the defensive end. May have to score 20 to win, may be able to do it."
"I like this squad Petro, Dwan and Benson have, but I don't imagine them moving past the quarterfinals."
"How does the Tinney factor impact them? I’ve got to think they’ve got enough depth at midfield. If they’re able to gain a lot of possessions, they will put a lot of people under a lot of stress. They’ve got to be one of the teams that could win it all."
Seasons Pietramala has completed as head coach, which is one of the more impressive survival acts in this age, at such a tradition-rich place. Only Bob Scott, who stepped down after his 20th season in 1974, ran the Blue Jays longer. Pietramala, who is signed through the 2020 season, passed Scott last year on the school’s all-time wins list.
9 @ Navy
13 @ UMBC
20 @ Loyola
28 North Carolina
February 28 North Carolina
It’s hard to point to anything more important than the Big Ten tournament, with its automatic NCAA tournament qualifier consequences. But a victory over the Tar Heels in the season’s fourth game would be good for the Blue Jays’ psyche, since North Carolina has won seven of its last eight meetings over Hopkins.
A year after Maryland hosted the first-ever Big Ten tournament, the event moves slightly north to Johns Hopkins on May 5-7. The Blue Jays, in their second season ever as a conference affiliate, might need to repeat as league champions on their home turf to reach the NCAAs again.
The Blue Jays need to tighten up a defense that was arguably the worst of the Pietramala era. If Johns Hopkins springs too many leaks at that end, the offense, with Shack Stanwick drawing increased attention as its sophomore quarterback, will be under much pressure again to outscore opponents.
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