Now that we have made it through a large part of the NCAA regular season and conference tournaments are just around the corner, we can take a broader look at what’s happening. Here are my top surprises so far this season, both good and bad, in no particular order.
ACC Out of Conference
Everyone knew the ACC would be good, even though they lost Maryland this year to the B1G. So far this season, they’ve been nothing short of dominant as a conference. Since their conference play has started, Virginia and Duke are both 0-3 within the conference, Notre Dame is 3-0, UNC 2-0 and Syracuse 2-1. Out of conference though is a different story. These five teams have lost a combined three games and two of those were to Denver, the other to Maryland. Last year, they were three quarters of the final four. Not only could they repeat that this year, but they could even improve upon it.
Dylan Molloy led Brown in scoring last year with just 39 points. They finished the season 8-6, missed the Ivy League tournament and the NCAA. This year, Molloy already has amassed 64 points, Brown is 8-2, and their postseason hopes are increasing. What a difference a year makes.
Following the script, Princeton was supposed to be lost on offense with the departure of Tom Schreiber. Mike MacDonald has stepped in to be fourth in the NCAA in scoring per game. Ryan Ambler and Kip Orban both have 32 points to their names too. The Tigers have dropped a few games as of late, but they still have a good shot at beating their expectations.
Patriot League Parity
The Patriot League was supposed to be run by Army and Loyola, mostly Loyola. As it turns out, this is arguably the most unpredictable conference in the country. Eight of the nine members have spent at least one week ranked in the top 20. Only two of the teams in the league have losing records. If you like unpredictable lacrosse, this is your league.
Lyle Thompson and Friends
Last season’s Thompson magic was supposed to fade as Lyle’s brother Miles and cousin Ty moved on from Albany. They were so prolific because of growing up together and had a sixth sense for each other’s location on the field. As it turns out, Lyle’s also really good on his own. He was guaranteed to be the center of attention for every defense they faced. New line mates Seth Oakes and Connor Fields have stepped in seamlessly. Lyle started slowly with just a two point opening game, but is now only one point behind last season’s record pace. Through 10 games last year, he had 69 points. Right now, he’s sitting at 68.
Not So Good Surprises
No team can lay claim to a bigger letdown than the Jays. They have one win over a team with a winning record, and they are falling prey to their tough schedule (#3 SOS per LaxPower). Every loss has been to a ranked team and been within three points. Respectable, yes, but they still have a losing schedule late in the year and need to win the B1G championship for a chance to make the NCAA tournament. This cannot have fans at Homewood feeling warm and fuzzy as the weather gets better outside.
Bryant shocked the world by upsetting Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. They rode that high all the way into this year. They were returning a historically dominant FOGO in Kevin Massa, preseason 1st team All American goalie Gunnar Waldt, and honorable mentions Tucker James at attack and Kyle Mummau on defense. Instead of being part of the conversation all year, they faded into a 3-7 record. They still can use the conference tournament route, but a repeat NCAA performance isn’t encouraging right now.
When this conference was formed and included Hopkins as a lacrosse only member, it had the makings of a super conference just waiting to happen. They just have not lived up to expectations. Maryland is the lone bright spot and Ohio State is improving, but this is not the debut they were hoping for.
Ranked 12 in the preseason, Penn sits at 4-6, has the 57th ranked defense and 33rd ranked offense. Hardly the types of number you’d expect from an Ivy contender. They’ve shown some hope as of late, taking Cornell into triple overtime and beating Brown. They also get to face the 5th place ACC team as part of a showcase game in PPL park during the ACC tournament, but I’m not even sure that upset would be enough for an NCAA at-large bid.