What to Watch in the New B1G

The B1G conference has always been known as a football conference and why wouldn’t it be with national powers such as Michigan and Ohio State gracing the conference every year. However, the lacrosse world throws its hat in the B1G ring and in its inaugural season.

Obvious programs such as Ohio State and Michigan make up the core of the conference landscape. Meanwhile, Penn State leaves the CAA, Rutgers leaves the Big East and national power Maryland leaves the ACC. The biggest shocker of all came when Johns Hopkins, a team with no conference affiliation for the duration of its lacrosse program, chose to join the B1G as well.

With lacrosse powers Maryland and Johns Hopkins in the fold, as well as up-and-coming programs in Michigan and Ohio State, the B1G is going to be one of the strongest conferences in the nation. What will be the most exciting thing to watch in its inaugural season? There are actually several things that will be exciting and here are all the things that you need to watch as the B1G welcomes itself to the lacrosse world.

-The 112th edition of Maryland-Johns Hopkins rivalry gets a little extra boost as it becomes a conference matchup. Not only will it hold bragging rights in the state of Maryland, it will go a long way in deciding seeding for the four-team conference tournament. What makes it even better is that it will probably be the last conference game for both teams as they play on April 26.

-With Ohio State and Michigan in the conference, many teams will get their first experience to play in stadiums rich in football history as they play in Ohio Stadium aka the Horseshoe, as well as The Big House in Michigan. Ohio State will not only host Maryland but will do so with a little extra something added on. The game is labeled as the 2015 Showdown in the Shoe. The Buckeyes and Terrapins will meet at 11 a.m. April 18 in Ohio Stadium prior to the Ohio State football spring game. It should go a long way in furthering the expansion and buzz around lacrosse in the midwest as lacrosse tries and grows as a sport in non-traditional hotbed areas.

-Ohio State and Michigan’s growth as lacrosse programs, specifically Michigan. When Michigan announced it’s program would go Division 1, it gave hope to lacrosse fans that big football schools outside of the east coast may be coming around to the idea of adding lacrosse to its athletic department and thus showing that a team could have both football and lacrosse programs despite the rules of Title IX. Ohio State has been a pretty regular presence in the Top 20 over the past decade while Michigan is still building. If the Wolverines could take a step forward by making some noise against Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Penn State and Ohio State, that would be huge for the growth of not onlt the program but the game of lacrosse as well.

-A lot of the focus during this article has been about growing the sport but lets look at the on-the-field product. Maryland has many questions on its team, especially after sophomore Matt Rambo (36 pts in 2014) was recently suspended indefinitely because of his involvement in a possible assault case. Rambo was a huge part of the Terps offense last season and he was supposed to have a bigger role after graduation saw several of the Terps top offensive players leave. While Maryland certainly has top flight talent every year, they will be extremely young, especially on defense as they lost a pair of All Americans in goalie Niko Amato and defenseman Michael Ehrhardt. They also lost Connor Cannizzaro (34 pts in 2014) to Denver by way of transfer.

-Johns Hopkins brings in a ton of talent as they add the No. 1 ranked recruiting class according to Inside Lacrosse. No. 1 recruit Shack Stanwick reunites with his brother Wells Stanwick and they will give opposing defenses fits all year long. Hopkins also brings back a ton of experience on both offense and defense and should be one of the top teams in the nation.

-Penn State leaves the CAA after a rocky divorce that prevented them from competing in the conference tournament in 2014 and they missed the NCAA Tournament. Penn State will lose Austin Kaut in goal as well as stud attackman Shane Sturgis who led the team with 50 points. It will be interesting to see who steps up on offense, especially after they struggled to score last season.

-Rutgers loses a lot of experience from last year’s team as many seniors depart including three of their top point getters in Scott Klimchak, Anthony Terranova and Nick DePaolera. They were 8-8 last season which was an improvement from their 2-13 2013 campaign. However, they will get no easy games in their first season in the B1G.

-The faceoffmen in this conference are some of the best in the country. Maryland’s Charlie Raffa ranked second in the nation in faceoff percentage, Rutgers’ Joseph Nardella ranked sixth, Penn State’s Drake Kreinz ranked ninth and Johns Hopkins’ Drew Kennedy ranked 14th. It will be a battle every game in the conference and it should feature a lot of 50-50 battles in the middle of the field.

-Ohio State’s offense should be really good this season. They return their Top 10 scorers from last season including senior midfielders Jesse King (58 pts) and Turner Evans (29 pts). Their offense as a whole will test anyone of their opponents. After an up and down year in 2014, this offense could be good enough to carry this team while the defense finds itself in the early part of the season.