The Reverb: Whipping Poll
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Well, that was quick.
It took just 19 days into February for eight of the Division I Top 10 preseason squads to get a blemish on the record. Granted, we knew that at least three top tens were going to take a loss just by the nature of the schedule, but it just sounds more dramatic this way.
And drama is what we want at this time of year.
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The season is just coughing to life and the association is looking for that momentum that only a bunch of upsets can provide. Our members certainly delivered in spades.
We’ve heard for years about how preseason polls somehow pollute or skew the poll for the first part of the year because we’re working off of last year’s information.
On its face, that is certainly true.
Minnesota was ranked No. 8 in the preseason poll because they were a quarterfinalist at the 2022 MCLA National Championships presented by New Balance. Top 8. Simple math, really.
Similarly, a team like Chapman -- coming off a 7-7 campaign and missing not only the national tournament, but also the SLC playoffs -- would expect to be ranked in the fourth tier, if at all.
When the Gophers open the season with losses to No. 18 Chapman and No. 16 Northeastern, it speaks more to the year-to-year fluctuations, not necessarily that the poll is "wrong."
Does anyone honestly believe that two-time defending national champion South Carolina shouldn’t have been No. 1 in the preseason poll?
Of course not. That’s why the 0-2 weekend in the Sunshine State for the Gamecocks was so jarring. Same thing with Clemson’s start.
It’s impossible for the pollsters to determine who is coming back, who transferred in, who got in a stud freshman class, which staff members left, etc. As such, you’ll have years like this one so far.
The preseason poll is a necessity, however.
We can’t enter a season in a complete vacuum where every team is weighted the same. It would severely impact scheduling, with teams loading up on programs not quite ready for the national limelight in order to rack up a gaudy record.
And by nature, pollsters would still default to traditional powers. With the preseason poll, those reputational programs can be exposed relatively early if there has been a backslide.
In short, there has to be some baseline in which to start the season to determine who is worthy of a ranking going forward. It may not be pretty at times, but certainly important.
It was certainly a rough weekend for South Carolina, losing a pair of games on the road by a combined three goals. The Gamecocks, now sporting a 1-2 record, will certainly drop out of the No. 1 ranking they brought into the season.
It’s a far cry from last year when South Carolina started…1-2?
That’s right. The Cocks had losses to Boston College and Liberty sandwiched around a win over Virginia Tech to kick off their title defense in 2022.
In fact, Carolina was a modest 3-3 in mid-March before going on a 14-game bender culminating in another crown.
The past is not always a predictor of the future, but you might want to hold off on burying the Gamecocks -- or any of the slow starters -- quite yet.
Eight of the preseason Division I Top 10 teams have an 'L' heading into the first weekly poll. Who has the edge for No. 1? #mcla23
— 2023 MCLA National Tourney (@MCLA_Tournament) February 18, 2023
MY TOP FIVES
1. Florida State (3-0) – Beat both the champs and the only team to beat Florida (BC).
2. Virginia Tech (4-0) – Hokies finally have a Top 10 win to go with the silly stats.
3. Chapman (2-0) –The Joel Kallas era begins with two ranked road wins.
4. UC Santa Barbara (4-0) – Miracle comeback against Penguins has Gauchos rolling.
5. Boston College (1-1) – Currently the only team to beat Florida.
1. Rhode Island (4-1) – Rams had to work for it, but took care of business in Bama.
2. UC San Diego (2-0) – Midweek game against Claremont is no gimme.
3. St. Thomas (1-0) – Finally get back in action against the Montana faction.
4. Wake Forest (4-0) – Win over FAU vaults the Deacons into the mix.
5. Utah State (1-2) – Record looks ugly, but both losses come to solid D-I outfits.
Amazing job this weekend Lax Cats. We made ourselves KNOWN.
— Arizona Lacrosse (@UofAMensLax) February 20, 2023
SNEAK PEEK AT THE WEEK
The MCLA very rarely eases into the conference schedule like other associations, and this year is no exception. There are 33 league matchups this coming weekend that create an early shape to a lot of conference races.
One of those is first-year program Denver visiting Air Force in an RMLC-II clash. A lot of eyes are on the Pioneers, especially after the instant success of Utah last spring.
Also in D-II, Big Sky Country meets the North Star State in Minot, N.D., as Montana and Montana State run up against St. Thomas and Minn.-Duluth on Saturday and Sunday.
In Division I, the RMLC heads to the southeast as Colorado, Colorado State and Utah Valley all give themselves early road testers.
Successful Alabama trip. Getting back into it next weekend in Tally pic.twitter.com/DagcWV5zye
— Canes Lacrosse (@UMiamiLacrosse) February 19, 2023
SLIDES & RIDES
- Is UC Santa Barbara the early favorite in the WCLL now? If they do win the conference, the Gauchos will look back on their improbable victory over Dominican on Saturday as catalyst. UCSB fell behind 9-1 after the first quarter, battled back and then scored the final seven markers of the contest – including the overtime game-winner – for the victory.
- Utah passed its first tests as a Division I program, taking down Washington and USC at the Pac-12 Shootout. That’s a nice confidence-booster for the Utes…Arizona State’s loss to San Diego was a surprise in itself, but also the manner of the setback. The Aztecs manhandled the Devils...on the flipside, color me intrigued about SDSU’s upcoming trip to Sonoma and Dominican…the 23 goals against Minnesota catches the eye, but I was more impressed with Chapman’s defense on the road trip.
- College of Idaho now has two one-goal losses to ranked teams. The Yotes are a quality program, just need a bounce or two…playing all of the D-I teams may not make the record look pretty, but Utah State should benefit greatly as the season goes on…Rhode Island has a couple of weeks off before tangling with Grand Valley State in Kingston…we get our first look at Drury and old friend Dustin Rich this weekend.
- As always head coaches, get those nominations for PEARL Goalie of the Week and Warrior Player of the Week in to [email protected] ASAP…first weekly poll drops on Wednesday morning.