With back-to-back victories over Syracuse and Duke – the teams that played in the NCAA title game last year – Maryland was the easy pick to be anointed the No. 1 team in almost every poll this week.
But that ranking means little to coach John Tillman, who spent a considerable amount of time during his weekly conference call Tuesday morning downplaying the significance of the accolade for the Terps (4-0 overall, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
“I think most coaches would tell you that we don’t want to be ranked No. 1,” he said. “We don’t care about it. Right now, I don’t think we’re the best team in the country. I like our team, I like the guys in our locker room, and I think we have potential. But do I think we are the No. 1 team? No, I just don’t. I just think we have a long way to go. I’ve seen some other teams, but because other people feel that way, we have to live with somebody putting us at No. 1. I don’t feel that way.
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"At the end of the day, people might be critical of us, but we never said we were the best team in the country. I disagree that we are. I wouldn’t trade my players for anybody, but I also don’t think it’s necessary for me to compare my team against all the other teams and rank them in February and March. Honestly, I don’t think any other coach does. It’s a tricky dynamic to deal with. I don’t think we want to be the best team in March. Everybody wants to be the best team in May. So anything we do to talk about it or focus on it is really wasted time because you could be doing other things.”
Just as Blue Devils coach John Danowski voted for Maryland as the top team in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association coaches poll last week, Tillman endorsed another ACC rival when turning in his ballot sheet this week.
“Candidly, and I have to do the coaches’ voting, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t vote Virginia No. 1,” he said of the Cavaliers, who are 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the league and ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll. “They have three top 20 wins and we only have two. We both share a Syracuse win. Virginia has a win over [No. 5] Loyola, which is ranked in the top five, and they also have a [No. 17] Drexel win. We do not. They have more wins than us. I think if you look at Virginia, their body of work is stronger than ours. I think we both share a Mount St. Mary’s win.
"If you look at it, I think Virginia has done more right now, and I would anticipate Virginia being No. 1 in the next couple weeks here because they have a hard schedule. They have to play [No. 15] Cornell this weekend, and if they get that, that’s another top 20 win. I think if you’re looking at the body of work, you really have to give them credit for what they’re doing. Certainly not trying to penalize our guys, but I’m not real concerned about rankings. I won’t be concerned about rankings all year. All we can control is what we’re doing in our program.”
The No. 1 ranking would seem to affirm that Tillman and his coaches have pushed the right buttons in molding a Maryland squad that graduated four starters on offense. But Tillman said the ranking is merely just another reminder to initiate a self-review process.
“I’m not sure if we’re validated,” he said. “I think we’ve found a way to get by right now and to be able to compete. I do think we really need to re-evaluate what we’re doing, who’s playing, how we’re playing. Are we doing what we should be doing on offense and defense? Are we playing the right people the right way? With some injuries, should we be making some changes? I think that’s really been our emphasis since Saturday’s game. Now that four games are in the books, how can we get better?”