Here is the final installment of a very premature attempt to compile a preseason poll for next year.
The top 20 was broken up into four installments with Friday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 5 to 1. Tuesday featured teams ranked from Nos. 20 to 16, Wednesday highlighted teams ranked from Nos. 15 to 11, and Thursday centered on teams ranked Nos. 10 to 6.
Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2014 will not return next season. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here’s a spin anyway.
5. Johns Hopkins (2014 record: 11-5; NCAA tournament finish: quarterfinals)
Losses: Three starters in attackman Brandon Benn (40 goals and five assists), midfielder Rob Guida (16 G, 17 A) and defenseman Jack Reilly (20 ground balls and six caused turnovers).
Returners: Seven starters including junior attackman Wells Stanwick (23 G, 44 A) and sophomore attackman Ryan Brown (40 G, 14 A).
Reason for pessimism: After the six starters and freshman midfielder John Crawley (12 G, 6 A), no other offensive player finished with more than four points. Developing additional depth is a concern.
Reason for optimism: A defense that ranked 17th in Division I at 8.9 goals per game returns this past season’s starting goalkeeper, two starting defensemen, two starting short-stick defensive midfielders and top two long-stick midfielders.
4. North Carolina (10-5; first round)
Losses: Two starters in attackman Pat Foster (18 G, 19 A) and defenseman Jordan Smith (14 GB, 8 CT).
Returners: Eight starters including the entire midfield of junior Chad Tutton (23 G, 5 A), sophomore Steve Pontrello (14 G, 3 A) and freshman Shane Simpson (11 G, 6 A).
Reason for pessimism: Despite boasting one of the more talented rosters on an annual basis, the Tar Heels have not advanced to the Final Four since 1993. This past spring’s first-round exit from the NCAA tournament led to the dismissal of associate head coach and offensive coordinator Pat Myers.
Reason for optimism: The nucleus of a potent offense is still there led by junior attackmen Joey Sankey (33 G, 24 A) and Jimmy Bitter (30 G, 7 A).
3. Notre Dame (12-6; finals)
Losses: Three starters in attackman John Scioscia (30 G and 4 A), midfielder Jim Marlatt (13 G, 9 A) and defenseman Stephen O’Hara (32 GB, 21 CT).
Returners: Seven starters including three of the team’s top four scorers in sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh (42 G, 33 A), junior attackman Conor Doyle (31 G, 19 A) and freshman midfielder Sergio Perkovic (28 G, 5 A).
Reason for pessimism: A defense that dipped to 24th in the country at 9.6 goals per game not only graduated O’Hara, but also starting long-stick midfielder Chris Prevoznik (16 GB, 9 CT) and two of its top four short-stick defensive midfielders in Tyler Brenneman (3 G, 3 A, 23 GB, 5 CT) and Matthew Collins (6 GB, 4 CT).
Reason for optimism: The incoming freshman class includes five Under Armour All Americans, which ties Maryland for the second-most behind 2013 and 2014 national champion Duke’s six representatives.
2. Syracuse (11-6; first round)
Losses: Three starters including a pair on defense in defenseman Matt Harris (27 GB, 21 CT) and goalie Dominic Lamolinara (12.38 goals-against average and .486 save percentage).
Returners: Seven starters including the entire attack of juniors Kevin Rice (36 G, 44 A) and Randy Staats (33 G, 23 A) and sophomore Dylan Donahue (37 G, 17 A).
Reason for pessimism: For all of the team’s documented troubles on faceoffs, Chris Daddio won 50.4 percent (186-of-369) of his draws. Now that he has graduated, the Orange will have to turn to five players who combined for 74 faceoffs this past spring.
Reason for optimism: Some observers have said that junior Bobby Wardwell (10.60 GAA, .513 save percentage) is a better goalkeeper despite Lamolinara making 15 of 16 possible starts.
1. Denver (16-3; semifinals)
Losses: Only one starter in midfielder Jeremy Noble (13 G, 36 A).
Returners: Nine starters including the entire defense of three close defensemen in junior Teddy MacKenzie (28 GB, 10 CT), sophomore Carson Cannon (13 GB, 9 CT) and freshman Christian Burgdorf (28 GB, 13 CT) and junior goalie Ryan LaPlante (8.66 GAA, .563 save percentage).
Reason for pessimism: With the departure of Jamie Faus (8.15 GAA, .547 save percentage), the onus is on LaPlante to play the first and second halves for a defense that ranked 10th in the nation at 8.5 goals per game.
Reason for optimism: An offense that ranked third in Division I at 13.2 goals can rely on the return of its starting attack in junior Wesley Berg (48 G, 20 A), sophomore Jack Bobzien (42 G, 21 A) and freshman Zach Miller (38 G, 19 A).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun