The word “drought” will no longer be associated with Maryland after the No. 1 seed’s 9-6 victory over No. 3 seed Ohio State in Monday’s NCAA Division I tournament final at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., ended a 42-year streak without a national championship. The loss spoiled what had been a record-setting season for the Buckeyes, but they might have laid the foundation for the future.
Is it too early to look ahead to 2018? Probably, but I’m a glutton for punishment. So here is a very premature attempt to compile preseason rankings for next season.
The top 20 will be broken up into four installments with Tuesday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 20 to 16. Wednesday's will feature Nos. 15 to 11, Thursday's Nos. 10 to 6 and Friday's Nos. 5 to 1.
Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2016 will not return next season. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out in February, but here’s a spin anyway.
20. Air Force (2017 record: 12-6; NCAA tournament finish: first round)
Losses: Two starters in defenseman Nicholas Accardi (40 ground balls and 15 caused turnovers) and goalkeeper Mitch Rose (8.04 goals-against average and .479 save percentage).
Returns: Eight starters, including the entire attack of juniors Chris Walsch (36 goals and 28 assists) and Nick Hruby (35 G, 10 A) and freshman Matthew Schwartz (13 G, 11 A).
Reason for pessimism: Freshman Paxton Boyer (7.82 GAA, .443 save percentage), who is poised to succeed Rose, was the early-season starter before being replaced by Rose.
Reason for optimism: An offense that scored 10.9 goals per game should be led again by Walsch, the two-time Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
19. Army West Point (12-4; no tournament)
Losses: Three starters in attackman Cole Johnson (29 G, 19 A), midfielder Gunnar Miller (10 G, 6 A) and defenseman Reaves Klipstein (35 GB, 12 CT).
Returns: Seven starters, including four of the team’s top five scorers, led by junior midfielder David Symmes (25 G, 10 A) and sophomore attackman Nate Jones (27 G, 6 A).
Reason for pessimism: Finding a replacement for Patriot League Faceoff Specialist of the Year Dan Grabher (62.8 percent on 186 of 296 and 113 ground balls) will be a significant priority in the offseason.
Reason for optimism: A defense that surrendered an average of 8.2 goals welcomes back sophomore goalkeeper A.J. Barretto (8.47 GAA, .508 save percentage) and freshman defenseman Johnny Surdick (42 GB, 29 CT).
18. Brown (10-6; no tournament)
Losses: Three starters, including attackman Dylan Molloy (44 G, 27 A), midfielder Matt Graham (12 G, 18 A) and defensemen Alec Tulett (46 GB, 18 CT).
Returns: Seven starters, including five of the team’s top seven scorers, paced by freshman attackman Luke McCaleb (27 G, 22 A) and junior midfielder Stephen Hudak (34 G, 9 A).
Reason for pessimism: A defense that gave up 12.8 goals per game not only lost Tulett, but also bade farewell to long-stick midfielder Larken Kemp (77 GB, 27 CT, 8 G, 9 A).
Reason for optimism: An offense that averaged 14.3 goals could get plenty of chances thanks to junior faceoff specialist Ted Ottens, who ranked 11th in the country with a .597 percentage (270 of 452) and 10th with 7.2 ground balls per game.
17. Johns Hopkins (8-7; first round)
Losses: Five starters, including two defensemen in Nick Fields (23 GB, 19 CT) and Trevor Koelsch (12 GB, 11 CT).
Returns: Five starters, including four of the team’s top five scorers, led by junior attackman Shack Stanwick (26 G, 21 A) and sophomore attackman Kyle Marr (25 G, 20 A).
Reason for pessimism: Can junior goalkeeper Brock Turnbaugh (12.59 GAA, .408 save percentage in seven starts) establish himself as the full-time starter?
Reason for optimism: The defense could fill one of the vacancies caused by the departure of Fields and Koelsch with the return of sophomore Patrick Foley (23 GB, 11 CT) from academic ineligibility.
16. Syracuse (13-3; quarterfinals)
Losses: Five starters, including its top two scorers in midfielders Sergio Salcido (18 G, 33 A) and Nick Mariano (34 G, 16 A).
Returns: Five starters, including a pair of attackmen in junior Brendan Bomberry (28 G, 10 A) and sophomore Nate Solomon (28 G, 8 A).
Reason for pessimism: An offense that scored 12.1 goals per game might see fewer opportunities with the graduation of faceoff specialist Ben Williams (53.9 percent on 181 of 336 and 75 GB).
Reason for optimism: A defense that bade farewell to defenseman Scott Firman (32 GB, 16 CT) and goalie Evan Molloy (10.05 GAA, .495 save percentage) is poised to welcome back sophomore defenseman Nick Mellen (38 GB, 14 CT in 2016) from an unspecified injury.