Here is the third installment of an attempt at a preseason and premature poll for next season.
The top 20 will be broken up into four installments with Wednesday's post involving teams ranked from Nos. 10 to 6. Monday featured Nos. 20 to 16, and Tuesday looked at Nos. 15 to 11. Thursday will highlight teams ranked Nos. 5 to 1. Friday will include three schools not mentioned in the poll that could make some waves.
Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2010 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here's a spin anyway.
10. Massachusetts (2011 record: 10-5; Tournament finish: no tournament)
Losses: No starters, but two key contributors in first-line midfielder Ryan Hantverk (18, 9) and short-stick defensive midfielder Stephen Zonkers (16 GBs, 8 CTs).
Returners: All 10 starters including the entire starting attack of sophomore Will Manny (22, 23), junior Art Kell (28, 16), and sophomore Kyle Smith (11, 4) and the starting defense of juniors Tom Celentani (34 GBs, 22 CTs) and Greg Anderson (17 GBs, 13 CTs) and sophomore Jake Smith (25 GBs, 25 CTs) and junior goalkeeper Tim McCormack (8.33 GAA, .548 save percentage).
Reason for pessimism: The Minutemen have never captured the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship. Can they end the drought with what may be their most talented team returning?
Reason for optimism: Hantverk's absence could be mitigated by the presence of incoming recruit Brandon Gamblin, an Under Armour All-American midfielder.
9. Harvard (10-6; no tournament)
Losses: Just two starters in attackmen Dean Gibbons (30 goals and 29 assists) and Matt Hull (14, 8) and two key contributors in defenseman Sam Steyer (18 ground balls and 7 caused turnovers) and faceoff specialist Andrew Parchman (49 GBs, 117-of-226 for .518).
Returners: Eight of the team's top 10 scorers including junior attackman Jeff Cohen (31, 2), junior attackman Kevin Vaughan (19, 8), freshman attackman Daniel Eipp (16, 8) and junior midfielder Terry White (15, 7).
Reason for pessimism: Despite the return of the entire starting defense of junior Paul Pate (24 GBs, 6 CTs), sophomore Jason Gonos (27 GBs, 13 CTs) and freshman Joe Petrucci (10 GBs, 2 CTs) and sophomore goalkeeper Harry Krieger (9.38 goals-against average and .539 save percentage), opponents scored an average of 9.4 goals against the Crimson last season.
Reason for optimism: Harvard's incoming recruiting class includes four Under Armour All Americans in defensemen Brian Fischer and Stephen Jahelka, midfielder Sean Mahon and goalie Jake Gambitsky.
8. Villanova (11-5; first round)
Losses: Only one starter in defenseman Chris Ficke (43 GBs, 15 CTs) and three key contributors in long-stick midfielder and Big East Defensive Player of the Year Brian Karalunas (74GBs, 70 CTs) and short-stick defensive midfielders Andrew Henrich (3, 4; 15 GBs) and T.J. O'Donnell (15 GBs).
Returners: Nine starters including the entire starting attack of sophomores Jack Rice (34, 3) and Will Casertano (18, 17) and junior Kevin Cunningham (24, 21) and the starting midfield of juniors Matt Bell (18, 11) and Michael Vigilante (14, 9) and sophomore Nick Doherty (12, 12).
Reason for pessimism: The return of sophomore goalkeeper Billy Hurley (8.33 GAA, .482 save percentage) and junior defensemen Chris Creighton (38 GBs, 18 CTs) and Ryan McDonagh (16 GBs) should help, but how much will the Wildcats miss Karalunas, Ficke, Henrich and O'Donnell?
Reason for optimism: The offense should get plenty of chances to help out the defense courtesy of a faceoff unit that includes junior Nolan Vihlen (18 GBs, 108-of-197 for .548) and freshman Thomas Croonquist (38 GBs, 81-of-135 for .600).
7. Notre Dame (11-3; quarterfinals)
Losses: Four starters in midfielders David Earl (15, 10) and Zach Brenneman (16, 6) and defensemen Kevin Ridgway (13 GBs, 12 CTs) and Sam Barnes (14 GBs, 8 CTs) and three key contributors in attackman Colin Igoe (16, 4), long-stick midfielder Andrew Irving (3, 3; 20 GBs, 4 CTs) and faceoff specialist Jake Marmul (31 GBs, 64-of-115 for .557).
Returners: Six starters including the entire attack of juniors Sean Rogers (18, 7) and Nicholas Beattie (8, 1) and sophomore Ryan Foley (8, 4).
Reason for pessimism: Junior midfielder Max Pfeifer (9, 8) returns, but it's up to junior Eric Keppeler (5, 5) and sophomores Steve Murphy (6, 4) and Pat Cotter (5, 3) to fill the void on the first line.
Reason for optimism: In addition to a pair of defensive starters in goalie John Kemp (6.60 GAA, .602 save percentage) and junior defenseman Kevin Randall (10 GBs, 5 CTs), junior long-stick midfielder Bobby Smith (18 GBs, 8 CTs) and junior defenseman Jake Brems (18 GBs, 5 CTs) figure to fortify the unit that finished the season ranked second in the country after surrendering an average of 6.6 goals per game.
6. North Carolina (10-6; first round)
Losses: Three starters in defensemen Ryan Flanagan (3, 2; 44 GBs, 29 CTs) and Kevin Piegare (12 GBs, 8 CTs) and attackman Billy Bitter (25, 14) and two key contributors in short-stick defensive midfielders Michael Burns (22 GBs) and Chris Hunt (10 GBs).
Returners: Seven starters including the entire starting midfield of sophomore Marcus Holman (23, 5), junior Jimmy Dunster (13, 8), and freshman Duncan Hutchins (7, 6) and freshman attackman Nicky Galasso (24, 32) and junior attackman Thomas Wood (21, 13).
Reason for pessimism: The defense will lean on a pair of starters in junior defenseman Charlie McComas (30 GBs, 9 CTs) and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Steven Rastivo (8.18 GAA, .534 save percentage in nine starts), but can freshman defenseman Jordan Smith (8 GBs, 4 CTs in seven starts) and junior long-stick midfielder Mark Staines (30 GBs, 15 CTs) further solidify that unit?
Reason for optimism: A Tar Heels incoming class that includes five Under Armour All Americans could be even more impressive if sophomore attackman Davey Emala, who led Georgetown in both points (48) and goals (35) in 2011, transfers to North Carolina as previously reported.