Projected NCAA Tournament seeds
1. North Carolina (Atlantic Coast Conference)
Last season: 12-6, NCAA champion
Coach: Joe Breschi (Ninth season, 91-41; 20th season, 183-104)
Top returning scorer: Chris Cloutier, junior attackman (43 goals, 14 assists)
Other key returnees: Luke Goldstock, senior A (31 G, 22 A); Stephen Kelly, senior faceoff specialist (57.4 percent, 126 ground balls, 3 G, 6 A); Austin Pifani, senior defenseman (22 GB, 14 caused turnovers)
Key newcomers: Justin Anderson, freshman midfielder; Matthew Gavin, freshman A; William Perry, freshman M
Outlook: The Tar Heels unveiled a superstar-in-waiting when Cloutier set NCAA tournament record for goals in a postseason (19) and goals on championship weekend (14). But a midfield beset by the graduation of Patrick Kelly (27 G, 11 A) and the decision not to enroll by Shane Simpson (8 G, 14 A) could hamper an offense that averaged 13.1 goals last spring.
2. Denver (Big East)
Last season: 13-3, NCAA tournament first round
Coach: Bill Tierney (eighth season, 96-28; 32nd season overall, 368-121)
Top returning scorer: Connor Cannizzaro, senior A (46 G, 23 A)
Other key returnees: Trevor Baptiste, junior F/O (69.4 percent, 163 GB, 2 G, 3 A); Christian Burgdorf, senior D (39 GB, 12 CT); Tyler Pace, senior M (21 G, 24 A)
Key newcomers: Danny Logan, freshman M; Kyle Smith, freshman M; Ethan Walker, freshman A
Outlook: Cannizzaro is a preseason favorite for the Tewaaraton Award, and Burgdorf and sophomore goalkeeper Alex Ready (9.00 goals-against average and .519 save percentage) stabilize the defense. But the midfield is in flux after senior Zach Miller (27 G, 23 A) elected not to enroll this year and junior Brendan Bomberry (19 G, 14 A) transferred to Syracuse.
3. Loyola Maryland (Patriot League)
Last season: 14-4, NCAA tournament semifinal
Coach: Charley Toomey (12th season, 111-54)
Top returning scorer: Pat Spencer, sophomore A (37 G, 52 A)
Other key returnees: Foster Huggins, junior D (24 GB, 23 CT); Brian Sherlock, redshirt senior M (24 G, 13 A); Jacob Stover, sophomore GK (7.80 goals-against average, .569 save percentage)
Key newcomers: Wiley Bonham, freshman A; Matt Higgins, freshman SSDM; Alex McGovern, sophomore A/M
Outlook: Adding senior attackman Zack Sirico (19 G, 14 A) and senior midfielder Romar Dennis (15 G, 5 A) to a mix that already includes Spencer and Sherlock should keep the offense rolling. Stover, Huggins, and senior defenseman Jack Carrigan (37 GB, 22 CT) anchor a defense seeking to replace graduated defenseman David Manning (21 GB, 14 CT).
4. Johns Hopkins (Big Ten)
Last season: 8-7, NCAA tournament first round
Coach: Dave Pietramala (17th season, 177-69; 20th season overall, 200-86)
Top returning scorer: Shack Stanwick, junior A (20 goals, 38 assists)
Other key returnees: John Crawley, senior M (17 G, 9 A); Wilkins Dismuke, senior A (24 G, 3 A); Nick Fields, senior D (35 ground balls, 9 caused turnovers)
Key newcomers: Gerald Hogan, graduate student GK; Forry Smith, freshman A; Cole Williams, freshman A
Outlook: The return of Joel Tinney (28 G, 10 A in 2015) from an NCAA violation and Connor Reed (10 G, 16 A in 2015) from a torn anterior cruciate ligament gives the Blue Jays perhaps the deepest midfield in Division I. A defense that allowed 11.6 goals in 2016 recently lost starting sophomore defenseman Patrick Foley to academic issues.
Others in Maryland
Maryland (Big Ten)
Last season: 17-3, NCAA tournament final
Coach: John Tillman (seventh season, 80-26; ninth season overall, 100-45)
Top returning scorer: Matt Rambo, senior A (43 G, 32 A)
Other key returnees: Isaiah Davis-Allen, senior SSDM (4 G, 1 A, 45 GB, 11 CT); Colin Heacock, senior A (42 G, 12 A); Tim Muller, senior D (42 GB, 24 CT)
Key newcomers: Jared Bernhardt, freshman M; Steven Shollenberger, freshman A/M; Jack Welding, freshman D
Outlook: Rambo, Heacock, and senior Dylan Maltz (29 G, 9 A) give the Terps one of the best attack units in the country, and junior Connor Kelly (31 G, 13 A) headlines the midfield. After backing up Niko Amato and Kyle Bernlohr, redshirt junior goalie Dan Morris gets the nod despite not making a start in his previous two years.
Mount St. Mary's (Northeast Conference)
Last season: 6-8, missed NCAA tournament
Coach: Tom Gravante (22nd season, 140-187)
Top returning scorer: Chris DiPretoro, sophomore A (22 G, 5 A)
Other key returnees: Bubba Johnson, fifth-year senior M (16 G, 9 A); Jack Mangan, sophomore SSDM (7 G, 6 A, 47 GB, 21 CT); Matt Vierheller, junior GK (10.50 goals-against average, .430 save percentage)
Key newcomers: Brendan Doyle, freshman A; Keaton Mitchell, freshman M; Shawn Raum, freshman F/O
Outlook: The Mountaineers raised their scoring average from 7.3 goals in 2015 to 9.6 to 2016, but DiPretoro and Johnson must make up for the graduation of attackman Mark Hojnoski (26 G, 16 A) and midfielder Justin Gosnell (13 G, 9 A). The defense appears well-stocked with Mangan, Vierheller, and junior defenseman Daniel Barber (28 GB, 10 CT).
Navy (Patriot League)
Last season: 11-5, NCAA tournament quarterfinal
Coach: Rick Sowell (sixth season, 33-36; 18th season overall, 119-117)
Top returning scorer: Jack Ray, junior A (26 G, 12 A)
Other key returnees: Brady Dove, senior F/O (57.9 percentage, 87 GB); Chris Fennell, senior D (35 GB, 23 CT); Matt Rees, senior LSM (7 G, 1 A, 62 GB, 26 CT)
Key newcomers: Brad Alexander, freshman M; Ryan Kern, freshman GK; Tommy Miller, freshman D
Outlook: A defense that ranked second in the nation at 7.4 goals per game should continue to be stout under Fennell and Rees if Kern can develop quickly as the starter. The season-ending knee injury to junior midfielder Casey Rees (34 G, 3 A) puts pressure on Ray and the rest of a young offense to find their shooting touch quickly.
Towson (Colonial Athletic Association)
Last season: 16-3, NCAA tournament quarterfinal
Coach: Shawn Nadelen (sixth season, 53-32)
Top returning scorer: Ryan Drenner, senior A (33 G, 23 A)
Other key returnees: Jack Adams, senior SSDM (11 GB, 12 CT); Tyler Mayes, senior LSM (30 GB, 25 CT); Joe Seider, junior A (35 G, 5 A)
Key newcomers: Sid Ewell, junior D; Connor Harryman, junior F/O; Alex Woodall, sophomore F/O
Outlook: The offense continues to be in good hands with Drenner and Seider and could grow even more dangerous if Harryman (a Bellarmine transfer) and Woodall (High Point) can fortify the faceoff unit. The biggest question mark involves a defense that graduated all three starting defensemen and its starting goalkeeper after leading the country in fewest goals per game.
UMBC (America East)
Last season: 4-10, missed NCAA tournament
Coach: Ryan Moran (First season)
Top returning scorer: Max Maxwell, senior A (15 G, 30 A)
Other key returnees: Jack Andrews, sophomore A (14 G, 15 A); Max Haldeman, junior M (15 G, 7 A); Billy O'Hara, junior LSM (41 GB, 17 CT)
Key newcomers: Jake Brothers, freshman F/O; Ian Leek, sophomore A; Austin Mitchell, junior M
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Outlook: Back-to-back absences from the America East tournament paved the way for Moran to replace Don Zimmerman at the helm. Moran inherits an offense that graduated attackman Nate Lewnes (43 G, 7 A), but could offer more balance. The defense's fortitude may depend largely on whether seniors Connor Gordon or Ruston Souder can bring stability to the goalie position.