Big Ten Conference 2019 Projections
Updated: Feb 1, 2019
In this article, we will be going over my projected order of finish in the Big Ten conference. This article does not take into account how far a team may go in the postseason. It is only focused on how a team will finish in their conference during the regular season and conference tournament, if they qualify for a spot. Enjoy!
6. Penn State
The Nittany Lions are a trendy pick to win the Big Ten and make a run in the NCAA tournament. They have one of the best attack units in the country. The thing is, Penn State has always had one of the best attack units in the country under Jeff Tambroni, but it’s never mattered. Offense isn’t the problem for Penn State, it’s the defense.
When you look at the base stats on defense, they look good: 9.57 goals against average and a total of 134 goals given up. When your offense averages 12.57 goals a game, you should be okay with that number. However, when you dig deeper, you notice Penn State lost the fourth quarter battle 37-49 in 2018. Generally, the defense would play well against teams such as Maryland for three quarters; yet, when it came down to put it all away, the team would fail to do so. The fourth quarter is the worst time for your offense/defense to disappear, and that is what killed Penn State in 2018 and years prior.
Penn State will have an elite offense in 2019 though with Mac O’Keefe (35 goals, 11 assists) at attack, the return of injured Grant Ament, and midfielder Nick Spillane (19 goals, 27 assists). Chris Sabia, Michael Aronow (24 groundballs), and Colby Kneese (8.91 goals against average) will have something to say about my defensive criticisms, and I hope they prove me wrong. Unfortunately, until the team can win in the fourth quarter, I have the Nittany Lions down to have a disappointing season under Tambroni.
5. Ohio State
Ohio State was one of the biggest surprises in 2018, and not in a good way. From a team that made the national championship game in 2017 to not even making the tournament in 2018, the Buckeyes were a disappointment. Truthfully, the Buckeyes are somewhat of a wild card. Nick Meyer is an elite coach, so I could see them making a run at the conference title this year, but I can also see them struggling.
The good news is the Buckeyes return both Tre LeClaire (26 goals, 11 assists) and Jackson Reid (23 goals, 5 assists) on offense. The Buckeyes only gave up 129 goals on defense but didn’t take advantage of it as they only got 134 on their opponents. One way to improve their win total is to perform better on the man up, where they only scored .273% of the time.
Sadly, I don’t think the Buckeyes will do much better in 2019. Not because of the Buckeyes per se, but other teams around them have improved while they seem stuck in neutral. I think it takes one more year for the Buckeyes to get back on track to their 2017 glory days; therefore, chalk 2019 up as a rebuilding year.
Just like what Michigan football fans say every year: “This is it. This is the year where we do it”. I think this is finally the year Michigan breaks through the glass ceiling and makes the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines have improved under second year head coach, Kevin Conry, and it showed with them beating school rival, Notre Dame, and scaring eventual national champion, Yale.
Defensively, the blue and maize were dangerous as they brought their goals against average down to 9.71 compared to 11.29 in 2017. They caused 89 turnovers, which is solid. Michigan also returns Finn Goonan on defense, who is an aggressive yet smart player.
The offense will be just as good, or better in 2019 as the Wolverines return star midfielder Brent Noseworthy (41 goals, 7 assists) and starting attackman Kevin Mack (21 goals, 21 assists). For the Wolverines to take another step on the offensive side of the field, they will need one more player to step up.
The Wolverines only won one Big Ten game last year, but they are no longer a pushover. They won’t win the conference this year but I think they will do just enough to beat Penn State and Ohio State to be Maryland’s sacrificial lamb in the conference playoffs.
3. Johns Hopkins
This will come as a surprise, but I have Johns Hopkins not making the conference championship game. The Blue Jays are talented, as they always are, but they lose some star players that will be tough to replace.
Attackman Kyle Marr (41 goals, 17 assists) is back, and will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses; however, the Blue Jays lose Joel Tinney and Shack Stanwick. Hopkins also loses their best defenseman in Robert Kuhn. If any team in D1 lacrosse can replace players of that caliber, it’s Hopkins. Yet, they will have to show their replacements can mirror that efficiency before I slide them into a higher spot. Hopkins will make the NCAA tournament, but they may have a tougher time in the Big Ten during 2019.
Rutgers has been so close these past couple of years. Like Michigan, this is the year they finally do it. No, I’m not talking about winning the Big Ten. I mean they will finally clinch an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. This is a conference projection so I will not say too much on Rutgers’ overall projection, but the Scarlet Knights will be better this year.
Getting former Air Force head coach, Eric Seremet, as their offensive coordinator was a huge steal, and they will reap the benefits from having two great head coaches on staff. If Seremet could coach great offenses at Air Force, just imagine what he’ll be able to do with D1 lacrosse players that don’t have to worry about all the responsibilities of attending a service academy.
On offense, Rutgers returns former Big Ten Freshman of the Year Adam Charlambides (43 goals, 14 assists in 2017) and Kieran Mullins (31 goals, 17 assists). These two attackmen are monsters and will play a pivotal role in Seremet’s offense. On defense, Rutgers returns a duo of Garretts in Garret Bullett (25 groundballs, 2 turnovers) and Garrett Michaeli (35 groundballs, 6 turnovers). This team has elite players on both sides of the ball, which is why I like them to be a threat to Maryland and Hopkins to win the Big Ten conference.
There are three things guaranteed in life: death, taxes, and Maryland lacrosse being one of the best teams in the country. The Terrapins will roll to the NCAA championship weekend, Big Ten title trophy or not.
In 2018, Maryland put up 202 goals against its opposition while holding them to 157. Yes, Connor Kelly (45 goals, 33 assists) is gone, and that is a massive loss; however, the Terps return Jared Bernhardt (38 goals, 16 assists) and Logan Wisnauskas (33 goals, 14 assists) so the offense will stay dangerous.
The bigger question mark belongs to the Maryland defense, as they lose their leader Matt Neufeldt. Maryland does return elite LSM Nick Brozowski (35 groundballs, 3 turnovers) one final time, so that should help soften the blow. The Terps will have to answer this question on defense before they can realistically contend for it all, but their depth with newcomers will still allow them to win the Big Ten.