Who’s ready for a new season of NCAA Division 1 men’s lacrosse?
We’re about a month away from YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles opening up the season at Bellarmine. I imagine that we’ll get official preseason awards out of the Big East league office right around the start of February.... but that means that we have to get our preseason picks up on the board before that!
That’s what this is. We’re going to try and predict where the coaches are going to go with their votes, so we’re going to mimic the awards that they released last season. We’ve got picks for Preseason Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year along with a All-Big East Team and a predicted order of finish for the conference this season. I ended up kind of surprised by the results of how this turned out, at least when it comes to the Golden Eagles, but the players in the league are the players in the league and there’s nothing we can do to change that.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Campbell, Midfielder, Villanova
I actually veered from my usual point of progression to get here. Generally speaking, I like favoring players that record assists as well as goals when it comes to tabbing a Offensive Player of the Year. With that in mind, I tend to lean towards points per game over goals per game to figure this spot out.
In this case, the league’s returning leader in points per game is Denver’s Alex Simmons at 3.93 per game. But he didn’t even make it onto the Big East’s Second Team at the end of last year, so if the coaches didn’t care for the guy who was #7 in goals per game, I don’t know if I should make him OPOY heading into 2022. That sends us along to Georgetown’s TJ Haley, who got 3.86 points per game..... by leading the league in assists at 3.50. This means that Haley almost exclusively gets assists and not goals. I don’t feel like that’s the right move for this award.
And so, we turn to Campbell, who finished #2 in the Big East in goals per game last season at 2.67 an outing and is the best scorer coming back this year. He was seventh in points per game as a result, and yeah, that means he’s averaging less than an assist per game. But the point here is to try and predict where the coaches will vote, and the Wildcats’ midfielder feels like the more obvious pick from that angle.
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Mason Woodward, Marquette
One of the rules I have for these things is “Don’t overthink it.” Woodward, now a redshirt sophomore heading into his third season of activity for the Golden Eagles, is the only All-Big East First Team defenseman back from the 2021 campaign. The end. If you like stats here, he was fifth in the league in ground balls per game, and yes, that includes face-off guys. Woodward also averaged 1.5 caused turnovers per game which was best on the MU roster.... but for some reason, the Big East doesn’t track that as a statistic for the whole league.
All Big East Team
Graham Bundy, Georgetown, M
Matt Campbell, Villanova, M
Devon Cowan, Marquette, A
Patrick Daly, Villanova, A
Zach Granger, Marquette, D
TJ Haley, Georgetown, A
Jack Hannah, Denver, M
Alex Mazzone, Georgetown, LSM
Owen McElroy, Georgetown, GK
Gibson Smith, Georgetown, D
Alec Stathakis, Denver, FOS
Mason Woodward, Marquette, D
This was relatively straight forward to put together. Cowan is the only First Team attacker back from last season, while Daly and Haley get us to three attackers on the squad as the only two guys returning from the all-BE Second Team. Campbell made it in by way of his individual honor, but he along with Hannah and Bundy were the three mids on the First Team at the end of last season, so BOOM, solved.
Combine the way attack and midfield went, and that’s how we get our three defensemen. Woodward from the First Team AND his individual trophy get on the board, with Granger and Smith joining as the only returning D-men from the Second Team.
Last year’s long stick midfielder on the First Team is back on Georgetown’s roster, so Mazzone gets in easy, and the same for McElroy in the net. That brings us to face off specialist, which I think is important to include. Both FOS guys on last year’s Big East First Team are back, so I had to try to find a difference. Stathakis had the better winning percentage, .635 vs .583 for Georgetown’s James Reilly, so I figured that was the right move. Reilly has the seniority advantage on Stathakis, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the coaches vote in the other direction.
Predicted Order of Finish
1 — Georgetown
2 — Denver
3 — Villanova
4 — Marquette
5 — Providence
6 — St. John’s
I’m not 100% sure about putting Villanova ahead of Marquette in third. If Marquette has one of the three best attackers coming into the year and two of the three best defensemen..... I mean, that has to count for something, right? The Wildcats were definitely the better team last year, but they’ve lost some notable hitters on both ends of the field. They do have Matt Campbell, though, and that should probably be enough to put them in front of the Golden Eagles.
Hoyas #1 and Pioneers #2 seems like the right move. Georgetown has five of the 12 spots in the preseason all-Big East team I put together up there, while Denver has just two. That’s less than Marquette, but like I mentioned, there are guys on Denver’s team that were amongst the statistical leaders in the Big East last spring that didn’t rate all-conference mention. Even though the Ethan Walkers of the world are gone now, Denver’s going to keep on being Denver, so they have to be #2 in the preseason rundown here.
Providence and St. John’s get the last two spots because those are the two spots left. I don’t really see a reason to swap St. John’s out of the last place spot that they ended up in last season.