There are 243 days until the 2020 NCAA lacrosse season kicks off and 357 days until the 2020 NCAA DI national championship on Memorial Day. So it is way too early and nearly impossible for anyone to predict who will take home all the glory next season.
While it is pretty much impossible to predict next years national champion, it is possible to take a look at the teams that might have the best shot at being there on memorial day next season battling for the chance to call themselves national champions.
Every national championship discussion from now until the season starts will either start or finish with the question of Virginia repeating as national champions. While it has been done before it is extremely hard to do in any sport at any level.
The Cavaliers return 226 points, about 50% of the Cavaliers total points, with the three-headed monster of Michael Kraus, Ian Laviano, and Matt More returning. While they return Dox Aitken, the Cavaliers will have to find a way to replace Ryan Conrad who was a complete horse as a two-way midfielder, but Jeff Conner and Xavier Dickson both looked promising as freshman.
Virginia returns a good chunk on defense as well with senior LSM Jared Conners being the leader on this unit. Alex Rode will also be back in between the pipes for the Cavaliers as well. In addition, they have a great freshman class coming in headlined by attackman Connor Shellenberger and defenseman Scott Bower.
As the runners-up from 2019 and the champions from 2018, the Bulldogs have a pretty big target on their back as well and are certainly looking to take a third straight trip to championship weekend in 2020.
The Bulldogs biggest challenge will be replacing their talent in the middle of the field with Joey Sessa, John Daniggelis, and Jack Tigh all graduating. However, they return talent all over the field, starting with faceoff man TD Ierlan who has led DI in faceoff percentage for two straight seasons. Ierlan is their x-factor for sure and arguably the most coveted player in college lacrosse at the moment.
Yale’s returns their entire attack unit with Jackson Morill and Matt Gaudet going to be seniors while Matt Brandau will be a sophomore. The Yale defense is starting to age now as goalie Jack Starr and top defenseman Chris Fake will both be juniors. The Bulldogs and their tough guy mentality will be just as good as every on both sides of the ball next season, and they have a pretty good incoming class as well to continue to build.
Virginia may be the reigning champs but Penn State is the sure fire favorite coming into the 2020 season. The Nittany Lions had their best season in program history in 2019, making it to the final four, and they return almost every single piece.
Besides their top midfielder Nick Spillane and defensemen Kevin Fox and Chris Sabia, the Nittany Lions return everyone from 2019. Their entire attack like of Grant Ament, Mac O’Keefe, and Dylan Founds will be seniors while midfielder Jack Kelly also returns as a junior.
In addition to that scary offense, Gerard Arceri will be back at the faceoff dot once again after going 61% at the dot last season. In between the pipes Penn State returns Colby Kneese who will be a senior. Penn State looks poised to have another successful run, looking to win it all in 2020.
The Blue Devils have been to championship weekend a lot over the past decade and even with some new leaders in 2020 it looks like they can make another deep run. Duke’s defense will be the biggest question mark with Cade Van Raaphorst gone and JT Giles-Harris being the new face of the Blue Devils defensive unit. Goalie Turner Uppgren will also be returning as a fifth year senior as well.
On the offensive end attackman Joe Robertson and midfielder Nakeie Montgomery will both be juniors, and will be the face of that offense along with attackman Joey Manown. There are a lot of holes in that unit, but Duke has guys in the pipeline that can step up as well.
In 2019 the Quakers had a magical run and really became one of the best stories of the season. While they do lose some of those senior leaders with attackman Simon Mathias, midfielder Tyler Dunn, and goalie Reed Junkin the Quakers have a lot of talent returning and have already started adding more as well.
Penn has added one of the highest profile transfers with rising sophomore goalie Patrick Burkinshaw transferring from Virginia. Burkinshaw just adds more talent to a loaded roster with attackman Sam Handley leading the offense, faceoff man Kyle Gallagher, and LSM BJ Farrare who is the x-factor to this Quakers team.
No matter what year it is you can’t leave Maryland out of the picture, at least with John Tillman leading charge. They were just one bad call away from making another trip to Championship weekend and return some key pieces to try and make another run.
While they do graduate eight seniors and have holes on the defense the Terrapins always seem to reload. Their offense firepower starts with Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas who are the Terrapins top two returners. A supporting cast of Bubba Fairman, Kyle Long, and Anthony DeMaio adds more depth as well.