No. 1 Notre Dame: The Irish have made it to championship weekend two of the past three years, and this is the year Kevin Corrigan's club kicks down the door and joins the exclusive club of Lacrosse National Champions. The defense needs to replace Kevin Randall but returns Joey Kemp, the best goalie in the country. Westy Hopkins and Holy Trinity grad Sean Rogers will be the go-to guys on offense, and freshman Matt Kavanagh from Rockville Centre, N.Y., could be the missing piece to the championship puzzle. "You don't have to fit the offense around him", says Corrigan. "He can fit into anything we want to do, and that is unique for a freshman."
No. 2 Loyola, Maryland: The defending champs are more than well-prepared to make a run at a repeat. Yes, Eric Lusby was dominant in the postseason and they will miss his lefty cannon, but before the tournament the Tewaarton candidate for the Greyhounds was Mike Sawyer, and he is back for his senior year. Everybody enjoys that the Greyhounds like to get up and run on offense, but the defense remains underrated with Reid Acton and Joe Fletcher. Expect to see plenty of grey and green on Amtrak trains from Baltimore to 30th Street Station on Memorial Day weekend.
No. 3 University of Maryland: The Terps have come up short in the title game two straight years and John Tillman certainly has the firepower get back to Monday and win the first championship in school history since 1975. St. Anthony's product Mike Chanenchuk could be a lethal threat at the midfield if finally 100 percent, and a defense that was learning on the fly last year will be rock steady in 2013.
No. 4 Cornell: There is one reason and one reason only that Cornell makes it back to the final four for the third time in Rob Pannell's career in Ithaca: Rob Pannell. Pannell was the best player in the country as a junior, and he would have been the best player in the country last year if he didn't break his foot. He will be the Tewaarton Trophy winner in 2013.
No. 5 Johns Hopkins: This is the last rodeo for a senior class that arrived on Charles St. with plenty of fanfare. And as head coach Dave Pietramala says, this group thinks it is time to "shut our mouths and do our jobs." There is senior experience up and down the field starting in the cage with Pierce Bassett, on defense with Tucker Durkin, the Johns -- Greeley and Ranagan -- at midfield and Zach Palmer at attack. Hopkins is one of the few schools where no final four appearances since 2008 can be considered a drought, but ending that with another trophy is the goal for the Blue Jays.
No. 6 Denver: Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos have graduated and taken the Pioneer record book with them, but now Bill Tierney will turn to one of the most versatile and dynamic first midfield groups in the country to provide the offense. Chase Carraro can provide instant offense from the face-off, and when healthy, Cam Flint is a tough cover from up top.
No. 7 Duke: The Blue Devils have made it to championship weekend every year since John Danowski took over in Durham, but replacing C.J. Costabile will be a tough chore. Costabile impacted games in ways that never showed up in the box score. The attack unit of Jordan Wolf, Christian Walsh and Josh Dionne can be special, but a thoroughbred midfielder needs to emerge to replace Rob Rotanz and Justin Turri.
No. 8 North Carolina: The Tar Heels will be fun to watch, but will that be enough to get them to back to the final four for the first time since 1993? Marcus Holman is the most underrated player in the country and Joe Sankey and Jimmy Bitter can be electric at the attack. But Joe Breschi needs to find some grinders willing to do the dirty work other than just Ryan Creighton.
No. 9 Virginia: The terms "dark horse" and "Virginia" are rarely used in the same sentence when it comes to lacrosse. "There is a feeling in our locker room that we are being overlooked", says Dom Starsia, "and I haven't done anything to discourage that." What will be harder for freshman James Pannell -- living up to big brother Rob's standard, or trying to replace Steele Stanwick?
No. 10 Colgate: The headliner is Peter Baum, and deservedly so, but the reigning Tewaarton Trophy winner will not be a one-man band this year for the Raiders. Sophomore Ryan Walsh (Wantagh, N.Y.) was the Patriot Conference rookie of the year, and all three starters return on a defense led by Summit, N.J., resident Bobby Lawrence.
Rounding out the top 20:
16. Penn St.
19. Ohio State