PROVIDENCE, R.I. - With four first-place votes,Syracuse University was selected as the favorite to win the 2012 BIG EAST men's lacrosse championship. The league's seven head coaches were polled and were not permitted to vote for their own programs. Villanova's Kevin Cunningham was selected as the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Notre Dame's John Kemp and Syracuse's Brian Megill shared honors as the BIG EAST Preseason Co-Defensive Players of the Year.
Cunningham, a senior attackman, played in 13 games last year, recording 24 goals and a team-high 21 assists for a team-high 45 points, despite missing three games due to injury. He captured 18 ground balls and caused four turnovers. He was second on the team in goals and led the Wildcats with eight man-up goals. Cunningham, who led the BIG EAST, averaged 3.46 points per game, ranked 15th in the NCAA.
Kemp, a unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason selection, ranked second nationally in goals-against average last year (6.60), recorded an 11-3 record in goal for the Irish. Kemp held a .602 save percentage, which was fourth nationally. A 2011 All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, Kemp was named USILA All-American honorable mention last season in his first season as the Fighting Irish full-time starter. Megill, an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection last year, recorded 34 ground balls in 2011. He led all SU close defensemen with 27 caused turnovers. In his career, Megill has collected 73 ground balls and 41 caused turnovers.
Syracuse, the two-time defending league champion, is coming off a season in which the Orange posted a 15-2 record overall and a spotless 6-0 conference campaign. SU set a school record and led the country in man-down defense (.817) and posted the nation's best winning percentage (.882). The top-ranked Orange defeated No. 20 Siena 10-4 in the NCAA Championship first round to advance to the quarterfinals, where SU lost in overtime to No. 8 Maryland 6-5.
Notre Dame, picked to finish second with one first-place vote and 29 total points, posted an 11-3 record in 2011. The Fighting Irish reached the NCAA Quarterfinals, defeating Penn 13-6 in the first round of the championship. In the quarterfinals, Notre Dame fell to Duke 7-5. ND finished second in the BIG EAST, recording a 5-1 mark in league play. The Irish are looking to build on a season in which they were ranked No. 1 nationally for the first time in program history.
Villanova was picked to finish third, garnering two first-place votes and finishing with 28 points, just one point behind Notre Dame. In 2011, the Wildcats earned the program's first at-large berth into the NCAA Championship. Villanova also recorded a first in the USILA Coaches Poll, posting its highest ranking at No. 7. For the third-straight year, VU recorded 10 or more wins in a season, posting an 11-5 overall record. The Wildcats were 3-3 in league play. Villanova lost 13-10 at Denver in the NCAA Championship first round.
Georgetown was picked to finish fourth with 21 points. The Hoyas finished 2011 with a 4-2 BIG EAST record, ending the season with two league wins at Rutgers and at home against Villanova. Overall, GU was 7-7 for the season.
St. John's was picked to finish fifth with 16 points. The Red Storm concluded the 2011 season with a 4-12 overall record and 2-4 league mark. St. John's returns all but two starters for the 2012 campaign, including the team's top scorers.
Rutgers, picked to finish sixth with 12 points, finished with a 6-9 overall record in 2011, including a 1-5 mark in conference play. The Scarlet Knights' lone conference win came in the last game of the season, a 10-7 victory against Providence.
Providence was picked to finish seventh after posting an overall record of 3-12 last year and going 0-6 in BIG EAST play.
The seven men's lacrosse members of the BIG EAST participate in a six-game, single round-robin format, with one division, playing each opponent once each year. The 2012 season will mark the first BIG EAST Championship, held May 3 and 5 at Goodreau Field on the campus of Villanova. The top four teams in the conference standings, determined and seeded by winning percentage in conference play at the conclusion of the regular season, will advance to compete in the postseason.
2012 BIG EAST Preseason Awards & Poll
BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Kevin Cunningham, Villanova, Sr., A
BIG EAST Preseason Co-Defensive Players of the Year
John Kemp, Notre Dame, Jr., G
Brian Megill, Syracuse, Jr., D
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team^
Zack Angel, Georgetown, Sr., M
Travis Comeau, Georgetown, Jr., A
*John Kemp, Notre Dame, Jr., G
Liam O'Connor, Notre Dame, So., SP
*Kevin Randall, Notre Dame, Sr., D
Sean Rogers, Notre Dame, Sr., A
Dillon Ayers, St. John's, Jr., LSM
Tim Desko, Syracuse, R-Sr., A
Matt Harris, Syracuse, So., LSM
*JoJo Marasco, Syracuse, Jr., M
*Brian Megill, Syracuse, Jr., D
Matt Bell, Villanova, Sr., M
*Chris Creighton, Villanova, Sr., D
*Kevin Cunningham, Villanova, Sr., A
^ - two players were added to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team due to a tie in voting
*- unanimous selection
BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll
Points Overall Record
Syracuse (4) 34 15-2, 6-0 BIG EAST
Notre Dame (1) 29 11-3, 5-1 BIG EAST
Villanova (2) 28 11-5, 3-3 BIG EAST
Georgetown 21 7-7, 4-2 BIG EAST
St. John's 16 4-10, 2-4 BIG EAST
Rutgers 12 6-9, 1-5 BIG EAST
Providence 7 3-12, 0-6 BIG EAST
(-) - First-place votes