Naming Stevenson and Salisbury as two of the top teams to watch in 2013 is nothing special. Literally anyone could do it. Both squads are loaded with talent, and have truly excellent coaching, and either the Mustangs or the Gulls could be named as a preseason #1 without much doubt.
So how does Adrian figure in to this group of teams to watch?
I don't think Adrian is truly ready to compete for a national title, nor do I believe that they are on the same level as Salisbury or Stevenson, but I do think that this is a team on the rise, and one worth paying attention to.
In 2012, Adrian was 17-2 with an early loss to Roanoke (16-7), and then Denison in the NCAAs (12-11 in OT). In 2011, they went 15-3. 2010 saw the program go 10-3, and in 2009 and 2008, they went 8-6. In 2007, the team played a club schedule and went 2-4. Like I said, they are on the rise. At the very least, history is on my side here. Their record has improved a lot, and the teams they play have improved a little. It's definitely an upward trajectory.
Adrian also has talent. As I mentioned in Sunday's Lacrosse Drop, they now have two former players in the NLL, and last year had an HM AA on the team, which wasn't even one of the NLL guys. And it doesn't stop there… there are good players from all over Michigan on the roster, a couple of out of state guys and a handful of Canadians.
The Bulldogs don't overwhelm you with a huge roster (they had 29 players in 2012), or huge players (their tallest player is 6'2 and their heaviest is 212 lbs), but in D3 lacrosse, neither of those components are required, although they do help. If Adrian can continue to grow its roster and pick up even bigger but still talented players? There is real potential up in Adrian, Michigan.
The final reason I like Adrian to continue to improve, and possibly join the ranks of Salisbury and Stevenson, Cortland, Tufts, and a few others, is that Adrian loves winning. Their football team plays in a great stadium (that lacrosse uses as well) and just won their conference. The D3 hockey team is 9-0. Their D1 club hockey team is 17-2, their basketball team is 7-0. And it's like this all the time.
The biggest knock on Adrian is their weak schedule. It makes it hard to rank them in a Top 20 (fewer opportunities for good wins), and it may hurt them when they have to play better teams in the NCAAs, as they may not be used to it. At the same time, if they can win a couple big wins early and then run through their conference, it makes it hard not to rank them highly. Really it just all comes down to wins, and lots of them, no matter who they're playing.
If Adrian likes winning other sports, they'll want to keep winning in lacrosse too, and if they can continue to bring in good players from Michigan and the Midwest, along with some very talented Canadians, we could see a new power emerge in D3 lacrosse within a couple of years. In the meantime, keep an eye on Adrian, and watch them continue to rise for yourself.