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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | April 14, 2018

Albany ranked No. 1, Villanova safely in Top 10

The NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Committee released its first Top 10 rankings for the 2018 season. Even though Albany's undefeated start to the season finally came to an end, the Great Danes debut at No. 1 in the committee's rankings. Here are the full rankings.

1. Albany

2. Maryland

3. Johns Hopkins

4. Syracuse

5. Duke

6. Denver

7. Loyola Maryland

8. Villanova

9. Yale

10. Rutgers

Here are takeaways from which teams made the rankings and where they were ranked.

Note: These rankings – and takeaways – are based on games played through Sunday, April 8.

Surprising upset aside, the Great Danes are still great

Despite a shocking 11-7 defeat at the hands of UMBC that ended Albany's undefeated record, the Great Danes still earned the No. 1 ranking from the committee. Albany (10-1) has four wins over opponents who were ranked in at least one of the top major polls at the time of the matchup – most importantly a narrow 11-10 victory on the road over Maryland, which earned the No. 2 ranking.

The Great Danes started their season with a 15-3 throttling of a top-10 Syracuse team and they beat a top-15 Vermont squad 21-5. In their 10 wins, they have more than doubled their opponents in goals scored and have won by an average of more than eight goals per contest.

RELATED: Tewaaraton Award watch list additions announced

Through April 11, Albany is second nationally in scoring (14.64 goals per game) and third in scoring defense (7.36 goals allowed per game). The Great Danes have the resume, high-power offense and stingy defense to warrant the No. 1 ranking.

Head-to-head competition matters

Even though Maryland is ranked No. 1 in the latest Inside Lacrosse poll, earning 25 of a possible 30 first-place votes, Albany's head-to-head win over Maryland clearly mattered to the committee. (For the record, outside polls are not used by the committee for selection purposes.)

RELATED: Inside Lacrosse poll | Men's Lacrosse RPI

However, one of the selection criteria the committee does subscribe to is head-to-head competition and the Great Danes' ability to beat Maryland – on Maryland's home field, nonetheless – was one of the reasons, if not the main reason, Albany edged Maryland atop the rankings.

Another example is No. 5 Duke being ranked one spot ahead of No. 6 Denver after the Blue Devils defeated the Pioneers 15-12 earlier in the season. Johns Hopkins, ranked No. 3, beat No. 4 Syracuse 18-7.

Lacrosse fans are fortunate that the sport's top teams play each other so early in the season and so frequently, and as a result, the committee has important data points to use when trying to rank the top 10 teams in the country.

A potential surprise

If any school's inclusion in the committee's top 10 comes as a surprise to lacrosse fans, it would likely be Villanova. The Wildcats fell six spots to No. 13 in the Inside Lacrosse poll, which may have worried the Villanova faithful in Philadelphia, but they made the top 10, and did so somewhat easily, checking in at No. 8.

The 'Cats' last result before the committee unveiled its rankings may not have left the best for Villanova – a 22-6 loss to Denver – but they're still 8-3 on the season, including a win over No. 9 Yale. Perhaps the most impressive part of the Wildcats' season thus far is their ability to win in overtime. They're 3-0 in overtime games this year.

Conference breakdown

The Big Ten reigns supreme based on the committee's initial top 10 rankings but there isn't a huge gap between, say, the Big Ten and ACC or Big East, or the ACC/Big East and America East. If anything, it's probably a positive sign for the sport that six different conferences are represented in the top 10, meaning roughly half of the conferences in the country have at least one team to measure themselves against.

Big Ten: 3

ACC: 2

Big East: 2

America East: 1

Patriot League: 1

Ivy: 1

Lacrosse's geographic footprint in the Eastern Corridor

This isn't a new development. Since the first NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse championship in 1971, only one national title has been won by a school located in a state besides Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina or Virginia. That was Denver in 2015.

However you want to define college lacrosse's geographic stronghold – the "East Coast," "New England," or "Mid-Atlantic" – Denver is the only school in the committee's top 10 that's located outside that general region.

Two top-four teams, No. 1 Albany and No. 4 Syracuse, are based in New York. Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Loyola Maryland are located in the Old Line State. Duke, Villanova, Yale and Rutgers aren't far away.

Setting the stage

Now that we know the committee's initial top 10 rankings, what important regular season games are left on the schedule? Here are a few.

No. 10 Rutgers at No. 2 Maryland, Sunday, April 15

No. 1 Albany at No. 9 Yale, Sunday, April 22

No. 2 Maryland at No. 3 Johns Hopkins, Saturday, April 28

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