Michigan (18-1, 2010 MCLA National Champion)
Key Loss: David Reinhard. The Wolverines return studs on defense and offense and appear to have settled on a goalie, but the one unknown piece is who will fill in for Reinhard. Can that player come even close to matching Reinhard’s production? Even with a 50-percent guy, Michigan will still win a lot more games than it loses, but the margin of error dips significantly.
Key Returnee: Thomas Paras. The rookie had a superb debut (32g, 19a), but with the thinning of the attack through graduation, he shouldn’t leave the field in 2011. Assuming he continues his evolution, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be a 50-assist guy this spring. He’ll be in the shadow of Trevor Yealy for another season, but the potential is there for Paras to become a household name.
Wild Card: Leadership. It always is for the Wolverines. The system and talent are there, so oversight is key. With guys like Yealy, Harry Freid and Matt Asperheim having been molded in the crucible of the program during the past three years, it doesn’t seem like it should be a problem on paper. However, as many coaches will tell you, it’s dangerous to assume anything about 18-to-22-year-olds.
Reality: While I don’t think anyone believes John Paul’s troops will finish outside of the national semifinals, this will still be an extremely interesting season for Michigan and the MCLA. If the Wolverines shrug off a couple of challenges facing them in the preseason and cruise to a fourth title, it will force the association to tackle several issues – such as reshuffling divisions – it has been loathe to broach to this point. If there is a new champion in ’11, it will also be fascinating to see how it impacts UM’s NCAA vision quest.