10 Preseason Favorites to Win 2015 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Tewaaraton Award

Kevin Boilard@@KevinBoilardCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2015

Miles and Lyle Thompson became the first co-winners of the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2014.
Miles and Lyle Thompson became the first co-winners of the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2014.Associated Press

After the final goal is scored, a champion is named and the season officially comes to a close, one player is singled out as the best in all of college lacrosse.

That player is the recipient of the Tewaaraton Award.

An equivalent to college football's Heisman Trophy, the Tewaaraton goes each year to the most outstanding players in men's and women's lacrosse. The Tewaaraton Foundation is also designed to honor the sport's Native American heritage.

Before the 2015 season launches, let's take a look at 10 players on the men's side with the best chance to win this year's Tewaaraton Award.

1. Lyle Thompson, Albany (Sr., A)

2014 Stats: 51 goals, 77 assists (18 games)

US Lacrosse Magazine @USLacrosseMag

By unanimous fan/staff agreement - Lyle Thompson was #BestOfLax top men's player for 2014 | http://t.co/3VSleowdXe http://t.co/Zo7dmwIREU

After sharing the award with brother Miles last season, Lyle is the odds-on favorite to win the Tewaaraton in 2015. If he wins it again, the attackman from the Onondaga Nation will become the first back-to-back recipient.

The Thompsons are known for their incredible individual play, but Lyle's specialty has always been dishing the rock to Miles. With his brother graduated and now an assistant coach for Albany, Lyle must make up for some of Miles' NCAA-leading 82 goals in 2014. That shouldn't be too difficult for the USILA first-team All-American who registered a record-setting 128 points last season—Thompson is a wizard with his stick.

2. Matt Kavanagh, Notre Dame (Jr., A)

2014 Stats: 42 goals, 33 assists (18 games)

A slippery-quick and nimble attackman, Kavanagh is the reason the Fighting Irish find themselves on the rise. He led all sophomores with 75 points last season, carrying Notre Dame to a national championship appearance on Memorial Day Weekend.

One of the best attackmen outside of Albany's Thompsons last year, Kavanagh was a USILA All-America second-teamer in 2014. So long as the Irish remain a legitimate title contender, Kavanagh is poised to become the nation's most dangerous player at his position.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 27: Myles Jones #15 of the Duke University Blue Devils drives on Syracuse University Orange the 2013 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship at Lincoln Financial Field on May 27, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dre
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

3. Myles Jones, Duke (Jr., M)

2014 Stats: 37 goals, 26 assists (20 games)

Jones isn't the most prolific scorer in all of college lacrosse, but he's always the first player mentioned in the opposition's game plan. He has the frame of a professional football player (6'4", 240 lbs), making him sometimes look like the only man playing among a crowd of boys. Without a strong, physical long-stick defender, it is nearly impossible to stop Jones from imposing his will.

After earning second-team All-America honors from the USILA as a sophomore, the native of Huntington, New York, will need to take on more of a leadership role as Duke goes for its third straight title.

4. Wesley Berg, Denver (Sr., A)

2014 Stats: 48 goals, 20 assists (19 games)

It's no longer strange to see Denver play during Championship Weekend, and the exposure has led to more recognition for western standouts like Berg. After helping the Pioneers reach the semifinals in each of the last two seasons, Berg can improve his Tewaaraton stock drastically by helping his team reach its first national championship in 2015.

The Canadian attackman with extensive experience playing box lacrosse is a purebred scorer and could eclipse 250 career points with a huge senior season.

5. Kevin Rice, Syracuse (Sr., A)

2014 Stats: 36 goals, 44 assists (16 games)

Syracuse must rebound from its first-round exit in last year's national tournament, and it is sure to do so if Rice can put together a Tewaaraton-caliber senior campaign. Fellow attackman Randy Staats is almost as likely to star in the Orange offense, but Staats was declared ineligible for the fall, while Rice was named one of five 'Cuse captains.

Of the two, Rice is clearly the more reliable leader and could be the team's go-to guy in the clutch. After being named to the USILA's All-American second team in 2014, Rice is ready to take the next step this spring.

6. Connor Buczek, Cornell (Sr., M)

2014 Stats: 30 goals, 17 assists (16 games)

A standout on a team with struggles, Buczek must find a way to bring the Big Red back to Championship Weekend to gain legitimate Tewaaraton traction. Last season's first-round departure should sting the 2014 Ivy League Player of the Year. Also a USILA first-team All-America selection, Buczek is one of the most respected players in all of college lacrosse.

Although his statistics pale in comparison to some of the players on this list, no one has questioned the Ohio product's ability since his days representing the United States in U-19 international play.

7. Deemer Class, Duke (Jr., M)

2014 Stats: 38 goals, 27 assists (20 games)

Myles Jones may be the focal point of Duke's offense, but Class shouldn't be too far behind. Together, they will form a prolific Duke midfield. Last season, Class' 65 points set a school record for the most in a single season by a midfielder; can he break his own record? The 2014 first-team USILA All-American is a much more refined lacrosse player than Jones, so his game is naturally cleaner and more precise.

With Duke a favorite to win it all again this year, it's really no surprise two Blue Devils are among the 10 players most likely to win the Tewaaraton in 2015.

8. Wells Stanwick, Johns Hopkins (Sr., A)

2014 Stats: 23 goals, 44 assists (16 games)

Mark LeRoux @RailbirdPhoto

Wells Stanwick is likely to see significant time with top recruit, brother Shack at #5 @jhumenslacrosse in 2015 http://t.co/zcziehlni1

The name alone could land Stanwick on a Tewaaraton watch list, but this Blue Jay has the skill to back up his impressive family legacy. In 2011, Stanwick's older brother, Steele, won the award after leading his Virginia Cavaliers to a national championship.

Although Wells may not be the most lethal shooter, he's rarely kept off the stat sheet thanks to his exceptional work as an assist artist. If he follows in his older brother's footsteps, he'll have younger brother Shack, a freshman at Hopkins, keeping him company along the way.

9. Joey Sankey, North Carolina (Sr., A)

2014 Stats: 33 goals, 24 assists (15 games)

It has been 24 years since North Carolina's last national championship. If the Tar Heels want to end this embarrassing streak before it reaches a quarter-century, someone must step up.

Sankey is a plausible candidate to do so. It's tough to stick with the 5'5", 160-pound jitterbug around the net, as Sankey is one of few athletes to figure out how to use his small stature to his advantage. Marking up this 2014 USILA third-team All-American with a big, strong defender will do a team no good if that defender doesn't also have lightning-quick footwork.

10. Goran Murray, Maryland (Sr., D)

2014 Stats: 11 caused turnovers, 17 ground balls (16 games)

A defensive player has never won the Tewaaraton, but one is frequently named among the finalists for the award. This year, there's a good chance it's Maryland's Murray.

Despite a somewhat lanky build (6'0", 175 lbs), the Pennsylvania product is one of the nation's most dominant defenders due to his fantastic fundamentals and devastating stickwork. A full-time starter for the Terrapins since his freshman year, Murray was an easy first-team selection for the 2014 USILA All-America team. Look for him to repeat—and possibly top—his performance in 2015.

Other Players To Watch: Randy Staats, Syracuse (Sr., A/M); Jesse King, Ohio State (Sr., M); Nikko Pontrello, Loyola (Sr., A); Jimmy Bitter, North Carolina (Sr., A); Kevin Massa, Bryant (Sr., FO); John Glesener, Army (Sr., A); Sergio Perkovic, Notre Dame (Jr., M); Mike Pellegrino, Johns Hopkins (Sr., LSM); Gunnar Waldt, Bryant (Jr., G); Brandon Mullins, Syracuse (Jr., D)

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