SAVAGE Preseason Power Rankings (Men’s Division), #5 – #1

We are excited to present the third and final installment of this year's preseason College Power Rankings in the Men's Division!

The Ultiworld Power Rankings.We are excited to present the third and final installment of this year’s preseason College Power Rankings in the Men’s Division! These rankings are based holistically on a number of factors: last year’s performance, roster changes, conversations with coaches, the “eye test”, and assorted other factors.

#25 – #16 and #15-#6 have already been posted.

5. UNC Wilmington (2014: T-3rd at Nationals, Atlantic Coast Champion)

In 2014, UNC Wilmington snuck up on everyone. Sure, they played well enough during the regular season, but they weren’t turning any heads. Then, boom. They upset UNC at Regionals to win the Atlantic Coast. Quietly, they were incredibly confident heading into Nationals. Boom. They upset Pittsburgh in quarters.

This year, they won’t be sneaking up on anyone. But that also means that they are returning enough talent to be considered a major contender.

The team brings back both of its top handlers (Xavier Maxstadt and Luke Hancock), its best cutter at Nationals (Jack Williams), and key pieces from its defensive line, including Charlie Lian. They pick up some great young talent, including TYUL YCC standout Kevin Mateer.

Last season, UNCW made its run to semis largely on the back of extremely efficient offense; in both of their big wins (UNC, Pitt), the offense did not get broken. The question will be if that line can sustain that kind of excellence — and if they can improve their defense enough to go toe-to-toe with the top teams. They got lit up by UNC in the semis, especially deep, and won’t be able to win a Championship just playing as an energy/momentum team.

Still, the ceiling is high for this Wilmington team with what could be its strongest top-to-bottom talent base in years.

4. Carleton (2014: T-9th at Nationals, 2nd in North Central)

Even in a relative down year in 2014, Carleton still reached the prequarters at Nationals. Now, with most of their roster from last season intact, they will enter 2015 with big ambitions.

Many of their big contributors got big time club experience over the summer (Justin Lim and John Raynolds both played for Sockeye). Raynolds has been out with an injury for much of the last few months, but will be healthy and ready to go for the college season in his senior season.

Jesse Bolton was lighting up Nationals before he got hurt — he could be among the best players in the country this year.

The team is also picking up some instant impact freshmen in Sol Yanuck and Alex Olson, both of the most recent Team USA U19 team.

After youth and inexperience left them out of quarters last year, CUT is ready to bounce back into the elite in 2015.

3. Pittsburgh (2014: T-5th at Nationals, Ohio Valley Champion)

Pittsburgh’s fortunes may not yet be decided. Two major contributors from last season — Marcus Ranii-Dropcho and Aaron Watson — are both mulling a return for a fifth year, but are currently not on the team. If they get them back…Pitt would have no losses from last season.

Whether those two return or not, Pitt is still stacked with talent: Max Thorne, Pat Earles, Trent Dillon, Joe Bender. The list goes on. The team was a little bit raw last year and struggled to find consistent chemistry. They also never had a great defense. They still made quarters.

Earles and Thorne look poised to do damage all season long, and if they can find a way to play some strong defense (there were glimpses of some at times at last weekend’s Steel City Showdown), they will be in the mix on Saturday and Sunday at Nationals.

Their sophomore class is also looking quite good, with Jonah Wisch and Jimmy Towle poised to step into larger roles.

2. Oregon (2014: T-3rd at Nationals, Northwest Champion)

After three straight semifinals appearances, Oregon shouldn’t settle for less than a Championship this season. With Dylan Freechild back for his fifth year and strong rumors of Simon Higgins (Revolver) joining the team, they may have the best across-the-board weapons in the Division.

Even if Higgins doesn’t play, Aaron Honn is back from study abroad, Trevor Smith will be better after a strong season with Rhino, and Connor Matthews will be a tough matchup all season.

We should expect to see Oregon back on top of the regular season; the question is: will they be ready for the games that count this year? Something tells us that the Rhino win over Sockeye at Club Nationals may have conquered some of those big game demons for many of the Ego players. Time will tell.

1. North Carolina (2014: 2nd at Nationals, 2nd in Atlantic Coast)

2014 finalist and de facto regular season champion UNC is back for another big season in which they bring back just about every big piece except for Callahan nominee Christian Johnson. Although it’s unlikely that Johnson can be replaced, the team is packed with strong cutting talent; expect Aaron Warshauer to get a lot of Johnson’s reps.

Jon Nethercutt and Ben Snell return to the UNC backfield and the outstanding defender Tim McAllister will continue to make plays for the D line. With good continuity on offense outside of Johnson, they will have one of the more formidable O lines in the country right away.

Nathan Kwon is a standout freshman pickup, and there will be a handful of starting freshmen (as many have YCC experience).

This team will have a big early test at CCC — are they as developed and ready to play as they were last year at this time? It may take some more time for this year’s squad to find its way, but they have the pieces they need to be a Championship contender once again.

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