Quick Peek: Key MCLA Games This Weekend
The second weekend of MCLA action is upon us. Here's a quick glance at some of the games of note.
No. 14 Clemson at N.C. State – Friday 7 p.m.
There's a lot of buzz around the Tigers this season, especially with the MCLA championships being hosted just up the road in Greenville. Clemson will win this game, but I'll be curious to see just how convincing this SELC Northeast divisional victory will be. This is the first of a 20-game slate for the Tigers – the largest schedule in the nation in any collegiate division.
No. 20 St. Mary's (Calif.) at No. 14 Cal State Fullerton – Friday, 7 p.m. PT
This is the biggest game in Division II this weekend, particularly for St. Mary's. The Gaels play in the WCLL, and that means no automatic qualifying bid to Greenville. So if they want to be in the hunt at the end of the year, these are the games they need to win. Fullerton is going to be up against Concordia (Calif.) for the SLC crown, meaning if St. Mary's can put this chip in their pocket they could cash it on Selection Sunday. All is not lost if Fullerton wins, but the Gaels will have to take down a top team like No. 6 Westminster or No. 10 Western Oregon later in the season to stay in the at-large hunt.
We get our first look at Chapman, which should be a contender for the title this season. That's enough to follow this game, but I'm also curious about the state of the UNLV program. The Rebels were booted out of the SLC (and thus, were ineligible in the MCLA) for a year because of some unpleasantness, but now they're back. And not only are they back, but UNLV has a legit schedule, including No. 1 BYU, No. 17 Utah and No. 8 Oregon, along with the fourth-ranked Panthers, on the non-conference slate. Either they are gluttons for punishment, or the Rebels feel like they have a team that can run with the big dogs. We'll find out.
No. 12 Florida State at No. 20 Central Florida – Saturday, 1 p.m.
This is the biggest game in Division I this weekend, and there is a lot on the line. The winner will have a leg up in the hotly contested race for the top two spots in the SELC Southeast division (which will mean a bid to the eight-team SELC tourney). UCF will get its first test without All-American attackman David Drehoff and the 'Noles will have its first challenge after graduating a monster senior class. This one could go either way, although history would point to FSU.
The team keeping the closest eye on this outcome will be the University of Florida. UCF, FSU and Florida are all crammed in the SELC Southeast, and, again, only two of those teams will get the nod to the SELC tourney (with all due respect to Miami and South Florida). Last year, it was the Gators who were on the outside, so they'll be hoping to rectify that. Florida plays both Central Florida and Florida State at the end of the regular season.
Western Washington at No. 18 Simon Fraser – Saturday, 1 p.m. PT
This is another one of those D-I vs. D-II clashes that hold zero weight in postseason selection, but are intriguing nonetheless. Despite a prolific offense, Simon Fraser couldn't win the games it needed last year and was left out of the national tournament. The Clansmen are deeper – a 27-man roster as opposed to last year's 19 – and welcomed back sophomore Calvin Craig and his 100 goals from '11. Western is eligible for the PNCLL D-II tourney this season after a year-long "time out," and the Vikings are the most likely team to unseat Western Oregon from its perch atop the conference. There should be goals aplenty in this one.
No. 3 Dayton at Tennessee Wesleyan – Saturday, 3 p.m.
Kevin Parker has been trying to build up TWC for a couple of years now, and we'll find out quickly just how much progress he has made from last year to this season. The Bulldogs host a Dayton team returning almost entirely intact after a run to the national semifinals last year. The Flyers are also my preseason pick to win it all (which is probably more of a hindrance than a help). Tennessee Wesleyan is a long-shot for an at-large bid with their schedule, but a win over Dayton could change that instantly.
Georgia at No. 21 Kennesaw State – Sunday, 2 p.m.
As I wrote earlier this week, Kennesaw State is coming off an impressive win over Division I Georgia Tech. Now the Owls will try to match that feat by entertaining Georgia. The Bulldogs, like the Yellow Jackets, aren't exactly the mettle of SELC-I, and another win doesn't do a whole lot in terms of tournament selection, but it would get KSU off to a great start. It would also give evidence that the Owls are ready for a jump to Division I – a move that head coach Anthony Grizanti said would likely in the near future.