February 9, 2011

Schooling Schooler: Nick Needs a Rebound Year

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

When most college-aged kids returned for Thanksgiving break, they'd go out, meet some friends and catch-up. When Nick Schooler left UC Santa Barbara for break and went home to Berkeley, Calif., he'd climb a tree. That's just how "Bezerkeley" kids roll. But if Nicky loses the MCLA pick 'em competition (again) this year, his return home is going to be a bit more awkward.


That's the only way to describe Nick Schooler's performance last year in our MCLA pick 'em contest. I won't rehash the final number because, frankly, it would just be rude. We'll say it wasn't close and leave it at that.

Before we go any further, I'll lay out the Schooling Schooler concept for those unfamiliar with the competition that began last year.

Nick Schooler is a former All-American at UC Santa Barbara who helped the Gauchos win an MCLA national championship back in UCSB's salad days. Although he is now a doctoral candidate in marine biology at UCSB (hence, the crab photo out front), Nick is an ardent Gauchos fan and keeps a close watch on the MCLA overall.

He and I pick five MCLA games every week – we have three "baseline" games and then we each select a game that we'd like to include – and we keep a running count for the season. As mentioned, last year was a wipeout.

This year, to keep things interesting (for me) and provide incentive (for Nick), we've added a wager to the equation.

So our boy Nick is, politically, about as far Left as you can get. He makes Nancy Pelosi look like Glenn Beck. Me? Well, I'm what you'd probably refer to as a centrist – a man of the people, if you will – but I have an occasional lean to the right.

Why the political background? We'll just say that the loser of the contest will be subjected to a politically uncomfortable moment.

But enough about the end of the season. Let's start the show with Week 1 picks:

No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (2-0) at No. 12 Cal Poly (0-0) – 7 p.m. PT, Friday

COYNE: One of the enjoyable aspects of the MCLA is there are games with massive implications before we even get to March. This is one of them. While both the Gauchos and Poly have a shot at their respective conference AQs, whichever team wins on Friday night will have a huge chip in its pocket to be cashed in by the committee if it ends up in the at-large pool.

Cal Poly returns a large amount of talent from last year's team, including juniors Matt Graupmann (43g) and Scott Heberer (24g, 19a), and is a solid favorite to repeat as the WCLL champ. UCSB is expected to make a run at the SLC crown with another solid recruiting class, and the Gauchos have already raced out to a 2-0 start with wins over Cal and UC Davis last weekend.

I expect this game to be a close one, but the nod goes to the Mustangs. Not only is Cal Poly playing at home, but I have a feeling UCSB will need a couple of games under its belt before it jells to a point where it can beat a tourney squad like Poly. It'll be the Mustangs, 12-10.

SCHOOLER: I think this is a pretty obvious pick for me. Cal Poly gave UCSB a great game last year and pulled off the win, but that will not happen again this year. UCSB already has some games under its belt, and showed a lot with the five-goal comeback on the road against Cal in the first game of its season. The Gauchos should never have been in that position in the first place, but they are young. The majority of their players are freshmen and sophomores.

Also, with the addition of Lane Jaffe as head coach, I think the players are scared to lose. I have never seen a guy so sure of winning. It even scares me a little. I see UCSB handling Cal Poly. I'm so sure of this that I might even take the trek up to San Luis Obispo and bring something similar to the Gator Chomp with me. Maybe their fans will head butt me, too.

No. 8 Oregon (0-0) at Cal (0-1) – 3 p.m. PT, Saturday

COYNE: This game is not going to be the slam-dunk some might think it will be. The Golden Bears were a relatively young team last year and will eventually give Cal Poly a serious run for the WCLL crown. Juniors Connor Thomas and John Hofinga combine for a potent attack, and Cal has a solid defense.

Oregon will ultimately win this game because the Ducks should dominate the midfield and have the best goalie in the country in Nick Johnston. The game will be tight for the first half, but Oregon will pull away in the latter part of the game. Ducks win it, 14-8.

SCHOOLER: I'm not sure what to think about Oregon this year. The Ducks did not have their best season last year, or at least they did not live up to my expectations with the return of coach Joe Kerwin. However, being a Berkeley native and watching Cal in my youth, I have always had a place in my heart for the Bears. They gave the Gauchos a good game last weekend, but were unable to hold on for the win. They play on one of the worst fields known to the game of lacrosse. Why they continue to replace that green carpet on top of concrete baffles me, but I guess it is their idea of a home field advantage.

I see this being another close game for Cal. However, this time, the Bears hold on for the victory.

Texas State (1-0) at Texas A&M (0-0) – 7 p.m. CT, Saturday

COYNE: Texas State's defense of its Lone Star Alliance title will face an early challenge when the Bobcats travel to College Station. Texas State had an up-and-down first three quarters against TCU earlier this season, but eventually put away the Horned Frogs, 17-8, behind an eight-goal fourth quarter.

By Aggies standards, last year's 8-8 mark was well below par, especially when you factor a home loss to lightweight Southern Cal and a road setback to Division II Sam Houston State. But A&M was a very young group that showed some signs of life late in the season, including a one-goal loss to Texas State in the LSA tourney. I think the Aggies are going to jump on the Bobcats early and hold off a late charge. I'll take A&M in a Lone Star upset, 11-10.

: I like this choice of a game. TAMU has had some great teams in the past, so it could surprise the Bobcats, who have only been good once, and that was last year. This would have been a much easier choice had climate change not engulfed our nation and dumped enormous amounts of snow on Texas and the rest of the country resulting in a bunch of game cancellations. So I will just have to go with my gut on this and pick Texas State.

Schooler's Choice

Chico State (0-0) at Stanford (1-0) – 2 p.m. PT, Saturday

SCHOOLER: As I mentioned earlier, I am a Berkeley guy, so it is not very easy for me to pick Stanford in any sport. But I have to here. Stanford is going to win this game and here is why: Drew Virk is a great coach, and the Cardinal returns its best players from last season, while Chico is losing a lot to graduation. I'm not sure what the Chico rookie class is like, but I can't imagine them being better than Jack Farr and Jon Cerf. This was a close game last season, but do not expect it to be close this year.

: Neither of these teams will be threats for Denver, but this is a good game because it's not an easy one to call. Stanford is 0-1 after bowing to WCLL rival UC Davis two weeks ago, 9-8 in overtime. This will be Chico's opener. There's no info about Stanford (it has not input its stats from the game), but I'm going to go with the Cardinal playing at the Farm. Stanford, 12-9.

Coyne's Choice

TCU (0-1) at North Carolina State (0-0) – 7 p.m., Friday

COYNE: This one is going to give Nicky trouble since the majority of his MCLA knowledge ends at the Continental Divide. It's also a tough pick because it features a pair of teams that failed to make their respective conference tournaments last year. The Wolfpack finished 8-3, but finished third in their division of the SELC behind Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. TCU finished 6-6 and missed out on the LSA tourney because it was the odd team out in a three-way tie-breaker.

Cameron Deptula (29g, 10a) gives the Horned Frogs a solid offensive presence, but the defense took a hit. They'll make the trip to Raleigh to face an N.C. State team that has high aspirations in the SELC, returning its top three scorers led by senior Kyle Cullen (27g, 17a). I'm picking the 'Pack, 11-6.

SCHOOLER: I'm trying to figure out what kind of trick Jac is trying to pull here, but I'm not really sure. I don't know much about either team except that a former Gaucho used to coach NC State. It appears that NC State has not lost any of its top scorers from last season, so I will go with the Wolfpack in this one.

COYNE: Nuts.

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