February 16, 2011

Schooling Schooler: Coyne Caught Choking on Duck Soup

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

Had the No. 8 Ducks beat unranked Cal on Saturday, Coyne would have been in the lead, and likely on his way to another season victory. But the Ducks had a lost weekend in the Golden State, losing to both the Bears and Santa Clara to start the season.

It's an inauspicious start to the season.

After one round of the Schooling Schooler competition, Nicky has jumped out to a one-game lead. He posted a 4-1 opening weekend, while I stumbled to a 3-2 mark. The swing game was the one contest where I thought was in the clear: Oregon against California.

As it turned out, the Ducks are in need of a little more practice time. Not only were they housed by the Bears, 10-2, but then they turned around a day later and lost to a decent Santa Clara squad, 7-6. At the end of the weekend, I was "ducking" Twitter potshots -- I picked Oregon to win it all in another publication -- and Nick was gloating via e-mail.

It's okay. These things happen. And Nick's Cal selection was pretty impressive, even if it was a total homer pick.

In a brief aside, I actually learned quite a bit from my (failed) upset pick. Going off the results of last year's LSA tournament game, I thought Texas A&M was going to round into shape and stump Texas State in their game. Not even close. The Bobcats rocked the Aggies, 14-5, which is going to make that game between TxState and Texas on April 9 even bigger.

There's a lot of good games this weekend, highlighted by several contests in the Pac-12 challenge at UCLA. Both of the wild card picks this weekend come from that event. Mercifully, the Ducks are on a two-week hiatus, so we'll both have some time to regroup.

Wait. What's that? Hold on. Nick has something he wants to add.

SCHOOLER: I could lower myself to Jac's level and place crosshairs over his head and call him names like Jacqui, but I am trying to tone down the rhetoric. I don't want Jac going all rogue on the lacrosse community and writing anti-UCSB pieces, so I have taken the high road.

Jac had an excellent attempt at picking the games, but fell short. It could have been worse, but I have an inability to pick against UCSB. It's in my blood. I just can't. I have picked at least two "upsets" this week, so maybe he can gain some ground, but hopefully not. I know a lot of people want to see Jac sporting an Obama t-shirt in Denver this year.

To the picks...

No. 6 BYU (1-0) at No. 13 Loyola Marymount (1-0) – 3 p.m. PT, Friday

COYNE: I'm excited to see what Loyola Marymount does this year. There's plenty of talent coming back, and it appears Craig Hochstadt is molding his team into one that can be a threat in May. However, beating San Diego State, 9-3, is a far simpler task than slowing down the Cougars.

Likewise, BYU's dismantling of Boise State in Provo is a lot different that traveling to SoCal and facing a tournament contender. And despite how efficient the Cougars looked against the Broncos, there are too many key players graduated from last year and too many re-additions from three years ago for us to get a solid feel for how good this BYU team will be. We should know after this contest. At this point, I think BYU will win this game, 11-8, but the Cougars' game against Cal on Saturday might be a different animal.

SCHOOLER: It's always tough to figure out BYU early in the season because you never know who will be around from the previous season or who will be returning from a past season. But it is always safe to assume that the Cougars will be dangerous. Last year seemed like a down year for BYU, and LMU had its best season ever.

I actually think this will be a good game, but there is a certain intimidation factor when it comes to BYU. A team like LMU, which has not had much success in the past, might second-guess itself. I want to go with a local SLC team on this one, but I believe it will be its own worst enemy in the game. I'm going with the Cougars by a few goals.

No. 12 Cal Poly (2-0) at No. 3 Chapman (1-0) – 7 p.m. PT, Saturday
COYNE: Last year, Chapman went up to San Luis Obispo and knocked off Cal Poly, 13-11. I think that Chapman team was more talented and more sure of itself than this year's version. At this point, anyway. Conversely, I think this Poly team is superior to 2010's squad in terms of talent and experience. That's why I'll go with the Mustangs.

With that said, I think Chapman will be a very a strong team down the stretch and it would not surprise me to see them playing on Friday in Denver. Coaching changes have consequences, especially early in a season, and the Panthers' transition to Dallas Hartley's philosophy won't happen overnight. I think Poly will take advantage of that, even on the road. 'Stangs, 8-7.

SCHOOLER: Chapman had some trouble with San Diego last weekend, so I am not sold on them being a top 5 team (not yet at least). With the coaching change, Chapman lost a few players who did not share the same vision that Coach Hartley does. I think that the Panthers are headed in the right direction and have a sick defense led by Matt Walrath and Andrew Salcido (who I played with in the Tahoe Tournament this summer).

But will that be enough to stop Cal Poly? I was in SLO on Friday and caught a glimpse of the Mustangs. They are missing a lot of players, but did not seem to lose any ground. Cal Poly's weakness was its defense, and I think the Mustangs lost their short-stick defensive middie, Sean Fitzpatrick. But the new goalie, Bo Dunnahoo-Kirsch, looked great in the game, making numerous point-blank saves. Cal Poly has a lot of weapons and really impressed me, so I will go with the Mustangs on the road by a goal. Also looks better for my Gauchos if they win.

No. 18 Florida (3-0) at No. 11 Michigan State (0-0) – 7:30 p.m., Sunday

COYNE: Florida will have four games under its belt, while Michigan State will have none. Florida will have played a grueling game against three-time defending champion Michigan 24 hours earlier, while Sparty will be fresh. Which team has the advantage? Honestly, it might be a push, that's why I see this being an extremely close game.

Frankly, it's tough to get too bullish on the Gators even though they are 3-0. The wins have come against Miami (14-9), South Florida (16-4) and Palm Beach Atlantic (15-6). The first two combined to post a 7-9 mark last spring and neither made the SELC tourney. The third is a D-II squad that went 3-6 and lost to Kennesaw State, 18-3. Obviously, this is not the cream of the crop, but it may be just what UF needed. The Gators lost a bunch of talent off last year's team, including several clutch midfielders, so easing into the '11 campaign is smart scheduling.

If events play out anything like they did last year, Sparty will welcome a tired and beat-up team to East Lansing on Sunday evening. With a roster chock full of experienced players, State should have the ability to take advantage of that. I see the Gators jumping out to an early lead as they try to salvage the weekend, but slowly run out of gas. Michigan State, 13-11.

: One of the big questions surrounding the offseason was whether or not Michigan State is for real. I'm not sold on them yet. They're kind of like Duluth a few years ago. The Gators love to come in and spoil seasons (Cal Poly last year), so this could be a tough one for the Spartans. However, this game comes the night after Florida plays Michigan.

I remember playing Michigan and losing to them 4-3 (UCSB and Michigan were known for slowing the game down) and having to turn around the following day and play an undefeated Colorado State team. Inspired by all that went wrong in our loss, we handled CSU and went on to win every remaining game and the national championship. So it is possible. I know it is a long stretch, but I am going with Florida in this one.

Schooler's Pick

Oregon State (0-0) at UCLA (3-0) – 10 a.m. PT, Saturday

SCHOOLER: So why pick this game? Because I know who will win, but I think Jac might second-guess himself. UCLA has handled all of the D-II teams it has played this season including Call State Fullerton, which beat USC, but they are all D-II teams. Oregon State has not played a game yet, so who knows how good they will be? But what if UCLA is looking ahead to its game against Utah? Maybe it will miss a step. But I don't think so. I am going with the Bruins in this one.

COYNE: Look at this. Is Nicky trying to get cagey by setting me up on this one? I'm not sure, but it's still a good pick because we don't know anything about Oregon State and UCLA hasn't played a D-I team yet.

The Beavers are a young team and will likely be relying on junior middie Alex Spang to carry the load again this year, but it's difficult to know if they will be any better than last year, when OSU went 8-7 and finished third in their division of the PNCLL. And even if there are high hopes in Corvallis this spring, the miserable start to the PNCLL D-I season – the conference is 4-5 in non-conference games so far – tempers a lot of optimism.

Oregon State, however, will be going against a UCLA team that has feasted on Division II teams so far. Granted, the win over No. 18 Cal State Fullerton is somewhat impressive, but the Bruins are not a deep team and rely on the offensive play of sophomore attackman Trevor Gudim and senior middie Ryan Menefee. I've gone back and forth on this one for a while. I really tempted to take UCLA at home, but I'm going with the Beavers, 13-10.

And I won't be pleased if I get burned by another Oregon team this week.

Coyne's Pick

Arizona (1-0) vs. Washington (2-0) – 7 p.m., Friday (at Los Angeles)

COYNE: When I originally picked this one I thought it might be a feisty match-up, but as events have transpired, this one has become a slam-dunk for Arizona, 15-7. I'll be stunned if Nick doesn't take the Wildcats, as well.

: I always try to figure out what sort of game Jac is playing with me and I am not sure what the deal is with this one. Is he trying to bait me into picking Washington? I don't think so.

This is at a neutral field and Arizona is generally a good team. I'm not sure if I can say the same for Washington. A friend of mine in grad school played for them and he is terrible. So I am going with the SLC team and picking Arizona in a landslide.

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