February 23, 2011

Schooling Schooler: Happy Hour on Hold

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

Even though he's a born-and-bred Left Coast guy, Schooler is starting to resemble the protypical New York Yankees fan: talk big when you're up and make excuses when you get beat.

I happened to be keeping a casual eye on the Twitter feed from the Florida-Michigan State game Sunday evening in between shoveling sessions – the Upper Midwest got dumped on over the weekend – and saw that Sparty knocked off the Gators, 12-6, to give me a last-minute tie for the week.

I fired off a one word e-mail ("push...") to our boy Nick and shortly afterward received this response back:

"Damn. What was the score? I'm at happy hour."

First, it makes me angry that Nick is at a stage of his life where he can still attend happy hours. Second, it makes me wonder what kind of Xanadu Schooler is living in when they have happy hours on Sunday. Third, I'm starting to think that after a winning first week, he thinks he has this competition in the bag.

Even for a West Coast guy, Nick is starting to act more and more like a New York Yankees fan.

This last point was established when I received an unsolicited e-mail with the subject line reading, "Not looking good for you," after I had lost my Oregon State pick against his UCLA selection. Fortunately, I was able to rally for the draw, leaving me just a game (Nick: 7-3; Jac: 6-4) behind.

There are a lot of toss-up games this weekend, and a particular game that is going to make Nick wince when he sees it.

: Looks like Michigan State was for real...or Florida stinks. I was banking on that upset to widen the gap between Jac and me, but we pushed. I knew that UCLA would win, but I guess Jac wanted to pick against the SLC to spite me.

Jac really needs to work on his game-picking skills, because Arizona vs. Washington was a no-brainer. Everyone in the country knew who would win that game. Then he chooses Oregon at Chapman for this week. Then at the last second, he realized how dumb that choice was and picked Kansas at Iowa. It's a little better, but who cares about the middle of the country anyway? It's all about the coasts. If he keeps picking those games, he is never going to regain any ground. But he can always resort to D-II games. Let's hope not, because I would be doomed.

Onto the games...

No. 10 Simon Fraser (1-0) at No. 23 Utah (2-2) -- 7 p.m. MT, Friday

COYNE: Simon Fraser had a month off between its first and second games last year, caused primarily by the Vancouver Olympics, but this year the gap is only two weeks. The Clansmen better hope half is better, because after bouncing Western Washington in the initial contest in 2010, SFU proceeded to lose five straight and six of its first seven. If they are off their game again, the Clan could easily lose five of their next six and dig another hole for themselves. And by any measure, this year's version is not as talented.

Fraser's run starts with the Utes on Friday night (they play BYU on Saturday). Utah has to win this game if it harbors any fantasies of making the national tournament. Playing in the shadow of Colorado State, BYU and Colorado, the Utes have to assume they're going for an at-large bid (and even that's probably a stretch), and these are the games you need to earn one. This is a head vs. gut game for me. The coconut is telling me to go with Mark Manning – one of the premier attackmen in the nation – and the Utes, but my ample gut says go with Fraser, even on the road. Clan, 13-12.

SCHOOLER: Utah had a tough week in southern California last weekend, but the Utes are back on their home turf, something they have to be excited about. Simon Fraser turned it on towards the end of last year, but has not been tested this season. Without the Olympics as an excuse, the Clansmen need to turn it on early this year.

SFU has an unimpressive win against a D-II team in Western Washington, so I'm not sure what to think about them, but I do not think it will have a successful season. The Utes, on the other hand, have a lot of games under their belt, including games against UC Santa Barbara and Arizona State. Utah looked good in both games, but was unable to finish. Mark Manning carries that team, and I do not see Simon Fraser having an answer for him. Easy win for Utah.

No. 16 Illinois (0-0) v. No. 15 Virginia Tech (1-0) -- 6 p.m. CT, Saturday (at Vandy)
COYNE: This has the potential to be a matchup of conference champions. Illinois is the defending GRLC champ, while Tech made it to the SELC title game last year and appears to have a solid squad for 2011. Illinois enters the game with a new coach -- Phil Dodson, the younger brother of former coach Joe Dodson -- and a question mark in goal, but plenty of scoring punch. After their first game against Indiana, the Hokies appear to have all the tools, including a talented goalie in sophomore Jason Daniel (19 saves).

It's on a neutral field, but the Fighting Illini play Friday night against Vanderbilt, while Va. Tech will play the Commodores on Sunday. Those who have been following this competition know I think there is a decided advantage for the fresh team, especially when it's less than 24 hours after the first contest. That seals it for the Hokies, 15-11.

SCHOOLER: I have never been a believer in Virginia Tech. The Hokies march through the SELC Northeast, but we all know that the Florida schools own that conference. Then, somehow, they hang around and make the national tournament. It stinks and is stupid that they get ranked every year.

On the other hand, Illinois impressed me last season. It finally knocked off Lindenwood and had a great out-of-conference run, including a win against Florida before pushing Chapman in the first round of nationals. I think that the Illini have a lot of talent to pull from in the Midwest and will look good this year and in the future. Both teams are young, but Illinois is going to win this game easily.

No. 3 Colorado State (0-0) v. No. 11 UCSB (4-1) -- 1 p.m. PT, Sunday

COYNE: Fortunately, I don't have to do any deep thinking about this one. I know Nick is going to take the Gauchos, so I just have to figure out whether I'm comfortable enough taking the Rams. At first blush, it would seem a no-brainer. Colorado State has more talent and experience than UCSB, but there are mitigating factors.

First, this is a rivalry game, even if the rivalry has been (competitively) dormant for a couple of seasons. While BYU might have a beef, I'd say that the UCSB-CSU rivalry is the one that put the MCLA (and past derivatives) on the map. So we know this one will be close. Second, it's at The Pit, the Gauchos' aptly named dog track, which will give the home team a distinct advantage. Third, the Rams play a brutal game against No. 9 Cal Poly on Friday night, while UCSB scouts and rests up for Sunday.

Alas, simply for the fact that a Colorado State victory will ruin Nicky's weekend – and his Sunday happy hour – I'll still go with the Rams, 15-9.

: It pains me to do this, but I do not think that UCSB is at the same level as Colorado State. Yet. It will be eventually, but not by this Sunday. I have never publicly picked against UCSB before, but I just do not see the Gauchos winning this game. CSU has just as much, if not more, talent than last season. I believed that the Rams were the best team last year, and they are No. 2 or No. 3 in my personal rankings this year.

UCSB has looked good, but the Gauchos are young and inexperienced. CSU has a great defense and should be able to slow down Jamie Bridgman and that first line of middies. I am sorry Gauchos. Please surprise me and win the game, but I really want to see Jac wearing an Obama shirt around Denver. So I am going with the Rams. Yes, that is Colorado State. That was not a typo. But I hope they pull out an Oregon 2011 move.

COYNE: Typical liberal. No conviction.

Schooler's Pick
No. 18 Sonoma State at San Diego State -- 3:30 p.m. PT, Saturday
: Why pick this game? Sonoma was terrible last year, and if Jac has been sleeping, he might not have noticed that it changed its coaching staff and direction. Sonoma also somehow broke the top 25 based on this notion, so people are concerned about the Cossacks/Seawolves around the MCLA. They handled Portland State last weekend and will handle San Diego State and USD this weekend. SDSU has won the last two meetings between these two teams, but I do not see that happening here. Sonoma is back. I have it winning this game easily.

: At first blush, one might think Nick is trying to set me up, but I know this isn't the case. Schooler gets so much angry correspondence from 'Noma grads that he pretty much does whatever they tell him to do. This game is just boring. We'll both have the Seawolves. My score will be 11-6.

Coyne's Pick

Kansas at Iowa -- 7:30 p.m. CT, Friday
COYNE: I-O-W-A! Since we subject Nicky to numerous UCSB picks, it's only fair that we roll out my (graduate) alma mater for the one interesting game on the Hawkeyes' schedule this season.

Just a quick primer, the GRLC has a I-A and a I-AA contingent with the former getting four bids to the conference tournament and the latter getting two. Iowa and Kansas were the two I-AA qualifiers last spring, and are favorites to do it again, so this is about positioning. The winner will likely get the No. 4 seed, the loser the No. 3 seed. Last year, the Jayhawks dumped the Hawks, 12-9, in a neutral site game in Lincoln, Neb., so Iowa will look to return the favor, especially since it's in the Iowa Bubble.

A quick plug: I did a story in January on former Landon (Md.) School player Alex de la Pena who wound up with Iowa. After two games this season, de la Pena has posted 10 goals and 7 assists.

Book it: Hawkeyes, 14-12.

SCHOOLER: I have to give it to Jac here (even though he changed his choice last second from the Oregon at Chapman game). This is a very tough game to choose. Kansas delivered Iowa its only loss last season, and Kansas has not graduated any of its top scorers. However, against Memphis this season, Iowa scored more, while both teams allowed the same number of goals. Part of me wants to choose Kansas, because I think that Jac will pick Iowa. But I think that Iowa has the advantage of playing at home, and the fact that it desperately wants to avenge its lone loss of the 2010 season. So I am going with the Hawkeyes in this one.

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