March 2, 2011

Schooling Schooler: The Dogs Days of March

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

Unfortunately, the Schooling Schooler competition is starting to look as predictable as the Michigan-Chapman rivalry. After two weeks of pushes, we're destined for a  third this round. It might time to mix things up, sort of like a pick 'em cross-check to the face.
© Ryan McKee

Four weeks into the season and we've already hit a rut. Despite the presence of five games that should be extremely competitive this weekend, Schooler and I ended up selecting the same five teams.


Last year, I'd occasionally take a sneak peek at which teams Nicky was going with and flip my picks just to make it interesting. But Nicky is hell-bent on winning -- or at least keeping it close -- this year, so he has demanded that I pick all of my games before he sends his.

So we get gridlock.

Schooler still clings to a one-game lead (10-5 to 9-6) after we pushed again last week, 3-2. With these static results, don't be surprised if a Division II game or two shows up on the grid.

SCHOOLER: This is boring. A push two weeks in a row and it looks like we could be heading for another one. At least Oregon slipped up early in the season and I was able to pick up a game on Jac. Fortunately for the Ducks, it looks like they will be back and have plenty of games to make up some ground. Every week that Jac sends me the picks, I cover my eyes and hope that there are no Division II games selected. So far I have been safe.

It looks like the strong teams are headed on the road this week, so I'm picking against home field advantage. If Jac is smart, he will, too. Like his politics, Jac has been picking very conservatively over the past few weeks while I have been picking the upsets. Unfortunately, I may have been too eager to pick upsets.

Illinois failed me last week, as did Florida the previous week. I'm banking on my Arizona squad at home to gain some ground, but it is highly unlikely that Jac will pick a team that has yet to play a game. Either way, I need to gain some ground because Jac threatened to replace me with another competitor if I do not do well this season.

Onto the games...

No. 7 Michigan State (1-0) vs. No. 17 Simon Fraser (1-2) – 7 p.m. PT, Friday

: I think Michigan State is going to have trouble on the back end of the three-game, four-day swing to the Pacific Northwest, but the opener against Fraser will be a good match-up for Sparty. State has depth, is well-coached, and has talent at many of the key positions, including Michigan-killing attackman Patrick Nemes.

Fraser will come out on fire. Not not only because this is essentially a home game -- it's being played in Vancouver, Wash., just over the border from the Clan's home in Burnaby, B.C. -- but because this could be a signature win for SFU. A win that it could potentially ride to an at-large bid if Fraser doesn't win the PNCLL. While it could play out that way, I see Michigan State blunting an early surge by the Clan and then grinding down the thin Fraser roster for the victory. Sparty, 12-10.

SCHOOLER: Well, I picked against them once, and it cost me going up by two points on Jac. Do I think that Simon Fraser is overrated? Yes, and according to the new poll, the rest of the country does as well. I also heard that they got pretty banged up in Utah last weekend.

Fortunately, they have universal health care in Canada, so they should be good to go in about a year or two. In all seriousness, I think they will have issues with this. From what I heard, Fraser's FOGO injured himself and was not able to play against BYU. With the short bench that the Clansmen carry, they could have a tough year if these injuries continue. I see Michigan State winning this one easily.

No. 1 Michigan (2-0) at No. 5 Chapman (4-0) – 1 p.m. PT, Saturday

COYNE: Are we to believe that Michigan will be going with the goaltending platoon of seniors Mark Stone and Andrew Fowler for the entire year? Meh, I'm not buying it. I think we'll see that experiment end this weekend when the Wolverines and Panthers renew the top rivalry in the MCLA (at this point). It's not that I necessarily think one goalie is better than the other, but if you've got a goalie who is lights out in the first half, it would be crazy to pull him for the sake of the rotation.

I'm predicting a big performance out of Mark Stone, especially in the first half to keep the Wolverines on top of a tightly contested game, and he'll get the nod in the second frame, as well. There will be a couple of critical goals out of Chad Carroll and Michigan will keep their mastery of Chapman intact. Maize & Blue, 10-9.

: When choosing what college to go to, I held up the acceptance package from Michigan, Cal, and UC Santa Barbara. I immediately tossed the Cal one because I had spent my entire life in Berkeley and needed to get out of that bubble. I had a great experience with Coach [John] Paul during my visit to Michigan, and I was almost set on going there.

However, while flipping through the pamphlets that came in my acceptance packets, Santa Barbara had beautiful women, beautiful weather, marine science, and great lacrosse. Sorry JP, I guess you can't control that. So I have always felt a connection to Michigan and secretly rooted for them. And in many cases, I favor them over my SLC teams.

These two teams have both played Oregon, and Chapman has the edge in that area. However, if history tells us anything, this game will be something like 13-11 in favor of Michigan. The Wolverines have owned Chapman over the last four years. And how can you pick against the reigning national champions? I'm going all in for Michigan.

COYNE: That Michigan story never gets old, no matter how many times you tell it. Seriously.

No. 12 Florida State (6-1) at No. 14 Virginia Tech (3-0) – 3:30 p.m., Saturday

COYNE: This is the toughest game of the weekend for me. Florida State has found itself after a rocky start and Virginia Tech is proving to be a team to be reckoned with in the SELC, if not the country. The Hokies playing at home is certainly an advantage, but the Seminoles are the more experienced team. Both teams have excellent goalies along with studs up and down the line-up.

So this one comes down to my gut instinct, and that leads me to believe Florida State will win. That Texas loss was a kick in the pants for the 'Noles and I think Bill Harkins will be quick to remind his troops what can happen if they aren't ready to go against everyone. These two teams will meet again, but I've got FSU in the first round, 15-11.

SCHOOLER: I shot myself in the foot last week by picking the Illini over the Hokies, but I stick by what I said. Virginia Tech is not a national championship caliber team. The Seminoles had a slip up against Texas, but they look like the favorite in an ever-weakening SELC conference. This is on the road for the Seminoles, but I see them pulling off the easy victory.

Coyne's Pick

No. 8 Minn.-Duluth (2-0) at No. 16 Utah (3-2) – 1 p.m. MT, Sunday
COYNE: Those of you who follow my other columns will remember I wrote about the "Double Down" in Monday's Making Sense notebook. Well, the Bulldogs are doubling down this weekend against No. 4 BYU on Friday and No. 16 Utah on Sunday. It's the same Double Down that swept away No. 18 Simon Fraser last weekend. But there's one big difference between Fraser and Dululth: depth.

You have to have the numbers, especially in the midfield, to be successful on these types of trips. Simon Fraser didn't have it, but Duluth does. The Bulldogs will lose to BYU on Friday because the Cougars are the better team, but Duluth will narrowly beat the Utes on Sunday. Dawgs, 12-9.

SCHOOLER: I think Jac has a little crush on Utah. He has picked a Utah game two weeks in a row. We will see if he fares better in this match up, but I'm afraid that my lacrosse knowledge is too much for him. I have to give it to him though, it's tough to learn a game that you have never played.

I am torn on this game. If Utah wins, it looks good for the two SLC teams that beat the Utes (Arizona State and UC Santa Barbara). However, I have this feeling that the Bulldogs are going to be able to hold down Mark Manning. This does not come from any inside information. It is just one of those gut feelings and I hope I am right. I am just crossing my fingers that there are no key injuries for Duluth in the BYU game. I going with an OT win for the Bulldogs.

Schooler's Pick
No. 13 Boston College (0-0) at No. 15 Arizona (3-0) – 7 p.m., MT, Monday
SCHOOLER: We do not normally do Monday games, but this could be a good game. With the new rankings, it looks even better than I initially anticipated. Part of me wants to go with the Wildcats in this one because they are in the SLC. Also, Boston College will play three games in four days including one against Arizona State on Saturday.

However, Boston College is ranked higher and return a bunch of its top scorers from last season. The Eagles have not played a game yet this season, but Arizona only has one quality win and that was against Cal. I am not as impressed with that win though because everyone knows that Cal plays a lot better at home and that game was played in Los Angeles. So who do I chose? I am going with Arizona in a close one, mainly because it is a toss up and I'm betting on Jac picking Boston College.

COYNE: Despite the rankings, is it fair to think that Boston College – a team that has probably been practicing in a basketball gym for the past month – can fly 2,000 miles and be ready for three games in four days, with two of the games coming against ranked teams? It's not, and this game is the third game of the Eagles run (they play Texas A&M and Arizona State on Friday and Saturday, respectively).

My pick is not a referendum on B.C. I think the Eagles are ranked about right and they will likely be the brutally efficient defensive team we've come to expect when the calendar turns to April. They'll lose to the Wildcats (sorry, the nickname 'LaxCats' makes my skin crawl) in this game, however. It'll be 'Zona, 9-7.

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