March 14, 2012

Schooling Schooler: MCLA's Internecine Snobbery

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

When St. Thomas and Davenport met up in the MCLA Division II national championship game last year, there were plenty of association snobs who couldn't be bothered to watch the action. They were missing out.
© Cecil Copeland

When I attended my first MCLA championships in 2008 in Dallas, I bumped into a very interesting phenomenon when it came to former players and current fans of MCLA-I.

They seemed to loathe the association's second division.

Whereas NCAA Division I players and fans seem to have an older brother relationship with the two divisions below them, a lot of MCLA D-I types treat the junior circuit like the nose-picking second cousin that must be embraced for a week during the holidays.

The comment I was getting the most from certain individuals – and again, this was from former players and fans, not D-I coaches – was, "It's just bad lacrosse." It's a grossly subjective term, and somewhat ironic considering many of the snobbish, NCAA backers I speak with feel the same way about MCLA ball, as a whole.

Yet that was the theme.

And not only was the level of lacrosse sub-par, but the eight D-II teams that were in Dallas (the D-II tourney didn't expand until 2010) were an unnecessary distraction from the main event. In addition, the funds used to sponsor the fledgling division could be better used to expand the Division I tourney.

I scratched my head regarding the animosity, especially after watching the finals in '08, when Westminster beat Grand Valley in State Texas Stadium. I thought the Griffins were a deep, balanced team that represented the association very well. Cam Holding, then a freshman for the Lakers, was one of the best players on the field in either division.

Granted, this was five years ago, and attitudes have softened somewhat.

While the top of D-II has remained at about the same level – that '08 Westminster squad is still the best I've seen – the rest of the second division has gained depth. Contributing to D-IIs legitimacy is a general understanding that if the Nos. 13-16 seeds in the Division I tourney had been replaced by the D-II semifinalists – Davenport, St. Thomas, Dayton and GVSU – the first round games would have been just as competitive.

If not more so.

I will concede that there are some scruffy looking programs in the back-half of the Division II roll, but the same could be said for its big-school peers. Still, the underlying current of contempt among many MCLA-ers continues.

Nick, you've been a bit of a D-I snob over the years. Why the animosity? And will it ever end?

SCHOOLER: Apparently, Jac has gone with two Division II games this week because in his words, "there are slim pickings."

Due to my lack of literary talent, I will drop a cliché here: desperate times call for desperate measures.

That is where Jac is right now. Apparently, the BYU v. Duluth or Arizona State v. Chapman contests aren't intriguing enough.

Jac knows that I have zero interest in MCLA Division II lacrosse. It's not because I am a snob; I'm just not interested in it. I like my Gauchos and the teams they compete against. I don't watch NCAA D-II or D-III lacrosse. Aside from MCLA Division I, I watch NCAA D-I lacrosse because it's the highest level out there.

I recognize there is talent in Division II lacrosse. That doesn't mean I need to follow it or praise it.

I don't expect that from NCAA fans towards MCLA lacrosse, either.

Jac is trying to distract us from the fact that he's losing. As such, he's decided to throw me a wildcard.

The funny thing is it didn't need to be MCLA Division II lacrosse. It could have been NCAA DI lacrosse or the World Cup of Quidditch. I would have had equal trouble picking the games.

So, if this is what Jac needs to get back into this thing, then I will try my best to learn about Division II lacrosse and make the most informed decision I can.

To the games (where Nick is 16-9 and Jac is 12-13 after a second straight push)...

No. 13 Clemson (8-2) at No. 19 Colorado (0-2) - Friday, 7:30 p.m. MT

COYNE: The winner of this game is going to breathe a huge sigh of relief while the loser will start to get a little panicky. It's slightly overstated, but this a mid-season playoff games for both programs.

The Tigers were running hot after their near-miss to Boston College early in the season, even dominating conference heavyweight Florida State along the way. However, the one-goal loss last weekend to Buffalo has changed the mood. If you look at teams that are likely to be in the tournament this year, Clemson is 0-2. And assuming Colorado still qualifies as "good win," there are only two left (Virginia Tech in early April).

Colorado's desperation is a little more obvious. While the Buffs have a precedent for cobbling together losses and still making the tournament, if they lose to Clemson, the best case scenario would be a 5-7 finish considering what's on their schedule. Unless the Buffs pick up a magical win over CSU or BYU along the way, that probably won't cut it for Greenville.

So which team is more desperate?

Since Clemson still has a realistic shot at winning the SELC AQ, they have options. The Buffs don't look like they have a prayer of winning the RMLC tourney. CU needs this one more, but, sadly, I don't think they'll get it. Tigers, 13-8.

SCHOOLER: What Colorado team will show up for this game? The one that was competitive with Chapman, or the one that managed to manipulate Loyola-Marymount? I'm hoping it is the team that showed up against Chapman in the first half.

Clemson has not had to venture far from home this season. Things are different when you are sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, sometimes sharing a bed with one of your teammates. I do not think the altitude will help their cause, either. While I have been an adamant supporter of the Tigers all season, I am going to go with the Buffs, 8-6.

No. 1 Davenport (3-1) vs. No. 2 St. Thomas (2-0) - Friday, 5 p.m. MT (at St. Louis, Mo.)

COYNE: With the intro, you knew there was going to be some D-II ball coming your way. Here's the first installment.

So we know that Nick will take Davenport – he always defaults to the higher ranked team whenever D-II makes itself into the discussion – so the only question is: am I willing to take the Tommies?

There's no question the Panthers are loaded. The defense is young, but they have a pair of grizzled goalies and an offense that can score with anyone.

Motivation is a powerful tool, however. St. Thomas is still stinging after giving away its three-peat in the fourth quarter of last year's championship game. Tommies gain a measure of revenge, 13-12.

SCHOOLER: All I really know about these two teams is that I hear their names in Division II talk frequently. They seem to always be top-seeded programs and favorites to take the national championship crown. I've been asking around about people's opinions about this game. Most favor Davenport, except for one friend who is picking an upset for St. Thomas (that friend is not Jac).

I am not looking to gamble here, and this is probably the reason I never win big in blackjack. I'm going with the safe choice. Davenport, 14-11.

No. 18 Illinois (2-0) at Simon Fraser (2-5) – Saturday, 5 p.m. PT (at Salem, Ore.)

COYNE: Illinois is a good team, but heading to the Pacific Northwest for a 'Double-Down' is not going to end well.

This weekend sets up terribly for the Illini. Not only are they facing a talented Oregon team on Friday night, but then they bump into a rested, hungry Simon Fraser squad on Saturday that is desperate for a Top 20 win. Plus, the Clansmen play a brand of ball that isn't the easiest to prepare for, and Illinois hasn't played Fraser since '08.

Making this trip will pay off in the conference tourney, but it's not going to reflected in the win column. Clan, 15-9.

SCHOOLER: This is a tough one to chose. Illinois is better than Oregon State and Boise Statem, but the Illini barely beat Iowa and have not played a quality opponent all season. Illinois will also be coming off a game against Oregon the previous evening.

While this is at a neutral location, I think Simon Fraser has an advantage. There is no player on the Illinois roster who can contain Calvin Craig. He will have at least six points, and the Clan will cruise to victory, 12-9.

Coyne's Pick

No. 8 Briarcliffe (1-0) vs. No. 3 Dayton (5-0) – Saturday, 2 p.m.

COYNE: Ding! Here's round two of the MCLA-II contests. Again, we know that Schooler will reflexively take the Flyers. It's probably the right pick as they've looked solid so far. However, Dayton has been idle for three weeks now, and any momentum has likely petered out. Plus, they haven't played anyone as good as Briarcliffe to this point.

Every year, Briarcliffe battles the depth issue, and it again appears that the Bulldogs will once again be thin. There are currently just 22 non-goalies on the roster. Conventional wisdom says this won't be helped by playing a decent Indiana Tech team the night before.

Alas, fatigue is something that shows up in May, not in the third game of the season.

So I'm going out on a limb (because I need to get back into this) and hope that Tim Dillon can control the faceoffs, allowing Briarcliffe to determine tempo. Dawgs, 11-10 in overtime.

SCHOOLER: How great would it be if I was able to pick all of these Division II games correctly and Jac got at least one wrong That's what I am hoping for.

Aside from some sweet uniforms that have been circulating around 'The Internets,' Briacliffe is not in the same league at Dayton. The Bulldogs have not played as many games as the Flyers, and I would not quite call Maine (the only win for the Bulldogs) a hotbed of D-II lacrosse.

For these reasons, and the advantage of playing at home, I am going with Dayton, 12-9.

Schooler's Pick

No. 21 Loyola Marymount (5-3) at San Diego (2-4)– Saturday, 6 p.m.

COYNE: The sandbagging continues.

A ranked team against one that lost by a goal to Cal State-Fullerton? Really? That's the pick? This is a new low.

Lions, 9-5.

SCHOOLER: San Diego has already lost a game to D-II Fullerton this season, so, while LMU has not played a D-II squad, they could lose to one as well.

[JAC: The above sentence is the one that makes it especially painful that I'm losing right now.]

I have to give the edge to LMU. The close game between the Toreros and ASU was due to tbe suspension of goalie Dylan Westfall, but Loyola-Marymount has been up and down. I am very impressed with how LMU handled Colorado, holding them scoreless for the first three quarters. This should be a tough game, but I see the Lions coming out with a road win, 7-6.

Schooling Schooler Archive
Week Five: Finally, the Buffaloes Stampede
Week Four: Spartans Make Their Stand
Week Three: Wither the Sun Devils?
Week Two: Nick's Bittersweet Weekend
Week One: Time to Feed the Ego

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