April 3, 2013

Schooling Schooler: Time for Some Bracketing

by Jac Coyne and Nick Schooler | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

No. 1 Colorado State and No. 4 Brigham Young rekindle their rivalry this weekend when the Rams make the sojourn to Provo. With the two teams with the most MCLA championships meeting, it's a fitting time to see what the brackets look like at this point.
© Cecil Copeland

I've been toying with the idea of putting together a mock bracket for MCLA Division I for a couple of weeks now in my Monday notebooks, but just haven't gotten around to it. Since I feel like we've exhausted most of the current events in the association, we might as well dig into the meat and potatoes of the 2013 season.

Where do we begin?

The best place to start is figuring out who are going to be the automatic qualifiers out of the respective conferences. This is a pretty significant guessing game at this point, but I've got to go with: Michigan State (CCLA), Wisconsin (GRLC), Texas (LSA), Boston College (PCLL), Oregon (PNCLL), Colorado State (RMLC), Virginia Tech (SELC), Arizona State (SLC) and Stanford (WCLL). With the exception of the CCLA and SELC, I feel pretty comfortable with these picks.

That leaves seven at-large selections. BYU and Colorado are in regardless of how the final triumvirate in the RMLC shakes out. Same for the SLC with Chapman and UC Santa Barbara, so that narrows our field down to three. It seems like I've gone over their schedules 100 times, but there is just no way to keep out Sonoma and California, so we'll bank them, as well.

So we're down to one. At this point, it boils down to Simon Fraser, Davenport and the second place team out of the PCLL. In reality, this final slot will likely be filled by a team that was upset in its conference final — a team like Oregon (by Fraser), Michigan State (by Davenport) or Boston College (UConn, Northeastern or Buffalo) — but I'll make my pick on who I actually think will get the nod. Davenport's the choice, although this weekend will go a long way in determining how confident I am.

Seeding is a different monkey altogether. The overall resumes give us an general feel, but we have to keep an eye out for teams in the same conference matching up in the first round, among other details. So here are the first-round tussles in Greenville.

No. 16 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Colorado State
No. 15 Texas vs. No. 2 Colorado
No. 14 Davenport vs. No. 3 Arizona State
No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. No. 4 BYU
No. 12 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
No. 11 California vs. No. 6 Chapman
No. 10 Sonoma State vs. No. 7 Boston College
No. 9 Oregon vs. No. 8 UC Santa Barbara

And there it is. Nick, care to give it a whirl?

SCHOOLER: Well, it's hard to argue with what you have written, but I differ slightly in who I think will win each conference. I am going with: Davenport (CCLA), Indiana or Illinois (GRLC), Texas (LSA), Boston College (PCLL), Oregon (PNCLL), Colorado State (RMLC), Richmond (SELC), Arizona State (SLC) and Sonoma (WCLL).

The GRLC is tough, but it really doesn't matter. They will be the 16th seed no matter what. I also think the CCLA and WCLL are toss-ups between three teams in each conference. The SELC has so many mediocre programs that it could foreseeably be taken by a team with a losing record, but that does not open it up to a second at-large team.

As far as the at-larges go, I totally agree with you. Four spots clearly lie with the second- and third-place teams in the RMLC and SLC. I'm having a tougher time with the last three. I think Stanford definitely deserves a spot, so that leaves me with two spots for Simon Fraser, Cal, Grand Canyon, and Northeastern. To shake things up, let's say it ends up being Grand Canyon and Simon Fraser. That finishes off my 16 teams. So this is what my bracket would look like:

No. 16 Indiana/Illinois vs. No. 1 Colorado State
No. 15 Richmond vs. No. 2 ASU
No. 14 Simon Fraser vs. No. 3 BYU
No. 13 Grand Canyon vs. No. 4 Colorado
No. 12 Davenport vs. No. 5 Chapman
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 6 UCSB
No. 10 Texas vs. No. 7 Sonoma
No. 9 Stanford vs. No. 8 Boston College

On to the games, where both sides posted a 3-2 week keeping Coyne with a three-game bulge, 29-16 to 26-19.

No. 1 Colorado State (10-0) at No. 4 Brigham Young (11-2) - Friday, 7 p.m. MT

COYNE: Picking against No. 1 is such a fruitless exercise. You can convince yourself of about 17 different things that could happen to cause the upset, but in the back of your mind you know there is almost no chance of that happening. This is especially the case with a team with as few holes as Colorado State. It is further compounded when the team in question doesn't have the necessarily requirements to exploit the opportunities that CSU makes available.

Long story short, as much I'd to see a good ol' fashioned upset, it ain't happening here. Rams, 11-7.

SCHOOLER: Until someone takes them down, I find it hard to pick against the Rams. But this will be a close game. And in a close game, anything can happen. Colorado State has been able to pull off the close victories over UC Santa Barbara and Chapman, but that cannot last. The Cougs find their groove again and take down the top team, 8-6.

No. 16 Davenport (7-2) at No. 23 Virginia Tech (8-5) - Friday, 8 p.m.

Friday night's clash between the Rams and Cougars should be just as physical as past encounters. If the game is close enough, we might even get the back-to-back stick checks that turned the 2011 national semifinals into a circus.
© Cecil Copeland

COYNE: If Davenport hadn't coughed up its seven-goal lead against Grand Canyon a couple of weeks ago, the Panthers would certainly be a Top 15 team, and maybe even flirting with the Top 10. The fact that Simon Fraser — a team DU beat — edged CCLA rival Michigan State gives the Panthers cause for optimism when conference tourney time rolls around. A clean sweep in Blacksburg this weekend over the Hokies and Clemson and Davenport will be talked about on Selection Sunday one way or another.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is still very difficult to read. The loss to South Carolina was disturbing, but the bounce-back triumph over Florida State can't be undervalued. The Hokies are still very much alive in the at-large race, although they are also the favorites to win the SELC. Tech got a taste of what they can expect out of Davenport when it played Fraser, and that didn't work out very well. Davenport runs the Hokies ragged, 12-9.

SCHOOLER: The Hokies are a tough team to figure out. They have two very good players in Matt Giannelli (25g, 12a) and Preston Naslonski (29g), but managed to lose to a team like South Carolina last weekend.

Davenport is at the other end of the spectrum. I expected them to struggle, but aside from losing to ASU and Grand Canyon, their season has been a huge success. The set of games this weekend for the Panthers should tell us if they will be legitimate contenders for the CCLA automatic bid. They will sweep the weekend beating Virginia Tech, 9-7.

No. 10 Sonoma State (7-3) at No. 6 Stanford (10-1) - Sunday, 2 p.m. PT

COYNE: It's always fun when a pair of teams with contrasting styles square off, if only just to see which coaching staff makes the proper adjustments to make sure their tempo prevails. Sonoma will want to turn this into a half-field snoozer, where every possession is a test of your manhood. Stanford will want to operate at a slightly higher tempo, but not a complete shootout, as the Cardinal doesn't have the depth for that.

When viewed through the prism of contrasting styles, it's easy to see that Stanford has the advantage. The Cardinal will never be out of the game even if they fall a couple of goals behind because 'Noma's bland offense doesn't have the juice to pull away from top teams. On the flipside, if Stanford does race out to a sizeable early lead, the Seawolves will be in trouble. While they showed a little grit against Pittsburgh, Sonoma is not a come-from-behind squad for the most part. A late rally keeps Stanford on pace in the WCLL, 9-7.

SCHOOLER: Nobody has been hotter than these two teams this season. Stanford climbed from No. 20 to No. 2, but recently dropped down to No. 6. Sonoma has steadily climbed from No. 17 to their current spot at No. 10.

What impressed me most is that the Seawolves have not sat around at home. They went out and scheduled tough games around the county, putting their fate in their own hands. The trip to Oregon hurt, but the trek to Virginia really paid off and has prepared them for this game. The selection committee will recognize this and reward them.

Strong and, more importantly, smart defense from Sonoma will win this game. It is a given that Jack Farr (27g, 30a) and Peter Doyle (37g, 10a) will put up some points, but limiting that duo to five goals should do the trick. Sonoma pulls off the upset, 8-7.

Schooler's Pick

UNLV (6-4) at Arizona (7-4) - Saturday, 1 p.m.

SCHOOLER: When I choose my game each week, I don't look for the one that is going to make Jac slip up. I try to choose an intriguing game that might otherwise be overlooked. These two teams are looking to shore up the three seed in the SLC North and South for the conference playoffs.

Neither team has taken the easy road. They both put together tough schedules and have held their own. I am having a tough time choosing one over the other, but that normally leads me to pick the home team. Since both teams have played well on their own field, I'm going with the Laxcats, 10-8.

COYNE: This SLC friendly is the calm before the storm for these two teams. Next weekend, Arizona will travel to face San Diego and San Diego State in a pair of must-win games if the Wildcats want to make the SLC tourney. The following weekend, UNLV squares off with Loyola Marymount in another postsesaon elimination game. Nothing is on the line Saturday, but building momentum will be key for both teams.

UNLV has an extremely thin squad with just 16 players on the roster, but they've acquitted themselves well this spring, making BYU, UCSB and Colorado State work for narrow victories. Arizona has played the top squads equally tough and the triumph over Simon Fraser is looking better and better. Playing at home is a plus for 'Zona, but I've got a good feeling about this scrappy bunch of Rebels. Vegas, 7-6.

Coyne's Pick

No. 3 St. John's (8-0) at No. 1 St. Thomas (5-0) - Saturday, 7 p.m. CT

COYNE: Yes, we already know that Nick will say: "I don't know anything about Division II, so I'll take the higher ranked team." Whatever. This game is too big not to select this week, regardless of Nick's feigned ignorance of D-II. Much like Colorado and Colorado State in Division I, the top two teams in D-II reside just miles from each other in Minnesota. In the grand scheme of things, the stakes are relatively low — these two will pair off again in the UMLC finals in a couple of weeks — but this will give us a better understanding of whether the junior circuit is just an formality.

St. Thomas snapped out of its offensive funk in which they mustered just 13 total goals against Fullerton and Indiana Tech with a 21-11 beatdown of Western Oregon. That's got to be a little scary for the rest of the division, including the Johnnies, who struggled with the Wolves. At this point, the Tommies have a better attack and midfield, while St. John's has a marginal advantage on defense and a substantial one in goal. It's going to be close, but the Johnnies give the rest of MCLA hope, 5-4.

SCHOOLER: I don't know anything about Division II, so I'll take the higher ranked team. But in all honesty, I have been secretly following some of the top teams in reading various forums around the internet to get my lax fix in the mornings. Most of the division I chatter has died down, so I have to settle.

I am probably more familiar with these two teams than past years. In this case, it would be tough for me to pick the Johnnies. They are on the road against their rival and have not been pushed this season. The Tommies had a tough game against Westminster, but those guys are solid as well. I find it hard not to pick the Tommies, 12-10.

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