by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Since your humble scribe will be careening across the Upper Midwest toward Omaha for a St. Patrick’s Day gathering as you read this, it’s time to use up one of my “clickbait” passes for the season and roll out some mock brackets.
We’re still 45 days away from when the selection junta will hand down the actual 16-team brackets in both divisions of the MCLA, but who doesn’t like mock brackets? No one, that’s who.
Let’s start with an annotated look at the junior circuit.
(And for the record, I’m not on the selection committee and have zero inside information. This is all pure conjecture).
No. 16 Washington (Mo.) (AQ) vs. No. 1 St. Thomas (AQ)
The Tommies are a no-brainer. While they could potentially tumble to No. 2, it just doesn’t seem likely at this point. Washington is the pick just because they were the preseason favorites in the GRLC, but we’ll get a better idea when the Bears play MoState on March 31. Because of Louisiana’s win over Washington earlier, the GRLC is almost certainly locked into the 16th seed.
No. 15 UT-Dallas (AQ) vs. No. 2 Grand Valley State (AL)
Again, we’ll go with UTD here because of the preseason poll, but it’ll come down to the probable LSA final against Louisiana for the AQ. Putting GVSU here doesn’t match the current polls, but the Lakers have far more strength left on their schedule to make the jump back to No. 2. It’ll be close with Concordia, but both are on a collision course in the semifinals either way.
No. 14 Western Washington (AQ) vs. No. 3 Concordia-Irvine (AQ)
We’ll give the Vikings the nod out of the PNCLL, although I still think someone else could emerge (College of Idaho, Southern Oregon, etc.). Regardless, it’s a one-bid league and seemingly locked into this spot. Whether it’s CUI or GVSU here, WWU will be hard pressed to advance.
No. 13 Grove City (AL) vs. No. 4 North Dakota State (AL)
With the number of CCLA and UMLC teams, there is going to be some bracket tweaking to avoid first round conference matchups. This is one of them. I had North Dakota State as a No. 5 seed, but swapped them with Dayton to avoid the CCLA connection. The Wolverines are the last team in as an at-large, but it’s tenuous at best. There’s a very real chance that GCC doesn’t win another game, so a San Diego, App State or the like might find their way here. If that happens, Dayton would slide back in.
No. 12 Cal State Fullerton (AL) vs. No. 5 Dayton (AL)
I’m intrigued by this edition of Fullerton. They’ve got some veteran guys who are scoring a lot of goals. Unfortunately, the schedule isn't beefy enough to move them up a whole lot unless the Titans upset Concordia. Dayton has flipped a switched since the Bridgewater game.
No. 11 Minn.-Duluth (AL) vs. No. 6 Montana State (AQ)
Montana State’s win over St. John’s initially bumped them up to No. 7, but because St. John’s can’t face UMLC rival Duluth in the first round, the Bobcats get an upgrade. It’s fair, considering the head-to-head result (although the Johnnies play a tougher schedule). I’m sure the Bulldogs would be fine with this matchup.
No. 10 Kennesaw State (AQ) vs. No. 7 St. John’s (AL)
Kennesaw still has Judgement Weekend coming up in a couple of weeks – which includes a contest against the Johnnies – so they are still upwardly mobile. A couple of good results in Illinois and a home seed is well within reason. The loss to Montana State stings St. John’s, but the Johnnies also have the remaining schedule to get back into the Top 4.
No. 9 Bridgewater State (AQ) vs. No. 8 Sierra Nevada (AQ)
Bridgewater is going to saddle up that Dayton win and ride it as far as it will take them. Honestly, the victory is going to become more and more impressive as the Flyers find their groove. Still, there is a ceiling for that win. And if the Bears lose anywhere along the way (even if they get the AQ), they will tumble quickly into the No. 13 range. With a win over Duluth this weekend and Montana State later, Sierra Nevada can still move up.
Now moving onto Division I, where things are far more complicated. I don’t envy the committee.
No. 16 Indiana (AQ) vs. No. 1 California (AQ)
MCLA office secretary: Mr. Coyne, there's a call on line 2.
Me: Who is it?
MCLA office secretary: It's a Mr. Lovic. A Mr. Ken Lovic.
Me: Tell him it's nothing personal and hang up.
OK, listen, I’ve got California at No. 1 because I think the Bears are going to run the table and I think Georgia Tech is going to pick up a loss along the way, probably in Colorado. If the Yellow Jackets run the table, then flip ‘em. The GRLC is pretty much locked in to No. 16 and the Hoosiers are the frontrunners.
No. 15 Texas (AQ) vs. No. 2 Georgia Tech (AQ)
I’ve got Texas as a placeholder in the LSA, but it could be one of five teams here, honestly. As for the Ramblin’ Wreck, see above.
No. 14 Michigan State (AQ) vs. No. 3 Brigham Young (AQ)
Even though Colorado is hosting the RMLC tourney this spring, I’ll give BYU the AQ. You’ve got to pick someone, right? The ceiling for Sparty’s AQ out of the CCLA is probably No. 13, but I’m going to give the PCLL the benefit of the doubt for now. Regardless, it’ll will be an uphill slog.
No. 13 UConn (AQ) vs. No. 4 Grand Canyon (AQ)
It’s so early in the PCLL campaign to get a grasp on anything, but we’ll give Huskies a little love for now. Boston College and New Hampshire could very easily be here, but the bracket game is not for the weak of heart. The Lopes are going to be in this range, perhaps one up or one down.
No. 12 Oregon State (AQ) vs. No. 5 Colorado (AL)
The PNCLL is wide open, and the race is going to get crazy when it becomes clear that just one bid is on the line. I like the Beavers at this point. I was ready to ride the Ducks all the way out, but losses to Boise State and SMU have me confused. Going up against the Buffaloes will be challenging for whomever is here.
No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (AL) vs. No. 6 Cal Poly (AL)
The Gauchos are the last invitee to the party and, as you’d expect, they are hanging by a thread. Numerous teams – Utah, Oregon, Boston College, etc., - will all be circling this final at-large bid like vultures. Whoever finds their way here better have their defense ready because goals will be scarce against Poly.
No. 10 Arizona State (AL) vs. No. 7 Colorado State (AL)
Initially I had ASU at No. 9, but they won’t get bracketed with a fellow SLC member, so there was some finagling. Colorado State and Chapman play tonight, so this portion of the bracket will become a lot clearer come Sunday.
No. 9 Florida State (AL) vs. No. 8 Chapman (AL)
If you want to flip the Seminoles to a home seed here, I won’t argue. I'm assuming some key Chapman wins down the stretch. If the Panthers don’t get them, they could get wiped off the board as early-season losses to Utah and Oregon could come back to haunt them. We’ll give the champs the nod for now.
So there it is: your meaningless bracket projection for mid-March. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Games of Note
No. 10 Chapman at No. 8 Colorado State, 7 p.m. – Friday
Is this where Chapman re-emerges as favorites despite its shaky start? If the Panthers pull off the win, it could be. Colorado State is a little wobbly right now. Off its 0-2 weekend in Colorado, they needed double overtime to beat unranked UNH at home. They need to make this one a grinder.
No. 14 Oregon State at No. 22 Boise State, 3 p.m. - Saturday
A win here and Boise State will be difficult to unseat from the No. 1 seed in the PNCLL tournament. Meanwhile, the Beavers have been churning along, eyeing a three-peat in the conference. Experience may be the difference for OSU.
No. 1 Georgia Tech at No. 7 Florida State, 1 p.m. – Saturday
Hopefully this one lives up to its rankings, because on paper it looks like a gem. For all of its capable scorers, the Seminoles have been getting it done on the defensive end this year. Of course that’s the Yellow Jackets’ signature, as well. The over-under is probably 12.
No. 10 Chapman at No. 6 Colorado, 3 p.m. – Sunday
The back-end of Chapman’s mile high excursion will give them a completely different look than the CSU game. Colorado is a confident bunch right now and have legitimate aspirations for one of the coveted Top 4 slots.
Sierra Nevada at Minn.-Duluth, 12:30 p.m. – Saturday
Like everyone else, Sierra Nevada couldn’t hang with St. Thomas, but this is a winnable contest for the Eagles. A win against Duluth and they are basically a lock for a top eight seed. A win for the Bulldogs would give them some welcome momentum heading into the daunting back half of their slate.
Grove City at Dayton, 2 p.m. – Saturday
Grove City needs a quality win. There are four games left on the regular season schedule and the Wolverines are working off victories against Southern Conn. and Bridgeport and a tie against Bridgewater State. Fortunately, the four teams they face are all highly ranked and would likely punch a ticket with a win. Downing Dayton would certainly do the trick.
Cal State Fullerton at San Diego, 2 p.m. – Sunday
So who is the best candidate to take down Concordia-Irvine in the SLC? Well, we’ll find out after this little SoCal dust up. Fullerton has been playing extremely well, blowing the doors off every team they’ve come up against. The Toreros will hope the two week rest will help them deal with the Titans.