Weekend Preview: Tide Test
by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Having undefeated teams flying under the radar is not uncommon at this point of the season.
Sometimes the weakness of the non-conference schedule doesn’t warrant attention. Occasionally, the early schedule had the potential to be strong, but didn’t pan out.
And then there are those teams who might be really good, but aren’t getting the love they should just because they don’t have the tradition of some programs.
I’m starting to wonder if Alabama might be in this last category.
The Tide is 6-0 against a schedule that could arguably put them in the first group, but that 10-7 road win over Oklahoma makes me think ‘Bama might be better than we think. Playing in Norman is no cakewalk, especially since Mario Enea arrived.
It helps that they might have the hottest goalie in the country in Justin Alexandre (80.7 sv%) along with Michael Ginsburg (13g, 4a) – a Loyola-Blakefield (Md.) product – running the attack. The Crimson Tide also leans on senior middie Dylan Rupert.
"He's the heart and soul of our offense's tempo and energy," said Alabama coach Craig Landru. "Whenever we need a big play he's the one that steps up."
Throw in a defense that is allowing five goals a game and a man-down unit that is killing off 83 percent of the opponent's EMO chances, and this looks like a team about to make a move.
Fortunately, we’ll find out about Alabama’s worthiness on Saturday when they host No. 20 Georgia in Tuscaloosa.
The Bulldogs (4-3) are coming off a two-week hiatus after beating Arizona State and Colorado State on back-to-back weekends, vaulting them onto the national scene.
Huge divisional matchup this Saturday. Come on out and watch the 6-0 Crimson Tide take on the Bulldogs
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UGA is formidable, but not unbeatable. Last year when the Tide got off to an 0-6 start and stumbled to a 4-8 finish, they played the Dawgs tough.
"This year we have a couple key returners and personnel changes that definitely help, but the biggest change has been the teams buy-in and commitment right from the start," said Landru. "The end of last year left a sour taste in our mouths and our seniors have something to prove this year."
A loss for either team is likely a quick elimination from the various at-large scenarios, but Saturday’s game could act as an elimination game from the SELC tournament, as well.
With Georgia Tech acting as the presumptive favorite to finish first in the SELC Southwest division (although certainly nothing assured), that leaves just one spot open in that subdivision to make the conference tournament.
Auburn may throw itself in the mix at some point, but Saturday’s game is essentially for a postseason berth from my perspective.
Is this springboard for Alabama to take its seat at the big table? Or are the Tide still a year away?
"We're prepping for Georgia no different than any other team we've played," Landru said. "They have a strong team, but we're ready. Our record is 0 and 0. Time to go to work, You have to want it every play and outwork the man across from you."* * *
What "Battle at the Beach" contest this weekend is the most compelling? #mcla18
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) March 20, 2018
The matchups won’t move the needle like some this weekend, but I’ll have a close eye on No. 7 Brigham Young this weekend when they head to Boise to face the Broncos as well as No. 21 Simon Fraser.
Both of the Cougars’ opponents can score and stopping goals has been an issue so far for BYU. If Matt Schneck’s crew comes out unscathed, they’ll have to be considered a contender.
Obviously, a lot of eyes will be on the Battle at the Beach, especially the games featuring ranked teams. Lacrosse Talk Radio will be airing a pair of games on Friday night, starting with No. 11 Liberty vs. No. 18 UConn at 5 p.m. EDT followed by Pitt against No. 25 Northeastern at 8 p.m.
Give the guys over LTR a listen if you get a chance. They do a nice job.
We have @MCLA action tomorrow! Tune in at 5pm when @uconnlacrosse takes on @LibertyLax. Tune in here: https://t.co/pRRAJ0Vhfg pic.twitter.com/6vyWDu00SW
— LTR Mid-Atlantic (@LTRMidAtlantic) March 23, 2018
If the Group of Death (aka UMLC) grabs the top six seeds at nationals, which they very well could, the race for the No. 7 seed is a big deal.
It has the dual benefit of providing a winnable first round game while also avoiding the No. 1 seed – presumably the NDSU juggernaut at this point – in the quarterfinals.
Going off the polls, Sierra Nevada is in that spot, but the Eagles have lost three straight. If they lose to No. 13 Fullerton Friday and No. 2 Duluth on Saturday, SNC will have very little shot of maintaining that position. Fullerton is a big one.
Assuming that Grand Canyon and Arizona State grab the first two seeds, Saturday’s Arizona-San Diego State game could determine who grabs the third and final bid out of the SLC South (UNLV could have something to say about it, too).
Other than the Wildcats’ home field advantage, it’s tough to tell who the favorite is as both are riding five-game losing skids into the noon start.
The Game of the Week has to be No. 3 Grand Canyon at No. 5 Colorado on Saturday afternoon in Boulder. A rematch of the 2015 MCLA National Championship game, both teams have a loss on the season after the Lopes got stung by Colorado State on Thursday night.
The Buffs have played the tougher schedule to date, but the Lopes have the swagger and confidence of a defending champion. Whoever controls the pace will win. A shootout favors CU, a grinder goes to GCU.
What is the MCLA D-II Game of the Week for the period ending March 25? #mcla18
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) March 21, 2018
In Division II, the clash between top-ranked North Dakota State and No. 5 St. John’s will be the marquee matchup. The Bison have ground up the competition to this point while St. John’s enters the game after suffering its first loss of the campaign.
This game is basically a large Minnesota high school reunion in Fargo. NDSU’s 38-man roster features 35 Minnesota kids while St. John’s roll is primarily in-state. This contest will be physical and heated.
NOTES: No. 10 Montana State versus No. 22 Providence is an intriguing game. The Argos need a ranked win to pay off their tough schedule…the Bobcats’ contest with in-state rival Montana should not disappoint, either…St. Cloud State, the last remaining D-I team without a game, starts its season on Saturday against MSU-Mankato…coaches, get your nominations for Commanding Performance of the Week powered by Under Armour to [email protected]