by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
LA CROSSE, Wis. – The brackets in both Division I and Division II have been unveiled for the 2018 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour.
Here are some knee-jerk thoughts on each matchup.
No. 16 Indiana vs. No. 1 Chapman
You’d expect blowouts in this matchup every year, but in the last six years, we’ve had a couple of near misses. In 2012, Duluth took top-seeded Cal Poly to overtime and last year Michigan State threw a scare into BYU.
The one thing Indiana has going for it is there isn’t a whole lot of film out there of the Hoosiers. And before you chalk this up to a blowout, IU lost 8-6 to Davenport in the regular season. Sophomore goalie Chad Balek has put up some solid numbers, so the specter of running into a hot goalie is there.
Chapman is probably going to win, but there’s enough mystery about the Hoosiers to keep Dallas Hartley’s attention.
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— MCLA (@MCLA) May 5, 2018
No. 15 Texas A&M vs. No. 2 Utah
This is not a great matchup for the Aggies. That’s really not a knock on A&M because, to be honest, we might have to wait until Thursday until we get to the teams that can make the Utes sweat.
The Aggies do have big, powerful athletes – heck, their primary FOGO goes 6-foot-2, 205 – so they won’t be physical intimidated by Utah. But the Utes’ efficiency on both ends is tough to match for 60 minutes.
That will be A&M’s challenge, and it’s one that every other team has failed to do so far this spring.
No. 14 Oregon vs. No. 3 Michigan State
The Ducks appear to be catching fire at the right time, rolling past the top two seeds in the PNCLL tourney. Alas, the Spartans are a bump up in pay grade.
This boils down to Oregon’s ability to grind for the entire game. The Ducks defense will have to have their best game of the season if they want to advance. If State gets a three or four goal lead? Game over.
No. 13 California vs. No. 4 Colorado
For the second straight year, the Buffs have a premium seed but draw a criminally underrated team (in my estimation) in the first round. Last year it was Florida State, which took three overtimes to subdue. This year it’s a California outfit that hasn’t lost since early March.
These two clashed in the quarterfinals last spring with the Golden Bears walking away with the overtime victory. I would say another extra-time affair is not out of the question.
No. 12 Georgia Tech vs. No. 5 South Carolina
So the committee’s rule for first round games is that conference rematches are to be avoided. Since the Jackets and Gamecocks didn’t meet this year, here we are.
Georgia Tech’s health will be the primary factor, as it has been all season. How South Carolina reacts to its first loss of the season in the last game is the storyline with the Gamecocks.
One thing I would put in Georgia Tech’s favor is the logistical aspect. The Yellow Jackets have been doing this for a couple of years now and know all the ins and outs. This is all new to South Carolina, so the potential for distractions is quite real.
No. 11 Boston College vs. No. 6 Virginia Tech
Do you like 5-4 lacrosse games? Because this feels like a 5-4 lacrosse game.
Personally, I don’t mind them, especially if you know going in what could happen. Boston College’s defense is its greatest strength, aided by the faceoff play of Griffin Carney. Virginia Tech is at its best when they grind and let Danny Riley grab a couple of clutch goals.
This could be the game of the first round in D-I for my money.
What D-I team is most susceptible to a first round upset? #mcla18 #SaltLaxCity
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) May 1, 2018
No. 10 Grand Canyon vs. No. 7 Brigham Young
Well, now that mention it, this isn’t too shabby of a matchup. It’s got a Back to the Future vibe, with last year’s national champion going against last years’ No. 1 seed.
And what’s behind Door No. 2 for the winner?
If Grand Canyon lets it all hang out, they can give the Cougars trouble. Everything Davenport did to BYU, the Lopes are capable of. GCU has options, however, as the defense could be the best unit on the field.
What happens in the D-I matchup between No. 8 @cuilax & No. 9 @LibertyLax ? #SaltLaxCity
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) April 30, 2018
No. 9 Liberty vs. No. 8 Concordia-Irvine
Everyone makes mistakes, but for all those who balked at seeing Concordia-Irvine in some of the Division I preseason polls last winter, what say you now?
The Eagles broke the D-II to D-I hex that claimed Montana and San Diego as victims along the way and now they are favored to make it to the quarterfinals. There, most likely Chapman awaits – a team that CUI does not fear.
There is the little matter of Liberty, however. The Flames have proven they can play with anyone. If you set aside the stinker against UConn, all of their losses have come against Top 6 seeds.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that this should be a shootout with all of the offensive talent on the field, but I’m expecting a lengthy feeling-out process that will result in a lower scoring affair.
Hey @MCLA, don’t worry CCSU is on route #SaltLaxCity pic.twitter.com/0aoMLm08mU
— CCSU Men's Lacrosse (@CCSUMensClubLax) May 6, 2018
No. 16 Missouri State vs. St. Thomas
This rematch of last year’s first round game should be more competitive. In the '17 rendezvous, St. Thomas set the record for fewest goals allowed in a tournament game when it downed the Bears, 15-1.
MoState is significantly better this spring. They should be able to ring up some goals against the Tommies backline, although a low-scoring game is what the Bears will be seeking if they want to pull the stunner.
I’m guessing that halftime score will raise an eyebrow or two with how narrow it is, but the depth of the Tommies will have an impact against Missouri State's 21-man roster.
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No. 15 Central Conn. State vs. North Dakota State
The Blue Devils trip to Music City Judgement helped prepare Central Conn. for the PCLL regular season title. It will also give them a nice barometer of where they need to be on Monday.
CCSU went 0-3 in Nashville, losing to St. John’s, Dayton and Grand Valley State by a combined score of 44-15. North Dakota State wiped out St. John’s – the only common opponent – in the one time they met. Comparative scores mean absolutely nothing, but they can be illuminating.
It’s going to take something special for Central to pull this off, but just getting to Salt Lake City and earning a taste of the championships is a big step for this program.
No. 14 College of Idaho vs. No. 3 Minn.-Duluth
The Yotes performance against Montana showed me something about this program. I thought they were dead and buried when the Grizzlies opened up a 4-1 lead to start the contest.
COI just kept on coming, however, and made their own destiny. They’ll must have that same kind of fortitude against the Bulldogs.
This game features two of the best attackman in the country in COI’s Nich Guzzetti (51g, 37a) and UMD’s Scott McNamara (49g, 38a). I look forward to watching both.
This game will swing on defense, where Duluth has been grinding it out with half the tournament field and the Yotes have only seen a couple of premium offenses.
No. 13 UC Davis vs. No. 4 St. John’s
Expect this game to be better than the seeds would have you believe. Davis is in the same ballpark with Northern Arizona – a team that took down the Johnnies during the regular season.
The Aggies will be wide-eyed in their first appearance at nationals, which will be in stark contrast to the Johnnies, which know the routine. Both these teams would love to turn this into a grinder. Honestly, I’m thinking the winner takes it, 7-5.
No. 12 Cal State San Marcos vs. No. 5 Grand Valley State
Contrasting styles will make this contest an interesting one. The high-flying Cougars and their wide-open approach battling the disciplined, methodical Lakers.
With some notable exceptions, these matchups tend to favor the team that can grind it out early on in the tournament. Like the Davis-St. John’s matchup, this also features a neophyte versus a grizzled vet, which will always play a role.
While I don’t think Bridgewater was as explosive as San Marcos can be, GVSU’s 11-6 win in the first round last year is a good starting point as to what could happen.
No. 11 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 6 Kennesaw State
Now we’re entering into the toss-up range of the bracket, mostly because it’s almost impossible to tell how team’s styles will translate on Monday.
The last time we saw these two, the Owls were grinding out a 6-5 win over Florida Gulf Coast in the SELC title tilt while the Titans overcame a four-goal fourth-quarter deficit to beat San Marcos in a 14-13 overtime shootout in the SLC championship game.
KSU has the fearsome attack duo of Vinnie Magro and Dennis Bell while Fullerton counters with Micah Willis – who recently cracked the 300-point barrier – and Cole Schleppy. Just a hunch, but this could be the game of the day in D-II.
What D-II squad is most susceptible to a first round upset on Monday? #mcla18 #SaltLaxCity
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) May 2, 2018
No. 10 Dayton vs. No. 7 Montana State
Hoo boy. Did I just say KSU-Fullerton might be the game of the day? Already rethinking that with a classic old school-new school matchup brewing here.
Dayton is cut in the mold of most of the current UMLC squads, aided by the cold, analytical mind of Joe Venturella. As such, most people realize his group could easily make it to Saturday just as easily as they could get bounced in the first round.
The Bobcats, under Chris Kelley’s watch, have put together a fine season with the likes of attackman Louis Richman leading the way. Their two losses were to NDSU (11-6) and a wipeout at the hands of St. Thomas (18-3). That’s a little troubling.
I see this game being a four-goal contest, I just can’t tell which way it will swing.
What's the outcome of the D-II first round tilt between #8 @Snceagleslax and #9 @fgcuLAX? #SaltLakeCity
— MCLA Tournament '18 (@MCLA_Tournament) April 30, 2018
No. 9 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 8 Sierra Nevada
Considering what happened in each of their conference championship games, first one to seven wins this one.
You can bet St. Thomas is rooting for FGCU. The Tommies rolled over the Eagles in Nashville, 14-3, but got caught in a 5-3 bloodbath with Sierra.