December 29, 2009

MCLA: The Real Deal

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive

Men's D-III Real Deal | Women's D-III Real Deal


Seriously, what exactly is the purpose of a preseason poll?

Chapman has been the bridesmaid the last two seasons. Could Connor Martin (above) will the Panthers to a title even with all the talent missing from last year?

Are we trying to predict who will be where at the end of the season? If Michigan is the preseason No. 1, are we saying that they will win it all this year, or is it just a bouquet for winning last spring's title? If I pick Minnesota-Duluth No. 10, does that mean they are considered a tournament team, or is it they have serious potential for the upcoming season? How are we supposed to read these things?

Frankly, I'm sick of it. Yes, we here at LMO, along with everyone else, post preseason rankings, but what good does that do anyone? A rough reproduction of last season's final rankings with the usual upgrade for the traditionally strong programs - the standard formula for preseason polls - tells us nothing. What we need to know is what will be the key storylines for the upcoming season, what teams will be making the tournament, and, of course, who's taking home the hardware in May.

One of the reasons you get the vanilla preseason rankings is because they are safe. Any publication that puts out a preseason poll can point at the voters if there's an anomaly, quickly passing the blame. Safe, but kind of soft. It takes a higher intellect - a man of vision, if you will - to precisely predict the state of lacrosse in eight months.

I'm your huckleberry.

Below, you'll find the eventual storylines of the 2010 season, as well as the tournament field and the ultimate winner. But just a quick caution: if you don't want to know how the 2010 season is going to finish, stop reading here.

Top Five Storylines
 
1. D2 Rises to Occasion
There was both joy and hand-wringing when the Executive Board decided to bump its Division II from 12 teams to 16 teams - the same format as Division I. Considering the history of D-II, the unease was well founded, but when everything was done, the junior circuit had aced the exam. Not only did all the teams show up on time, with full uniforms and full rosters, but for the second-straight year the most compelling games were at the D-II level. The debate about what role the division plays in the overall MCLA model - is it designed to be a feeder league or does it simply possess a different philosophy? - rages on with equal parts stupidity and earnestness, however the quality of the product is unquestioned.

2. Mickey-Miles Pulls an Upset
Having Mickey-Miles Felton back in the MCLA is a double-edged sword. We're getting a high-end lacrosse mind back with a program with infinite potential. But we're also getting a coach who'll be the first person to tell you the MCLA is getting a high-end lacrosse mind back with a program with infinite potential. Felton's hubris aside, I'm glad he's back. The MCLA is maturing to the point where many of the coaches are becoming too careful with the print media. It's enjoyable to have a guy who tells it like is. Whatever anyone wants to say about Mickey-Miles, the man has always been able to coach and he'll - er, his team - will be pulling a big upset this spring. I could give you the date and the opponent, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

3. A Hall Call
Understanding the opportunity to put some of its finest coaches and, eventually, players on a pedestal for all to appreciate, the MCLA announces at the championships that they will be starting a Hall of Fame in 2011. Wisely, the HOF committee doesn't take the usual route of inducting as many candidates as possible, but sets an example with its first class by inducting just two individuals. It not only sets the standard for a small, exclusive class of inductees, but the quality of the individuals - Flip Naumburg and Jason Lamb - starts the bar at a very high level.

4. Surprise Team of the Year: Michigan State
Calling Michigan State - a former member of NCAA Division I - a surprise team is a bit of a stretch considering they've always been competitive and consistently in the postseason hunt. However, since the D-I field is chalk full of the usual suspects, the Spartans qualify as a mild revelation. Dwayne Hicks has brought an up-tempo style to East Lansing and, while it took a year to finally catch on, this is the year when it finally registered with the players. Perhaps more importantly, Hicks has adopted the type of schedule that always results in the nationals tournament payoff - Boston College, Florida State, Simon Fraser, Oregon, Colorado and Colorado State are all part of the non-conference slate. Throw in the annual grudge match against Michigan and the Spartans were clearly ready for Denver.

5. Game of the Year: BYU vs. Chapman
Can you really have the Game of the Year on Feb. 13? When it's the rematch of the most exciting game of the '09 tournament you can. And this game doesn't disappoint. The Cougars manage to pull out the one-goal victory, eventually setting themselves up for the No. 2 seed in the 2010 tournament.

Who's In the D-I Tourney:

* Arizona State - While they couldn't unseat Chapman in the SLC, the Sun Devils make a pretty good showing even though they haven't played in a year.
* Boston College - The PCLL is Eagle country until further notice.
* Brigham Young - Other than a mid-March road trip to Lower Canada, BYU cruised through the regular season.
* Cal Poly - It's hard to believe the WCLL would only get one team, but the at-large teams in the conference were "out-scheduled" by their opponents.
* Chapman - Is it possible that the Panthers could be better without Mike Clayton and Marcus Wooden? It's tough to say, but they're good enough to make the tourney.
* Colorado State - Rams know they're in because the record is better than '09 with same schedule.
* Florida - The dogfight between UF and Virginia Tech for the second SELC bid goes to the Gators.
* Florida State - Believe it or not, the Seminoles are still playing after the graduation of Corey Noonan.
* Duluth - Still no threats to the Bulldogs UMLL crown as of yet.
* Lindenwood - Lions head coach wills LU to the GRLC title with his positive outlook.
* Michigan - Yeah, I think they'll make the cut.
* Michigan State - Sweeping the Colorado big guns on the road on back-to-back days proves to be the difference.
* Oregon - The I-AA exemption catapults the Ducks into the tourney via strength of schedule
* Simon Fraser - Chips on shoulders can do wonders. The Clansmen roll to the top seed with extreme prejudice.
* Texas - Surprisingly young team guts out another LSA title.
* UC Santa Barbara - In this new age of MCLA selection criteria, strength of schedule trumps results and the Gauchos are playing the game better than anyone.

Who's In the D-II Tourney:

* Biola - The Eagles are the great unknown, and have the talent to shake the whole thing up.
* Briarcliffe - The PCLL always seems to be a step slow.
* Davenport - The CCLA title is glorious. How will that translate to Denver?
* Dayton - Charlie Mark thinks you're a terrible official. Deal with it.
* Elon - An expanded field gives the Phoenix its chance. The results are not what were envisioned.
* Emory - The Eagles win the SELC again, but that's about it.
* Grand Valley State - If the Lakers can't crack a 16-team field, I guess GVSU goes back to being a football school.
* Missouri State - There are plenty of candidates for the GRLC crown, but the Bears manage to repeat the magic.
* Northern Colorado - The Bears manage to take care of business in the regular season, saving them from a mediocre conference tourney.
* St. John's - Stu Van Ess: frighteningly good.
* St. Thomas - Costello may be the Preseason Player of the Year, but Michalski might be the man for the postseason.
* Sam Houston St. - And the winner of the "Good-Luck-to-Southwestern-in-the-NCAA" Trophy is...
* Southern Oregon - Regardless of whether they win the league, the Raiders will get their shot. They may not like the final results.
* UC Santa Cruz - The WCLL finally gets representation. Are the Slugs legit?
* Western Oregon - The Wolves have always been good enough. It's time to take the next step to great.
* Westminster - You can slice it any way you want: '09 was a disappointment. Redemption is necessary.

MCLA Division I Tournament
First Round - Tuesday, May 11, 2010
No. 1 Simon Fraser d. No. 16 Texas, 15-8
No. 2 Brigham Young d. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, 18-12
No. 3 Michigan d. No. 14 Oregon, 11-6
No. 4 Chapman d. No. 13 Florida, 14-10
No. 5 Arizona State d. No. 12 Michigan State, 16-7
No. 6 Duluth d. No. 11 Boston College, 10-9
No. 10 Colorado State d. No. 7 Florida State, 9-7
No. 9 Lindenwood d. No. 8 Cal Poly, 13-11

Quarterfinals - Wednesday, May 12, 2010
No. 1 Simon Fraser d. No. 9 Lindenwood, 13-4
No. 2 Brigham Young d. No. 10 Colorado State, 9-6
No. 3 Michigan d. No. 6 Duluth, 14-8
No. 5 Arizona State d. No. 4 Chapman, 14-13

Semifinals - Friday, May 14, 2010
No. 1 Simon Fraser d. No. 5 Arizona State, 15-12
No. 2 Brigham Young d. No. 3 Michigan, 11-10 (ot)

Finals - Saturday, May 15, 2010
No. 2 Brigham Young d. No. 1 Simon Fraser, 12-8

MCLA Division II Tournament
First Round - Tuesday, May 11, 2010
No. 1 St. Thomas d. No. 16 Sam Houston St., 17-4
No. 2 Davenport d. No. 15 Briarcliffe, 14-8
No. 3 Dayton d. No. 14 UC Santa Cruz, 11-3
No. 4 Westminster d. No. 13 Southern Oregon, 9-5
No. 5 St. John's d. No. 12 Missouri State, 10-2
No. 6 Western Oregon d. No. 11 Elon, 13-12
No. 10 Biola d. No. 7 Emory, 14-9
No. 8 Grand Valley State d. No. 9 Northern Colorado, 16-14

Quarterfinals - Wednesday, May 12, 2010
No. 1 St. Thomas d. No. 8 Grand Valley State, 15-7
No. 2 Davenport d. No. 10 Biola, 14-6
No. 3 Dayton d. No. 6 Western Oregon, 11-7
No. 5 St. John's d. No. 4 Westminster, 7-4

Semifinals - Friday, May 14, 2010
No. 1 St. Thomas d. No. 5 St. John's 11-10 (2ot)
No. 3 Dayton d. No. 2 Davenport, 8-6

Finals - Saturday, May 15, 2010
No. 1 St. Thomas d. No. 3 Dayton, 14-11


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