Bracket Breakdown: NCAA Division II
|Brian Scheetz became Mercyhurst's all-time leader in points before the end of his junior year. He'll draw plenty of attention against Dowling after he scored two goals and set up two others in the Lakers regular season win over the Lions.|
Unlike 2011, the Division II field played out exactly as we expected, thanks to the three regions producing an obvious candidate. The Wild Card could have gotten dicey with Dowling's loss on Sunday, but none of the North region contenders were able to slay Le Moyne.
It's time to analyze the field. Here's the bracket breakdown.
The Top Seed
The format in Division II for this last year of the four-team tourney (it expands to eight next spring) is simplistic. Whichever region produces the Wild Card has their two teams square off while the remaining two are bracketed up. In this case, Mercyhurst, which won the ECC outright for the first time, was paired off with conference rival Dowling in the first round. That left Le Moyne and Limestone on the other half. If the committee was going to assign a mythical top seed, it would probably be the defending champs.
Last Team In
The Lions are the Wild Card, so that's that.
First Team Out
There's no guarantee that the Warriors would have received the Wild Card even if they managed to upset Le Moyne in the Northeast-10 finals on Sunday, but they would have given the committee a headache trying to figure it out. It was looking scary there for a little while when Merrimack twice got within a goal in the fourth quarter, but they could never quite catch the Dolphins.
Nobody. Unlike last year when Le Moyne received a snub for the ages, everything lined up as expected here. One could argue Dowling got snubbed, if only for the fact they have to make the dismal, eight-hour bus ride across Central Pennsylvania to Mercyhurst.
Best First-Round Game
They're both going to be good, but Le Moyne-Limestone earns this title because of the clash in styles. Le Moyne is a methodical, disciplined team that grinds down its opponents. Limestone is a high-flying, run-and-gun outfit that would love to turn this game into a track meet. These two teams played last year in Baltimore with the Saints taking an 11-9 win thanks to five goals from Riley Loewen and five assists from Shayne Jackson. The rematch will take place in Syracuse, where Le Moyne has been deadly.
Both home teams should consider themselves on upset alert, because if they think they're getting a cakewalk, they are sadly mistaken. Dowling had incentive enough to get back at Merychurst after losing to the Lakers by a goal during the regular season, but now they have even more after being embarrassed by Limestone on Senior Day. Limestone feels like Le Moyne has been ducking them after not renewing the game from last year, so they welcome the opportunity to show that last year's win was no fluke. Motivation should not be a concern in this division.
Best Potential Matchup
Really can't go wrong in any of the national championship scenarios, but I think most people would like to see the two undefeated teams – Mercyhurst and Le Moyne – slug it out for the crown. It would be a rematch of the epic '07 final won by the Dolphins, 6-5 on a last-second deflected goal.
Three Players to Watch
Alex Cameron-Carter, Le Moyne, Jr., Defense
Under Dan Sheehan, the Dolphins have built a reputation as a stingy defensive team, and Cameron-Carter follows in a long line of athletic, positional defenders. He has the quickness to stay with the most agile of attackmen and the speed to spark the efficient Le Moyne transition game. It will interesting to see how he's used against the multi-pronged Limestone attack.
Brian Scheetz, Mercyhurst, Jr., Attack
Scheetz was overshadowed in the postseason last year by the play of middie Ian Wild, but he's the engine of the Lakers and recently became the school's all-time leader in points before the finish of his junior season. He only has 13 goals this season, but he owns nearly a third of the squad's assists (32). Scheetz scored two goals and set up two others in the 7-6 win over Dowling, so you can bet the Lions will be looking for a way to slow him down.
Jackson Decker, Limestone, Sr., Midfield
Much of the attention goes to Loewen and Jackson, but Decker is a killer out of the midfield for the Saints. Although he at times bumps up to attack, the Canadian provides J.B. Clarke with a solid finisher (34g, 12a) wherever he is plugged in. Merrimack allowed six goals to Loewen, but kept Decker in check for much of the game (one goal) and managed to hand Limestone its only defeat.
Don't Be Surprised If...
...if the two semifinals turn into relatively high-scoring affairs. Conventional wisdom would say that both of the games will be played in the single-digits, but there likely won't be the feeling-out process that sometimes comes in the postseason. All of the teams are familiar with their opponent's game plans, which typical opens up the scoring.