Bracket Breakdown: MCLA Division I
|Despite coming off a run to the national championship
game and returning player of the year candidate Ryan Westfall
(above), Arizona State enters this year's tournament flying under
© Cecil Copeland
The MCLA Division I men's lacrosse bracket was released Sunday evening, and the 16 teams who were invited to Denver know who they'll face on Tuesday, May 17. The association is in its third year of using a selection committee to select and seed the bracket, and the results this year are the best that group has produced yet, at least at the D-I level.
It's time to analyze the field and answer some pertinent questions. Here's the bracket breakdown for MCLA Division I men's tourney.
Last Team In
UC Santa Barbara
With the No. 14 seed and the two teams behind them having automatic qualifying berths, it means the Gauchos were the last team to sneak past the gatekeepers. A close call, but it sure beats last year, when UCSB was the first team out.
First Team Out
There really weren't that many viable options after UCSB, so Utah is in this spot almost by default. At 7-7 and with only one mildly impressive win, Utah's exclusion shouldn't come as a great surprise.
The Longhorns check in at the No. 13 seed, which isn't terribly surprising considering the lack of key wins on the unblemished slate. But the presence of Florida State -- a team UT defeated at the beginning of the season and boasts an equally weak schedule -- two spots ahead of the Longhorns is a mild case of 'snubbery.'
Texas isn't too worried about it.
"No, we are not surprised at the seeding. We knew we would end up in the teens," said Texas coach Brian Myers, who leads his team against No. 4 Chapman in the first round. "This is a business trip for the guys. This is about earning respect. We know that nobody is just going to hand it over to us; we have to go out and get it."
Maybe snubbed isn't the right word to describe the Longhorns. "Determined" fits better.
Best First Round Match-up
No. 6 Michigan State vs. No. 11 Florida State
When you combine the unknown entity that is the 18-1 'Noles with a Sparty team that seemingly only plays one goal games, you have a mixture that has my attention. I can't make up my mind whether this tilt will be a grinding, defensive affair or an end-to-end shootout.
It is an annual event: when you draw Boston College in the first round, you are immediately placed on Upset Watch. Nothing changes with the Buffaloes, especially considering that despite the 7-10 split in the seeds, these teams played to a one-goal game just a couple of weeks ago in Chestnut Hill.
Easiest Title Route
Michigan has been locked into this spot ever since the Wolverines received that obscene draw in '09, but they get the bump this year. Colorado State gets the label, only because of the potential for UM to find Oregon in the quarterfinals. Other than the Colorado loss last spring, the Ducks have spooked John Paul's savants more than any other team in the past two seasons. Meanwhile, the Rams will face a pair of conference teams it has already defeated in the quarters and semis if the seeds hold.
Five Burning Questions
1. Are there any surprises with this field and
Not really. There are a couple of seeds that I think are a little off, but nothing monumental, and certainly nothing as lopsided as the 2009 seedings. And, fortunately, they didn't have to mull the option of adding a sub-.500 team like last year. Considering they had to work without important comparative information in the case of two or three qualifiers, what we saw on Sunday night is probably about as good as could be expected.
2. Is there a double-digit seed in the field that could
replicate Simon Fraser's magical semifinal run of 2010?
Boston College might be the most obvious choice, especially since the Eagles could potentially get a crack at Colorado State -- the same team that folded in the quarters against Fraser last year. My pick would be Florida State, however.
If they can catch Michigan State looking ahead, the Seminoles could trip up Sparty, setting up a match-up with Brigham Young in the quarters. The Cougars have failed both times they attempted to play back-to-back games against quality opponents in the regular season, so they are the team you want to catch on Wednesday. The 'Noles are my pick.
3. Colorado State hasn't made the semifinals since '07.
Will the Rams flame out again this year?
There are plenty of variables in the first two days of the tournament, but State should finally stay alive past consolation Thurday. The Rams have the best faceoff man, a deep midfield, a serviceable goalie and as close to a home field advantage as you can get. Throw in the memories of last year's debacle against Simon Fraser, and CSU should have plenty of motivation to return to the glory days.
4. Could Texas stun Chapman in the first round?
Anything's possible. However, one has to consider whether this Longhorn offense is better than the Arizona State offense that Chapman just held to nine goals in an 11-9 victory in the SLC championship game. While UT certainly has some outstanding offensive players, I'm not sure if I can make the leap of faith to think they're better than the Sun Devils. In addition, while the big names are gone from Chapman's salad days, there is still plenty of talent that has gone through the wars, so the Panthers have a sizeable advantage in the experience category. It could turn out to be an exciting game, but I'm not sure if Texas is ready.
5. (Yawn). Is there a team in the tourney that can beat
Michigan this year?
This is easily my least favorite question posed over the past three seasons, and the only reason I'll ask it again is because of the (alleged) finality of the whole thing. As I've said in the past, this year's Michigan team is not as vulnerable as the 2010 version of the Wolverines, but enough teams have hung with the UM to make me believe there is the potential for the dynasty to end. The Maize & Blue are still the overwhelming favorites, however.