Bracket Breakdown: MCLA Division II
North Dakota State checks into the MCLA Division II tournament as the No. 8 seed, but the Bison will be tested with a first round match-up against SCAD.
The MCLA Division II 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 with a great deal of parity in D-II, it was certainly a challenge to get it right.
It's time to analyze the field and answer some pertinent questions. Here's the bracket breakdown for MCLA Division II men's tourney.
Last Team In
The Dutchmen received the No. 13 seed, and the three teams behind them are all auto-qualifiers, so Hope was the team that snuck under the wire. The CCLA's fourth representative, the Dutchmen were undoubtedly helped by Elon withdrawing itself from consideration.
First Team Out
This is actually a tough one. Conceivably, it could have been Concordia (Calif.), as well. Or maybe Indiana Tech. Or one could argue it was Elon, even if it was self-induced. We'll give it to the Owls, who grab this label for the second time in as many years.
What more do the Wolves need to do? They played a good schedule, traveled and it's only loss was to the No. 3 seed, but Western Oregon still managed to only snag a No. 7 berth. Even worse, WOU draws Westminster, one of the hottest teams in the country that is way undervalued at No. 10. How the Wolves ended up behind Dayton is particularly baffling.
Best First Round Match-up
No. 13 Hope vs. No. 4 Briarcliffe
"We know that they have a potent offense that tries to run the show," said Briarcliffe head coach SeanMichael Pagano about the Hope attack unit led by senior Eric Weber (74g, 31a). And just the presence of Weber, who is making his first appearance at nationals, is enough to make this an interesting game. That he'll be going against a Briarcliffe team that has already shut down Davenport's high-flying offense just adds to the storyline. The Bulldogs are the favorite, but the Dutchmen should make it entertaining.
Tied into their spot in the "Snubbed" category is the Wolves are also on Upset Watch. Westminster has a premium goalie (Dallas McLellen), a premium attackman (Josh Condas) and a schedule that features both MCLA-I and NCAA D-II opponents. The Wolves spanked the Griffins in mid-February, but like last year when Westminster peaked late to parlay a No. 10 seed into a berth in the national semifinals, this is a different team now.
"Their guys are in the right place at the right time and always seem to be doing things correctly," said WOU coach Justin Brown about Westminster. "They know how to play in tight games and in the playoffs."
Easiest Title Route
Grand Valley State
Nothing surprising here. It's usually the top seed, and it certainly holds true here, whether the seeds hold or not.
Five Burning Questions
1. Will Dayton be able to close out Northern Colorado or
any of the top teams?
The teams that appear in the national semifinals are the closers. So far this year, that's not how anyone would describe the Flyers.
"We need to win the fourth quarter," admitted Dayton coach Charlie Mark. "Grand Valley State, St. Thomas, Davenport -- in all of these games we were either leading, tied, or down by two goals at the end of three quarters to the best competition in the country, and then lost. It has been a very weird season so far. The message here: we know we have the talent, but we need to play for 60 minutes, not 45."
As such, Northern Colorado is the perfect first round match-up. While he Bears are undoubtedly a talented bunch, they are not an experienced tournament team and may not be ready for the intensity of Denver. That should allow the Flyers to build some confidence as they head into a potential match-up with No. 3 St. John's.
2. Which team will be the first to attempt to stall out
Grand Valley State?
Cam Holding is the face of the Lakers with his reputation and stats, but throwing a junk defense at him isn't going to do anything – GVSU has plenty of other weapons that would feast. It's going to take a coordinated team effort to completely take the air out of the ball if a team hopes to beat the Lakers via that avenue.
There are a couple of teams who have the potential to do it, particularly SCAD, St. John's and St. Thomas. Whether those teams would do it, however, is the big question. By slowing down the game, a team is tacitly admitting they aren't good enough to compete at normal speed. That would be an ego-buster, especially for a two-time defending champion. While a methodical approach is probably the answer against GVSU, don't expect anyone to give it a shot.
3. Should we pencil in the Top 4 seeds into the
I don't think so. Grand Valley and St. Thomas are a pretty good bet, but both St. John's and Briarcliffe could be vulnerable to a quarterfinal upset.
4. Will the Player of the Year award be earned in
I can't speak for the MCLA, but my player of the year will be determined by who is holding the trophy of the end. Conventional wisdom says that it will be either GVSU's Cam Holding or St. Thomas' Joe Costello, so whichever player guides his team to the title is my pick.
5. Can the Tommies make it a three-peat?
Sure they can. While Grand Valley is the undisputed No. 1 seed, the Lakers only beat the Tommies by two, 16-14, in a game when Thomas Thone (11 saves) wasn't particularly effective. In addition, St. Thomas was one of the few teams that were able to keep Holding in check with just two goals allowed and no assists. Admittedly, this opened the door for Jack Dumsa and Jeremy Pouba to score three apiece, but Pete Moosbrugger likely has formulated the blueprint to switch the result if the two teams meet again.