Schooling Schooler: Finally, the Buffaloes Stampede
|Colorado will certainly be at a
competitive disadvantage when they take on Chapman -- a team that
has already played eight games -- on Friday. However, they do have
the luxury of having junior netminder Brad Macnee (above) back
between the pipes this spring.
© Cecil Copeland
The University of Colorado is always a late starter. While some MCLA teams are playing their first contests in late January – and the vast majority of them in action by at least the middle of February – the Buffaloes bide their time.
Since 2006 – a span of six years – the Buffs have played exactly three sanctioned games before the month of March. Two were in '06, when CU opened at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 20, followed by a "friendly" against Colorado State on Feb. 25. The third was on the last day of February in 2009 when Boston College came to Boulder.
Other than that, the second month of the year has been limited to scrimmages.
The MCLA has already cleared the first weekend in March, and the Buffs are one of three teams (Buffalo and Boston University being the other two) in the Top 25 that has yet to play a game. The first game is in sight, however. This weekend CU packs up and heads to Southern California to play No. 5 Chapman on Friday night and Loyola Marymount on Sunday.
What does Colorado have in store? There are no historic trends in CU's early season play – they have both wins and losses coming out of the gate. But then again, Chapman may be one of the stiffest opening opponents the Buffaloes will ever play. Not just because of the ranking, but because the Panthers have already played eight games against one of the stiffest schedules to date. Conventional wisdom would say Colorado is in for a world of hurt in the opener.
I'm not so sure. While Chapman's certainly favored, I think CU needed this long lead-in to the season. With John Galvin – the architect of the Buffs most successful seasons – coming back on board, the players needed time to readjust to his style. They got that, along with a couple of decent scrimmages against in-state varsity competition. In short, I think CU's late start is the best thing that could have happened to them this spring.
What say you, Nick? Can the Buffs use the extra time, or will it even matter in Chaptown?
SCHOOLER: The Buffs are headed to sunny California to start out their season for the first time since 2006. Thinking back to that game, a game I actually played in, CU was not ready to play. We had just come off a tough loss to UC San Diego, a team with one of the best attackman/defenseman duos the MCLA has ever seen in Nick Dean and Brandon Hays, so we were fired up to beat up on someone the year after coming off our second national championship.
To make a long story short, we destroyed and humiliated Colorado 14-6. When we faced them again in the national championship semifinals in Dallas, they retured the favor and played a solid game, beating us by a goal, eventually falling to CSU in the national championship game. Tough way for us to miss a three-peat by losing to a team we destroyed early on.
I don't really know where I am going with this other than reminiscing on the glory days as most lacrosse alumni do. So I guess the point I am trying to make is that it doesn't matter when Colorado starts their season or whether they beat Chapman. What matters is that time and time again, the Buffs are there in the end, and I would not want to play them when playoffs are in full swing in April and May.
To the games (where Nick is 13-7 and Jac is 9-11 after a push last week)...
COYNE: Well, let's end the suspense, shall we? If this was the first game out for both teams, it would be much easier to call this contest, but with such a lopsided advantage for Chapman in terms of game experience – not to mention home field advantage – it would take something monumental to pick Colorado.
The Buffs do have a premium goalie in junior Brad Macnee and Galvin is back in the fold, but it may take a couple of games for the offense to catch up to last year's pace after some significant graduation and attrition losses. In short, CU is a work in progress heading into the season. That should spell doom against a Panthers team that already looks primed for Greenville. Chapman, 14-8.
SCHOOLER: Chapman has to feel snubbed in the polls this week. Their only losses are to teams I consider to be the top two, CSU and BYU. Colorado on the other hand has managed to hang onto a decent ranking based on past performance. So we will get to see who this Buffs team really is on Friday night.
I'm sure that as the season progresses, Colorado will look better and better, but I see a repeat of the 2006 blowout. I'm going with Chaptown, 14-7.
No. 1 Colorado State (3-0) at No. 9 Arizona State (4-1) – Saturday 1 p.m. MT
COYNE: Since this contest is the first one of the weekend for each program, it is sure to be the most entertaining. While each has a trap game on Sunday – CSU against No. 17 Stanford and ASU versus No. 20 Northeastern – both the Rams and Sun Devils will be rested and ready heading into Saturday.
At first glance, it would appear that this will be another game in which Arizona State is going to struggle scoring goals. Colorado State's defense did a nice job of handling the Simon Fraser and Chapman offenses, so ASU will have its issues. Throw in the fact that last year's prolific Sun Devils team only managed to score five on the Rams, and it's going to be slim pickings for Arizona State. It's not going to be an easy go for the CSU offense, either. Goals are going to be at a premium on that end, as well.
Chris Malone admonished me for not taking ASU last week, and I'm really close to picking them in an upset since the offense has shown some signs of life in the last two contents. It's too much of a leap, however. CSU, 7-5.
SCHOOLER: I have made it quite clear how I feel about ASU and their anemic offense. However, the Sun Devils' defense is a completely different story, and there is a reason that Dylan Westfall was the focus of the MCLA at the beginning of the year. He is the centerpiece of that team. Just look at the Michigan State game. In a one-goal game, he was the difference maker by going coast-to-coast to score a goal.
However, that was against Michigan State, a team that barely beat a Division II team in overtime and had some difficulty with a mediocre Arizona team. Until I see Arizona State perform well against a proven team, whether it is a win or a loss, I am not sold on them. The Rams are solid at home and on the road, and for that, I am picking CSU, 8-2.
COYNE: Above we talked about how Colorado is just coming out of the chute against a grizzled Chapman team, and this game has many of the same themes. Clemson will be playing its 10th game of the season, and it's Buffalo's first (the Bulls only play 12 games total). Buffalo, like most teams in PCLL, is going to be a very good team in mid-April, but in mid-March against an experienced team that whacked the Bulls, 14-6 last year? That's a tough sell.
It'll be the Tigers, but closer than last year, 13-9.
SCHOOLER: These are very similar teams. Both had successful seasons last year that brought them out of the shadows. They both return the core of their team from 2011 intact. For those reasons, this is a very tough call.
But I jumped on the Tiger bandwagon early on in the season and I am riding it to the end. They have put something special together this year. Had this been mid-season for Buffalo, I would have hesitated a little more in my pick of Clemson, 10-8.
Minnesota (2-1) at Santa Clara (5-3) – Friday, 7 p.m. PT
COYNE: I got burned by the Broncos a couple of weeks against Chico, but I came to find out that most of the team was suffering from the flu. Them's the breaks, I guess. It didn't help that the Chico zone had the Broncs baffled for much of that contest. Yeah, I guess you could say I'm a little down on Santa Clara right now.
While I think this is going to be a one-goal game, I'm going to put my faith in a Midwestern squad. The Golden Gophers gave Duluth a run for their money earlier a couple of weeks ago, and while it's yet to be determined how this UMD team will pan out, Minny is certainly heading in the right direction under Joe Cinosky. It's always risky taking a cold-weather team this early in the season against a West Coast squad, but I'll do it. Gophers, 9-8.
SCHOOLER: This has to be one of the best games Jac has ever picked, and I have to admit that I was a little surprised. I thought I was the only person who noticed that Minnesota played Minnesota-Duluth to a two goal game.
To make this pick I have to ask myself if I think Santa Clara can be as good as UMD. I do not think so, but then again, who knows how good the Bulldogs will be this year? The fact that I have mentioned Minnesota-Duluth more than the Gophers in this explanation leads me to the decision to pick Santa Clara, 10-7.
Sonoma State (2-1) at No. 23 Chico State (1-1) – Saturday, 2 p.m.
SCHOOLER: Jac was burned by the Wildcats' win over the Broncos early in the season. To prove me wrong and show me that the Santa Clara game was a fluke, I am hoping he will pick Sonoma in this one. I have to admit that part of me wanted to go with 'Noma, but I had to remind myself that this is not the same team that I used to play against.
This match-up has also been a battle over the last few seasons with Chico State coming up with the most recent win. Things are leaning Chico's way. I see the Wildcats coming away with another win, 12-9.
COYNE: This is an egregious example of Nick attempting to sandbag this competition. Pick a game with a ranked team and an unranked team, and then choose the ranked one? Nick's already trying to salt this one away and we're just into March. Sad.
I've actually liked what I've seen out Sonoma's defense so far. The Seawolves have held all three of their opponents to under double-digits, including No. 8 Oregon in a loss. Figuring out how to put the ball in the net will prove to be more of a challenge for Sonoma, especially on the road. I'm down four games, so I guess I'll fall into Schooler's trap on this one and take the underdogs. Seawolves, 8-7.