Thoughts on the MCLA First Round
The first 16 games of the MCLA tournament in Greenville, S.C., are in the books and the committee has to feel pretty good about themselves because there were just three upsets overall and two of them occurred in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game. Here are my initial reactions (and partial analysis considering the paucity of box scores).
- The biggest story of Day One was Minnesota-Duluth taking Cal Poly to double overtime before the Mustangs were finally able to subdue the Dawgs, 10-9. It wasn't terribly surprising considering that Duluth only lost to Poly, 9-6 in their regular season match-up in SLO. Whereas numerous No. 16 teams were simply intimidated out of games in the past, Duluth relished the opportunity of playing the Mustangs again and they nearly pulled off what was previously unthinkable.
UMD should certainly take some satisfaction into the offseason, but this game will have a real impact on the second round. Whereas most top-seeds are entering the quarterfinals rested and ready, Poly will have to turn around in a little over 24 hours and face a very physical and athletic Michigan State team that is feeling good about itself after upsetting eighth-seed Colorado, 8-7. Poly still has the best route to the championship, but they will be severely tested to simply make it to the first off-day.
- Other than Sparty's mild upset, the rest of the first round played out to seed, including Chapman's 13-9 triump over Oregon. The Ducks still have a consolation game against Colorado on Tuesday night, but Joe Kerwin and his staff will have to do some research this summer and figure out exactly what they'll have to do next year to get a better seed. I'll admit I thought they deserved a better spot than No. 11 after the season they had, but they have to find out the real reasons and address them. I don't think anybody thought that the Ducks were really a threat to win the national title this spring, but they had zero chance once the brackets were announced.
- The best MCLA-I games on Tuesday? For my money, they are (in order): No. 6 Chapman vs. No. 3 BYU, No. 5 Buffalo vs. No. 4 Arizona State, No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Cal Poly and finished off with No. 7 UCSB vs. No. 2 Colorado State.
- Pittsburgh had a fine first showing at nationals, losing to UC Santa Barbara, 13-9. No reason the Panthers shouldn't be back in the mix next spring...Buffalo has matched the furthest that any PCLL team has advance in the tourney...the last time an MCLA Division I team scored 20 goals in the first round was back in 2008 when Simon Fraser hung a 20-10 loss on Florida State.
- Moving on to the MCLA-II, the two top seeds should benefit from playing a pair of teams who were forced into extra time. Top-seeded St. Thomas, which did not look particularly sharp at times in their 11-6 win over No. 16 Western Oregon, will face conference rival and nine-seed North Dakota State after the Bison needed overtime to bounce Briarcliffe. Grand Valley should be in even better shape. The Lakers appeared to have called off the dogs early in their 18-5 rout of Washington U., and they'll get No. 10 Grand Canyon, which won a double overtime slugfest against SCAD, 6-5. We should see both of those team through comfortably to Thursday's semifinals.
- The other two semifinals should be outstanding. No. 6 Davenport, the defending champs, square off with No. 3 Westminster while No. 4 Dayton, fresh of setting the tournament record for goals in the 27-8 waxing of Sam Houston State, will face No. 5 St. John's, which barely survived a contest with No. 12 Elon, 6-4. I like the CCLA to win both of those contests and send three to the semifinals just like it did last year.
- There are probably some good excuses to be heard about the Tommies performance, but you have to give it up to Western Oregon for their level of play against St. Thomas. I thought that was perhaps the most impressive outing of the day. The Wolves should be proud of their effort...it appears that both Davenport and Dayton are peaking at the right time...the only way that Grand Canyon can stay in the game with GVSU is to dominate faceoffs. The 'Lopes need to dictate the game's tempo to have a chance...Elon scored three goals in the first 30 minutes, but could only muster one the rest of the way against St. John's. The Phoenix will be kicking themselves today because they let one get away.