Just Like That, It's Almost Over
His Gauchos let him down last week, but Nick will never give up on his alma mater. He has chosen UCSB to beat San Diego State in the SLC tourney first round. Fortunately, this time he'll likely be correct.
It was kind of fitting in a way that Nick was ultimately undone by his two most cherished teams.
Had UC Santa Barbara and California picked up wins over the weekend, Nick would be in the lead and probably would have walked away with the overall victory. Alas, his Gauchos proved to be still well below the bar currently set by Chapman, and the Golden Bears are a bad bet away from the tree-huggers and circus clowns that comprise his hometown.
This competition is very close to being over. I hold a commanding three game lead with two weeks to go, 36-24 to 33-27. There could still be some movement this week, as we disagree on three games, but alas, not about UCSB.
SCHOOLER: I'm feeling a bit like the Gauchos right now. I started the season strong, but have faltered as of late. I am now three games back with only two weeks to go. But as playoffs approach, I am feeling that winning Gaucho spirit from so many years ago.
After unsuccessfully picking the Gauchos over Chapman last week, Jac has given me the chance to pick another UCSB game. But this is the playoffs. Time for the Gauchos and the Schoolers to turn things around. Jac is officially off the wagon. I raise my glass to hoping that he has beer goggles this week and I can pick up some much needed games.
Santa Clara (6-8) at Sonoma (6-7) – 1 p.m. PDT, Saturday
COYNE: If you're wondering whether there is a paucity of good games this late in the season, this game should give you your answer. This is a snoozer, but the pickings are slim, unfortunately. It seems so long ago, but both of these teams were ranked this year and thought to be contenders in the WCLL.
It was probably unfair to believe that. Both teams were welcoming back former coaches who had done great things in the past. But despite the optimism brought by the return, there were just too many missing pieces. So it boils down to this: which team has more to play for? Both are out of the WCLL tournament, so it comes down to playing at home. The Seawolves get the nod, barely. Noma, 12-11 (3OT).
SCHOOLER: I had very high expectations for Sonoma this season. The Seawolves started out well with a win over Michigan State, but have laid a goose egg in the WCLL this season. They have not beaten a single team! With five down and one to go, they have one last chance to save face at the expense of Santa Clara. Sonoma was in the same place last year and managed to defeat a struggling Chico State. Will it happen again this year? I think so. Sonoma takes this game by 5.
No. 20 Illinois (9-4) at Wisconsin (9-2) – 1 p.m. CDT, Saturday
COYNE: Just when it looked like the Illini would coast to Denver, something went awry. It started with the 17-16 loss to Lindenwood and followed shortly after with a one-goal win over Purdue – both surprising results considering what Illinois had done leading up to those contests. Now I'm not sure where the team stands as it enters this Big Ten throwdown.
The Badgers' record is reflective of zero contenders on the schedule rather than a juggernaut. Wisky is not bad, mind you, but shouldn't be able to hang with the Illini. I'm not real confident about the pick considering recent history, but I'll stick with Illinois, 10-8.
SCHOOLER: This is actually a pretty evenly matched game between the state that brought us President Barack Obama and the state that brought us the union-dismantling, middle class-hating Governor Scott Walker. So I am torn here.
I really like what the Badgers have done in their first two seasons in the MCLA, but the Illini have risen to the top of the GRLC in recent years. Nate Uzlik has carried Wisconsin through their first two seasons. If he can stay consistent, I see the Badgers taking this one and eventually winning the GRLC in a rematch of the 2010 finals. I am going with Wisconsin.
UCLA (8-5) at San Diego (4-8) – 7 p.m. PDT, Saturday
COYNE: This is the classic game illustrating the difference between strength of schedules. I'm guessing Nick won't fall for it, but there's always a chance. San Diego should win this one comfortably. Toreros, 12-5.
SCHOOLER: No question that San Diego wins this one. It is a far superior team. UCLA can pull off some wins at home because of the size of its field, but not on the road. The Toreros win this in a landslide.
San Diego State (4-9) at No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (9-5) – 3 p.m. PDT, Saturday
COYNE: Considering UCSB has already defeated the Aztecs at home this season, 15-9, on March 5, one would think this game will be a formality. It should be, but there is a variable. This is a must-win for the Gauchos, so we'll find out how well they can play under severe pressure. Against a slightly more talented team, I might take a flyer against UCSB, but the Gauchos will win this game narrowly, 13-10.
SCHOOLER: San Diego State is lucky to be in this position. They managed to surprise Arizona earlier in the season, and since there are only four teams in the SLC South, Arizona was left out. Preceding this game will be an epic California high school battle between Northern California powerhouse St. Ignatius and Southern California powerhouse Coronado. This will be a great opportunity for UCSB and San Diego State to show these high schoolers what MCLA lacrosse is all about.
The Aztecs have nothing to lose in this game, but if UCSB loses, it is out of the national championships. So the Gauchos are fighting for their lives. I am hoping that the seniors will be excited for one last game in The Pit since senior day was ruined by USC two weeks ago. Seniors Jamie Bridgman and Dave Kurtmen will be solid. So will Taylor Gilbert, Aaron Hemeon and CJ Jacobs. Numerous coaches have referred to the middies from UCSB as the best in the nation. It is time for them to put it together and start acting like the best. Gauchos win, 15-5.
No. 13 Utah at No. 2 Brigham Young – 7 p.m. MDT, Saturday
SCHOOLER: At the beginning of the season, I picked this as the upset of the season. I predicted that BYU would beat CSU and sit on top of the RMLC while overlooking a talented Utah team. The stars have lined up. All I need is for Mark Manning to have the game of his life and destroy his once-beloved Cougars. I am going with the Utes in this game, but if they don't win, it's all good. It will give the Gauchos a better chance at nationals if there is a conference upset in the PCLL.
COYNE: Nick's trying to hit a grand slam here with no one on base (am I allowed to use a baseball analogy?). BYU breezes, 14-8.