Bracket Breakdown: MCLA Division I
|Despite winning the SELC,
Virginia Tech was saddled with the No. 14 seed - one of the many
curious seeding decisions by the committee this year.
© Cecil Copeland
Pack up your shorts and sunscreen, because we're heading to Greenville, S.C., for the MCLA national championships. The selection committee stayed true to their recent precedents while laying out the Division I bracket, but it appears as though the seeding machine might have been broken on Sunday night.
It's time to analyze the field. Here's the bracket breakdown.
The Top Seed
We'll get to some funky seedings later on, but this one is no surprise. The Mustangs had one blemish – an overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara – the entire year while taking down the likes of Colorado State, BYU, Chapman and Oregon. Despite the top seed, Cal Poly will have its hands full in the first round with Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs lost to the Mustangs, 9-6 in San Luis Obispo on March 10, so they know they can hang.
Last Team In
The nature of the seeds – Cal was the lowest at-large at No. 12 – tells us that the Bears were the last ones in, but their resume does, too. Cal didn't have any Top 10 wins and its best victory was probably a middling Sonoma State team in the WCLL semifinals (Cal also beat Sonoma in the regular season), so it was clearly the weakest of the six teams. They were lucky that there were no upsets in the PCLL or PNCLL tourney.
First Team Out
I would have thought it was Clemson, but actually it was the Huskies out of the PCLL. The year didn't start out so well as Northeastern lost to D-II Grand Canyon, but it rebounded with a solid regular season and a trip to the PCLL championship game.
It's one thing to be off a seed or two – sometimes you need to make things fit around conference conflicts. But the Ducks are below three, and possibly four, other teams that should probably be behind them. Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Colorado and even UC Santa Barbara should be looking up at Oregon, not the other way around. Typically when there is a huge descrepency between projections and reality, there is one item that caught the committee's eye. Clearly they thought the PNCLL was extremely weak this year (and they're probably right).
Best First-Round Game
If there's one benefit to Oregon's snub is it produced the best first round contest, as the No. 11 Ducks must square off against No. 6 Chapman. The two met earlier in the spring with Chapman winning an 11-9 contest in Beaverton, Ore. Now, the rematch will pinkslip a semifinal-quality team before the tournament even gets rolling.
Seeded Too High
Unlike two years ago when I didn't think the Buffs should have been in the tourney, there's no question they are deserving this year. But a No. 8 seed? The wins over BYU and Arizona State get them in the tourney, but this is still a team that lost to Loyola-Marymount, Arizona and Clemson. Those can't be ignored. CU and Oregon should be flipped.
Seeded Too Low
The SELC wasn't the strongest conference this year. I get that. But Virginia Tech's resume blows Cal's out of the water and is far more consistent than Texas or Colorado. So plugging the Hokies into the No. 14 seed leads me to believe the committee was gun-shy about putting Tech too high due to past clunkers (the Hokies are 3-8 at nationals).
No surprise here. The eight-nine game is the most logical place to look for an upset and this year didn't disappoint. Colorado has proven they can play with the best teams in the country, but it'll be facing a physical Michigan State team that spanked a good Pittsburgh squad in the CCLA finals. Sparty has fizzled in the first round the past two seasons and has been up and down all year, so there's no telling how this one is going to play out.
Best Potential Matchup
If seeds hold, we should get Arizona State versus Buffalo on Tuesday, which is a rematch of last year's first round game won by the Sun Devils, 11-8. The Bulls put the rest of the MCLA on notice that they weren't a PCLL patsy after that contest. Buffalo is better this season and have the seed to prove it. Devils against Bulls would be a massive second round clash.
Three Players to Watch
Dan Davis, Arizona State, Fr., Attack
With Dylan Westfall and Ian Anderson keeping the defensive end of the field on lockdown, the Sun Devils just needed a little offensive production. They are getting it now, thanks to the emergence of Davis. The rookie wasn't much of a factor early in the season, but with Payson Clark's moving to attack, Davis has blossomed into a deadly scorer and the offense is now clicking at the perfect time.
Tyler Novotny, Pittsburgh, Jr., Attack
The Panthers will be underdogs against UC Santa Barbara in the first round, but it's not an unwinnable game, especially if Novotny can get loose. The St. John's (N.Y.) transfer has 62 goals and 16 assists this year and has been the key to Pitt's newfound success this spring. If the Gauchos can contain him, much like Michigan State did in the CCLA finals, the Panthers are doomed.
Olivier Schmied, Cal Poly, Sr., Attack
With teams keying on Matt Graupmann (50g, 7a) and Scott Heberer (34g, 28a), Schmied should have plenty of room to roam in Greenville. Tied with Graupmann for second on the team in points (38g, 19a), he could be the key ingredient as the Mustangs move deeper and deeper into the bracket.
Don't Be Surprised If...
...there is some carnage in the first round. Usually there is one match-up – typically the No. 8-9 tilt – that produces an upset, but I could envision as many as four Top 8 teams taking a tumble in the first round. With the depth of talent in the MCLA now, along with the propensity to look ahead to the quarterfinals, it may mean bad news for a couple of highly rated teams.