Bracket Breakdown: Men's Division III
The Top Seeds
|Matt Ward (above) and Cabrini have a tough slog ahead of them if they want to get to South region finals, but this could be the year they break through. (Kevin P. Tucker)|
With a 30-team bracket, there's no hiding the top seeds with a lone bye in both regions. On the strength of its unblemished record and stiff schedule, RIT is atop the North while Salisbury was able to set aside its mystifying midseason loss to Christopher Newport and grab pole position in the South.
Last Team In
There are going to be two of these, one in both Pool B (independent) and Pool C (at-large), and they were Otterbein and Endicott. Getting shipped off to Stevenson – the presumptive No. 2 seed in the South – is a good indicator that the Cardinals were last in the Pool B pecking order. It's a bit tougher in Pool C.
While Mary Washington looks to be the lowest seeded Pool C (as a No. 10), it's difficult drawing parallels between the two regions because of differing strengths. Endicott appears to be the No. 7 seed in the North, but are the lowest at-large in that region (Amherst and Union are ahead) and were likely the last team to get the nod after bowing out in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament.
First Team Out
There's going to be two again, and again Pool B is clearer than Pool C. Whittier must have taken a huge hit with the loss to Colorado College for the Stabler-Locker Cup, because there were only six teams legitimately vying for the five independent spots. On the at-large side, it was probably Wesleyan.
With Lynchburg winning the ODAC (and removing a very strong potential Pool C candidate), things were looking good for the Cardinals despite a loss in the NESCAC semis. Ultimately, Wesleyan was undone by Western New England's improbable upset of Endicott (they lost 20-6 in the regular season to the Gulls). That's life on the bubble.
This is a mild snub, at best. At 16-1 with a 3-1 mark against regionally ranked foes, the Red Hawks had an argument for at least a home game in the first round. Presumptively seeded at No. 9, they were pretty close, and now have the unenviable task of playing Ithaca and RIT in a four-day span if they make it past Wednesday. Montclair is starting to suffer from "Cabrini Syndrome," where they play in such a weak conference that any early season success is often diluted over the course of the season, causing frustration on Selection Sunday.
Best First-Round Games
In the North, I'll take Keene State at Endicott. Coached by a pair of Springfield guys – Mark Theriault and Sean Quirk – who were on Pride's 1994 national championship team, both have taken the same approach to building strong programs in "mid-major" conferences. The winner will also likely draw Tufts in the second round, and neither are intimidated by the Jumbos, having tangled with them in the regular season.
In the South, Mary Washington at Cabrini is intriguing. In actuality, it's probably a raw deal for the Cavaliers since the Eagles are a legit threat to beat them.
Seeded Too High
|Endicott was probably the last team into the tournament as a Pool C candidate, but neither Harrison Cotter (above) nor the rest of the Gulls care about that. They're in, and they have a home game against Keene State. (Endicott Athletics)|
If I'm reading the bracket correctly, Adrian was inserted into the South's bracket as a fifth seed. This is obviously a case of geographical tinkering by the committee as they've basically created a "Midwest pod" along with Aurora, Denison and Centre. It's just one of the realities of putting together the bracket, but its unintended side effect is stacking the bottom half of the South bracket (see: Cabrini as a seventh seed).
Seeded Too Low
It's Mary Washington. The Eagles are 14-3 this season with the only losses coming to York twice and Salisbury. They're a nightmare as a No. 10 seed.
I feel like I'm going in circles here, but Cabrini is one of the likely candidates with Mary Washington paying a visit. It's an 8-9 game, but Ithaca will have its hands full with Montclair State. Adrian should also be very wary of Aurora because the Spartans are a different team than the one that started 0-3.
Best Potential Matchup
Denison vs. Salisbury in quarterfinals
Even with its undefeated record, Denison did not get much credit from the regional ranking committee, and thus were tabbed as the fourth seed. Nothing would cement the Big Red's credibility more than to unseat Salisbury along the way to a national semifinals berth. Denison is savvy bunch this year and they have all of the necessities to give the Sea Gulls a hard time, even on the road.
Three Players to Watch
Corey Elmer (Cabrini): Lacrosse Magazine's preseason player of the year has lived up to all the expectations, amassing 113 points (58g, 55a) for the 16-1 Cavaliers. Now it's prime time, and Elmer will have to be at his best if Cabrini is capable of running a potential three-game gauntlet of Mary Washington, Stevenson and Washington College to arrive at the regional finals.
Stefan Basile (Union): The Union meatgrinder is operating at maximum capacity at this point, and its point man is Basile, the Dutchmen's goalie. He has posted a 6.50 goals against average this spring along with a 65.5 save percentage. In concert with Basile's supporting cast, Union has allowed a shooting percentage of 18.5 so far this season, and those numbers have been impacted by two meetings with RIT. If the Dutchmen get a third shot at the Tigers, it could be Basile who makes the difference.
John Uppgren (Tufts): The points leader in the Tufts' scoring circus with 105 (54g, 51a), Uppgren will pose significant problems for opposing defenses because Mike Daly has basically created a new position for him. He subs onto the field as a midfielder would, but he operates as essentially a fourth attackman. This hybrid position isn't optimum on sudden change transitions to defense, but Uppgren has been deadly in combination with the Jumbos standard attack unit.
Don't Be Surprised If...
We're looking at the same four teams in the semifinals as we did last year. While there are several teams that could realistically upset that applecart – Tufts, Cabrini, WAC and Denison come to mind – RIT, Cortland, Salisbury and Stevenson could all easily reprise their roles from last season.
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