It’s finally time! After a long wait and some conference chaos, we’ve reached the 2016 MCLA National Tournament. As the various teams prepare for their trip to Orange County (or, in the case of #1 Chapman, prepare to host), it’s time for me to make my predictions. And, for those of you who have asked me about not doing it for DII so far, don’t worry, they’re getting picked too. Here are my predictions for the first round of the MCLA playoffs!
#1 Chapman vs #16 Purdue
Good for the Boilermakers, I’m happy to see that they’ve made it back to the postseason. Unfortunately for them, they’ve once again drawn the 16 seed, and a date with undefeated Chapman looms. There will be upsets in this tournament. This will not be one of them.
Prediction: Chapman 19 – Purdue 3
#2 Cal Poly vs #15 SMU
What a season for SMU, man. They came out and shocked the LSA, going undefeated through the regular season and beating Texas State to take the autobid. If there’s an award for most surprising team this year, I’m giving it to SMU. With that said, Cal Poly remains my favorite to win the entire playoffs. We saw the #2 team last year go down in round one. You won’t see it happening again. Both these squads rely on their defense, but Cal Poly is in a whole different league in comparison. I think that SMU will slow down Cal Poly’s offense to some extent, but I don’t think SMU’s offense can hang with the Mustangs.
Prediction: Cal Poly 12 – SMU 1
#3 Grand Canyon vs #14 Michigan State
The defending champions had a rough start to this season. There were some questions early in the year as to whether they would even be a threat to defend their title. Questions answered. There is not a hotter team in the country than the ‘Lopes. Michigan State is a solid team, and I expect that they could make this one look close for a while. But Grand Canyon will take this game.
Prediction: Grand Canyon 17 – Michigan State 8
#4 Georgia Tech vs #13 Cal
This is really the point in the seeding where things start to get interesting. Cal is hot right now, and Georgia Tech remains largely untested. Just look at Cal’s last two games to see how much this team can improve. They went from beating a ranked Stanford team to blowing that same Stanford team out. Georgia Tech has been a top team all season, but circumstances mean that they missed facing a tough FSU team and instead go into playoffs relatively untested. If this game gets close, I think Cal is probably the team more mentally suited for a scrape. Cal is playing close to home, they’re playing with heart, and they’ve been tested all year. I felt like I had to pick a big upset in order to keep things interesting, and the Bears are my pick.
Prediction: Cal 8 – Georgia Tech 7 (OT)
#5 BYU vs #12 Oregon State
BYU came storming back in the RMLC playoffs to take the highest seed. Oregon State knows a thing or two about getting hot in conference playoffs themselves. I was really excited to pick OSU as a first round upset…and then they drew the Cougars. Oregon State escaped Boise State in OT and beat the Ducks by 2. It’s a great stretch for the Beavers, but I don’t think it prepares them for this Cougars team. They just beat two tournament teams to get here, and both games were won by a solid margin. I think OSU puts up a respectable fight, but BYU takes the game.
Prediction: BYU 14 – OSU 8
For those of you who missed the overtime goal…
Posted by Gary Baldes on Monday, May 2, 2016
#6 Boston College vs #11 Arizona
I’ve already complained about Boston College as a top ten team, and look at this matchup. This is the #6 team playing a squad that beat them by 11 earlier in the season. I think the Laxcats have to be drooling over drawing a first round matchup with a squad they’ve already beaten so solidly. I think that Boston College has improved, but I would have zero problem flipping the seeds between these two. Arizona stomped the Eagles in their first matchup. I think BC comes around to make it a little closer, but Arizona wins it.
Prediction: Arizona 11 – Boston College 6
#7 Colorado vs #10 UCSB
I was really excited to see that UCSB made the tournament. They’ve had a great bounce-back season, and they’ve got one of the best young players in the nation in cage. Colorado is a staple of this tournament, and they’ve got to be hungry to return to the final after barely losing out on the title last season. However, I’m going to go ahead and take the Gauchos here. UCSB has the grit and the hunger to make this game a fight, and I think Colorado has been weaker the last few weeks than they were early in the season. I may come to regret this pick, but give me UCSB in a close one.
Prediction: UCSB 14 – Colorado 12
#8 Arizona State vs #9 Colorado State
These two played a fantastic defensive battle earlier in the season that saw CSU take the win. I think that’s exactly what we see again in Orange County. Arizona State’s season is full of close losses to top teams. They’ve got a handful of wins against tournament teams, but Colorado State had the stronger season. Only a late collapse against BYU in the RMLC tournament kept CSU from a top seed. Colorado State seems the more prepared team, and they’ve got the confidence of winning game one.
Prediction: CSU 8 – Arizona State 7
#1 St. Thomas vs #16 Bridgewater State
St. Thomas knows what it takes to win a championship. They’re no strangers to the final four. Bridgewater State has had a good season, and it’s nice to see them make the tournament. I just can’t see a way that they advance to round two. The Tommies’ offense is just too scary.
Prediction: St. Thomas 23 – Bridgewater 2
#2 Dayton vs #15 Southern Oregon
Last year’s PNCLL champions made a deep run. This year’s champion seems seeded too low to me, and they’re going to pay for it. Dayton is the defending national champion, but their offense has been a little lackluster at times this year. I do think that Dayton is capable of being upset. I just don’t think SOU has the firepower to upset them. SOU could’ve upset someone had they gotten a better seed, but their bad luck leads Dayton to take this one, albeit in a closer game than some might expect.
Prediction: Dayton 14 – SOU 8
#3 Concordia vs #14 Montana State
Neither team has lost a game this entire season. To be honest, I’m not sure how Concordia (last year’s #1 seed and natty runner up) managed to go undefeated and end up as the #3 seed. Whoever falls behind is going to be dealing with a situation they haven’t seen much this year, which could make this interesting. However, I can’t pick against a 3 seed that I think got unfairly seeded low. Concordia advances.
Prediction: Concordia 16 – Montana State 10
#4 NDSU vs #13 Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada has looked really really good this season, except when they played Concordia. The problem is, Concordia is the only truly competitive team that they played this year. They only played one other tournament team, 15 seed SOU. NDSU, meanwhile, is one of the most tested teams in the whole tournament. NDSU’s offense is going to roll right on through Sierra Nevada. How close this game ends up depends on the Sierra Nevada offense.
Prediction: NDSU 18 – Sierra Nevada 7
#5 Kennesaw State vs #12 Siena Heights
Siena Heights has a win over GVSU, the #6 seed. I think that automatically makes them an upset threat here. The Saints defense has only allowed double-digit goals four times, but they one won one of those games. This game will hinge on whether the Eagles can slow down the Owls’ offense. If they can, this game could get real interesting. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Owls’ offense has been high scoring even in their losses. Kennesaw gets through here.
Prediction: Kennesaw State 13 – Siena Heights 6
#6 Grand Valley State vs #11 Missouri Valley
Missouri Valley hasn’t lost since March. Grand Valley State lost three times in April. The Vikings are certainly the hotter team, but I’m not sure if that will be enough to upset the Lakers. I want to call the upset, I really do. I think it’s possible for GVSU to lose here. They lost to the #12 seed. They’ve lost a few recently. But those losses came at the hands of top seeded teams. I think that gives them better preparation for this tournament than MVC has.
Prediction: GVSU 11 – MVC 9
#7 Reinhardt vs #10 Grove City
Reinhardt enters the tournament on a winning streak that includes a victory over the 5 seed. Grove City enters the tournament on a losing streak. Reinhardt is hot right now. I think they’re going to make it far. I think Grove City would’ve beaten them a month ago, but not so much anymore. The Eagles take this matchup and keep it rolling.
Prediction: Reinhardt 12 – Grove City 9
#8 Lourdes vs #9 Minnesota-Duluth
Lourdes can score. Duluth can play defense. This one should be a very fun film room matchup. Defense wins championships is the classic cliche here, but, at least in this case, I agree with the cliché. I think that the Bulldogs are going to win this one and be the upset team for the first round. Which is disappointing, because Lourdes is the Gray Wolves, and that is the coolest mascot in the tournament for sure. They’ve got to incorporate that into their helmet design next year.
Prediction: Duluth 10 – Lourdes 8
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So, there you have it, folks. Those are my picks for the first round of the MCLA National Tournament at each division. Am I going to be wrong? Almost certainly! Will I have a blast watching this bracket fall apart? Of course!
Calling all MCLA players and fans:
Comment below with YOUR PREDICTIONS for the 2016 MCLA National Tournament first round. Get all 16 games correct and we’ll hook you up with a ridiculously cool prize from Lacrosse.com. Good luck!