It’s almost tourney time in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, so let’s play some catchup and take a look at the best teams in each conference. Conference playoffs are around the corner, and a Championship win for any team is an Automatic Qualifier (AQ) for the 2016 MCLA National Tournament. AQ bids will be on the line across the country, and squads who don’t land one are going to find themselves facing stiff competition for one of seven at-large bids for Let’s take a look at each conference first, and then we’ll talk about those pesky at-large bids.
The 2016 MCLA National Tournament AQ Bids (predicted by me)
I love the Davenport offense. The Panthers are so fun to watch, so brilliant in their ability to score. I just wish I could trust that defense more. With that said, Davenport is 11-1, and their one loss came in OT. The next best record in the CCLA is Pitt at 6-4 and, despite one of those wins coming against Davenport, I don’t see them as a big enough threat to upset Davenport twice to give them the nod. The Panthers take my AQ.
Next Best: Pittsburgh
Dark Horse: Michigan State
If you have any idea who is going to win this conference, you’re way ahead of me. The GRLC is all over the place this season. Last year’s AQ, Purdue, has a losing record. The team with the best record, Kansas, has only played two divisional games. Indiana looks strong, but who knows if they can overcome Purdue in their own division. This one is a toss up, but I’ll give it to Kansas for now.
Next Best: Purdue
Dark Horse: Indiana
The LSA is a two-dog fight for the AQ, and I honestly think that whoever loses it will be shut out of the national tournament. Representing the north is SMU. The Mustangs are a shocking 13-0, having come out of the shadows this season to wreak havoc on the conference. In the south, Texas State, last year’s LSA champions, have fought through a tougher schedule to a 10-2 record, but looked every bit the part of a league champion in their rivalry win over Texas. It’s hard to pick against the defending champions, but I respect the undefeated record SMU is sporting. I take the Mustangs for the AQ, but written in very light pencil.
Next Best: Texas State
Dark Horse: Texas
It seems safe to say that Boston College does not have much competition in the PCLL for the at-large bid. However, Boston College has been very focused on its OOC games, and both UConn and New Hampshire have quietly had strong seasons in the shadow of the Eagles. Just because the Huskies lost to BC doesn’t mean they can’t come back to beat them in the conference tournament. Similarly, UNH has had a good season overshadowed by the other two. I think this conference race might end up closer than it appears right now, but I still won’t pick against BC at this point.
AQ: Boston College
Next Best: Connecticut
Dark Horse: New Hampshire
Credit the return of Oregon and the rise of Boise State (and not to brag, but I called both of those before the season) for the current PNCLL chaos. The Civil War between Oregon and OSU should provide some much-needed clarity in the division, and Boise State cannot be counted out yet, despite losing to both of the Oregon schools. To be honest, I won’t even rule out Simon Fraser from causing some late-season chaos for one of the returning champs. This conference tournament is always crazy. OSU upset Oregon to take the AQ in 2013, only to watch Oregon ruin their top-15 season in 2014. With the conference up for grabs, I expect Oregon to take it in the end. The Ducks boast an offense most teams can’t handle, and their faceoff game gives them a lot of control in close games.
Next Best: Oregon State
Dark Horse: Boise State
It’s a safe bet to say that the loser of the RMLC tournament will still reach nationals. With three teams who have spent time in the top 10 this season, the RMLC is as stacked as ever this season. The last time we checked in on the MCLA, I went against my gut and picked CSU over BYU. Colorado State won that game after all, and I’m now ready to full flip my support in the RMLC. Colorado State is now my favorite to take the AQ, but that does not mean they won’t face stiff competition from BYU and Colorado. All three could easily make it to Orange County, it just depends on who gets the AQ and who gets the at-large.
AQ: Colorado State
Next Best: Colorado
Dark Horse: BYU (if you can call BYU a dark horse)
Ah, finally an easy conference to predict, right? Wrong! Yes, Georgia Tech has been #2 in the polls for weeks, and yes, they very much look the part. However, I am absolutely not going to rule out Florida State before the two teams face one another. The Seminoles are 14-1, and they just spent the weekend beating two top-20 squads away from home. If those two reach the conference final, I expect that to be one of the most fun conference matchups of the entire MCLA season. I’m still going to give Georgia Tech the AQ, but I wanted to point out that their position is not so secure as it might have seemed a few weeks ago.
AQ: Georgia Tech
Next Best: Florida State
Dark Horse: Virginia Tech
The #1 team in the nation calls the SLC home, and therefore nobody else can be picked here. Chapman looks like a team on a mission this season, and they’ve left a trail of ranked teams in their wake. The SLC is always a tough conference to win, and it’s another conference likely to send multiple teams to nationals. Arizona has been strong this season, UCSB has surprised, and there might not be a hotter team in the country right now than the defending champions, Grand Canyon. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Grand Canyon comes back to take the SLC after all, but I’ve learned my lesson about betting against Chapman. The Panthers get my AQ, with the ‘Lopes right on their heels.
Next Best: Grand Canyon
Dark Horse: Arizona
Cal Poly is back, ladies and gents. All season, that Cal Poly defense has chewed up opposing offenses and spit them back out. Only one team all year has managed double-digit goals in a game against the Mustangs, and that was Grand Canyon (in Cal Poly’s only loss, 10-9). At times, the Mustangs have struggled to score, but racking up 14 against Stanford looks like a great sign for them. I think Cal Poly is one of the teams most likely to hoist the trophy when all is said and done, and they definitely take my final AQ.
AQ: Cal Poly
Next Best: Stanford
Dark Horse: Sonoma State
2016 MCLA National Tournament At-Large Bids (predicted by me)
My at-large bid predictions for the 2016 MCLA National Tournament are all based on my AQs winning their conferences, so let’s hope I get those right… Should other teams win, these would obviously change. With that said, here they are:
Grand Canyon, SLC: Hottest team in the nation right now. The defending champs will have a chance to defend their title.
Colorado, RMLC: A top ten team isn’t going to miss the tournament if it loses the rivalry game to CSU. Too strong of a resume.
BYU, RMLC: The RMLC is so stacked that its third best team is still a top 15 team. The Cougars deserve a shot.
Arizona, SLC: Arizona has a fantastic defense. Their offense is lacking at times, but their resume is strong.
Stanford, WCLL: I’d rather have taken UCSB, but I think the committee would rather take a second WCLL team than a third SLC team, and Stanford won the head-to-head.
Florida State, SELC: Solidified their spot with a strong weekend in Baltimore. It’s time to start respecting the ‘Noles.
Oregon State, PNCLL: Only the return of their hatred rival, Oregon, keeps OSU from the top of the PNCLL. The Beavers are for real.
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So, there you have it – The AQ bids for the 2016 MCLA National Tournament. We’ll see how these picks look when the dust settles at the end of this month!
2016 MCLA National Tournament Winners & Awards (predicted by me)
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryan Larocque, Davenport
Defensive Player of the Year: Brad Lindsay, CSU
Godekeraw Award: Grant Clifford, Oregon
Final Four: Chapman, Georgia Tech, Cal Poly, Grand Canyon
National Champion: Cal Poly
Calling all MCLA players and fans:
Comment below with YOUR PREDICTIONS for the 2016 MCLA National Tournament bids. Get all 16 correct and we’ll hook you up with a ridiculously cool prize from Lacrosse.com. Good luck!