The brackets for the MCLA and NCAA have been released and we’re starting off with the big boys of Division 1 NCAA Lacrosse. There are a number of teams that everyone expected to get to the dance, and most of them made it, but there were a couple of notable teams that just barely missed out. Stony Brook (lost to Hartford in AE Final), Army, Yale, Loyola, Drexel, Georgetown and Harvard are a couple of teams that jump out as capable but not chosen. Penn is the team that made it in (without the AQ) that most people will question, simply because of their 8-6 overall record, but their SOS was excellent. 5 of their 6 losses came to Top 20 teams and they also had 4 wins over Top 20 teams. A tough call either way.
Now on to the brackets and what we think will actually happen!
Syracuse plays Siena in the first round, and while I have a lot of respect for what they’re doing with the program at Siena, I can’t see them pulling out the W here. Syracuse has been playing well lately, and a little bit of the typical Cuse “swagger” came back in their win over Notre Dame. I think Siena could keep it close if Cuse isn’t clicking, but the Orange are as close to a lock win as we’ll get in this year’s dance.
The winner of the Cuse-Siena game will get to play the winner of UNC – Maryland, with UNC taking the 8 seed and Maryland being unranked.
This is one of those suspect rankings for me… UNC just lost to Colgate, and before that, they lost to Maryland, the same team they’re hosting in the first round of the NCAAs. Oops. Thanks commentariat. I went too fast! UNC just beat ND and Maryland just lost to Colgate. UMD is 10-4, UNC is 10-5, so yes, we’re splitting hairs. Unfortunately, the NCAA selection committee just split this one the wrong way. I like Maryland to view the #8 ranking as a bit of slight and for the Terps to come out on top. With UNC winning big late, and Maryland losing, the seeding makes sense. I still like Maryland to win this game though, even as UNC is really playing well.
In the second round, Cuse vs Maryland (OR UNC) will be great (no matter who is playing. Heck, it would be UNREAL to see Siena play either of these teams as well!) and has the potential to be one of the best games of the tourney.
Duke garnered the #5 seed and a home game against Delaware in the first round. Delaware made a nice run in the CAAs to get the AQ (and Hofstra still made it) and they get to head to Durham and play the Blue Devils, where I see them losing by a couple goals. They have talent, but not enough to stick with Duke.
Penn and Notre Dame will play, and the winner of that game will play the winner of Duke – Delaware. But the Penn – ND game has the potential for anything, except 30 goals. This will be a tighter game, low-scoring game, as both teams see their defensive end as their biggest strength. However, in order for either of these teams to really increase their chances of winning, they will need to take some risks on O, and create their own chances. Notre Dame has the players that can create on their own, when they’re not playing their usual system ball, so I like the Fighting Irish to come out victorious, but also expect it to be close. Notre Dame is capable of winning big here, but they’ve played a very conservative style of lacrosse lately, and won’t win easy here unless they take some more chances.
Hofstra lost the CAA, still made the tourney, and now has to play Hopkins, who is looking like one of the top 2-4 teams to beat right now. Hofstra is good, they have some scorers and they’ll play with a chip on their shoulder, but I still don’t see them pulling off the upset. Hofstra’s best scoring is on attack and Hop’s poles are shutdown guys. The Hop O is looking very dynamic and there are 5-6 guys out there who can make it happen from all over the field. With Bassett in net, I can’t see the Blue Jays losing this one.
Villanova – Denver is probably one of the biggest question marks for a lot of people, and it very well should be. Villanova has been tough all year and their 4 losses have come by a total of 9 goals, but their only win over a ranked team was over Penn 9-8 in OT. I like Denver to take this one but it will be tight. I’d imagine the atmospher in Denver will be electric for this game, and Tierney will have those guys ready. If Villanova is to win, they’ll need scoring from “other” places, like their LSM, Brian Karalunas.
Virginia – Bucknell has the Bison traveling to the #7 Cavs and if most people are going to pick a first round upset, this will probably be it. But not me! Virginia dropped some dead weight, came back together, got Steele Stanwick back to lead the O and took down Penn 11-2 in their last game of the season. Without Shamel they’ll be more balanced and more focused, and with Stanwick they’ll be efficient, dangerous and unpredictable. I’ll take the latter. Virginia by 4+.
Our final game of the first round has Hartford traveling to Cornell to face the #2 Big Red. A win here is a tall order for Hartford, even though the Hawks have been playing some really good lacrosse lately. The difference maker in this game will be Rob Pannell, surprise surprise. Hartford just doesn’t have a pole that can contain Pannell, and I like Cornell to run away with this one at the end. The Hawks 6 losses came by a total of 11 goals, but other than their win over Stony Brook (not Cornell. duh), the Hawks don’t have a lot of quality wins. Cornell will be a different best, and so will Pannell. 412 knows this is true.