The MCLA season rolls on. Entering the middle of March, chaos reigns supreme at the top of the league. With the top teams beating up on each other over the last few weeks, the championship picture looks murky. While contenders start to take their losses early, other teams are shooting up the polls as they start to prove their merit.
Let’s take another look at five noteworthy MCLA storylines from the second half of February and first leg of March:
1. The top two conferences beat each other up
Look across the top ten in the week three polls, and what you’ll see is a whole lot of RMLC and SLC teams with notches in the loss columns. That’s because those two conferences have spent the early part of the season beating each other in a cycle.
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Colorado, Colorado State, Arizona, and Grand Canyon all spent their team taking each other down, with some added fun from WCLL favorite Cal Poly, who beat Arizona State before losing to Grand Canyon. We were treated to another big showdown between the two conferences, as previously undefeated BYU dropped their first game to Chapman last week.
Both of these conferences look to be putting multiple teams into the tournament again this year, and no team has truly created separation from the pack in the early weeks of the season. It will likely take a few rounds of conference games before either conference starts to tip its hand for a potential champion, but there’s a very good chance our eventual national champion resides in the SLC or RMLC.
2. Yellow Jackets emerge as a new contender
If the national champion doesn’t hail from either conference, the smart money says that the SELC might bring home the title. While the preseason projection had Virginia Tech as the best shot for the East to win a title, Georgia Tech’s SELC takedown over #3 Virginia Tech makes the Yellow Jackets the presumptive favorite to win the SELC. After starting the season 7-0, GT is looking more and more like a player in the national race.
This is a team that already features 5 players in double-digit goals, including all three starting attackmen. Combine that with the fact that both goalies on roster are currently sporting save rates over 70%, and you’ve got a title contender on your hands in Atlanta. Keep an eye on attackman Brian Connolly as a potential POTY candidate as well, as the junior is currently averaging just under 5 points-per-game.
3. PNCLL race gets interesting
The PNCLL race has become more and more chaotic in recent years, but this year is shaping up to be a doozy. Start with Oregon, who boasted a 4-0 record heading in the Rockies last weekend before losing to Colorado then knocking off Colorado State in what was a huge test for a team that has looked very promising early on. From there, you’ve got two very good teams in Boise State and Oregon State. The Broncos have stacked three conference wins already, and their only loss before last weekend’s trip to Colorado was a three goal drop to a very good BYU squad.
Similarly, OSU rebounded from a season-opening loss to Arizona State with a big win over Stanford, and their 4-2 record looks a lot better after a weekend that saw them beat conference rival Simon Fraser before lighting up Washington State for 25 goals. Speaking of those two, did you hear SFU completely dismantled WSU, 45-0, after losing in OT to Washington the night before?! How is that even possible?
The PNCLL could realistically see two teams sent to nationals for the first time since 2013, and it’s nearly impossible to predict who those two will be at this point in the season.
4. A new LSA favorite?
Last post, I wrote that Texas State shouldn’t be considered anything less than the LSA favorite until proven otherwise. I’m not sure I’m willing to move on from the Bobcats yet, but boy has SMU been impressive this season. The Mustangs are now 10-0 to start the season and they’ve looked really good doing it. They’ve sat just outside the week two and three polls at #26, how have they not entered the Top 25? If you’re a Lone Star Alliance defense, good luck slowing down this Mustangs attack line that has already racked up an impressive 72 goals between the three starters.
40 points from Nicholaus Schultz (4.44ppg) so far makes him the presumptive leader of the pack for the Mustangs, but it’s hard to count out 29 goals from senior Schuyler Grey IV. The Mustangs are deep, talented, and playing well in nearly every facet of the game. I won’t count out Texas State yet, but the tension in San Marcos should be turning up as SMU improves week by week.
5. A quick look at D-II
Unlike the top of the MCLA D-I poll, the MCLA D-II poll has been relatively unchaotic so far in the season. Last year’s championship teams, Dayton and Concordia, have both started off the season undefeated. To me, the most impressive team has actually been #3 North Dakota State. The Bison boast a top ten win already over conference foes Minnesota-Duluth, and they have a very strong schedule coming up.
I’m really excited to see the April 1st showdown between the Bison and Dayton, which I definitely think could be a potential preview of either a national championship or at least a national semifinal. There are plenty of good teams in the race for Division II, and it’ll be fun to watch it all play out when the top teams start to face off against one another in the coming months, after a slower start in terms of big games in February.
Calling It Early
Offensive Player of the Year: Adam Smith, Boise State (28G, 15A, 5.36PPG, 55 GB)
Defensive Player of the Year: Max Neser, BYU (6G, 1A, 28 GB)
Godekeraw Award: Grant Clifford, Oregon (28G, 10A, 6.33PPG)
Final Four: BYU, Oregon, Georgia Tech, Cal Poly