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MCLA Tournament, the Brackets: Initial Thoughts

FAU the only Florida team to make the D2 bracket, no D1 bracket team

via MCLA press release/website, by Jac Coyne

LA CROSSE, Wis. – The brackets are out in both divisions. Here’s my initial take.

Division I

No. 16 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Brigham Young
Johnny Rioux and Kaelan Bonner. The Spartans faceoff man and goalie, respectively, need to have the morning of their lives next Monday. State hung around with Virginia Tech last year for a little while in the first round and it will be an even more herculean effort to down a BYU team that might be generationally good.

No. 15 Simon Fraser vs. No. 2 Texas
An unwelcome matchup for the Longhorns. Texas has a phenomenal offense, but they are running up against a Fraser squad that has one of its best defenses in recent memory. Remember, they held BYU to just 11. In the Longhorns favor is the Red Leafs offense is a step slow this year and, as usual, SFU is not deep, so the Round Rock heat could be a factor.

No. 14 Utah Valley vs. No. 3 Chapman
Rematches are a bit of theme in the first round and Chapman will hope to make amends for the 6-5 loss to the Wolverines in mid-March. As the last team into the tournament, UVU is playing with house money, but they’ll also have to deal with a motivated Panther squad hoping to avenge one of its three losses.

No. 13 Northeastern vs. No. 4 Liberty
The Huskies have been dining out on their Feb. 17 win over Liberty all season and now the Flames have a chance for redemption. After its Utah debacle, Northeastern has won nine straight, but the only victory against a postseason team is Rhode Island (D-II). Keaton Mohs and the Flames’ offense is…on fire.

No. 12 Arizona State vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech
Much like Northeastern, Arizona State is making bank off its only quality win against San Diego State, but losing to Arizona in the SLC semifinals is a rough look. The Hokies basically got Colorado and Tennessee into the tournament, so they get points for being generous. Tech losing two of its last three games means they’ll be ornery – not great for the Devils.

No. 11 California vs. No. Georgia Tech
Ask any Yellow Jacket honk and they’ll tell you that injuries are why they got bamboozled by Texas and Cal on the Left Coast in early March. That’s fine. Tech has another bite at the apple now and they better be ready to answer the bell. The Golden Bears have some weapons, but normally an SELC champion wouldn’t have any problems advancing. Pressure is on.

No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 7 UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos traveled out to Boulder on spring break and nearly doubled up the Buffs, so it’s tough seeing CU flipping this script. Not to say it’s impossible, but Colorado losing to CSU in the RMLC semis doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. UCSB used to be the pinnacle of offensive efficiency, but the ‘Chos are a bunch of grinders now. Not necessarily a bad thing.

No. 9 Tennessee vs. No. 8 San Diego State
What a gem this is. Two teams that no one was even thinking about in January are now a step away from the quarterfinals. Karl Hedberg in the net for the Aztecs is a difference-maker, especially against a Vol team that loves to run-and-gun. SDSU can certainly score goals, but they can’t let the pace of play get out of hand. If the betting total cracks 30, advantage Rocky Top.

Division II

No. 16 Bridgewater State vs. No. 1 Air Force
Making nationals is a special honor, so congrats to the Bears on getting its first at-large bid in school history. I don’t think the CLC (or the PCLL before it) ever accomplished the feat. The Bears might have a slight edge in goal, but they’ll be building a statue of Jonah Varallo in Central Square if the big man can shut down the Falcons.

No. 15 Missouri State vs. No. 2 St. Thomas
We’ve seen this movie before and, surprisingly, it wasn’t as big of a horror show as you might have guessed. Well, it kind of was. The Tommies raced out to a 10-0 lead at half and then coasted home. The Bears have played the best of the best, which is a feather in their cap. They also haven’t beat many of them aside from roasting Charlotte. They’ll need some tricks up their sleeve.

No. 14 Montana vs. No. 3 Grand Valley State
Both of these teams lost in their respective conference finals, but that’s kind of where the similarities end. GVSU fell behind early against nemesis St. Thomas and didn’t have enough time to claw back in an 11-7 loss. Montana fell behind early to Northwest Nazarene and, um, time didn’t matter. Montana has enough juice to keep the Lakers’ attention, but the Griz would need a performance for the ages.

No. 13 Tulane vs. No. 4 Montana State
What a run for the Green Wave. Just a bunch of guys who wanted it more on a Sunday afternoon in Melissa, Texas, and got paid off for it. And with just a short, eight-hour bus ride from New Orleans to Round Rock, Tulane gets to run into a buzzsaw. The Bobcats have two losses this season, both by the score of 13-12, to No. 1 Air Force and No. 2 St. Thomas. That’s it.

No. 12 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 5 Rhode Island
This has the possibility of being a trap game for Rhody with Montana State (potentially) looming on Tuesday, but URI still has the memory of getting jumped by Dayton last year. The Chanticleers semifinal loss to Wake Forest has them on their heels a bit, but this is obviously a good team. They’ll try to take a page out of ALC rival UNC-Charlotte’s book and pull the high-seed stunner.

No. 11 UC San Diego vs. No. 6 Florida Atlantic
The Owls are coming off the high of winning its first-ever SELC title while the Tritons found themselves in the familiar position of being the runner-up in the SLC. FAU is obviously the favorite, but this should be close the whole way. The two-week gap for the SELC programs between conference and nationals has been problematic for other teams in the past.

No. 10 Kennesaw State vs. No. 7 Cal State San Marcos
For the first time in two years, Kennesaw enters the tournament with an underdog seed after getting bounced the last two as favorites. Evan Suh is one of the bright young stars in D-II, but he’ll have someone in his face all game. San Marcos started slowly, but has rattled off eight straight entering the tourney. Definitely peaking at the right time, led by the incomparable Kobe Brown.

No. 9 UNC-Charlotte vs. No. 8 Northwest Nazarene
The final in this one might be 30-28. Both have spectacular offenses, but the defenses can be a little leaky at times, especially up against premium competition. NNU’s Keaton Bean and Charlotte’s Declan McHugh – a couple of first-team All-American caliber players – should give the fans a show. Very similar teams, right down to the temperament of their coaches.