Tomorrow night it all starts. I know of one minor change to the schedule already as the St. Thomas Aquinas – Stoneman Douglas game has been moved up to a 5:00pm start to accommodate Prom Night . . . sometimes we forget that life is not on lacrosse time . . .
The bottom half of the bracket is loaded with first round matchups . . .
What seems to be a traditional first round match between regional rivals Cardinal Mooney and Bishop Verot
A similar regional matchup between Barron Collier and Gulf Coast
Melbourne Central Catholic and Viera play for the second time this season
Jensen Beach and Benjamin both came on strong in the second half of the season
Saint Andrew’s and Oxbridge match #1 and #4 in the first round
St. Thomas Aquinas and Stoneman Douglas in another Top 20 first rounder
Long Time participant Cypress Bay and first timer Belen Jesuit
Gulliver Prep and second year upstart Key West . . . someones traveling a long way . . .
One interesting thing about this half . . .
6 of the 8 games are rematches of games already played. Gulliver-Key West and STA-Stoneman are the exceptions.
And none of them were close the first time around . . . meaning either the first round will be dull or the first round is loaded with trap games.
I’ll go with the latter . . . playoffs are a different ball game.
There’s been a week off. Plenty of time to review game film and practice adjustments.
Sometimes the first game had a reason for not being close, even if I don’t know it.
Injuries, illness, midterms . . . college visits, parent vacations . . . doesn’t matter why
But most importantly . . . mental intensity shoots up. One and done.
March madness shows how fast it can all change.
Northern Iowa? First game is won by a halfcourt shot at the buzzer and the second game is lost with the worst last minute collapse in college basketball history.
High school kids are even more susceptible to pressure.
It will be fun no matter how it turns out . . .
Cardinal Mooney vs. Bishop Verot
As usual, based on the geography and travel schedules I did not get to see them play this year.
Cardinal Mooney won the regular season game 17-10 at home but Bishop Verot hosts this one.
When you look at common opponents you see that CM beat Gulf Coast while BV lost to them.
Outside of that BV’s toughest out of conference test was American Heritage-Plantation, who beat them easily, while CM played IMG, Barron Collier and Oxbridge, losing to all of them.
Logic tells us that CM is more ready for the playoffs but while the home field should make some difference I have to go with Cardinal Mooney getting past Bishop Verot by about 3-4 goals.
Barron Collier vs Gulf Coast
Two years ago this was a Top 10 in the state district final between two teams that had combined for 35 wins.
Not this year.
In the regular season Barron Collier won 14-4 at home; Gulf Coast gets to host the playoff game.
Barron Collier played a legit schedule . . . IMG, Saint Andrew’s, St. Thomas Aquinas, Oxbridge, Gulliver Prep, Cardinal Mooney and Tampa Jesuit.
Gulf Coast played Cardinal Mooney, Bishop Verot and St. Edwards. BIG difference.
This is not the same BC defense as it has been in the past but GC gives up a lot of goals to the better teams too.
I just don’t see how GC makes up the difference this year; BC to win by 5-6 goals.
Viera vs Melbourne Central Catholic
In the regular season MCC defeated Viera 14-7 at Viera so there will be no extra added home field advantage for Viera in the rematch
Viera hosted Vero Beach in their strongest matchup and were no match for them, while MCC holds a victory over Top 20 Oak Hall and an OT win over a very good St. Edwards team while also playing Vero and Bishop Moore.
There’s nothing I can see in the results that makes me think Viera can fully turn the first result around although it likely will be closer this time around.
MCC over Viera by 4-5 goals
Now we get to the Southeast Coast TripleThe next three matchups are all Top 20 pairings.All 6 teams would not look out of place in the Final 16 or even 8 if they weren’t paired against each other.#11 Jensen Beach vs #10 Benjamin
Benjamin spanked them 15-6 at Jensen early in the season when Jensen was struggling
Benjamin struggled through a season where they never played with a full roster of healthy players. They are not entirely healthy but they are probably as healthy as they’ve been all year.
Both teams have played top schedules and are well prepared. Benjamin has the better weapons on offense, Jensen builds their team from the defense out while Benjamin has made great strides defensively as the season went on.
Jensen finished strong with two victories over Vero and a close loss to Oxbridge.
But the Benjamin team I saw against Jupiter is a team that Jensen will not be able to beat. Teams that can get to double digits are very difficult for Jensen and I don’t see Benjamin not getting to 10 goals. The game will be closer but Benjamin will win this one by 4-6 goals.
#4 Oxbridge vs #1 Saint Andrews
No first round game intrigues me more. Earlier this season SA clocked Oxbridge pretty good, 20-5. The two teams are not 15 goals apart.
36 wins between the two of them.
SA is undefeated in Florida and have played an enormous schedule once they got out of district, since their district was uncharacteristically weak this year. Oxbridge’s district was even weaker.
SA holds a number of impressive results all through the season; Oxbridge’s season really took off after they dominated a heck of a Jupiter team. SA’s schedule in the second half was much tougher. Both teams are healthy now and Oxbridge gets to host.
I’ve seen both teams enough to see how they’ve played through the year.
I think that the way this plays out will depend a lot on where we are in the first 4 minutes of the third period. SA has handled Oxbridge easily the last three meetings, including last year’s Sweet 16 match where SA jumped out early and broke OA’s spirit. Belief will go a long way and that will be known at that point. If SA has jumped to a 4-5 goal lead by then I don’t think they have the firepower to pull SA back in but if we are in a one goal game at that point this game might well be epic.
I have to go with SA on this one by about 4-5 goals but it could also mimic previous results if SA jumps out in front early. But a one goal game late might actually favor Oxbridge.
How’s that for a cop out? Enough bulletin board material for everyone . . .
The wait is killing me.
#2 St. Thomas Aquinas vs #15 Stoneman Douglas
The teams did not meet this year so there’s no comparison on this one. Stoneman will host at 5:00pm. I mention that because the last time I covered a game at Stoneman at 5:00pm the sun definitely played a role in it. Weather forecast for our area for Friday afternoon is for a potential supercell so that needs to be factored in too. A delayed game is an interesting factor to an STA team looking to go to their prom afterwards.
STA’s schedule was far better in the second half of the season and they only played 14 games so far so they will be very fresh. Stoneman’s schedule was front-loaded and they played very well down the stretch.
STA’s seniors have a sense that the state title got away from them last year and they re-dedicated themselves to that path. Stoneman comes off their best season in program history last year and they have not dropped off that much.
Stoneman’s offense will have to find a way to score enough to keep the game close as STA’s offense has reached double digits every game and that won’t likely change in this one.
Stoneman will be competitive but I see STA pulling away in the second half and I see STA winning by about 6 goals.
#20 Belen Jesuit vs Cypress Bay
At the beginning of the year I ranked Belen #20, calling them the potential Buchholz of 2016 . . . sometimes you get to pat yourself on the back too . . .
Cypress Bay has long been one of those teams that have been hanging around, outside of the Top 20, but constantly putting up winning seasons, while Belen is on a up arrow arc. Belen beat them comfortably 15-5 at Cypress earlier in the year.
For Cypress Bay, this is a challenge that will be very difficult to overcome. Their three wins over West Broward are the only ones against a team with a winning record, while Belen holds victories over Tampa Jesuit and Boca Raton and twice over Columbus Catholic, as well as a 3-goal loss to Gulliver.
I just don’t see Cypress being able to turn this around and look to Belen to win this matchup going away.
#13 Gulliver Prep vs Key West
A really nice story to see Key West make the bracket in their second year of their program but the ride comes to an end tomorrow.
This is easily the biggest mismatch in the first round.
Gulliver has played STA, Ponte Vedra, Stoneman, etc. Key West lost to Coral Reef by 9 goals and Gulliver beat Coral Reef twice by ten.
I hope Key West continues to grow their program, if for no other reason than giving me an excuse to take a weekend trip there for a Saturday game.
But tomorrow Gulliver will win by double digits even if the first team is sitting on the sidelines the whole second half.
Well, that’s it for now.
One factor I mentioned in one of the games is the potential havoc that could occur if Friday’s weather report of potential major storm activity causes delays. Mental toughness comes more into play if that happens and rescheduling on Saturday means depth plays an even bigger factor for the winners going into next week’s truncated schedule.
And, as always, GET OUT TO A GAME!
And bring as many friends as you can!
Good luck to all the teams and we’ll be back this weekend with the Sweet 16!
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