As I've noted previously, the Michigan Wolverines have earned the #1 overall seed in the MCLA National Tournament, another step on their quest for an unprecedented 3-peat National Championship.
The full MCLA bracket follows, with a preview of Michigan's first-round opponent, the Texas State Bobcats. A look at the whole bracket (with predictions!) is after the jump. One quick note: Though the semi-finals and finals will be broadcast on Fox College Sports, if you want to catch Michigan's early-round games, you can vote on the Collegelax.us forums for them to be webcast (and no, I don't feel guilty about encouraging you to vote, as there's already a fairly obvious BC ballot-stuffing initiative).
For an interactive-ish bracket (a phrase which here means "you can click to see individual teams' schedules and players), visit MCLA.us.
Texas State Preview
Tuesday May 11, 4PM MDT, Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Denver CO.
Record: 12-3 (4-1 Lone Star Alliance). LSA Tournament Champions.
Rankings: #18 MCLA LaxMag, #18 Prodigy, #23 LaxPower.
Common Opponents: None
Previous Meetings: None
Schedule. Playing in the Lone Star Alliance isn't any way to endear yourself to pollsters, and the Texas State Bobcats found that out the hard way. Thanks to a weak non-conference schedule, the only ranked team they faced all year was Texas. They split with the Longhorns, losing 12-10 in the regular season, but turning the tables for a 12-10 victory in the LSA tournament to earn a bid to the MCLA Tournament - and rob Texas of theirs.
Texas State picked up non-conference wins against the likes of LSU, Missouri, and Cal, while losing to Stanford and Loyola Marymount outside of the LSA. They finished 12-3 overall, with a 4-1 LSA record. They made the MCLA Tournament by winning the LSA Conference Tournament.
Personnel. As the #2-in-command in the LSA (think Michigan State in the CCLA), the Bobcats landed a number of players on the All-Conference teams. Making the first team were Attack Matt Malcolm and midfielder MIke Zdonczik. On the second team, midfielder Chad Henning, defenseman Jesse Herrmann and goalie Asa Spain represent Texas State. Attack Harrison Parr, midfield Robert Jones, and defense Raul Santiago were all-conference honorable mentions.
Coach Chris Park was the LSA Coach of the Year. Henning was the league's faceoff specialist of the year, and Malcolm shared player of the year honors with Texas's Johnny McKnight.
Analysis. Though the Bobcats ran up some impressive scores this year (23-5 against LSU, 15-7 against TCU), the competition in those games was very weak. Nearly every team that Texas State played this season outside of Texas would have been in the worst 3-4 squads that Michigan faced. Quality of competition is important.
The Wolverines have performed better than Texas State, and against much better competition. There's a reason this is a game between the 1-seed and the 16-seed. Michigan should get on the board early and often on the way to a big win.
There might be times that it seems like Texas State is having the best of Michigan, or that the Wolverines aren't running on all cylinders, but that shouldn't be the story of the game. When they need to turn it on, Michigan will do so, and get much more than they need on the way to a 22-6 victory.
Bracket Breakdown and Predictions after the jump.
MCLA First Round Predictions
In the first round of the tournament, the top four seeds seem pretty likely to advance, with Michigan over Texas State, Colorado State over Boston College, Arizona State over Cal Poly, and Chapman over Illinois. After that, however things start getting a bit tricky.
#5 Minnesota-Duluth has been comfortably in the tournament for a while, but they'll be facing a #12 Florida team that has been in playoff mode for some time now, making a run through the SELC as the #8 seed to capture the automatic bid for the conference. Outside of upsets over Florida State and Virginia Tech in the conference tourney, Florida hasn't done anything of note on the year, and I think Duluth (whose only three losses on the year came to the top three seeds) can take care of them.
The 6-11 matchup is very interesting as well. I honestly think Colorado was iffy to even make the tournament, as they finished the year with a losing record, and despite a strong finish to the regular season, they bowed out in the first round of their conference tourney when they had a chance to cement an MCLA berth. Oregon has been inconsistent against talented competition this year, and most results haven't gone their way in those situations. I think Colorado is still out to prove something (like "firing our coach in the middle of the season was a good idea") and can pull off the upset.
It's a testament to the strong top/weak bottom of the MCLA that a team like Simon Fraser can manage to earn a 10-seed in the tournament after starting the season 2-6. Upsets over Arizona State and Oregon during their season-ending win streak certainly didn't hurt, and you can't say Fraser was scared of testing themselves in the non-conference. Florida State, on the other hand, was rarely challenged this year, with only five games against teams in the tournament, including a split with Florida without which the Gators wouldn't even be in the field. A win over Michigan State is tempered by a big loss to Texas, and another loss to Chapman. I think Simon Fraser's more battle-tested, and can come away with the upset.
Michigan State at #9 and BYU at #8 might be the hardest game of the bunch to pick (as a game between consecutive seeds ought to be). I want to pick Michigan State here, despite the fact that they gave Michigan tougher matchups in the regular season, but they only beat one team this year that's even in the same stratosphere as BYU, a two-goal victory over Oregon at home. Though they kept games against the likes of Michigan and Florida State close, they aren't on the same level as the Cougars. BYU advances to the second round.
MCLA Full Predictions
Moving along to the second round, I'll keep things brief, since I'll give actual predictions after Tuesday's games so we'll know the actual matchups, and I'll preview Michigan's second-round opponent at that time. In Round Two, I have Michigan over BYU, Colorado State big over Simon Fraser, Arizona State over Colorado, and Chapman over Duluth. Though they're boring picks along the chalk (somebody ask Jamie Mac if there are betting lines, stat!, I think these four teams are in a different class than the rest of the field.
I see Michigan over Chapman in one semifinal (7:30 MDT on Fox College Sports on Friday), and Colorado State over Arizona State (5 MDT on Fox College Sports on Friday) in the other. In the final on Saturday Night (6:30 MDT on FCS), Michigan comes away with their third consecutive MCLA Championship.
The scariest matchups I see for Michigan in the tournament are Michigan State and Chapman. I'm still not super-comfortable with my pick of Michigan over Chapman in the semi, and that should be a hell of a game, should both teams make it to that point. If Michigan ends up facing Colorado in the tournament (unlikely, since it would have to be in the Finals), they will get revenge by beating the Buffs by about 30.