The 2017 MCLA National Championship bracket appears to be set. The lack of confidence comes from the League’s unprecedented disqualification of the GRLC’s automatic qualifier, removing Miami (OH) from contention. The Redhawks were replaced with the SELC’s Florida State after a committee decision. The Seminoles take the 14th seed after finishing #12 in the poll, but lost to Liberty in the first round of the SELC tournament. No exact reason has been released publicly about why the MCLA decided to make this move. It’s heartbreaking for Miami, the MCLA website already listed them on the bracket.
Enough of that, let’s break down the first round of Division I pairings and figure out which ones are worth keeping our eyes on next Monday. Watch the action live on MCLA.us.
#1 BYU vs #16 Michigan State – 4:30pm
For a high seed/low seed first rounder, this one could actually pretty close. Both teams are coming in with only 4 losses and exciting conference wins. BYU put the boots to Utah in the semis, before grinding past Colorado for a, 13-11, win to take the top seed. The Spartans have dropped a few games to ranked opponents this year, but they have just as many quality wins. They also blew the doors off the CCLA, winning games over Davenport and Pittsburgh by 8 each. Coach Cam Holding’s Spartans are a known dark horse, led by an explosive young attack line. They’ll be put to task by all-star goaltender Mason Moon and a powerful group of long sticks.
#2 Grand Canyon vs #15 Northeastern – 4:30pm
The Lopes are another favorite to come home with the hardware and hot off two tournament wins. One comes over the powers of #13 UCSB and the other by a goal against fellow tournament contender, #7 Arizona State. Northeastern’s road to the dance was against lesser-ranked competition, but not any smoother for them. They only managed to squeak by #15 UConn and New Hampshire by a single goal. Grand Canyon’s only blemish of the season came to the #1 seed and they managed to knock off more top ranked opponents than we care to count. The SLC Champion is well-rounded across the board, this might be one of more lopsided matchups of the first round. That’s only more motivation for the Huskies.
#3 Colorado vs #14 Florida State – 4:30pm
The Noles have to be fired up to get a shot at making waves in the OC. On the other end, Colorado has been one of the hottest teams on the scene all season. While the Buffs are a serious contender for the hardware, Florida State came out of the regular season with only two losses. Colorado would appear to have the upper hand with the most quality wins, but when comparing the schedules, they both had a few common enemies. FSU got the best of ASU, while CU fell short. The scenario was the exact opposite for games against Liberty and Georgia Tech, giving the Buffs another edge. Despite a first-round knockout in the SELC, the Seminoles are riding a high getting into the bracket. They’ll have their workout cut out for them against an experienced squad that has been there and done that.
#4 Georgia Tech vs #13 Southern Methodist – 4:30pm
Most people might overlook this match-up, but we think it’s one to keep eyes on. SMU didn’t finish Week 10 with a number in-front of their name, but they had a season arguably worthy of one. They made their way to Mississippi for a neutral site showdown with the Rambling Wreck and were able to put up 9 goals, giving up 14. A 5 goal differential to then #1 Georgia Tech shows us that this might not be a blow up. With Coach Lovic’s gang might be sticking around for the whole week, it’s not going to be easy. The Mustangs are on a 6 game stampede, trampling Texas and Oklahoma in the LSA to earn their spot.
#5 Cal Poly vs #12 Virginia Tech – 7:00pm
This one feels a little more lopsided than anything else we are looking at. Cal Poly’s only hiccups in 2017 came to top-ranked BYU and Colorado. Pretty decent losses. Then they mowed through their last 10 games, 141 goals to 72. Almost two scores for every one of an opponent. But the Hokies didn’t fall to any scrubs. Their three regular season losses came to Arizona State, South Carolina, and Grand Canyon. Yet, on one end while the Mustangs were able to serve up Cal their only two losses of the season and steal away the WCLL, Virginia Tech couldn’t get the best of Georgia Tech in the SELCs to buy a higher seed. We hope that we’re wrong about this one and it turns into a real West Coast/East Coast showdown.
#6 Cal vs #11 Oregon – 7:00pm
A month or two ago, this game might not have been as exciting. After the Ducks dominated the Civil War against OSU, they went on to cruise their way through the PNCLLs over Washington and Simon Fraser. The Golden Bears were riding pretty at #1 before Cal Poly got their number. Then the Mustangs came right back around in the WCLL tournament to bite them again. As a one loss team, it’s worth pointing out that very few margins have even been close. Cal has blown out just about everyone they’ve seen all season. Blazing a 6 game win-streak, Oregon is firing on all cylinders and looking like a formidable opponent for the opening round. I’m sure the Ducks will be scrambling to find footage of those Cal Poly games to figure out what went right for the Mustangs. We could be totally off here, but there’s no reason this couldn’t be a 1 goal or overtime game. It’s going to be a nailbiter if they both bring their A-games.
#7 Arizona State vs #10 Colorado State – 7:00pm
As the seeds get closer in numbers, the games are only getting hotter. If their late-February match-up in the Rockies can be any indicatior, get ready to stay on the edge of your seat. The Rams got the best of their first meeting, 9-8, despite a 4-0 run by the Sun Devils in the fourth quarter. Comparing results against the same teams, they both lost to GCU and Georgia Tech, while beating Utah Valley. ASU takes a 3-1 score, knocking off Chapman, Utah, and Colorado, while CSU won over BYU. They may have both lost so far in the postseason, but that’s because their conferences are stacked. There’s been plenty of years in the MCLA Championships that this could have easily been the title match-up. Make it a priority to get eyes on this rematch from a frigid February dogfight.
#8 Utah vs #9 Chapman – 7:00pm
If things go as planned, this one is going to be an absolute barnburner. Utah’s first game under the helm of Coach Holman resulted in a 12-9 win over top-ranked Chapman. The result was a serious statement for the revamped Utes and the groundbreaking of a hole that the Panthers would eventually have to dig out of. Chaptown followed up with losses to Oregon and Cal, and folks started to question if the the greats had fallen. They have a rollercoaster of wins and losses against the nation’s top squads and only lost to the Sun Devils by a goal in the SLC title game. Utah’s telling almost the same story. They lost to teams they had no business losing to, but earned their way in by claiming the RMLC regular season. Both teams deserve to be at the party and it’s going to start with a bang. Circle it, clear your schedule, and find a way to watch this one. The rematch should turn out as one of the best games of the week.
Photos by Robert White