No. 2 Brigham Young (6-0) at No. 6 Arizona State (5-1) – Saturday, 1 p.m.
COYNE: Ah, the game of the week. It features a pair of semifinalists from last year who are definitely heading back to Greenville, but both want this win just in case Colorado State stumbles and the top seed becomes available at some point. Oh, and it also happens to be a rematch of the ’11 title game, won by the Cougars, 10-8.
The Sun Devils are certainly a more dangerous team than last year, when they were forced to rely heavily on their defense and pray for a couple of opportunistic goals. Still, they rely on heavily on the one-on-one abilities of Payson Clark and Justin Straker, who account for over half of ASU’s goals this spring. Clark and Straker are undoubtedly good, but that kind of top-heavy scoring makes game-planning relatively simple. BYU has some holes, and they will get a handful from Grand Canyon on Thursday, but they’ll find enough goals to take this one down. Cougars, 12-9.
SCHOOLER: The Sun Devils are in a comfortable place. They do not have to leave the state of Arizona for the rest of the regular season. The Cougars are stepping out of the mountains and into the desert, and it is tough to win games in Scottsdale.
I will be visiting Arizona this weekend, but will not have the time to check out the game. That is unfortunate because I believe this will be a good one. I can see this being a classic battle of defenses. I’m sticking with the SLC in a close one. Devils, 8-7.
Texas State (7-1) vs. Northeastern (0-3) – Saturday, 1 p.m. (at Providence, R.I.)
SCHOOLER: This is a bold trip for the Bobcats. The PCLL must be gaining a lot of respect if teams are leaving the warmth of places like Texas to play some lacrosse in the chilly northeast. I have tried playing in the cold before, and if you are not used to it, it is all you can think about during the game.
Texas State better hope for warm weather because I do not see it in the forecast. This Northeastern team is good despite their winless record. Those losses all came at the hands of teams much better than Texas State. Huskies win, 13-9.
COYNE: The records entering this game would lend one to believe that Texas State is the prohibitive favorite in this contest, but in actuality, the Bobcats are underdogs. Northeastern showed on its season-opening trip to California – where it lost by a goal to No. 13 Cal and No. 3 Stanford, and by three to No. 7 UCSB in the third game in four days – that it can run with anyone. Meanwhile, TxState has played one team of note, No. 9 Boston College, and lost, 9-7.
The Bobcats have some offensive weapons in Dom Pizzuti (24g, 5a), Clark Dansby (18g, 4a) and Andy Uhl (17g, 15a), but they may never see the ball. Mike Lehmann, who happens to lead the Huskies in points at this point, is one of the top faceoff men in the country, and will control possessions for Northeastern all afternoon. Eventually, the State defensive will wear down under the constant pressure, leading to a comfortable win for NU. Huskies, 13-8.
No. 4 Colorado (7-0) at No. 7 UC Santa Barbara (6-2) – Friday, 7 p.m. PT
COYNE: Admittedly, I was a little suspect of the Buffs heading into this season, but they’ve lived up to their preseason ranking so far, backstopped by Brad Macnee, who is currently the frontrunner for Player of the Year (we’ll give him a pass for the 11 goals against Fraser). UCSB continues its trend of making every game close, no matter the competition, although they showed some grit rallying late against Texas.
As those who have been following this space know, I am perpetually leery of the “Double Down” – when one teams travels and plays a pair of teams that have no other games on their schedule. While technically this is only a partial Double Down (Cal Poly plays UC Davis on Saturday), the Buffs will be playing a pair of fresh teams, including the Gauchos on the second day. I’m going to break from tradition and take the Buffs because of Macnee and their goal-scoring prowess this season. Colorado, 8-7.
SCHOOLER: UCSB will come out with an early lead, but not because the Buffs play Cal Poly the night before. The Gauchos have allowed 20 first half goals while scoring 36 of their own.
The second half will be a different story. The Gauchos have given up more than twice as many goals (43) in the second half so far this season. So I can see this being another nail biter just like the Stanford, Cal, CSU, and Texas games.
This isn’t because the Gauchos are running out of gas — they are also scoring more goals in the second half (46). The defense cannot become complacent when they get a lead. They need to keep the pressure on and I see them doing so in their first game in the stadium this season. Gauchos win, 10-8.
No. 10 Minnesota-Duluth (5-1) vs. No. 11 Michigan State (0-0) – Friday, 8:30 p.m. (at Lisle, Ill.)
COYNE: It’s not going to be the best game of the weekend (see below), but this will be the most intriguing. We discussed Duluth’s plight last week, and now it is entering a critical contest against a Michigan State team we know very little about.
They have a new coach — Brandon Schwind has taken over for Dwayne Hicks — and we know that the Spartans are loaded with talent, but is it realistic to pick a team that has yet to play a game against the Bulldogs, which have already measured themselves against a pair of semifinal squads from ’12? The Spartans will be just fine during the rest of the season, and likely cruise to the CCLA title, but they’ll be running into a buzzsaw here. Bulldogs, 12-7.
SCHOOLER: As discussed last week, this is a must win for Duluth, and a doable one at that. This will be the first game for the Spartans, but expect them to start where they left off. They have kept their core intact and look to improve on their 12-4 record last season.
I see this as the end of the road for any hope of the UMLC getting a team to South Carolina. Sparty, 9-6.