With selection Sunday looming we are down to the crunch of conference tournaments. If this weekend follows the trend of the regular season, we should expect a major surprise in at least one tournament that will make the selection committee's job that much tougher. We should also anticipate a bracket that does not have blue blood powers Virginia, Princeton or Johns Hopkins. Here's a preview of some of the tournaments.
Big East: Villanova, PA, Semifinals, Thursday 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Finals, Saturday Noon
Syracuse and Notre Dame are safely in the field of 16 with home games in the first round but both can drastically improve their seeding by winning two games in Philadelphia. Villanova and Georgetown can only get in by winning the AQ.
Game 1, No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 5 Notre Dame: This is a rematch of a game just played on Saturday at Met Life Stadium in which the Orange dominated the second half outscoring the Irish 9-1 and winning it 10-4. The Irish were brutal offensively with 17 turnovers so they will have to play a much cleaner game to avoid heading into the postseason on a two-game losing streak. The Syracuse D is a little chapped that Notre Dame is placing most of the blame for their poor evening on itself, so whichever club is more emotionally ready to play a quick turnaround game at a neutral site on a weekday afternoon will play on Saturday.
Game 2, Georgetown at No. 19 Villanova: Both of these teams have played well down the stretch with upset wins over St. John's getting them into this opportunity to make the postseason. The key individual battle will be at the face-off between two of the best in the conference, Thomas Croonquist for the Wildcats and Tyler Knarr for the Hoyas. Villanova won the regular season game in D.C., 8-6, with freshman John Kluh leading the way with three goals and an assist. If the Hoyas adjust their defemse too much to control the rookie playmaker it could open up space for Jack Rice who has scored eight goals in his last two games.
ECAC: Geneva, NY, Semifinals, Thursday 5 p.m., 8 p.m.; Finals, Saturday 4 p.m.
Denver is in and sitting pretty for a home game, and though many feel Loyola is in, the champs would feel much more comfortable if they knock off Ohio State in the semis. The Buckeyes could get in with a win over Loyola but Fairfield definitely has to win two games to extend the season.
Game 1, No. 4 Denver vs. Fairfield: The Stags went out to the Mile High City and upset the then No. 1 Pioneers 10-9 to knock Denver out of the top spot. There might be one big difference this time around and that is the availability of Jeremy Noble for Bill Tierney. The junior had nine goals and six assists in six games and his return would put one of the best midfield lines in the country intact with Cam Flint and Chase Carraro.
Game 2, No. 6 Loyola vs. No. 11 Ohio State: The Greyhounds make the trip to the Finger Lakes flying high after their first win over Johns Hopkins since 1999 but the resume could still appear light with a loss to the Buckeyes. The champs had a tremendous defensive effort to win the first meeting in Columbus, 9-4, matching a season low for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has rebounded to win four straight since.
Ivy League: Ithaca, NY, Semifinals Friday; Finals Sunday
Cornell is in and will stay in Ithaca for this tournament and the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Penn/Yale semifinal game could be a de facto play-in game and Princeton probably has to win on Friday and Sunday to not be disappointed Sunday night.
Game 1, No. 13 Yale vs. Penn: The Bulldogs may already be in the tournament with a 7-6 OT win at Franklin Field on March 30th on its solid resume. Yale is expected to control the face-off game with Dylan Levings but special goalie play from Brian Feeney could help neutralize that for the Quakers. Brandon Mangan had four goals and two assists in Yale's road win so he should he expect more attention this time around.
Game 2, No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 2 Cornell: Just like Notre Dame and Syracuse in the Big East, this is a quick turnaround from a game on Saturday that was dominated by the Big Red, 17-11. Tigers coach Chris Bates and defensive coordinator Greg Raymond will have to go back to the lab and cook up something to slow down Rob Pannell because RP3 had answers for everything Saturday with five goals and four assists. It could be that the Tigers' offense is their best defense by controlling the pace and being more efficient than its 16 turnover performance Saturday.