With so much drama in the ACC, it’s kinda hard getting into the NCAA Tournament scene. But they, somehow, some way, keep coming up with interesting storylines every single day.
I’m no Snoop Dogg, but if you use your imagination and tinker the first four lines of Gin And Juice with ACC references, it’s actually a pretty good summary of the conference’s season. Except Notre Dame, who’s sitting comfortably as a lock for the NCAA Tournament as of now.
Two through five is a mess, and it can all change after next week’s games. Notre Dame is 3-0 and are first in the conference. North Carolina is 2nd at 2-0, while Duke and Syracuse are 1-2, but Duke is third with the head-to-head advantage. Meanwhile, Virginia is sitting in last place yet again.
We’ll know how three, four, and five will be at the end of this weekend, and it’s an important one for all four ACC teams. Although UNC is undefeated in conference play, they’re not a lock for the big dance yet. And neither are the other ACC teams. Syracuse’s chances took a dip with an overtime loss to Cornell on Tuesday.
But there’s other drama outside of the ACC that’ll be big games that might decide the bracket come May. Here are some games to watch this weekend.
#10 Navy @ #20 Army – Noon (CBS Sports Network)
One of the best rivalries in all of sports has a ton of importance this weekend in West Point. The Patriot League is tight at the top six, with Navy leading the way at 6-1. Guys like Patrick Keena, Jack Ray, and even freshman Greyson Torain have made the Midshipmen favorites to win the Patriot League’s AQ. But right behind Navy is Army, who have been able to get through the losses of John Glesener and Sam Somers so far with Cole Johnson and freshman goalie AJ Barretto. Army’s currently out of the NCAA Tournament in my projections, with an RPI of 33 according to LaxPower, and need a win to help boost their resume. These teams split their two meetings last year, including Army’s win in the Patriot League Tournament, and I think we’ll see another meeting later in May.
Another Patriot matchup to watch: Boston University @ Loyola at noon (Patriot League Network).
#4 Brown @ #2 Yale – 1 PM (ESPN3)
An easy pick for this week’s choice for Game of the Week. The top two teams in the Ivy League re locks to make the big dance. After falling to Bryant in overtime last week, the Bears dismantled Penn in a snowy road game 17-6. Dylan Molloy added to his point totals with eight goals and one assist, while Kylor Bellistri and Henry Blynn each tallied hat-tricks. Brown has a much better defense this year as well, with guys such as Larken Kemp, Alec Tulett, and goalie Jack Kelly showing that Bruno is a very good all-around team. But even though Yale’s offense has some fire power in Ben Reeves, Eric Scott, Michael Keasey, Yale’s defense has been the story this year, led by senior Michael Quinn. The top scoring offense against the 2nd best scoring defense is going to be a wild one for sure. Expect to maybe see another meeting in a few weeks in the Ivy League Tournament.
Another big Ivy game between 3rd place Harvard traveling to take on 4th place Penn is set for 3 PM (ESPN3), which means a double dose of the Ivies back-to-back on Saturday.
Bryant @ St. Joe’s – 1 PM (NEC Front Row)
The NEC is going to be an AQ-only conference, and the AQ winner will most likely have to play a Play-In game as well. Mike Pressler’s Bryant squad is 7-3 with big wins against Harvard and Brown this year, but did suffer a surprising 14-5 loss to Drexel about a month ago. Bryant is 10th in LaxPower’s RPI projections, with scorers like Tucker James, who had six goals and seven assists last week against Wagner, and Shane Morrell leading the way, along with goalie Gunnar Waldt. The Hawks are in familiar territory yet again, but hope to win the conference this time around. Mike Rastivo, Chris Blewitt, and defensemen Shane Taggert and Charles Giunta are helping the Hawks record yet another undefeated record in NEC play so far in 2016. St. Joe’s doesn’t have a quality win like Bryant does, but if they win the NEC, that’s not going to matter that much.
#18 Rutgers @ #5 Maryland – 4 PM
One of three Big Ten conference games this week, with this one giving the winner first place in the conference. The Scarlet Knights are a bubble team right now, but a win will certainly help their RPI go up from their current spot at 23. Senior Scott Bieda leads the team in assists and points, but the biggest surprise this year could be the emergence of freshman Adam Charalambides, who has 30 goals this season to lead Rutgers. They have a hard task ahead dealing with Matt Rambo, Bryan Cole, Colin Heacock, short-stick middie Isaiah Davis-Allen, and goalie Kyle Bernlohr. Maryland has a lot of talent all-around to possibly make another run at Championship Weekend.
Another Big Ten game to watch is Michigan traveling to The Horseshoe to play Ohio State at 11 AM (Big Ten Network). That game precedes the Buckeyes’ spring game as well.
#11 North Carolina @ #9 Syracuse – 4 PM (ESPN3)
We’ve got bubble teams in the Carrier Dome getting it on, and they ain’t leavin’ til six in the evening (probably). Who would have thought that the ACC would have one lock for the NCAA Tournament at this point? North Carolina is the best bet for being the conference’s second team in the big dance, while Syracuse’s hopes are plunging real fast. The Heels are starting to click after starting the season 5-4. An overtime win at Duke and a dominating performance against Virginia last week shows hope for UNC, with guys such as Steve Pontrello, Chris Cloutier, and Luke Goldstock showing chemistry, and the emergence of Brian Cannon on the second midfield shows that this team is deep with talent. And don’t forget Austin Pifani at defense. On the other hand, Syracuse has lost four of their last five after starting the year 5-0. Three of those losses came in overtime, when the Cuse struggled to hold onto a lead, which showed again on Tuesday at Cornell. Dylan Donahue said that the team had a bad day shooting, which is true, and it was a bad time to have that night. Nick Mariano has been the offense for most of this season, but other contributions from Sergio Salcido, Jordan Evans, and Tim Barber are needed right now. And after starting the last two games, will we see Evan Molloy in goal or Warren Hill? Or will they split time?
#16 Duke @ Virginia – Noon (ESPN2)
Would you look at that, a game on ESPN2! And it got bumped because of softball, and I’ll take that. This game will most likely decide the bottom three seeds in the ACC, with Duke (3), Cuse (4), and Virginia (5) knowing their fate by game’s end. Both of these teams are on the bubble, and a loss could very well end their chances of making it to the big dance. Duke is 7-6 on the year with bad losses to Richmond and Air Force hurting their resume. They’ve played all three ACC games very well, but could not come out with a win, including last week against Notre Dame, when the Irish didn’t have a lead until midway through the final stanza. Was Myles Jones gassed last week? He only had an assist, while Justin Guterding had two goals and two assists. Virginia is 6-6 and got blown out by UNC last weekend. They lost to Syracuse and Notre Dame by a goal, and a win with a great defensive performance will give the Cavaliers a spot in the ACC Tournament. Syracuse is going to be the biggest Duke fans for two hours.
#15 Johns Hopkins @ #14 Penn State – 7 PM (Big Ten Network)
The weekend concludes with yet another Big Ten showdown in Happy Valley. Last week, the Nittany Lions fell to Maryland in overtime in a game where Penn State held their own. They have an RPI of 16, and the win over Denver a few weeks back really helped their case Freshman stud Grant Ament has been a gift for Jeff Tambroni, while T.J. Sanders and Nick Aponte have made their own contributions as well. Will Schreiner has played great after the death of Connor Darcey last summer. It was great to see Dave Pietramala back on the sidelines, and the players rewarded him with a tight 13-12 win over Ohio State. Chances are he still won’t be very mobile on Sunday, but having your leader back always helps.
Lafayette @ Bucknell – 7 PM (Patriot League Network)
Providence @ #17 Marquette – Noon
UMass @ Fairfield – 1 PM
Cornell @ Lehigh – 2:30 PM (CBS Sports Network)
Hofstra @ Drexel – 4 PM
Georgetown @ #19 Villanova – 5 PM (CBS Sports Network)
#1 Limestone @ #8 Lake Erie – Noon (Division II)
#11 Dowling @ #12 LIU Post – Noon (Division II)
#13 Mercy @ #9 NYIT – Noon (Division II)
#15 Cabrini @ #1 Salisbury – 1 PM (Division III)
#6 Amherst @ #3 Tufts – 1 PM (Division III)
#11 Ohio Wesleyan @ #4 Denison – 1 PM (Division III)
#16 Ursinus @ #9 Gettysburg – 5 PM (Division III)