We’re starting the final stretch of the season with under a month until Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. Unlike last year, it’s a very wide open field, with only two ACC teams in the top 15 in RPI. Some early Bracketology projections have Notre Dame and Syracuse in, with some even including Virginia. Except for Notre Dame, the ACC is on the bubble for some spots, with UNC and Duke not projected in just yet.
This means teams like Loyola, Marquette, Penn State, and Johns Hopkins have to just keep winning in order to help their tourney chances. A loss could mean the next team up is favored for a spot. Conference play continues this week, and there are a good amount of interesting games to watch.
#4 Denver @ #18 Villanova – Noon (Fox College Sports)
Nova needs a big win after falling flat on their face last week with losses against Brown and Marquette. After having an explosive start, Jake Froccaro has only a goal and two assists in his last two games. If he’s going to get stopped, guys like Devin McNamara, Jack Curran, and Christian Cuccinello will have to step up on offense. Meanwhile, the Pioneers rebounded from their loss to Penn State last week with a 17-4 thumping of Georgetown. Connor Cannizzaro had seven points, while Jack Bobzien had a pair of goals and assists. Freshman keeper Alex Ready will return to his home state for the first time in his collegiate career. He stared at Manheim Township, about an hour west of Villanova in Lancaster.
#3 Brown @ Penn – Noon (ESPN3)
Another big time game in Philly is an Ivy League contest. The Bears were upset on Tuesday at the hands of the Bryant Bulldogs in overtime. Dylan Molloy only had a goal, but also dished out five assists, while Kylor Bellistri had two goals and two assists. Their opponent also suffered overtime heartbreak, as the Quakers fell late to then-top ranked Yale 11-10 in overtime. Penn can certainly hang in there, with guys such as Nick Doktor, Simon Matheis, and freshman goaltender Reed Junkin, but they need to finish if they want to be competitors in the Ivy League, as well as the a possible at-large bid, which seems to be fading fast.
Ohio State @ #16 Johns Hopkins – 2 PM (ESPNU)
The Buckeyes suffered a tough loss to Penn State at home last week in their Big Ten opener to fall to 5-6. They’ve lost their last five straight games, and are in danger of losing six straight this weekend at Homewood. Carter Brown hopes to get his 100th career collegiate goal after being held pointless last week. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins also suffered a loss in their Big Ten opener, this against Rutgers on the road 16-9. Ryan Brown had four goals in the game, but they couldn’t stop the Scarlet Knights’ offense. The Jays have alternated wins and losses since Dave Pietramala was sidelined after undergoing surgery prior to the Syracuse game.
#15 Loyola @ Lehigh – 2 PM (Patriot League Network)
The Greyhounds are 4-1 in Patriot League play and are 2nd in the conference behind Navy, who they lost to by a goal. Loyola take a three-game winning streak to Bethlehem, led by freshman standout Pat Spencer, who leads the team in all scoring categories. Meanwhile, Lehigh pulled out a tight 8-7 win last week at Boston University, with Reid Weber scoring a hat-trick. A big part was fourth-string freshman walk-on keeper Chris Kiernan making nine saves in the win. Will he be just a one-game wonder, or is he a talented goalie the Mountain Hawks need?
#13 Duke @ #1 Notre Dame – Noon (ESPNU)
At 7-5 on the year, the Blue Devils are looking outside of many Bracketology predictions with under a month to go until Selection Sunday. They’re 1-1 in the ACC after losing a tough game to UNC in overtime last week at Koskinen Stadium. Myles Jones had five goals and six assists, while Justin Guterding had four goals in the loss. Duke has a ton of offense, but the question comes at defense. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish are coming off of a 17-7 romping of Syracuse at the Carrier Dome to improve to 2-0 in the ACC. Matt Kavanagh had a hat-trick and six assists, while freshman Ryder Garnsey had five tallies, and fellow attackman Mikey Wynne had four goals. Matt Landis and company managed to shut the Cuse offense down for the majority of the game.
#20 Virginia @ #11 North Carolina – 2 PM (ESPNU)
The Cavaliers are riding a three-game win streak, with victories coming against Johns Hopkins (OT), VMI, and a 9-0 shutout of Richmond last weekend. Although an 0-2 record in the ACC doesn’t look good, some Bracketology predictions have James Pannell and crew in the NCAA Tournament. They’re in over fellow ACC foe North Carolina, who might have a more impressive schedule and record than Virginia does. After falling to Maryland on the road by three, the Heels showed up to play, thanks to Steve Pontrello‘s six goals, and stole a win from Duke in overtime last Friday night. Can the Heels get a win to improve to 2-0 in league play?
#5 Maryland @ #14 Penn State – 7 PM (BTN)
There’s not a game that stands out from all the others this weekend. I’m gonna give this my choice for Game of the Week, although the Duke-ND game will be my runner-up if I have one. After falling to Yale and Notre Dame to start the season at 1-2, the Terps have won six straight, including an 8-7 win over Michigan in Big Ten play last week. Bryan Cole had two goals and two assists, including the game-winner with 49 seconds to play in the game. Cole is two points behind Matt Rambo (26) for the team lead in that category. As for Penn State, they’ve been the biggest surprise this season in my opinion. The Lions got a much-needed victory in Columbus last week against the Buckeyes, and have a very young offense. Freshman Grant Ament has been spectacular on offense with senior T.J. Sanders, but it may be the goalie that’s the story here. Sophomore Will Schreiner took over in net after the death of Connor Darcey, and he shined last week against the Buckeyes, making 15 saves on the day. He’ll need another big performance Sunday if he wants to help Penn State pull off the upset.
#4 York @ #15 Stevenson – 7 PM (Division III)
#8 Stony Brook @ Princeton – Noon
Bellarmine @ High Point – Noon
#6 Towson @ UMass – 1 PM
Army @ Boston University – 1 PM
Harvard @ Cornell – 3 PM
#3 Tampa @ #10 Mercyhurst – 1 PM (Division II)
#5 NYIT @ #14 LIU Post – Noon (Division II)
#12 Mercy @ #13 Molloy – 3 PM (Division II)
#6 Bates @ #12 Middlebury – 1 PM (Division III)
#11 Nazareth @ #16 Ithaca – Noon (Division III)
Michigan @ #19 Rutgers – Noon