May 24, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 1 comments
Pool play is in the books. Now begins the elimination bracket, where the intensity of games ramps up, the level of play rises dramatically, and the regular season is left in the rearview mirror. Now the only game that matters is the one in front of you, and we kick things off with prequarters.
Here is a preview of the four prequarters games in the Men’s Division at the College Championships.
UNC Wilmington v. Harvard
Season Series: 1-1
Last Year: Both teams reached prequarters. UNC Wilmington defeated Colorado; Harvard lost to North Carolina
UNC Wilmington will play their 2014 season bubble match on the biggest stage yet: the prequarters of the College Championships. The teams faced off twice at Easterns on Wilmington’s home turf; UNCW took the first game 15-12 in pool play, but Harvard got revenge with a 15-10 win in the fifth place game.
Both teams are facing some challenges because of injuries to their star players. UNCW offensive line handler Luke Hancock went down in the first half of their game against Florida today, but he will play against Harvard. Harvard cutter Jeremy Nixon is playing through a foot injury and is clearly not at 100%.
Both teams are coming off of a big win: UNCW rallied back late to beat Florida to get into the prequarters, and Harvard took down a short-handed Wisconsin team.
On paper, this game seems very even. Both teams have systems that work great when the players are executing. Both teams have some stars they can lean on for a big play. And both teams feel good about the matchup.
“We know they’re very handler-centric and we’re going to try to take away the front of the stack with straight up marks and junky sets,” said UNC Wilmington coach Greg Vassar.
Expect to see lots of adjustments throughout the game; both teams know what worked — and what didn’t — at Easterns.
Carleton v. Wisconsin
Season Series: Wisconsin 2-0 v. Carleton.
Last Year: Carleton reached the semifinals of the College Championships; Wisconsin lost in prequarters
It’s another classic North Central matchup between Carleton and Wisconsin. The Hodags have dominated this matchup this year, beating Carleton 15-10 at Warm Up and then dominating them 15-5 in the North Central Regional final. They wanted this matchup and sat their best players against Harvard to line it up.
Carleton has been one of the “surprises” of the tournament, though that depends on how you define surprise. With Carleton, mediocre regular season results are far less meaningful than they may appear.
Carleton has been bitten hard by the injury bug: captain John Raynolds hasn’t played a point this weekend and star sophomore Jesse Bolton broke his foot earlier today.
— Jesse Bolton (@jboltron) May 24, 2014
The path to a win for Carleton does seem long, but they have defied the odds all weekend. They nearly took down Oregon to win the pool, but came up just short in a very clean game. They handled UNC Wilmington and Florida with relative ease.
Wisconsin has also been surprisingly impressive across the board. They haven’t needed to lean heavily on Camp and have fully embraced their faceless army role. They are a well-coached and disciplined team, and have played some of the most intense defense at the tournament.
They almost took out Colorado in pool play, but let the game slip away in the final points.
Wisconsin is certainly the favorite after their strong regular season wins over CUT, but it’s not going to be a blowout. 15-5 won’t happen again, and it should be a classic game.
Michigan v. Tufts
Season Series: The teams have not played
Last Year: Neither team made it to Nationals
Two teams that feel they haven’t earned their due respect. Two teams hungry for a spot in quarters. We should have a good one on our hands.
Michigan handled their business against Texas A&M and Central Florida during pool play, but fell in a surprise loss to Dartmouth. Dartmouth slowed the game way down with a vicious zone and Michigan couldn’t fight their way out.
Expect fellow New England team Tufts to learn from Dartmouth and drag Michigan into a slow, grinding game.
New England teams are very familiar with zones, and Michigan’s patented 2-3-2 may not be able to have the same effect it’s had on other teams throughout the season.
Tufts hasn’t been outstanding this weekend, taking losses to Texas and UNC, but they’ve surely played better than expected and are the kind of team that can always give you trouble.
Both Michigan and Tufts excel at making their opponents pay for making mistakes. Whichever team plays cleaner will likely take the spot in quarters.
Central Florida v. Texas
Season Series: UCF 1-0 v. Texas
Last Year: UCF reached the College Championships final; Texas lost in prequarters
What a prequarters matchup. UCF and Texas both have big, athletic teams with some of the country’s best players on their rosters.
UCF took down Texas 9-8 back at Florida Warm Up in February, and another close game is very likely.
Both teams have had some great performances this weekend, as well as some more disappointing games. UCF is coming off of their very best game of not just Nationals but the entire season in a 15-12 loss to Pitt. Mike Ogren, John Best, and Jeremy Langdon were excellent, giving Pitt all they could handle until the defending champions pulled away late.
UCF coach Andrew Roca said he was glad they decided to spend the energy trying to earn the bid into quarters. “It was the right decision,” he said. “That is a team that is probably going to finals, and we played our best game of the year.”
He said the team needed some time to cool down, eat, and get reenergized for their prequarter game. They certainly looked much better prepared for this game than they did in their flat loss to Michigan yesterday.
Texas lost to UNC to end up in this prequarter game, and will now look to avoid another early exit from the College Championships. Will Driscoll will need to play better than he did versus UNC — perhaps coach Calvin Lin will keep him behind the disc more, which seemed to improve Texas’ flow.
Either way, it should be a game packed with highlight plays. Let’s enjoy it.