With the number of games remaining in the season diminishing, and the parity (or inconsistencies) of teams, there is a lot of intriguing matchups this weekend.
First and foremost there are two huge rivalry games. They may not be the top echelon teams this season, but both sets of squads are evenly matched.
Ohio State travels to Michigan on Saturday. It is one of the most storied rivalries in college and it spans any and all sports (football being the biggest). There have been coaches fired for not living up to (at a minimum) beating the other guy. I don’t see lacrosse being any different. While OSU is more established and has the better record, I wouldn’t dismiss an upstart Michigan team on their turf. Michigan in a one goal upset.
If Michigan/OSU is ONE of the biggest rivalries…THE biggest in all of sports has to be Army/Navy. Army travels south to Navy in a battle more for pride than a chance at the postseason. Both teams are right around .500, and while it may be an off year, these match ups are always physical, and exciting to watch. I’m actually going to go with Army on this one. Army is coming off a big win against Bucknell and they have loss to Air Force. I don’t expect Army will lose to both AF and Navy. Navy on the other hand is on a two game skid and needs to right the ship…it isn’t happening this weekend. Army in another one goal game.
One of the more hyped games this weekend is when Duke travels to UVA Friday night. Really? Duke has only a UNC win that looks good on paper. Against Georgetown, Harvard, and Brown, Duke almost let their leads slip away. Against Marist, they had to come from behind to win. Duke is lucky to have escaped Marist and Brown specifically. When you are only converting 21% of your man-up situations…you are not a championship team. As much as ESPN will try to hype this game, look for UVA to win easily (by 4+).
A make-or break game this weekend will be Umass at Drexel. Drexel has been giant killers in the past taking down big teams and/or coming damn close. This year, Umass’s “best” win has been over a Penn State team 1 game over .500. And it took OT to do it. Yes Umass is undefeated, and they have been tooling up on a 2-8 Albany, a 3-7 St. Josephs’s…but they haven’t been challenged by a legit team. Their schedule is pure luck. On the flipside, Drexel gets no luck. They lost to #1 UVA by 1 goal. They lost to #6 Notre Dame by 1 goal. They also lost to #19 Bryant, #18 Bucknell, #16 Penn State all in 1 goal games. It is hard to judge this game based on all clips and stats are skewed for Umass. I am going upset crazy. I say Drexel takes the lead and is has enough gas in the tank this week, as Umass gets their first loss of the year.
Another litmus test will be Loyola out at Denver on Sat. Loyola is a perfect 10-0 with a quality win over #7 Duke. Denver is 7-3. Their losses include an OT loss to #5 Cornell, and a 2OT loss to #6 Notre Dame. Loyola is dominating possession outshooting pponents 42-27 per game, averaging 7+ more Gbs per game, and winning 58% of their faceoffs. Denver might be able to offset this as they are winning 62% of their face-offs, also averaging 7+ more Gbs per game. This one might be decided by special teams. Loyola is converting 52% of their Manup opportunities, to Denver’s 22%. Even though Loyola is ranked higher than Denver, many people I talked to expect Denver to win. If the game was anywhere but Denver I’d go with Loyola, but I’m going to pick another 1 goal game, this time won by Denver.