The Spring DI-AA playoffs start this weekend with a set of matches in Bellingham, Washington and Spartanburg, South Carolina. It's a study in contrasts between the two regions with the East having lesser known sides and the West loaded with teams that are threats to be champions. Who ever emerges from the weekend--semi-finals in each region on Saturday and then regional finals on Sunday--with then face off in Stanford for the rights to face Notre Dame College for the DI-AA championship.
UC-Davis vs. Cal State Long Beach
Western Washington vs. Grand Canyon
As mentioned above, the West regional has a number of teams with good pedigrees. The biggest standout is defending DI-AA champions UC-Davis. The Aggies haven't had a perfect season, they had a surprise loss a few weeks ago to Chico State, but made up for it with a win in the conference championship. UC-Davis have a lot of experience and you can bet they will be hungry to repeat.
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Their opponents in the semi-finals are Cal State Long Beach. The 49ers get a lot of good competition in Southern California and have been the class of the Gold Coast over the last few years. They can pull off a surprise but are going to need things to go their to beat UC-Davis.
The other semi-final will feature the home side Western Washington against Grand Canyon University. Having home field advantage will be a big asset for the Vikings but that also shouldn't mask how great of a side they have been. They have rolled through the NCRC and are ready to take on other competition. They are going to get that in Grand Canyon. They haven't been around for many years but Grand Canyon have recruited well and have put together some great results. They have also tested themselves against DI-A sides as well. For us it's a toss-up who is going to take the result. If we had to predict we'd be hard-pressed to go against the home team.
Whoever makes it on to day two and then through to the final should be the favored team to make it to the DI-AA final.
Florida State vs. North Texas
Brown vs. Missouri
Make no mistake, the teams on the Eastern side of the bracket mean business. North Texas and Brown especially have the opportunity to pull off an upset. The first match in the East has Florida State playing North Texas. The Seminoles had to beat some good competition in the SIRC, like Central Florida, just to make it this far so they will be tough. North Texas has the tradition of success and will also be tough. They are going to have to make more of a trek than Florida State and travel always makes things interesting.
The Brown vs. Missouri match-up should be interesting as well. Missouri, the state, has been producing some good players recently that have gone on to play at the club level. They investment at the youth level in the state seems to be paying off. They question whether they can stay with a Brown team that has been the class of the Ivy. They finished sec on to Dartmouth but will have plenty of recent experience in close matches.