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No matter how you slice it, the Western half of the DI-A bracket is easier than the Eastern half.

Arkansas State and Life, the two tournament favorites, look set for a collision in the semifinals. But that’s only going to happen if Kutztown and Army, both of whom are capable, don’t pull off upsets in the quarterfinals this weekend.

In the west, Colorado and Colorado State, who aren’t even ranked in our Top 25, look like speed bumps for Cal Poly and St. Mary’s en route to the semis. The Buffs lost to Central Washington by 68 points and to the Rams by just three. Cal Poly lost to Central by just 11, and St. Mary’s beat Central by 30.

How did the bracket shape up this way? Wisconsin beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Universities final. Had the Buckeyes won, Life and KU would have been on the opposite side of the bracket.

Nevertheless, St. Mary’s is the odds-on favorite to win its way to the May 18th final in Greensboro, NC. Unless, that is, you ask Gaels coach Tim O’Brien.

“I guess people can look at these scores and extrapolate anything that they want, but I think college rugby is pretty interesting,” said O’Brien.

“If you don’t have the width and depth and Breadth of a roster like Cal or BYU, a couple guys injured, a couple guys miss and take a test, a couple of guys here, a couple of guys there, and you’re just a team.

“College rugby is an evolving entity as the season progresses. You have teams buried in snow, teams with different constraints in finding their way to becoming great or getting beyond good, and I think with some of the teams here, we’re seeing that.

“Cal Poly lost to Cal by 100-plus points. Cal Poly gave us everything we could handle. We were competitive with Cal. Something special must be happening at Cal Poly. Colorado got walloped by a couple of folks early. Could it be the snow? Could it be guys missing? It’s an interesting evolving entity. I think you’ve got to be careful if you’re going to compare score lines across the board.”