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College Cup, title predictions may surprise

Published: November 8, 2011

It goes so fast, doesn’t it? 
 
One minute we’re previewing the college season, the next we’re capping it. We’ve arrived at our climactic point of the women’s season where we’re left with our chosen 64 teams. Let’s get to it. 
 
 
Opening statement: There will be walkthroughs in the first round - there always are. But we’ve also got some intriguing early matchups. Here are a few:
 
North Carolina vs. William & Mary: The whispers have started about the Tar Heels who have lost three straight matches and are looking pretty far removed from their back-to-back national titles of 2008-09. Can high-scoring William & Mary send the glamour program to a shocking early exit?
 
oklahoma state women's college soccer player adrianna franchOklahoma State's Adrianna Franch
Pepperdine vs. Long Beach State:
Two of the best in the West will have at it for the first time this season. The Waves have just one loss on the year while the 49ers are coming off their Big West Conference Tournament triumph and are led by the always dangerous Nadia Link.    
 
Illinois State vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee: DO NOT be surprised if this match ends up with a score of 11-10. These are two of the more explosive offenses in all of the country. Milwaukee’s Sarah Hagen leads the Panthers with 22 goals this season while Illinois State has Rachel Tejada who, legend has it, once scored a hat-trick from the bench. 
 
Oklahoma State vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff: Or shall I say, Adrianna Franch vs. Silva Fuentes. The Cowgirls’ goalkeeper shut down all comers this season. But this will be her first look at Arkansas Pine-Bluff’s speedy Fuentes, who led the nation in points, finishing with 15 goals and 28 assists. It’s on. 
 
Wake up!: Here are a few sleeping beauties you may want to keep an eye on when filling out your bracket:
 
Memphis: I know, I know, how can an undefeated program be a sleeper? Well, better question: how can an undefeated program be a No. 4 seed? When expectations are low, that’s how. The Tigers don’t have the stiffest schedule in the world but they’ve got momentum. And they’re winners. And I think they go a little further than most people think.
 
Miami (FL): Let’s face it: the biggest thing holding back the Hurricanes is the ACC. I have Miami winning at least two tournament games, and if I had any guts at all, I’d predict they reach the Elite Eight.
 
Washington State: The Cougars know how to bait their opponents into low-scoring games. Plus, they play in Pullman, WA. After you’ve done that, going on the road in the NCAA Tourney is cake. 
 
Bracketology: For those keeping score at home, the ACC is the most represented conference in the tournament with nine programs. The rest of the scoreboard reads:
 
SEC: Eight
Pac-12: Five
Big 12: Five
Big East: Four
Big West: Four
 
Snubbed: If only everyone could be invited to the party … a few left out programs who probably feel a little robbed (or a lot robbed, whatever) include:

Georgetown: Finished second in the Big East National during the regular season and posted an overall record of 15-6-0. Yeah, the Hoyas have a dog bone to pick.
 
BYU: The Cougars miss their first NCAA Tournament since 2004 despite finishing 11-5-3 with a win over tournament bound Utah State and a tie against Santa Clara.
 
Michigan State & Wisconsin: We’ll group the two Big Ten bubble teams together. The Spartans (14-6-1) advanced to the Big Ten semifinals but still found themselves left out after a solid season. The Badgers (10-7-3) made a strong case with big wins over Penn State and Dayton, but it wasn’t enough.
 
SMU: The Mustangs (11-8-1) had an outside shot with a win over UCF and a tie against undefeated Memphis this season, but they were undone by a first-round loss to Rice in the Conference USA Tournament.
 
Massachusetts: And how about some Atlantic 10 love?  Wins over tournament-bound Boston University and LaSalle don’t impress you? Oh … they don’t? Well, never mind then. 
 
Prediction: You didn’t think I’d end this without a prediction did you? Read it and weep …
 
FINAL FOUR
 
Stanford: Two runner-up finishes in the past two years. They want what’s owed to them. 
Texas A&M: Surprised? Don’t be. They humbled OSU in the Big 12 Final. More to come.
Penn State: Yup, I said it. Question: who’s going to stop Maya Hayes? Answer: no one. 
Duke: A Final Four without an ACC program just doesn’t make sense. 
 
FINAL
 
Stanford vs. Duke: It makes sense that Stanford would claim their long-awaited title, even makes a great story. But that doesn’t make it a done deal. Duke is deep, their former youngsters gained great experience in last season’s tourney, and they have the ex-factor: goalkeeper Tara Campbell. The Blue Devils are your national champs. 
 
 
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