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Conference races, tournaments near terminus

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: November 3, 2016

Over the next few days, automatic bids will be secured as the women’s Division I nears the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a brief overview about what’s on the schedule (and at stake) across seven conferences. Unless otherwise noted, all games listed on Friday, Nov. 4.

ACC
The ACC Tournament enters relatively unfamiliar territory, as attention shifts to MUSC Health Stadium in Charleston after the competition was moved out of North Carolina. Two enthralling matchups are on the docket, even if neither promises many goals. North Carolina brings perhaps the most firepower against the Irish, although Notre Dame is an extremely tough team to break down in the final third. Freshman Madison Schultz has burst to life over the past week, and the Tar Heels should be confident after beating Florida State and Virginia over the past week. The other side of the bracket boasts two top goalkeepers with Cassie Miller and Kailen Sheridan between the posts for Florida State and Clemson respectively. Deyna Castellanos can be the X-Factor for the Seminoles here, as she has the game-changing offensive skills that can win games (and trophies). Don’t be surprised to see either 1-0 results or 0-0 draw that end in PKs on Friday.

Semifinal Schedule (in Charleston, S.C.)
Notre Dame vs. North Carolina, 5:30 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)
Florida State vs. Clemson, 8 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)

Big Ten
It’s been something of a weird and wacky regular season in the Big Ten, after Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern all finished equal on points at season’s end. Now, two of those programs are alive to vie for the conference tournament crown after a determined Rutgers side ousted the Nittany Lions at Jeffrey Field. The Golden Gophers perhaps stand out as favorites here, given their team’s ability to create and generate in the final third, not to mention hosting the tournament as the No. 1 seed. They’ll be a handful for a Michigan side that has done exceptionally well to get this far and will be looking for the upset. Goalkeeper Lauren Clem’s excellence in 2016 for Northwestern gives the team hope for Friday, and so much more, as she’s proven herself to be one of the best in goal all season. Rutgers is a well-coached team under Mike O’Neill, and with Madison Tiernan and Colby Ciarrocca both involved in the goals last weekend, the pieces are there to best Clem and the Wildcats.

Semifinal Schedule (at Minnesota)
Michigan vs. Minnesota, 3 p.m. (BTN2Go)
Northwestern vs. Rutgers, 5:30 p.m. (BTN2Go)

Big 12
At this point, it’s a fair to ask the question if another Big 12 can score on West Virginia, forget about beating them. Bunkering and hoping to hold on for a 0-0 draw could be Oklahoma’s best option in Friday’s semifinal clash. The Mountaineers have impressed, and perhaps the only concern for them at this point in the season is that it’s all been a little too easy – inexperience in close games could come back to bite West Virginia. However, they can only beat what’s in front of them, and Kadeisha Buchanan and the dominant defense will look to put the shackles on Oklahoma’s Liz Keester. Both Baylor and TCU are lingering on the at large bubble, with the latter in slightly better shape from an RPI perspective. Whichever team ends up punching its ticket to the final will have bubble teams sweating a bit on Selection Monday.

Semifinal Schedule (in Overland Park, Kansas)
West Virginia vs. Oklahoma, 5:30 p.m. (Big 12 Digital Network)
Baylor vs. TCU, 8 p.m. (Big 12 Digital Network)

Ivy League
It’s a head-to-head clash between Harvard and Columbia for the overall crown and NCAA Tournament bid that comes with it. The Lions will be lamenting this one, as they led Yale last week with 12 seconds remaining, before conceding once to slip into a tie and another goal early in overtime to lose. Harvard holds the upper hand here, needing only a point at home to secure the title. Margaret Purce’s excellent college career is coming to the final stretch, and the senior will want no part of a shock upset in Cambridge.

Crimson(w) at Harvard, Saturday, Nov. 5, 1 p.m. (Ivy League Digital Network)

Pac-12
Holding the inside track heading into the season finale against local rivals California, Stanford has been as good as advertised during the 2016 campaign. With strength in depth at the back and in the midfield, players like Andi Sullivan, Jane Campbell and Maddie Bauer make the Cardinal favorites to win in Berkeley on Friday. Assuming that Stanford slips up, USC has the opportunity to vault past them if the Women of Troy can vanquish Los Angeles counterparts UCLA. The Stub Hub Center hosts this clash Friday night, with the Bruins seeking a bounce back after dropping two road games last week against Colorado and Utah. The Buffaloes remain in contention to earn a share of the Pac-12 crown should they beat Utah at home.

Friday Schedule
Utah at Colorado, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Stanford at California, 6 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
USC vs. UCLA, 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks LA)

SEC
All four high seeds survived their first foray into SEC tournament play on Wednesday, sending home the bubble teams looking to put together last gasp wins to bolster the resume. South Carolina is the obvious favorite, considering it managed to extend its unbeaten record despite conceding first on Wednesday against Texas A&M. The battle of the Savannahs will take center stage, as Florida senior Savannah Jordan will look to outdo South Carolina’s McCaskill. Don’t sleep on Auburn or Arkansas either. Casie Ramsier scored a hat trick against Tennessee, and it could’ve been a bit more had finishing been a bit sharper. Arkansas has the makings of a tournament team that is tough to beat, given that it’s a well-organized side that opts for a more direct approach.

Semifinal Schedule (in Orange Beach, Ala.)
South Carolina vs. Florida, 4:30 p.m.
Auburn vs. Arkansas, 7 p.m.

 
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