Men’s college soccer starts for real on Friday night. Of course, we’ve been talking about it in detail for the past month. Here is a collection of our conference previews and league title predictions from ESNN staff members. Just scroll down..
Caroline Yort: Stony Brook
J.R. Eskilson: UMBC
Robert Ziegler: Boston University
Travis Clark: Stony Brook
Blurb: Boston University doesn’t have the chance to compete in the conference tournament because of their move to the Patriot League, so they’ll give favorites Stony Brook a run for the title. UMBC could sneak in there as well.
America East preview
Caroline Yort: Charlotte
J.R. Eskilson: Saint Louis
Robert Ziegler: Charlotte
Travis Clark: Xavier
Blurb: It’s hard to look past a tough Charlotte side after their strong performance in 2011. But Xavier won the regular season conference title, and is likely to threaten again, and that’s without mentioning newcomers VCU and the rising threat of Saint Louis.
Atlantic 10 Preview
Caroline Yort: North Carolina
J.R. Eskilson: Wake Forest
Robert Ziegler: Wake Forest
Travis Clark: Maryland
Blurb: It’s a close three-way race for the top of the ACC, with Wake Forest, Maryland and North Carolina looking the most formidable. Sleeper teams Duke and Boston College can’t be counted out either.
Caroline Yort: Florida Gulf Coast(m)
J.R. Eskilson: East Tennessee State
Robert Ziegler: Florida Gulf Coast(m)
Travis Clark: Florida Gulf Coast(m)
Blurb: The race for the A-Sun title has been very competitive over the last few seasons and this year should be no different. The Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast(m) are the preseason favorites, but it is hard to count out ETSU or Stetson based on the talent at both programs.
Atlantic Sun Preview
Caroline Yort: Louisville(Red), Connecticut (Blue)
J.R. Eskilson: St. John's (Red), Connecticut(Blue)
Robert Ziegler: St. John's (Red), Notre Dame (Blue)
Travis Clark: Louisville (Red), Georgetown (Blue)
Blurb: There’s no doubting the quality in the Big East, and once again the two-division conference is stacked once again, with St. John’s(m), Connecticut, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette all looking like contenders.
Big East Preview
Caroline Yort: Coastal Carolina
J.R. Eskilson: Coastal Carolina
Robert Ziegler: Radford
Travis Clark: Coastal Carolina
Blurb: The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers made some noise in 2011 with their NCAA tournament run, but they could make an even louder statement this fall. Striker Ashton Bennett is back for his senior campaign after scoring 23 goals in 22 games last year. Radford and Liberty will be the main challengers for Coastal Carolina.
Big South Preview
Caroline Yort: Ohio State
J.R. Eskilson: Indiana
Robert Ziegler: Northwestern
Travis Clark: Indiana
Blurb: The defending champion Northwestern Wildcats return a host of players, but will be challenged by Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio State, who also bring back a good share of their talent from last season.
Big Ten Preview
Caroline Yort: UC Santa Barbara
J.R. Eskilson: UC Santa Barbara
Robert Ziegler: UC Santa Barbara
Travis Clark: UC Santa Barbara
Blurb: UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine are once again picked as the top teams in the conference. The Big West introduces a new format this fall with a North and South Division, but the teams remain consistent with games against every team.
Big West Preview
Caroline Yort: James Madison
J.R. Eskilson: Old Dominion
Robert Ziegler: Old Dominion
Travis Clark: James Madison
Blurb: Old Dominion are the most talented team in the conference on paper, but James Madison and Delaware look the closest at being able to keep it close.
Caroline Yort: South Carolina
J.R. Eskilson: UCF
Robert Ziegler: SMU
Travis Clark: SMU
Blurb: A number of teams could win here, with UCF, SMU, UAB and South Carolina among the leading favorites.
Caroline Yort: Valparaiso
J.R. Eskilson: Loyola-Chicago
Robert Ziegler: UIC
Travis Clark: Loyola-Chicago
Blurb: With Butler’s exit, the Horizon League is looking for a new favorite to emerge and make some noise on the national stage. The two Chicago programs (UIC and Loyola) have been strong in the past and could return to the previous glory.
Caroline Yort: Brown
J.R. Eskilson: Yale
Robert Ziegler: Brown
Travis Clark: Dartmouth
Blurb: Brown and Dartmouth finished tied for first place in the conference a year ago, and perhaps that sums up the Ivy League the best, as it’s anybody’s game this year, including Yale, Princeton and Columbia.
Ivy League Preview
Caroline Yort: Iona College
J.R. Eskilson: Fairfield
Robert Ziegler: Iona College
Travis Clark: Fairfield
Blurb: The Stags of Fairfield brought back many of the key pieces from last season’s conference winning side. Yet, Iona stole the headlines in the preseason with the individual recognition for a number of the players on the Gaels. It figures to be a two-team race in the MAAC this fall.
Caroline Yort: Akron
J.R. Eskilson: Akron
Robert Ziegler: Akron
Travis Clark: Akron
Blurb: While the addition of West Virginia could throw a wrench in the plans of Akron’s dominance of the MAC, it’s difficult to see the Zips getting knocked off their perch.
Caroline Yort: Creighton
J.R. Eskilson: Creighton
Robert Ziegler: Creighton
Travis Clark: Creighton
Blurb: Creighton’s dominance in the Missouri Valley Conference is well-known, but Missouri State is trying to put an end to that charade. It could be a closer finish than many expect this fall in the MVC.
Mountain Pacific Sports Federation
Caroline Yort: New Mexico
J.R. Eskilson: CSU Bakersfield
Robert Ziegler: CSU Bakersfield
Travis Clark: New Mexico
Blurb: New Mexico is the preseason favorite according to the coaches, but the flash of CSU Bakersfield is pretty difficult to overlook. With star striker Gyasi Zardes leading the way, could this be the season for the Roadrunners to surprise the nation?
Caroline Yort: Central Connecticut
J.R. Eskilson: Fairleigh Dickinson
Robert Ziegler: Monmouth
Travis Clark: Monmouth
Blurb: Monmouth has ruled the roost of late, but faces perhaps its greatest challenge yet after significant talent loss from a year ago. Can programs like a Fairleigh Dickinson take advantage?
Caroline Yort: California
J.R. Eskilson: Washington
Robert Ziegler: California
Travis Clark: Washington
Blurb: UCLA is dealing with turnover across the board, but still picked as the favorite by the coaches of the Pac-12. The ESNN staff is not as convinced. Both Washington and California look ready to retake the title this fall.
Caroline Yort: Lafayette
J.R. Eskilson: Bucknell
Robert Ziegler: Colgate
Travis Clark: Colgate
Blurb: The league is about as wide open as they come, with Colgate, American, Bucknell and Lafayette all capable of competing.
Patriot League Preview
Caroline Yort: Furman
J.R. Eskilson: UNC Greensboro
Robert Ziegler: Furman
Travis Clark: College of Charleston
Blurb: An attractive title race is in the works, with Furman contending against defending champions UNC Greensboro and College of Charleston, plus 2011 conference tournament winner Elon.
Caroline Yort: Western Illinois
J.R. Eskilson: Western Illinois
Robert Ziegler: Western Illinois
Travis Clark: Western Illinois
Blurb: The Leathernecks of Western Illinois bring back conference defensive player of the year Charlie Bales for what should be a strong line up this fall. The rest of the conference is dealing with turnover after losing a number of seniors from last season’s squads.
West Coast Conference
Caroline Yort: Santa Clara
J.R. Eskilson: Santa Clara
Robert Ziegler: Santa Clara
Travis Clark: Santa Clara
Blurb: St. Mary's (CA) snagged the league title on the last weekend play in 2011. This season will not be much different, as a number of teams look capable of taking the crown from one of the few conferences without a postseason tournament.
West Coast Conference preview