Men's DI Tournament Second Round Preview

Men's DI Tournament Second Round Preview
by Victor Olorunfemi
November 17, 2023

Read a preview of the second round of the men’s NCAA tournament from upsets to watch out for and which tactical and personnel matchups will make for the best games.

MORE: Men's First Round Recap

Marshall Region

With this region containing the last three national Champions in Syracuse, Clemson, and Marshall, plus a Stanford program that won three straight between 2015-2017, this is arguably the most loaded side of a bracket in NCAA history. Whoever makes it out of here will leave as the favorite to win it all.

No. 9 California Baptist (10-5-4) at No. 1 Marshall (17-2) – Sunday, November 19th, 1 PM Eastern, ESPN+

California Baptist has to overcome fatigue from a late-night penalty kick win after 110 minutes of soccer while traveling clear across the country to play less than 72 hours later. Oh, and by the way, that game will be against the No. 1 ranked team. The NCAA tournament schedule is not for the weak, as the Lancers are in for a monumental task.

No. 7 Syracuse (9-4-7) at No. 2 New Hampshire (12-2-4) – Sunday, November 19th, 2 PM Eastern, ESPN+

This game will be a war. New Hampshire is highly physical and looking to prove its credentials as it hosts the defending national champions. And considering the Orange have only won one of seven away games, there may be no better opportunity to earn a statement win. Whoever wins this game will advance with plenty of confidence and lessons learned.

No. 6 Charlotte (13-3-1) at No. 3 Clemson (10-3-5) – Sunday, November 19th, 6:30 PM Eastern, ESPN+

September 22nd was the last time Clemson lost a game if you need evidence that the team has returned to championship form. The other evidence is more literal, as this team won the ACC Tournament and now gets to host a second-round game. But with imposing size and physicality, Charlotte has the template of a team that can grind out close results.

No. 5 Missouri State (12-3-3) at No. 4 Stanford (9-3-5) – Sunday, November 19th, 8 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Missouri State brings its 4th-ranked defense to Stanford and its 14th-ranked offense. It is an intriguing dynamic of two teams relying on the same principles of tactical organization, individual discipline, and set piece quality. This has close game written all over it.


Notre Dame Region

Notre Dame leads a region with plenty of familiarity as it contains four ACC teams. But with two potential dark horses in Western Michigan and Kentucky, the “others” may steal the show.

No. 7 Florida International (10-4-4) at No. 2 Virginia (10-3-4) – Sunday, November 19th, 1 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Virginia hosts a Florida International side that plays its best soccer against elite opposition, as the Panthers lost just once in seven games versus teams who qualified for the NCAA tournament. But with an impressive 9-1-2 record at home despite a challenging ACC schedule, Virginia has seen it all.

No. 5 Western Michigan (16-1-3) at No. 4 Duke (11-3-3) – Sunday, November 19th, 1 PM Eastern, ESPN+

This is the most exciting first-round matchup, without a doubt. Duke has the highest goal-scoring average in the nation, while Western Michigan is sixth. For the Broncos, the game plan is simple- get the ball wide to talented wing-backs like Jonathan Robinson and Will Perkins, who then provide excellent service to the 6’3” Charlie Sharp and 6’5” Dylan Sing. It has worked to the tune of 18 Sharp goals, and 12 Robinson assists, each leading the nation, while Sing is not too far behind with his 35 points second only to Sharp. And for Duke, who is undefeated through eleven home games, it has a lethal duo of its own in ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Forster Ajago and his 14 goals, paired with Freshman star Ulfur Bjornsson and his 10 goals. Get your popcorn ready, as this promises to be a high-scoring game.

No. 9 Kentucky (7-7-4) at No. 1 Notre Dame (11-2-4) – Sunday, November 19th, 5 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Do not be fooled by Kentucky’s record, as this team has lost once in the last nine games. Notre Dame is well aware and will be careful to guard against a Kentucky team that made an elite Xavier defense look mediocre in the first round.

No. 6 Indiana (13-4-4) at No. 3 Wake Forest (11-2-5) – Sunday, November 19th, 5 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Indiana has now won six in a row and ten from 11. Whew. That is quite the form, as Wake Forest faces one of few programs with more NCAA pedigree than it has. Whoever wins this game has to become one of the favorites to win it all.

North Carolina Region

The big news in this region is the elimination of Bryant from the first round. The Bulldogs had the best defense in the country and a coach with experience winning a D2 national championship. Yale, who defeated Bryant, now has extra confidence and proves this side of the bracket could be in for more upsets.

No. 8 Memphis (11-5-2) at No. 1 North Carolina (10-3-6) – Sunday, November 19th, 5 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Memphis dispatched undefeated SIUE in the first round and will feel confident in challenging North Carolina, having built a regular season schedule for such an occasion. The Tigers played more away games, nine, than home games, six. But scoring against the 3rd ranked defense will be difficult as North Carolina has built a stingy team.

No. 12 Yale (11-5-3) at No. 4 Hofstra (13-3-4) – Sunday, November 19th, 6 PM Eastern, ESPN+

One moment of brilliance from Max Rogers was all Yale needed to upset Bryant and make it six games unbeaten. But the dynamic Hofstra duo of Ryan Carmichael and Eliot Goldthorp is a different beast, as Yale may not have enough goals in the team to survive another round.

No. 7 Denver (12-2-5) at No. 2 SMU (13-2-2) – Sunday, November 19th, 8 PM Eastern, ESPN+

As two teams who suffered disappointing conference tournament losses, Denver got an opportunity to put that behind it in the first round, and SMU will have that chance here. Although these two met during the regular season with SMU winning, that was back on September 1, and both teams have significantly improved since then.

No. 6 Oregon State (8-5-5) at No. 3 Portland (12-4) – Sunday, November 19th, 8 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Two in-form teams meet as Oregon State, undefeated in five, travels to Portland, which has won six of seven. With these two playing a little over a month ago, there is plenty of familiarity with what to expect and how to capitalize on strengths and weaknesses.

Georgetown Region

Georgetown leads this region only by name as three Sun Belt teams vie for a final-four berth. But away in the West, a UCLA side playing the best soccer it has all season may be the one to have the final say.

No. 9 James Madison (9-4-5) at No. 1 Georgetown (13-2-3) – Sunday, November 19th, 12 PM Eastern, ESPN+

The Sun Belt has become a conference that prepares teams for the NCAA team due to elite programs and tactical variance. James Madison made it out with nine wins and an at-large bid, making it a real threat to upset a team or two. But a Georgetown team that has not lost at home in nine games will not be intimidated. These two met on September 19th, and the Hoyas won 2-0, but with James Madison losing just two of ten from that point, this will be like watching two brand-new teams.

No. 7 Louisville (12-5-3) at No. 2 West Virginia (14-2-4) – Sunday, November 19th, 2 PM Eastern, ESPN+

Louisville does not defend well and has not all season, evident by its 147th ranking in goals allowed per game and three conceded to Dayton in the first round. That does not bode well against a West Virginia team that boasts some of the best-attacking talent in the country and can score for fun at different moments. Louisville will either win a high-scoring affair, or the Mountaineers blow this one open.

No. 6 Vermont (12-5-2) at No. 3 UCF (10-3-2) – Sunday, November 19th, 6 PM Eastern, ESPN+

A near-perfect UCF season fell way off the path recently, with a home loss in the regular season finale costing the team a Sun Belt title, followed by another home loss in the first round of the conference tournament. But with two weeks from their last game, the Knights will have had every opportunity to right the ship. Vermont will hope a first-round win over Rider is a more accurate depiction of its form than losing three of four to end the regular season.

No. 5 Loyola Marymount (8-4-6) at No. 4 UCLA (9-3-5) – Sunday, November 19th, 8 PM Eastern, ESPN+

These two are familiar, having met on October 14th. Incidentally, that game was the last time UCLA lost, making this a sweet opportunity for revenge. And for Loyola Marymount, needing an 89th-minute free kick to win a first-round home game is not confidence-inducing, considering this team won just one of five after the UCLA game.

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