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Men’s NCAA Preview: Upset watch for seeds?

Published: November 20, 2015

The NCAA Second Round kicks off on Sunday as the remaining 32 teams fight for a spot in the Round of 16. TopDrawerSoccer previews all of the games below. 

All games on Nov. 22, all times ET. 

No. 1 Wake Forest (15-2-2) vs. Charlotte (11-5-3), 1 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Wake Forest won the ACC Atlantic Division with a 6-0-2 record. The Demon Deacons lost to Notre Dame in the conference tournament, but were awarded an at-large berth and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Players to watch: Wake Forest junior midfielder Jacori Hayes is one of the top midfielders in college soccer. His vision and composure on the ball allows the Demon Deacons to play some of the best soccer at the collegiate level. If Hayes can put his influence on the game early, Wake Forest should not have any problem keeping the season alive for another week. Charlotte counters with a standout midfielder of its own in Brandt Bronico, who had a goal and an assist in the First Round win over Radford. Bronico is second on the team with 26 points (8 goals, 10 assists) this season. 

Series history: Charlotte defeated Wake Forest 1-0 in 2014 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Wake Forest leads the series 7-6-3. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round and will face the winner of No. 16 Indiana vs. Connecticut. 

Prediction: Despite the injuries, Wake Forest still has too much fire power and will pull through in this round. Wake Forest wins 2-1. 

 

No. 16 Indiana (12-4-3) vs. Connecticut (10-5-6), 12 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Indiana was awarded an at-large berth after losing to Maryland in the Big Ten tournament in penalty kicks and finishing second in the league during the regular season. Connecticut defeated Boston University 3-1 in the First Round game on Thursday. Junior midfielder Kwame Awuah scored twice in the victory. 

Players to watch: The strength of Connecticut is when the game opens up and the players in the attack are allowed the space to operate and run at defenders. Indiana would be best served with a measure approach to this game, which puts the focus on the midfielders to keep the ball moving and not allow spaces to open up for the counter. Junior midfielder Tanner Thompson has the capability to do just that in this contest and continue to raise his profile on the national level. Thompson should dominate the Connecticut midfield and dictate the tempo of the game. Connecticut looked tired at the start of Thursday’s First Round game against Boston University. The long road to the NCAA Tournament might be taking a toll on the fitness of the Huskies side, which has been in a must-win situation since mid-October. Goalkeeper Scott Levene is the one who will be in the spotlight on Sunday. Levene will likely be called upon early in the game, and he needs to make the stops to keep the Hoosiers off the board. 

Series history: Connecticut leads the series history with a 3-2-1 record. The programs last met in 2006 when they played to a 1-1 draw. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round and will face the winner of No. 1 Wake Forest vs. Charlotte

Prediction: Indiana is unbeaten in its last seven games while Connecticut is riding an unbeaten run of nine games into Sunday’s clash. Both teams have found their form at the right time, which makes this an exciting battle between two traditional players. Indiana grinds out a 1-0 win. 

 

No. 9 Ohio State (13-6-2) vs. Dayton, 1 p.m., Watch 

How they got here: Ohio State won the Big Ten regular season crown, but finished second in the conference tournament so the Buckeyes settled for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. 

Players to watch: Senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer has won pretty much every individual honor a goalkeeper in the Big Ten can win this season. Froschauer has been a deserving recipient for each acclaim. He has done pretty much everything for the Buckeyes and will be counted on again on Sunday to help push this team into the Third Round. To add a bit of drama to the proceedings, Froschauer transferred to Ohio State this season and will be facing his ex-teammates in this clash. Amass Amankona is going to be the man to watch for Dayton throughout this run in the NCAA Tournament. The forward is the most dangerous player on the field and requires the defense to pay close attention to his movements. Amankona could break free from the Ohio State defense and test Froschauer. 

Series history: Ohio State leads the all-time series against Dayton with a 23-18-6 record. Ohio State won the last meeting 2-0 on Sept. 25. 

What’s next: The winner of this advances to the Third Round and will face the winner of No. 8 Stanford vs. Santa Clara

Prediction: Ohio State is built with a strong defense that does not concede chances. If Dayton can solve that riddle, the Flyers have a shot at keeping the dream alive. Ohio State wins 2-1. 

 

No. 8 Stanford (14-2-2) vs. Santa Clara, 8 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Stanford won the Pac-12 championship with a 7-1-2 record in conference play and a seven-point advantage over the second place team in the conference. With the automatic berth, the NCAA Selection Committee award the Pac-12 winners the No. 8 seed. 

Players to watch: Stanford’s difficulty in the NCAA Tournament last year came when the opposition teed off on star forward Jordan Morris and the physical play disrupted the rhythm of the squad. Morris squandered a few chances in that game, but some of the tackles that he endured in that encounter should have put the Cardinal up by a player or two in the game. If Morris can avoid the challenges and Stanford can finish off its chances, the home team should roll in this one. Santa Clara goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh will be the one to watch on the other side. It’s likely that Stanford will get chances in this one. Can McIntosh provide the save to keep the Cardinal off the scoreboard? The former U.S. U20 Men’s National Team goalkeeper is in his last hurrah in college soccer and would love to go out with a College Cup appearance. 

Series history: Santa Clara leads the all-time series against Stanford 20-17-7. Stanford won the last meeting 1-0 in 2013. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 9 Ohio State vs. Dayton. 

Prediction: Santa Clara might be the hottest team in Division I right now. The WCC always provides a team that pulls off a couple of upsets in the NCAA Tournament because it is an underrated conference. However, Stanford is still licking its wounds from last season’s early exit in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford survives a scare and wins 1-0. 

 

No. 5 North Carolina (14-1-3) vs. Coastal Carolina (13-2-4), 6 p.m., Watch

How they got here: North Carolina won the ACC Coastal Division regular season with a 6-1-1 conference record. The Tar Heels lost in penalty kicks to Syracuse during the conference tournament and was rewarded with an at-larger berth and the No. 5 seed. 

Players to watch: Tucker Hume is the leading scorer for the Tar Heels this season. The towering forward has 10 goals in 18 appearances with only two starts along the way. Hume has a knack for punishing teams for tuning out during the game especially during the final seconds of the half. North Carolina, as a team, plays all 2700 seconds of each half and they definitely make those last seconds count if the other team starts heading to the locker room early. Freshman Jair Espinoza saw a lot of the ball against North Florida in the opening round game. Could he be the key to unlocking the North Carolina defense? Espinoza showed his quality on the ball and ability to pick out the pass to beat the defense. He could be a wildcard in this clash. 

Series history: North Carolina leads the all-time series against Coastal Carolina 4-1. UNC won the last game 4-0 in 2013. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 12 Creighton vs. Drake. 

Prediction: North Carolina is a well-coached team that rarely gives up chances at home. If Coastal is going to pull off the upset, the Chanticleers will need to put away every opportunity they have in front of the goal. However, it feels like another game that North Carolina wins thanks to a late goal. North Carolina wins 1-0. 


No. 12 Creighton  (17-3) vs. Drake (13-4-3), 2 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Creighton won 15 games in a row before finishing with a 2-3 record over the last five games. The Jays were awarded an at-large berth and the No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Players to watch: If this is the first college soccer game of the season for you, Fabian Herbers is a name to know (but it’s also kind of weird you are on TopDrawerSoccer at this point of the season). Herbers is a German tank with 42 points this season. Forty-two. He is difficult to stop for any defense and could be the difference on Sunday. Drake defender James Grunert is one of three Drake players to start every game this season. Grunert is likely going to be one of a committee in trying to slow down Creighton at Morrison Stadium on Sunday. 

Series history: Creighton leads the all-time series against Drake 26-3-8. The Jays beat Drake 2-1 on Oct. 6. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 5 North Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina. 

Prediction: Creighton get backs on a winning streak on Sunday. Creighton wins 2-0. 


No. 13 Denver (15-0-3) vs. SMU (14-2-4), 7 p.m., Watch

How they got here: The Denver Pioneers are the only team in Division I men’s soccer who is undefeated this season. The Pioneers won everything in the Summit League this season and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. SMU defeated Utah Valley University 2-0 in the NCAA First Round. 

Players to watch: Senior goalkeeper Dan Jackson has only made 39 saves this season for the Pioneers. The Denver defense has been exceptional at organizing in front of him and cut out the danger whenever it is near. Much of that has been thanks to his experience and communication to the defense. Jackson will be in the spotlight on Sunday in Denver’s second round clash. SMU’s best chance of breaking down Denver will be with long passing sequence that open up the Pioneers defense. As senior midfielder John Lujano showed on Thursday, he is the key to the team thriving in that style. Lujano dictates the tempo of the game from his spot as a deep lying playmaker. His composure under pressure sets him apart from other midfielders in college soccer as he has the ability to clean up bad passes and help his team work out of pressure. Lujano will be one to watch on Sunday. 

Series history: SMU leads the all-time series against Denver 1-0. The series between Utah Valley and Denver is tied 1-1. Denver won the meeting on Sept. 20 2-1. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round and takes on the winner of No. 4 Akron against Rutgers. 

Prediction: Denver has won 29 games in a row at home. SMU is a tremendous team with a lot of quality weapons. Denver’s home streak is just too much to over look. Denver wins 4-3 in PKs. 

 

No. 4 Akron (15-3-2) vs. Rutgers (12-6-2), 4 p.m., Watch 

How they got here: Akron won the MAC tournament and clinched the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Zips have won their last three games heading into the Second Round clash. Rutgers bounced back from early deficit against LIU Brooklyn and defeated the Blackbirds in a penalty kick shootout in the First Round game. 

Players to watch: Akron sophomore Richie Laryea has been the standout this season for the Zips. The Canadian attacking talent has nine goals in 18 appearances as he has quickly emerged as one of the brightest talented in college soccer. Rutgers junior goalkeeper David Greczek came up with the huge save on the final PK of the game against LIU Brooklyn on Thursday. It was a tremendous save to send his team into the next round. Greczek did not do much in the First Round game, but he will be in the spotlight on Sunday as Akron attacks in waves. 

Series history: Akron leads the all-time series 2-1-1 with the last meeting in 2013. 

What’s next: The winner of this game moves on to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 13 Denver against SMU. 

Prediction: Akron’s home field and quality in the attack are too much for a tired Rutgers side. Akron wins 3-1. 

 

No. 3 Georgetown (15-2-2) vs. Hofstra (14-7), 1 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Georgetown won the Big East Conference Tournament and claimed the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Hoyas have not lost since Sept. 4. Hofstra defeated Lehigh 2-1 in overtime in the First Round. 

Players to watch: Georgetown freshman goalkeeper James Marcinkowski has been solid in his debut season with the Hoyas. The San Jose Earthquakes Academy alum has been consistently in the right spot to make the big save when he is needed. Georgetown will likely have the ball for most of this game, so he will need to stay sharp for when he is called upon. Harry Hawkins is one of the leaders of the Hofstra team. The defender will be asked to do a lot against a Georgetown team that has one of the most dynamic attacks in college soccer.  

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 14 South Florida against Boston College. 

Prediction: Georgetown’s quality throughout the starting lineup is just too much for most teams. Hofstra offers a few unique looks that could trouble the Big East champions, but breaking down that defense is another issue. Georgetown wins 2-0. 

 

No. 14 South Florida (11-5-3) vs. Boston College (10-7-1), 1 p.m., Watch

How they got here: South Florida finished second in the American Athletic Conference, but lost to Connecticut in the conference tournament. The Bulls were awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament and the No. 14 seed. Boston College defeated Vermont in the First Round. 

Players to watch: South Florida midfielder Lindo Mfeka is one of the stars of the team. The driving force of the team has had a standout season and earned first team all-conference honors for his play. The knock on Mfeka is his emotional side as he has been in a couple of situations where he was lucky to escape a red card. If Mfeka can play with intelligence and composure, the Bulls will ride into the next round. Boston College’s strength comes from the attacking talents of Zeiko Lewis. Lewis’ dribbling and cunning passing can be enough to unlock any defense when he is on his game. 

Series history: The programs last played in 1983. South Florid won the first and only meeting 5-1. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 3 Georgetown against Hofstra. 

Prediction: South Florida has only lost at home once this season. The Bulls are ready for a postseason run. South Florida wins 2-1. 

 

No. 11 Seattle (17-3-1) vs. UCLA (11-8-1), 9 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Seattle won the WAC regular season and conference tournament to claim an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. UCLA defeated Cal Poly 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament First Round. 

Players to watch: Seyi Adekoya came off the bench on Thursday and jumpstarted the UCLA attack against the Mustangs. Adekoya and Abu Danladi are the best combination that UCLA has in the attack. Adekoya is from Seattle and probably wants to put on a show for some of his friends that are still in town. Seattle has a number of quality pieces that can exploit the weaknesses of this UCLA side. Forward David Olsen is used to the Bruins after previously playing for San Diego State. Olsen’s return home has been a tremendous benefit for both sides. The forward has 15 goals this season in 21 appearances. 

Series history: These two programs last met in 2011 when UCLA defeated Seattle 2-1. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 6 Syracuse against Dartmouth. 

Prediction: Seattle has enjoyed a stellar season, but the draw was not kind to the WAC champions. UCLA might not have the defense, but the Bruins have the experience and the goal scorers. UCLA wins 4-2. 

 

No. 6 Syracuse (13-5-3) vs. Dartmouth (12-5-1), 2 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Syracuse won the ACC Tournament and claimed the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Orange were awarded the No. 6 seed in the tourney. Dartmouth defeated Hartwick in the NCAA Tournament First Round. 

Players to watch: Syracuse forward Ben Polk is on a hot streak right now. The junior has three goals in his last two goals as he carried the Orange to the ACC Tournament Title last week. He will be the main weapon for Dartmouth to stop in this clash. If Dartmouth is going to pull the upset, Eduvie Ikoba needs to put his chances away in this game. Dartmouth can’t be wasteful with looks on goal and any clear look on goal needs to hit the net for the Ivy League champions to roll into the next round. 

Series history: The series is tied 3-3 with the last game between the two programs coming in 1935. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 11 Seattle against UCLA. 

Prediction: Dartmouth was hardly convincing in the First Round game against Hartwick, but the Ivy League champions can’t be overlooked. Dartmouth has the pieces to pull off the upset. Dartmouth wins 1-0. 

 

No. 7 Notre Dame (11-4-5) vs. Tulsa (8-6-6), 2 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Notre Dame finished third in the ACC Coastal Division with a 4-2-2 record. The Irish lost to Syracuse in the conference tournament and were awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Tulsa defeated Florida International 3-2 in the First Round. 

Players to watch: Notre Dame senior midfielder Patrick Hodan has not had the season that many anticipated for the Irish star. Horan has three goals and six assists to his name heading into the NCAA Tournament. After a breakout campaign as a sophomore, Hodan has never quite broken through to the next level. He has the qualities that will make him a good professional, but he has not been the leading force with the Irish that fellow college coaches thought he would be after Harrison Shipp moved onto MLS two seasons ago. Hodan can erase that narrative though with a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament. Hodan’s first victim is a Tulsa side that can be exposed on the wings where he does most of his damage. For Tulsa, senior defender Bradley Bourgeois will be asked to do much of the work in slowing down the Irish. Bourgeois could be the right player to stop the potent Irish attack that is capable of scoring in a variety of ways. 

Series history: This is the first meeting between these programs. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 10 Maryland against Virginia. 

Prediction: Notre Dame might give up an early goal in this one as Tulsa is sharp, but the Irish will wear down the Tulsa defense and take care of the game in the second half. Notre Dame wins 2-1. 

 

No. 10 Maryland (10-5-5) vs. Virginia (10-4-3), 5 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Maryland won the Big Ten Tournament and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Virginia defeated Rider 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament First Round.  

Players to watch: Maryland goalkeeper Dakota Niedermeier has been channeling his inner superman for the past month as he carried the Terps to the Big Ten title. Niedermeier could be the key to Maryland advancing past a familiar foe on Sunday. Virginia counters with sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell. The U.S. youth national team product has not had to do quite as much up to this point, but he is just as capable in terms of pulling off the heroics from the goalkeeper position. 

Series history: Maryland leads the all-time series record 40-29-9. Maryland won the last meeting was in 2013. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 7 Notre Dame against Tulsa. 

Prediction: While Maryland is playing some of the best soccer right now, Virginia has the pieces to stop that juggernaut. The Cavaliers know how to put teams away at this stage of the season. However, Maryland at home is another beast. Maryland wins 2-1. 

 

No. 15 UC Santa Barbara (13-6-2) vs. South Carolina (11-7-2), 9 p.m., Watch

How they got here: UC Santa Barbara won the Big West North Division regular season title, but lost in the conference tournament final. The Gauchos were awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament and the No. 15 seed. South Carolina defeated Furman in the First Round via a penalty kick shootout. 

Players to watch: UCSB center back Fuad Adeniyi has been an interesting addition to the program this season. Adeniyi adds some of the characteristics that have made Gaucho teams successful in the past with his toughness on the tackle and his capability as a 1v1 defender against center forwards. However, he has had blunders along the way especially with his knack for drawing the referee’s eyes and subsequently the whistle as well. Adeniyi will have his hands full against South Carolina midfield Danny Deakin, who likes to get forward with the ball at his feet. Deakin scored a great goal on Thursday and should be the focus of the UCSB defense. 

Series history: This is the first meeting between these programs. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 2 Clemson against Elon. 

Prediction: UC Santa Barbara benefits from the long travel for South Carolina and quick turnaround between the first and second round games. The Gauchos have been a poor side in Sunday night games in the past, but that is typically at the end of a two-game series. UCSB wins 3-2. 

 

No. 2 Clemson (15-2-2) vs. Elon (14-5-1), 6 p.m., Watch

How they got here: Clemson finished in second place in the ACC Atlantic Division and lost in the conference tournament to Syracuse. Clemson was awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament and the No. 2 overall seed. Elon defeated Winthrop 3-0 in the First Round. 

Players to watch: Elon rolled in its opener for the NCAA Tournament, but this game will be much tighter. Clemson defends well as a team and likely will try to keep more of the ball in this game. Clemson is trying to bounce back after the 2-0 loss to Syracuse in the ACC semifinal. In that game, Clemson had 15 shots but only one was on frame. The Tigers need to make better use of the possession in this game and put those shots on frame. Midfielder Diego Campos is high on the list of options in the attack and probably one who could pop up on the box score on Sunday. Elon’s strength comes from the number of options that they have in the attack. Cooper Vadermaas-Peeler is a speedy forward who could trouble the Clemson defense. 

Series history: Elon leads the all-time series 3-2-1. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in 2013. 

What’s next: The winner of this game advances to the Third Round to take on the winner of No. 15 UC Santa Barbara against South Carolina. 

Prediction: These are two of the better teams in college soccer in terms of how they play the game. Clemson is just a notch better in most areas than Elon. Clemson wins 3-1. 

 

First Round Predictions Record: 12-4

 
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