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Men’s Preview: First Round Extravaganza

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: November 21, 2013

Thirty-two games with 16 spots available in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This is finally the postseason.

Thursday marks the start of the #RoadtoPhilly with the first round kicking off at 6 p.m. (ET) with Old Dominion against Drexel. By the end of the night, the field for the next stage will be set, where the 16 seeded teams will join the fun.

Below is a breakdown of the first round along with predictions for every game. All listed times are eastern.

Cyle Larin UConn college soccerCyle Larin

Elon (15-4-2) vs. Clemson (11-7-2), 7 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Elon won the automatic berth from the Southern Conference after defeating Wofford in double overtime on Sunday in the championship game. Clemson earned an at-large place at the Big Dance after a 5-4-2 record in the ACC and an appearance in the ACC semifinal.

Form: Elon is undefeated in its last six games (five wins and a 1-1 draw). Clemson is 2-4 over its last six games.

Players to know: Austin Dunker has played every minute this season for Elon. The junior defender has four assists on the year, as well as helped the Phoenix defense to seven shutouts. Thomas McNamara leads Clemson in both goals and assists this year. The fifth year senior is the focal point of the Tigers attack.

Stat of the game: Elon is 7-1-1 at home this season with the lone loss coming in Sept. to William & Mary. Clemson is 2-2-2 on the road with the last win coming in early Oct. against North Carolina.

Prize: Winner earns a trip to Southern California to play No. 1 overall seed UCLA in the next round.

Prediction: 2-1 Elon

Connecticut (11-2-6) vs. Quinnipiac (9-4-7), 6:30 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Quinnipiac defeated the great New Jersey institution Monmouth in penalty kicks in the MAAC Championship to clinch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut earned an at-large spot after finishing 4-0-4 in the AAC and as a finalist in the conference tournament.

Form: Connecticut is undefeated in its last 14 games with five draws and nine wins. Quinnipiac is undefeated in its last six games and has won two penalty kick shootouts in a row.

Players to know: Borja Angoitia has played every minute in goal for Quinnipiac this season. The junior finished the regular season with 71 saves and a 0.63 goals against average. Cyle Larin leads the way for UConn with 11 goals this season. The freshman forward has been on a tear lately with four goals in his last four games.

Stat of the game: This is Connecticut’s first appearance in the first round since 2009 where Ray Reid’s side lost in a penalty kick shootout to fellow MAAC side Monmouth.

Prize: The winner gets a weekend’s supply of crab cakes, as the victor travels to UMBC for the next round.

Prediction: Connecticut 1-0 Quinnipiac

Akron (16-3-1) vs. Indiana (8-11-2), 7 p.m., watch here

How They Got Here: For Indiana, it was a miracle. The Hoosiers won the Big Ten Championship to earn the automatic qualifier to the tournament after what best could be described as a disappointing regular season. Akron continued to be the bully of the MAC and captured another conference crown.

Form: Akron is undefeated in its last ten games and won its last six. Indiana is undefeated in its last four games.

Players to know: Akron center back/all-everything Bryan Gallego said on Twitter this week that he would be back in the lineup for Thursday’s game after missing out on the MAC Championship due to injury. Freshman Tommy Thompson has been the best player this season for Indiana, and he has recently returned from injury as well. Thompson has five goals and two assists in 12 starts.

Stat of the game: Akron head coach Jared Embick is undefeated as a head coach in NCAA Division I Tournament games.*

*Important note: This is Embick’s first NCAA Division I Tournament game as a head coach.

Prize: A trip to one of the best burger joints in the country in Sobelman’s Pub & Grill (plus a game against Marquette) in the next round.)

Prediction: Akron 2-2 Indiana (Akron wins 5-4 in PKs)

St. John's (10-6-2) vs. Delaware (14-4-1), 7 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Delaware was awarded an at-large berth after a 4-3 record in the CAA and an appearance in the conference semifinals. St. John's also won a spot via the at-large method after a 3-4-2 mark in Big East play.

Form: St. John's is undefeated in its last four games including a win over Georgetown and a scoreless draw against Marquette. Delaware is also undefeated in its last four, but lost its last game in a penalty kick shootout to Drexel.

Players to know: Delaware freshman Guillermo Delgado has been one of the best forwards in the country this season with 14 goals to his name in 19 games. The Spaniard scored against Drexel in the conference tournament, but missed his penalty kick to win it in the shootout. St. John's junior Tim Parker will likely be tasked with marking Delgado, which will be the clash to watch on Thursday.

Stat of the game: This is Ian Hennessy’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament as head coach of the Blue Hens. This is the first time Hennessy’s squad has hosted a game in the Big Dance.

Prize: The autumn air of Charlottesville is supposedly one of the life experiences that should be on everyone’s list. The winner can check that off with a game against Virginia in the next round.

Prediction: Delaware 2-1 St John’s

Penn (8-8-1) vs. Providence (12-5-3), 7 p.m., watch here 

How they got here: Penn won the Ivy League and earned the automatic berth from that esteemed group of programs. Providence earned an at-large spot with an appearance in the Big East Championship and a conference record of 6-3.

Form: Providence is 3-1-1 over its last five games, and 3-2 over its last five road games. Penn is 3-2 over its last five games, and 4-1 over its last five home games.

Players to know: Penn midfielder Duke Lacroix leads the team in goals and points with eight tallies on the season to go along with three assists. Lacroix will be the key for the Penn attack against the Big East side. Providence freshman Julian Gressel has started every game this season for the Friars and chipped in with five goals and four assists.

Stat of the game: Providence is 1-3 in first round games on the road in the NCAA Tournament.

Prize: A trip to the largest collection of Under Armour apparel in the world – aka College Park – for a game against Maryland.

Prediction: Providence 2-1 Penn

North Carolina 8-5-5 vs. South Florida (8-3-9), 7 p.m., watch here

How they got here: South Florida nabbed the automatic berth from the AAC with a penalty kick shootout win over Connecticut in the championship game. North Carolina was awarded an at-large berth after a 4-2-5 record in conference play.

Form: North Carolina is 3-2 in its last five games, and 2-3 in its last five home games. South Florida is undefeated in its last six games with a record of 4-0-2. USF is 1-1-3 its last five road games.

Players to know: The matchup between freshman midfielders Lindo Mfeka (South Florida) and Omar Holness (North Carolina) is the most enticing battle of these two teams. Both players have been consistent this season but neither has shocked the opposition much along the way. They’re both capable of changing the perception in the postseason.

Stat of the game: Out of North Carolina’s 18 games this season, the Tar Heels have scored one goal or less in 15 of those games.

Prize: A weekend getaway to Irvine where the high for the weekend is 65 degrees and partly cloudy - there will also be a game against UC Irvine

Prediction: South Florida 2-1 North Carolina

Coastal Carolina (17-4) vs. East Tennessee State (10-5-4), 7 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Coastal Carolina won the Big South Conference Championship and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. ETSU won the Atlantic Sun Championship and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Form: ETSU is undefeated in its last five games with a record of 4-1, and is 4-1 in its last five road games. Coastal Carolina brings a five-game winning streak to the NCAA Tournament. The Chanticleers have won six in a row at home.

Players to know: Coastal Carolina senior Pedro Ribeiro leads the team in points with 11 goals and six assists on the season. The Brazilian is the key piece of the puzzle for the Coastal attack. Seattle Sounders U23 forward David Geno missed part of the college season due to injury but appears to be back in form for ETSU. He has three goals and four assists during his senior campaign.

Stat of the game: ETSU has taken on a challenging road schedule this season with 11 contests coming away from home. The Bucs’ seven wins on the road rank them sixth in the NCAA Tournament field.

Prize: Did you know Charlotte’s nickname is the Queen City? You can learn more fun facts about Charlotte on Sunday because the victor is heading that way for the next round.

Prediction: Coastal Carolina 3-1 ETSU

Northwestern (10-7-3) vs. Bradley (13-6-2), 8 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Bradley won the Missouri Valley Conference Soccer Championship on Sunday with 1-0 victory over Missouri State. Northwestern was awarded an at-large bid after making it to the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Form: Northwestern is 2-3 in its last five games, and 2-2-1 in its last five home games. Bradley brings a five-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. The Braves are 4-1 in their last five home games.

Players to know: Bradley senior goalkeeper Brian Billings has made 98 saves this season while accumulating a 1.10 goals against average and an .810 save percentage. He has been consistently solid, and often spectacular for the Braves. Northwestern midfielder Chris Ritter is one of the best in the country and fully capable of carrying this team into the next round.

Stat of the game: Seven seniors on Bradley will become the first players in program history to make the NCAA Tournament three times during their careers. That initial class also included Akron star Aodhan Quinn who transferred after his freshman season with the Braves.

Prize: The winner gets a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge! California awaits the victor in the next round.

Prediction: Northwestern 1-1 Bradley (Northwestern wins 4-3 in PKs)

Wisconsin (13-4-2) vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (15-2-2), 8 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Wisconsin-Milwaukee survived a storm and defeated a very good UIC squad to win the Horizon League Tournament and capture the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin was awarded an at-large berth after a 4-2 record in Big Ten play.

Form: Wisconsin is 4-1 in its last five games and has won every game played at home since President Barrack Obama took office.* Milwaukee brings a five-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers are 4-1 in their last five on the road.

Players to know: Milwaukee junior Laurie Bell has played nearly every minute this season for the Panthers. The midfielder has only missed 73 minutes total over 19 games, which is remarkable for a field player. His place on the squad is crucial to the success of the team as he has 13 goals and four assists along with a team-leading 91 shots – he is a high volume shooter. Wisconsin center back AJ Cochran will be one of the players tasked with keeping Bell off the score sheet on Thursday.

Stat of the game: Again, Wisconsin has won a million games in a row at home.*

*Important note: Both are slight exaggerations. Wisconsin has won more games at home than that.

Prize: A chance to meet Harrison Shipp, who might be a real wizard according to Bobby Clark.

Prediction: Wisconsin 3-1 Wisconsin-Milwaukee

VCU (11-7-2) vs. Navy (15-3-2), 7 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Navy won the Patriot League and claimed the automatic berth from the conference. VCU was awarded an at-large bid after a 5-2-1 record in Atlantic 10 play.

Form: VCU is 3-2 in its last five games, and won its last five home games. Navy has won 14 games in a row. Fourteen.

Players to know: Outside back Dennis Castillo is second on VCU in goals this season with six, as the Rams like to attack with numbers and get the defenders involved in the attack with every opportunity. Former U.S. U20 Men’s National Team defender Derek Vogel leads Navy in minutes played with 1828 this season. Vogel is the leader of the Navy defense.

Stat of the game: This is Navy’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1988. It’s the 11th appearance overall for the Midshipmen.

Prize: A trip to the fourth largest city in North Carolina for a game against Wake Forest.

Prediction: Navy 1-0 VCU

Louisville (11-4-3) vs. Denver (13-3-3), 7 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Louisville was awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament after winning the AAC regular season with a 5-1-2 record. Denver won the Summit League Tournament in commanding fashion and clinched the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Form: Louisville is 2-2-1 in its last five games. The Cardinals are 2-1-2 in their last five home games. Denver is unbeaten in its last 14 games. The Pioneers have won eight games in a row.

Players to know: Denver goalkeeper Oliver Brown is returning to his old stomping grounds for this game, as the netminder is originally from Louisville. He will be tasked with stopping a dynamic Cardinals’ attack that features standouts like Marlon Hairston, Ricardo Velazco, and Andrew Brody.

Stat of the game: This is the first meeting between the two programs.

Prize: The opportunity to make a lot of jokes about the movie 300 (no one makes fun of the comic series) when facing the Spartans in the next round.

Prediction: Louisville 2-1 Denver

Old Dominion (10-5-1) vs. Drexel (9-7-4), 6 p.m.

How they got here: Old Dominion was awarded an at-large bid after finishing with a 7-2 record in Conference USA play. Drexel won the CAA Tournament to secure the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Form: Drexel is 2-1-2 in its last five games. The Dragons are 3-2 in their last five road games. Old Dominion is 3-2 in its last five games. The Monarchs are 3-2 in their last five home games.

Players to know: It will be an English battle on the pitch as Old Dominion’s main weapon is senior forward Tim Hopkinson (Nottingham, England). Hopkinson was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year after scoring 10 goals this season. Senior midfielder Nathan Page (Norwich, England) leads Drexel this season with five goals to his credit.

Stat of the game: Drexel has never won an NCAA Tournament game.

Prize: Some sight-seeing at the Smithsonian because Georgetown awaits in the next round.

Prediction: Old Dominion 3-2 Drexel

William & Mary (11-5-2) vs. George Mason (12-2-5), 7 p.m.

How they got here: George Mason won the Atlantic 10 Championship and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. William & Mary was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after compiling a 4-2-1 record in conference play.

Form: William & Mary is 3-1-1 in its last five games. The Tribe have won five in a row at home. George Mason is undefeated in its last 12 games. The Patriots are 4-1 in their last five road games.

Players to know: Mason freshman goalkeeper Steffen Kraus has played every minute this season while accumulating nine shutouts in 19 games. Kraus enters his first NCAA Tournament with a 0.64 goals against average. Sophomore forward Jackson Eskay has been the main target for the Tribe with seven goals to his name.

Stat of the game: As former conference rivals, there is a rich history between these programs and Thursday’s meeting will be the 46th in the series. Mason won the meeting last year 2-0.

Prize: Fans of Breaking Bad can celebrate because a trip to Albuquerque, N.M. is on the agenda.

Prediction: George Mason 1-0 William & Mary

Penn State (11-5-2) vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (12-5-1), 7 p.m.

How they got here: Penn State was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning the regular season crown in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are one of five Big Ten teams to make the 48-team field. St. Francis Brooklyn won the Northeast Conference Championship and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Form: The Terriers are 4-1 in their last five games. They are 3-2 in their last five road games. Penn State is 2-2-1 in its last five games. Penn State is 4-1 in its last five home games.

Players to know: Kevin Correa has been the main weapon for the Terriers this season with 13 goals to his name. The junior forward will be taking on one of the best keepers he has faced this season when he meets Andrew Wolverton on Thursday.

Stat of the game: The last time the Terriers reached the first round of the NCAA Tournament was in 1982.

Prize: Free tortillas! The victor is headed off to Santa Barbara for a game against the Gauchos.

Prediction: Penn State 2-1 St. Francis Brooklyn

Stanford (9-6-3) vs. Loyola Marymount (13-4-2), 10 p.m.

How they got here: Stanford was awarded an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament after finishing fourth in the Pac-12. LMU won the WCC and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Form: Stanford is 2-2-1 in its last five games and 3-1-1 in its last five home games. LMU is 4-1 in its last five games, and 4-1 in its last five road games.

Players to know: Stanford forward Jordan Morris was one of only two freshmen to make the Pac-12 First Team when the conference awards were handed out earlier this week. Morris’ speed and power tend to give the opposing defense trouble. LMU counters with a talented freshman of its own with Adrien Perez who has 10 goals and five assists this season.

Stat of the game: The West Coast Conference has sent its lone representative in the NCAA Tournament to the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.

Prize: The winner gets to stay in California with a trip to Cal State Northridge on the agenda.

Prediction: Stanford 3-2 LMU

Creighton (9-8-2) vs. Seattle (10-8-4), 8 p.m., watch here

How they got here: Creighton was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after finishing 4-4-1 in Big East play. Seattle won the WAC Tournament and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Form: Seattle is undefeated in its last 11 games and 4-0-1 on the road during that spell. Creighton is 2-3 in its last five games. The Jays are 3-1-1 in their last five home games.

Players to know: Brendan Hines-Ike and Ian Hines-Ike are brothers and playing against each other for the first time in college on Thursday. Ian is a redshirt sophomore midfielder for Seattle while Brendan is a sophomore center back for the Jays.

Stat of the game: Excluding College Cup, Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich is 11-0-4 in NCAA Tournament games since 2007. His team won all four-penalty kick shootouts.

Prize: Likely some friendly banter from injured Washington goalkeeper Spencer Richey on Twitter, as the Huskies await the winner.

Prediction: Creighton 2-0 Seattle 

 
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