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Men’s Weekend Preview: Crucial ACC clashes

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: October 11, 2018

Friday, October 12

No. 12 Connecticut (7-2-1, 2-0-1) at UCF (8-2-1, 2-1), 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

While the ACC has several big matches this weekend, the American Athletic Conference gets national TV treatment with UConn flying to Florida. It features one of the nation’s top scorers, as UCF’s Cal Jennings is second only to Andre Shinyashiki in goals this season with 14. The Huskies have firepower of their own, as Abdou Mbacke Thiam’s eight leads UConn. They’ve also been pretty solid defensively, with Jacob Hauser-Ramsey and Dylan Greenberg experienced, veteran leaders at the back. Whichever side emerges victorious in this one will have the inside track on the AAC regular season title.

Prediction: UCF 2-1 Connecticut

No. 5 North Carolina (9-1-1, 4-0) at No. 23 NC State (7-3-2, 1-3-1), 7 p.m. (ACC Digital Network)

ACC rivals take the field in Raleigh, with the Tar Heels quietly marching through another quality season. Defense is a big reason why North Carolina is so hard to beat, conceding just five goals from 11 games this season – fourth best in the country. The team doesn’t overwhelm going forward, though tends to get enough offense from the likes of Mauricio Pineda, Nils Bruening or Giovanni Montesdeoca. The Wolfpack are sure to be chomping at the bit to win on home turf, as it would solidify their RPI and chances of an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. Manny Perez and David Loera continue to set things up in front of goal, combining for 11 assists. Finishing has been the issue at times, as NC State lacks that go-to striker; perhaps freshman AJ Allen Seals can fill that role after returning from injury two weeks ago. Regardless, this should be a tight, frenetic affair.

Prediction: NC State 0-0 North Carolina

No. 8 Notre Dame (7-3-1, 3-1) at No. 15 Duke, 7 p.m. (7-3-1, 2-2) (ACC Digital Network)

A young Duke team welcomes the Fighting Irish to Durham, with the visitors now surging under new head coach Chad Riley. Notre Dame has spun off four straight wins and are evolving into a well-balanced team featuring several juniors and seniors. Duke’s chances of pulling off the win could boil down to Issa Rayyan’s ability to wreak havoc on the flank. Few teams have shown that they can slow down the freshman from Philadelphia Union’s Academy, as he’s a danger on the ball. Forward Daniele Proch supplies the finish, while Brandon Williamson locks down the central midfield (when healthy). Rayyan is likely to face senior Felicien Dumas, and it’s a matchup that could determine the winning side.

Prediction: Notre Dame 2-2 Duke

Maryland (4-4-3, 2-2) at No. 4 Indiana (10-2, 4-0), 7:30 p.m. (BTN Plus)

This clash may not have the luster of a Top 10 tilt as it’s had in the past, although Indiana is sure to face a big test when the Terps arrive in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are running away with the Big Ten regular season crown, with four matches left in league play including this match on Friday night. IU has the look of a genuine national title contender, boasting a solid defense and an attack that can threaten through several different players – whether it’s Griffin Dorsey, Justin Rennicks or just about anyone on a set piece. For Maryland, a lack of goals has been the issue. Juniors Dayne St. Clair and Donovan Pines offer up a good enough defense, but the Terps have scored only nine goals this year. Sitting at a 4-4-3 record and IU and Denver on the horizon, Maryland has a good enough RPI, but needs to secure a .500 finish to make it into the tournament. Getting wins is paramount at this point, although this is going to be a tough test.

Prediction: Indiana 1-0 Maryland

Saturday, October 13

Princeton (6-4-1, 1-0-1) at Columbia (5-3-1, 2-0), 1 p.m. (ESPN+)

A mid-day match in Manhattan should go a long way in determining the Ivy League champion. With Cornell enjoying a stellar 2018 campaign, Columbia needs a win here to keep the pressure on, while the Tigers search for the full points looking to maintain pace with the leaders. Both teams rely on stingy defenses and less than prolific attacks; senior Jeremy Colvin tops the Tigers with three goals, while Kynan Rocks leads the Lions with the same number. There likely won’t be a lot of goals in this one, as the two teams seek the timely winner.

Prediction: Columbia 1-0 Princeton

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