The first round of the NCAA Tournament is in the books and only 32 teams are left competing for the NCAA Division Men’s Soccer Championship. The second round features plenty of engaging storylines. Can Notre Dame defend the crown? Will SIUE’s run live on? And is the #Q49 real?
2014 NCAA Tournament Prediction Record: 11-5
Home team listed first, tournament seed list, all games on Nov. 23, all times ET
How they got here: Notre Dame was awarded an at-large berth and the No. 1 seed after winning the ACC regular season. Ohio State defeated Akron in penalty kicks in the first round.
Series history: Notre Dame leads the all-time history 6-2-1. However, Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark is 0-1 vs. the Buckeyes.
Players to watch: Notre Dame is looking for someone to step up in the attack. Before the season started, it was assumed that Patrick Hodan would be the favorite for that role after his tremendous performance in the College Cup last season. Hodan has been solid, but not quite at the level he showed last December. The Irish need that dynamic, elusive playmaker in this game. Ohio State needs its senior leadership to step up. Coming off an emotional win over Akron in the previous round, the Buckeyes need someone to keep the team from suffering an emotional fall after that high from Thursday night.
Prediction: The turnaround from winning a 15-round penalty kick shootout to playing the Irish on Sunday is a difficult one. Notre Dame is a really sound team that is going to be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State is good, but depth might be a question in this round. Notre Dame wins a close one.
How they got here: Virginia was awarded an at-large bid and the No. 16 seed after finishing in fourth in the ACC Coastal Division. UNC Wilmington defeated Bucknell in the first round.
Series history: Virginia leads the all-time history 1-0 with the lone meeting coming in 1984.
Players to watch: UNC Wilmington dominated its first round game and goalkeeper Sean Melvin only had to make one save on the way to his fifth shutout of the season. That is likely going to chance on Sunday. Melvin will be called on a few more times against the talented Cavaliers attack. There are a few players that could make a huge difference for Virginia. Darius Madison is capable of being one of the best attacking players in college soccer when he is on his game. Freshman midfielder Jake Rozhansky has shown moments of brilliance in his debut season. The Cavaliers need one of them to step up on Sunday.
Prediction: UNC Wilmington was impressive in the previous round against a good Bucknell side. The Seahawks have quality all over the field. Shockingly, the CAA squad is a ridiculous 7-0-1 on the road this season. Virginia’s recent form of one win from four games is concerning. Riding the hot hand, UNCW pulls the upset here in overtime.
How they got here: Syracuse was awarded an at-large bid and the No. 9 seed after compiling a 5-2-1 record in the ACC. Penn State defeated Hartwick 2-1 in the first round.
Series history: Penn State leads the all-time series 30-2-4 with Syracuse winning the last meeting 4-0 in 2007.
Players to watch: Syracuse goalkeeper Alex Bono is the star of the program. Bono is in the history books for a number of program records and in the conversation to be become Syracuse’s first NSCAA All-American since 1992. If Syracuse plays to its potential, Bono won’t have much to do on Sunday. Penn State forward Connor Maloney is hoping that’s not the case. The sophomore couldn’t break out of his slump in the previous round but he was the most active member of the Nittany Lions’ attack with five shots in 90 minutes.
Prediction: Syracuse has only lost three times this season and two of those losses were against Louisville. This is a very good team that is difficult to play against. Syracuse wins at home 2-1.
How they got here: Georgetown was awarded an at-large bid and the No. 8 seed after finishing 6-2-1 in Big East play. Old Dominion won its first round game 3-0 over Saint Francis Brooklyn.
Series history: Old Dominion leads the all-time series 3-2, but the Hoyas won the last meeting 3-0 in 2013.
Players to watch: Sidney Rivera continues to terrorize defenses. The senior forward scored twice in Old Dominion’s 3-0 win in the first round. He has nine goals this season. Georgetown will try to slow him down with star center back Joshua Yaro. The Cate School graduate is a highly sought after prospect for MLS, but just one of many key pieces to the success of the Hoyas. Georgetown will need the midfield clicking on Sunday and that might come down to freshman Arun Basuljevic to pull the strings against the red-hot Monarchs.
Prediction: This game really comes down to the midfield battle. Hoyas need to control the pace of the game and keep the Monarchs off balance defensively. The Monarchs are just looking for that one mistake so they can slip in Rivera and let him run at the defense. There is so much confidence in this Old Dominion squad right now. It’s a completely different team from early in the season. Old Dominion pulls off the first big upset of the tournament.
No. 5 Indiana (12-4-5) vs. Xavier (14-5-2), 1 p.m., Big Ten Network
How they got here: Indiana was awarded an at-large bid and the No. 5 seed after finishing as the Big Ten Tournament runner-up. Xavier beat Monmouth 2-1 in overtime in the first round.
Series history: Indiana leads the all-time series 1-0 with the lone meeting in 2012.
Players to watch: Indiana senior Jamie Vollmer is tied for the team-lead in assists with five thanks to the most dangerous weapon in college soccer, the long throw. It is the most difficult element of the game to prepare for in a short window. Xavier needs to be cautious on conceding possession of the ball especially in the defensive third where Vollmer and the Hoosiers attack can really punish teams. Xavier freshman Matt Vasquenza provided two assists in the first round victory and will need to continue his hot streak on Sunday to keep the Musketeers’ dream alive. Vasquenza is a crafty forward and will need to use his wits to fool the Hoosiers defense in this meeting.
Prediction: Indiana is a shocking 4-3-3 at home with two losses in its last three home games. However, the #Q49 lives on and the Hoosiers win 3-1.
How they got here: Creighton was awarded an at-large bid and the No. 12 seed after finishing the season at No. 9 in the RPI. Oregon State defeated Denver 1-0 in the first round.
Series history: Creighton leads the all-time series 1-0-1.
Players to watch: Oregon State senior and Pac-12 Player of the Year Khiry Shelton provided the assist on the lone goal on Thursday in the Beavers’ 1-0 win over Denver in the first round. Shelton leads his squad into Omaha with another dragon to slay. Creighton is 10-2 at home this season thanks to the German duo. Timo Pitters and Fabian Herbers have combined for 15 goals and 14 assists this season. Herbers is lethal on the set piece, which make him one of the most valuable players in college soccer.
Prediction: Oregon State is an exciting team with so much potential, but Elmar Bolowich is a wizard and his team will not lose at home. Creighton wins 2-1 in overtime.
How they got here: Louisville was awarded the No. 13 seed and an at-large bid after coming within seconds of winning the ACC Championship. Saint Louis defeated Tulsa 2-0 in the first round.
Series history: Saint Louis leads the all-time series 13-2 with the Billikens winning 1-0 earlier this season.
Players to watch: Louisville junior midfielder Ben Strong had a good showing during the ACC Championship run. In the title game, Strong saw a lot of the ball, but he was somewhat wasteful with some of the chances in that game against Clemson. If Strong is sharp on the ball and clever with his distribution to Andrew Brody and Ricardo Velazco, Louisville is a difficult team for anyone in the country to stop. Saint Louis will be counting on Anthony Manning and Sascha Otte to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard.
Prediction: There is a lot to say about why Louisville will win this game and the quality that is on that roster. However, it is too hard to look past the collapse at the end of the ACC Championship. Saint Louis takes this one 1-0.
How they got here: Maryland won the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament to earn the automatic bid and the No. 4 seed. UMBC defeated Wake Forest in penalty kicks in the first round.
Series history: Maryland leads the all-time series 14-2-3 with the teams playing to a 0-0 draw earlier this season at College Park.
Players to watch: Maryland goalkeeper Zack Steffen was tremendous during the run to the Big Ten Championship. He made the key saves in the penalty kicks in the semifinal round against Michigan State and then came up just as big in the title game against Indiana with an early block against Andrew Oliver. The Terps don’t give up many chances, but Steffen has been there to make the save when he is called upon. UMBC is hoping Kay Banjo can turn one of his efforts into a goal on Sunday and ride out the result with a strong defense. Banjo had six shots on Thursday with three on frame, but could not Alec Ferrell on the day.
Prediction: Maryland is playing at a ridiculously high level right now. The Terps are going to dominate the ball and chances in this game. Maryland wins 2-0.
How they got here: Michigan State finished the season in the top five in the RPI and was awarded the No. 3 seed and an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Oakland defeated Kentucky 2-0 in the first round.
Series history: Oakland leads the all-time series 21-9-3 with the Grizzlies winning 2-0 earlier this season.
Players to watch: Michigan State midfielder Jay Chapman is the type of player who can take over a game and lead the Spartans through the early stages of the NCAA Tournament. Chapman has had his ups and downs this season, but he has quality and was recognized as the midfielder of the year in the conference. The NCAA Tournament might be his last hurrah with interest in his services at the next level growing with each game. Oakland did a really good job of stopping Chapman and the rest of the Spartans attack in the first meeting this season. Goalkeeper Wes Mink only had to make three saves in that outing.
Prediction: Oakland is the tempting underdog in this round. The Grizzlies already beat the Spartans once this season and head coach Eric Pogue has a group of players willing to run through a wall for him. The Spartans just look a little bit better and the extra rest will come in handy. Michigan State wins 1-0 in overtime.
How they got here: Washington was awarded an at-large bid and the No. 14 seed after finishing third in the Pac-12. Furman defeated UAB in penalty kicks in the first round.
Series history: Washington leads the all-time series 2-0 with the last win in 2008.
Players to watch: Washington midfielder Cristian Roldan is one of the hottest names in the MLS draft conversation. There is a growing buzz about the former Gatorade Player of the Year. Roldan’s season has not been up to his own high expectations, but there is potential for the Huskies to reshape the narrative over the next few weeks. Roldan can dominate this game from the center of the field and pick apart the Furman defense. The Huskies should try to get the midfield maestro the ball at every opportunity. Furman asked Sven Lissek to be good in the previous round and he was great with two penalty kick saves. The same is going to be true on Sunday. Lissek will need to be exceptional to keep Furman’s season alive.
Prediction: Washington played well to start the season and then struggled through a large section of conference play. Beyond results, it was the style of play and intensity that did not look like a typical Jamie Clark side. The Huskies have the pieces to return to that quality they showed in September. Washington wins 2-1.
How they got here: Providence was awarded the No. 11 seed after winning the Big East Championship to earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Dartmouth defeated Fordham 2-0 in the first round.
Series history: Dartmouth leads the all-time series 11-3-1.
Players to watch: Dartmouth senior forward Alex Adelabu did what was asked of him and provided a goal and an assist in the first round victory. The unexpected piece was freshman midfielder Matt Danilack stepping up with a pair of assists against Fordham. Danilack, a product of Bethesda-Olney, is a very smart player. He has a tendency to keep it simple, but that’s all Dartmouth asks of him at this point. There are a lot of pieces to the Providence team that are key to the program’s success. Keasel Broome in goal and Brandon Adler at defense make it difficult for anyone to score.
Prediction: This has all the makings of a low-scoring affair with the slimmest of margins separating the teams. Dartmouth sneaks out of Rhode Island with a 1-0 win in overtime.
How they got here: Stanford won the Pac-12 for the automatic berth and was awarded the No. 6 seed. UC Irvine defeated UNLV 3-0 in the first round.
Series history: Stanford is 8-0 all-time against UC Irvine with the latest win in 2012.
Players to watch: The obvious choice in this category is Jordan Morris who is fresh of his debut with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Morris is the headline grabber, but he is not the facilitator. Stanford is built to thrive with Morris, but the Cardinal has done just as well when he has been busy with the national team. Zach Batteer, Corey Baird, Eric Verso, Brandon Vincent, and the rest of the squad are parts that compliment each other. UC Irvine’s Cameron Iwasa netted two goals in the previous round, which pushed his season point total to 17. Iwasa is the hot foot on the team, but the Anteaters have plenty of options in the attack and can get rolling in a hurry.
Prediction: Stanford’s style of play is built for the knockout rounds of tournaments. The Cardinal is very organized and can expose the one weakness of a team. Stanford wins 2-1.
How they got here: Clemson won the ACC Championship and earned the No. 7 seed for the tourney. Coastal Carolina defeated Florida Gulf Coast(m) 1-0.
Series history: Clemson leads the all-time series 6-2-1.
Players to watch: Clemson plays some of its best soccer when it’s backs against the wall and the outside defenders go flying into the attack. Senior Amadou Dia is an interesting name for MLS scouts and coaches, but he is also an important piece to Clemson’s tournament dreams. Coastal Carolina is a sound team and Clemson is going to have to get creative to find zones with attacking numbers. Dia offers that with his pace on the wing. Coastal Carolina goalkeeper Devin Cook-Perales is likely going to see more action than he did in the last round when he only made one save.
Prediction: Clemson should be the heavy favorite here, but Coastal is normally really good in the tournament especially in the early rounds. Clemson survives a scare with an overtime win.
How they got here: Charlotte enjoyed a stellar regular season and was award an at-large bid and the No. 10 seed in the tournament. North Carolina destroyed James Madison 6-0.
Series history: North Carolina leads the all-time series 15-3.
Players to watch: Andy Craven dropped the proverbial hammer on Thursday with a hat trick in the first round against James Madison. Craven benefitted from some great service, but it was also a great moment for the senior to show that he can be the lethal finisher that this team needs in the postseason. Charlotte, probably, never felt comfortable with how the seeding played out and should feel even more slighted at this point. The 49ers are good, but they are going to be to punch with the heavyweights to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Connor Agnew is the key for Charlotte to keep pace with North Carolina. Agnew can be a terror for any outside back and he can create plenty of chances when he has the ball on his feet.
Prediction: It didn’t feel like the Tar Heels reached their potential during the regular season. On Thursday, they scratched the surface. Using that confidence as the fuel, Tar Heels beat Charlotte 3-1.
How they got here: California finished fourth in the Pac-12 and was awarded the No. 15 seed. SIUE defeated Northwestern 1-0 in the first round.
Series history: California leads the all-time series 2-0 following a 2-1 win earlier this season.
Players to watch: California center back Trevor Haberkorn is the piece of the puzzle that needs to fit for the Golden Bears to be successful in the tournament. The Golden Bears defense has let in 10 goals in their last three games. That will not get the job done against the type of oppontents coming up including this lively SIUE side. Haberkorn has international experience and can lead this backline to put together a solid 90-minute effort. SIUE enjoyed an amazing performance from Kyle Dal Santo in the previous round. The redshirt freshman goalie made his career debut against Northwestern. He recorded eight saves on his way to collecting the shutout victory.
Prediction: SIUE’s run is a great story, but California should be well prepared to handle everything the Cougars throw at them on Sunday. California wins 3-2.
How they got here: UCLA finished second in the Pac-12, but first in the RPI and was awarded an at-large bid to the tournament and the No. 2 seed. San Diego defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in overtime in the first round.
Series history: UCLA leads the all-time series 22-7-4, but San Diego won the meeting earlier this season 1-0.
Players to watch: San Diego lost junior Keegan Smith for this game due to a red card toward the end of the victory against Fullerton on Thursday. Smith is the engine of San Diego and will be difficult for the WCC Champions to replace. UCLA still needs to be mindful of the San Diego attack. However, the Bruins bigger problem was breaking down the San Diego defense and keeping possession of the ball in the earlier meeting. UCLA only managed one shot on goal in that game. The Bruins will be looking at the star-studded roster to offer a bit more creativity and decisiveness in the attacking third this time around.
Prediction: San Diego has kept it close against the Bruins in the past two meetings and will do it again on Sunday. However, the Bruins advance to the next round with a 2-1 win.