The NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament kicks on Thursday with 16 first round games across the U.S. The winners from each game move onto to play again on Sunday against one of the seeded teams in the Second Round.
Keeping with the annual tradition, TopDrawerSoccer predicts every game from the First Round of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament. Feel free to brag about the incorrect predictions in the comments below.
The Blue Hens against the Friars is a sneaky great game from the first round. The Blue Hens did not make a ton of noise this season on the national scale after a rocky campaign. However, Delaware has players with talent who can compete at the elite level in the college game. Providence is hoping to that midfielder Julian Gressel can create enough in the attack to take down the Blue Hens on Thursday. The winner of this game takes on No. 1 Maryland in the next round.
Prediction: Delaware 3-1 Providence
Creighton (11-6-3) vs. Tulsa (10-4-5), 8 p.m.
Creighton started the season with authority, but they went through a rocky patch toward the end of the campaign. A nice run in the Big East tournament has the Jays looking at a home game in the NCAA Tournament first round. Creighton is nearly impossible to beat at home in the postseason, which makes this a hill too high for Tulsa to climb. Tulsa goalkeeper Jake McGuire will need to play a perfect game to pull off the upset. The winner of this game takes on No. 16 Kentucky in the next round.
Prediction: Creighton 1-0 Tulsa
South Florida (10-6-3) vs. Florida Gulf Coast(m) (14-3-2), 7 p.m.
Florida Gulf Coast finished the regular season with the best scoring offense in Division I, averaging 3.05 goals per game. Forward Albert Ruiz leads Division I in total goals with 20 in 18 games. This is a potent attack that is quick to strike. On the other side, FGCU is known for the mental lapses defensively, which allows teams to stay in the game regardless of the score, setting this up to be one of the highest scoring games of the First Round. The winner of this game takes on No. 9 North Carolina in the next round.
Prediction: Florida Gulf Coast 4-3 South Florida
Dartmouth advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season and made it to the second roudn to play against Syracuse. This year is starting to feel vaguely familiar. The winner of this game moves onto face No. 9 Syracuse in the next round. Dartmouth will be counting on the leadership of Wyatt Omsberg and Matt Danilack to lead the quad through this opening round battle.
Prediction: Dartmouth 2-0 St. Francis Brooklyn
The steady growth of the Pacific program over the past three seasons has been remarkable. The Tigers enter the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time this season and face Big West champions Cal State Northridge. The Matadors have struggled on the road this season, but they’ve been strong at home. This should be a close game. The winner of this game takes on No. 5 Stanford in the next round.
Prediction: Pacific 1-1 Cal State Northridge, Pacific wins in PKs.
Vermont earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament from the America East Conference, which ranked third in the RPI standings among leagues at the end of the season. The surprisingly difficult America East should have Vermont prepared for this battle against Rider, which is on a nine-game unbeaten streak heading into Thursday’s game. The winner of this game takes on No. 12 Virginia in the next round.
Prediction: Vermont 2-1 Rider
The Ramblers enjoyed an incredibly successful season, but a loss in their first game of the Missouri Valley Conference Championship left them in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers had a week off between games, which should have the group prepared for this game. The winner of this game takes on No. 13 Notre Dame in the next round.
Prediction: Loyola-Chicago 2-1 UIC
The UCLA Bruins are in the NCAA Tournament, even if there was a point of this season that seemed like a distant dream. The Bruins are one of the most talented teams in Division I. However, the individual talent has rarely come together on the field during this season. The Bruins have looked suspect on the counter and generally lackluster on long throw-ins and set pieces. Colgate might have enough to pull off this upset with senior Ethan Kutler leading the charge. The winner of this game takes on No. 4 Louisville in the next round.
Prediction: UCLA 3-2 Colgate
South Carolina enters the postseason after losing four of their last six games. The sloppy finish to the season leaves the door open for Mercer to pull the upset on Thursday. Mercer’s quality has been in the defense with only three goals conceded from the last five games. The winner of this game takes on No. 3 Clemson in the next round.
Prediction: Mercer 1-0 South Carolina
Boston College needed some lucky breaks in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament over the last couple of weeks. The Eagles now find themselves in the Big Dance with a home game against Fordham. The Rams won the Atlantic 10 Championship to grab the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Rams are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and could be the team to watch in the First Round. The winner of this game takes on No. 14 Albany in the next round.
Prediction: Boston College 1-1 Fordham, Fordham wins in PKs
It’s a battle of conference champions in Albuquerque on Thursday. The Lobos won the Conference USA Tournament with a dominant 3-0 win over FIU in the title game on Sunday. Portland won the WCC for the first time since 2002. The Pilots have been surprising people all season. However, New Mexico is very difficult to beat in Albuquerque. Portland will need strong performances from Benji Michel, Paul Christensen, and Eddie Sanchez to pull off the upset. The winner of this game takes on No. 11 Washington in the next round.
Prediction: Portland 2-1 New Mexico
It should be a fun one in San Diego on Thursday. The Aztecs defense will battle against the talented Daniel Musovski in the NCAA First Round tilt. Musovski is fresh off his WAC Tournament MVP perofrmance and looking to lead the Running Rebels to new heights in the national tournament. The Aztecs are back in the Big Dance and hoping that goalkeeper Adam Allmaras can lead the squad into the Second Round. The winner of this game takes on No. 6 Denver in the next round.
Prediction: San Diego St. 3-1 UNLV
Akron is 9-1-1 at home this season. Villanova was one of the surprising teams to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have the pieces to pull an upset though. Zach Zandi and Miguel Polley will be the ones to watch from the Wildcats on Thursday. The winner of this game takes on No. 7 Indiana in the next round.
Prediction: Akron 2-0 Villanova
Virginia Tech has only won one games in their last six. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the home team in this First Round battle. The Hokies are hoping to reverse the recent failures and defeat ETSU on Thursday. However, the SoCon champions look like the much better team at this stage of the season. If the Buccaneers can survive the physical Virginia Tech style of play, Bo Oshoniyi’s side should be able to pull the upset. The winner of this game takes on No. 10 Charlotte in the next round.
Prediction: ETSU 2-1 Virginia Tech
The Spartans are 9-0-1 at home this season. Michigan State knows how to get results at DeMartin Stadium. SIUE is one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament with an RPI at No. 73. The Cougars won the Missouri Valley Conference to earn a spot at this stage of the season. The Cougars will need to be at their best on Thursday if they want to pull off the upset. The winner of this game takes on No. 15 Butler in the next round.
Prediction: Michigan State 3-1 SIUE
This is the seventh-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina win the Sun Belt regular season and tournament. These two teams met earlier this season with Coastal Carolina coming away with a 2-1 win. The result on Thursday will likely be similar. The winner of this game takes on No. 2 Wake Forest in the next round.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 2-1 Radford