NCAA Tournament second round preview

NCAA Tournament second round preview

College Soccer

NCAA Tournament second round preview

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By JOHN BOSCHINI

Sixteen teams down, 16 to go.

Wednesday saw the near shocking dismissals of ACC powerhouses Virginia and Boston College, recent upstart Monmouth, and red-hot Princeton. On Sunday, the second round of the NCAA tournament kicks off and the survivors of an unpredictable first round call the tournament favorites into action as the field is whittled down to the final 16.

Top-seeded Louisville puts its undefeated record on the line as the Cardinals take on College of Charleston at Cardinal Park. The Cougars are coming off a 3-2 thriller with East Tennessee State but their defense will have to improve against a Louisville offense that is averaging nearly two goals a game.

Providence, coming off a six-goal performance, goes up against a 16th-ranked Ohio side that has struggled offensively but is riding a four-game winning streak. The Friars have not been beaten since Oct. 13, save for a penalty kick shootout loss to Louisville in the Big East championship.

Dillon Powers and No. 8 Notre Dame play host to a Dartmouth side fresh off a 4-0 demolition of Monmouth. The Irish looked to be on the outside of the NCAA picture looking in about a month ago but a string of good results pushed Bobby Clark's men into a seeded position. Dartmouth will rely on a balanced striking force in the absence of a go-to striker in order to make up for a defense that has allowed 21 goals this season.

No. 9 UCLA, which earned its 28th-straight NCAA tournament bid, take on Sacramento State. Freshman Kelyn Rowe has accumulated 20 points over the course of the season to lead the young Bruin attack. The Hornets need Christ Battencourt, who has scored 11 goals, to step up in order to pull of the upset.

No. 5 Southern Methodist take the first step towards staking a claim in Santa Barbara with a matchup with Creighton. The Blue Jays enjoyed a top-10 ranking throughout most of 2010 but a late-season dip in form combined with a low RPI ranking dropped Creighton down the charts. The Mustangs had their six-game winning streak snapped by South Carolina in the Conference USA tournament and the big question is how nine days of rest will affect them.

No. 12 William & Mary take on a UMBC side who pulled one of the major upsets in the first round, defeating Princeton 2-1. William & Mary have 15 wins on the season but are 1-3 against teams who made the NCAA tournament. UMBC are on seven-game unbeaten streak but will have to shore up a defense that is allowing 1.32 goals per game.

No. 13 Butler will try and show its unbeaten record deserved a higher seed when the Bulldogs welcome Michigan State, who were hardly tested against lowly Oakland. The Spartans came into the tournament in desperate need of a turnaround, losing four of their final five games. Butler's Bill Sippolla will be the catalyst for Butler's attack against a defense that started off the season well but had not posted a shutout, aside from against Oakland, since Oct. 17.

Georgetown will make a southern road trip to take on No. 4 North Carolina. UNC is coming off a controversial 1-0 loss to Maryland in the ACC final. Senior Michael Farfan returns after his red card to lead the deep Tar Heel offense. Georgetown's Steve Neumann will try and break down a Heels' defense that has allowed more than one goal only once this season.

No. 3 Akron open its NCAA tournament against a West Virginia team that sneaked into the tournament despite losing seven times. Akron's offense has been prolific this season, averaging 2.65 goals per game with Darren Mattock's leading the Zips with 15 goals. The Mountaineers showed some fight by coming down from a 2-0 deficit in their first-round matchup with Xavier but will have a hard time if they go down early against Akron.

It was surprising to see 9-7-2 Indiana earn a first round bye but the No. 14 Hoosiers face Tulsa in a showdown between two teams who have struggled to find consistency this season. Indiana will need to score goals if they are to advance deep into the tournament will rely on Will Bruin's 16 goals to provide a scoring threat. Tulsa, who rose to as high as second this season, slid rapidly down the table in the later part of the season, losing six of its final 12 games.

No. 11 Connecticut faces off against Brown in what is shaping up to be a defensive affair. The Huskies' back line has allowed only six goals so far this season while Brown's defense has only been broken down nine times. Tony Cascio leads UCONN's offense with 10 goals while Carlos Alvarez has distributed 14 assists this season.

UC-Santa Barbara will try to keep its slim hopes of playing in the College Cup on its home field when they travel to take on the Pac-10 champions, No. 6 California. Both the Golden Bears and the Gauchos are riding four-game winning streaks. UCSB, who are led by Sam Garza, will have to overcome its road difficulties, winning only two games away from home all year.

No. 7 South Carolina will try and ride its Conference USA championship with a second-round matchup with Duke. The Gamecocks have developed a reputation for winning close games, with 11 of their 12 victories coming via a single goal. Duke will rely on Ryan Finley, who is one of the nations top scorers with 17 goals, if the Blue Devils are to pull off an upset.

No. 10 Michigan are on of the hottest teams in the country with a Big 10 championship. The Wolverines put their six-game winning streak on the line against Central Florida, who dispatched South Florida 3-0 in the first round. Soony Saad leads the nation with 18 goals and is the key to Michigan's resurgence.

No. 15 Penn State could be in trouble in a matchup against an Old Dominion side that has shown it can pull off some surprising upsets. Corey Hertzog's 17 goals lead a Nittany Lions' offense that has scored twice as many goals after halftime as before the break. Old Dominion knocked off defending-champion Virginia in the first round and the Monarch's upset North Carolina in September.

No. 2 Maryland begins its title quest with a first-round matchup against Pennsylvania. The Terrapins' defense is led by U.S. U-20 goalkeeper Zac Macmath while Patrick Mullins, one of the nations top freshman, is coming off the bench. Pennsylvania's 0.65 goals against average will be put to the test against a Maryland offense that is averaging nearly 2.70 goals per game.

NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Sunday

Providence at No. 16 Ohio State, 1:00
Brown at No. 11 Connecticut, 1:00
Michigan State at No. 13 Butler, 1:00
Old Dominion at No. 15 Penn State, 2:00
UCF at No. 10 Michigan, 2:00
Duke at No. 7 South Carolina, 2:00
West Virginia at No. 3 Akron, 4:00
UC-Santa Barbara at No. 6 California, 4:30
UMBC at No. 12 William & Mary, 5:00
Penn at No. 2 Maryland, 5:00
Georgetown at No. 4 North Carolina, 6:00
Dartmouth at No. 9 Notre Dame, 6:00
Tulsa at No. 14 Indiana, 6:00
College of Charleston at No. 1 Louisville, 7:00
Sacramento St. at No. 8 UCLA, 8:00
Creigton at No. 5 Southern Methodist, 8:00

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What do you think of the second-round matchups? Anticipating any of the top teams going home early? Can Indiana justify its high seed? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

 

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