NCAA tournament: Round of 16 Preview

NCAA tournament: Round of 16 Preview

College Soccer

NCAA tournament: Round of 16 Preview

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Despite all the overtimes, penalty kicks and late winners that came out of last Sunday's round of 32, precious little was found in the way of upsets. 13 of the 16 seeded teams advanced into the third round, setting up several matchups between national powerhouses and exciting prospects.

The game of the weekend is undoubtedly No. 14 Indiana traveling to No. 3 Akron in a matchup chock full of professional prospects. Indiana surprised many by earning a first-round bye despite a seven-loss regular season but an emphatic 5-1 blowout of Tulsa showed that the Hoosiers are legitimate threats to the Zips.

Junior forward Will Bruin has been one of the most threatening offensive weapons in the country this season, knocking in 18 goals which includes a double last week. With the rest of the Hoosier offense contributing only 15 goals between them, Bruin's form is vital to their success.

Akron is a team chock full of professional talent that, save for one notable example, has been untouchable this season. Darren Mattocks is playing well beyond his age as the freshman striker has scored 17 goals this season. Most of the Zips success can be contributed to the Zips midfield which is led by Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen.

The only cause for concern for coach Caleb Porter is that Akron's defense, which started out the season with six-consecutive shutouts, has kept a clean sheet only once in its last four games. It should be an offensive affair at Lee R. Jackson field on Sunday.

No. 2 Maryland will try and stop Corey Hertzog No. 15 Penn State when the two teams clash in College Park. Goalkeeper Zac MacMath and the Terrapin defense are riding a stellar run of form, allowing only one goal in the month of November. The front line, which is led by Matt Kassel, Jason Herrick and Casey Townsend, is averaging almost three goals a game this season. That offensive prowess was on full display in Maryland's 4-0 first-round rout of Penn.

Penn State is a team that has struggled with consistency all season. The Nittany Lions' offense has been firing in the goals, posting 45 this season. Corey Hertzog's 20 goals leads the nation thanks in large part to Matheus Braga's 17 assists. Where Penn State must improve to stand a chance is in the back. The goalkeeping tandem of Warren Gross and Brendan Birmingham has allowed 29 goals this season. 

Top-ranked Louisville welcomes No. 16 Ohio State as the Cardinals try to remain the lone undefeated team in Division 1. Louisville needed two goals in the final 10 minutes to dispatch College of Charleston in the second round but winning close games has been a theme for the top-seed this season, winning 10 of its 17 games by a single goal. The Cardinals defense has been steady all season, allowing only 12 goals, but the lack of a true striker could undo their title run.

Ohio State benefited from the selection committee's favorable view of the Big 10 and earned a first-round bye. A narrow 2-1 victory over Providence was the first time the Buckeyes allowed a goal in four games. Ohio State must have a steady night in the back to make up for an offense that is averaging barely a goal per game and who's leading scorer, Konrad Waryzcha, has only seven goals.

No. 10 Michigan takes its seven-game unbeaten streak south to take on No. 7 South Carolina. The Wolverines have burst on to the national stage following an improbable run to the Big 10 championship and the almost unbelievable form of Soony Saad, who leads all freshman with 18 goals this season. During its seven-game unbeaten streak Michigan has outscored its opponents 21-7 but needed overtime to dispatch Central Florida in the second round.

South Carolina is coming off an overtime victory of its own, a 1-0 thriller over Duke. The Gamecocks have shown a penchant for winning close games this season with all but one of its victories coming by a single goal, including all three wins en route to a Conference USA championship.

No. 8 UCLA welcomes a Dartmouth squad fresh off upsetting No. 9 Notre Dame. Victory Chavez leads a Bruin offense which is scoring more than twice as many goals after the intermission. UCLA barely missed out on the PAC-10 championship but are riding a five-game winning streak and have scored at least three goals in its past three games.

Dartmouth has started out its NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 dismantling of highly-touted Monmouth before an overtime victory over Dillon Powers and the Irish. Dartmouth has developed a reputation for slow starts and dominating second halves. Its goal ratio is minus four in the first half and plus 13 in the second. 12 players have scored for the Ivy League school this season but Andrew Olson is the top scorer with only six goals. It will also be interesting to see how a west-coast trip will affect Dartmouth.

No. 4 North Carolina takes on Michigan State who ended Butler's undefeated season in the second round. The Spartans were lucky to get an at-large bid after finishing the season 0-4-1 but have taken advantage of the opportunity with wins over Oakland and Butler. Domenic Barone leads Michigan State with 10 goals while Brent Rosendall has contributed eight. The Spartans will have to be careful in the back in the second half, when they have conceded 18 goals.

The Tar Heels rebounded from their ACC final defeat to Maryland with a nervy penalty-kick victory over Georgetown. Goalkeeper Scott Goodwin came up huge for UNC on several occasions while the Tar Heel offense struggled to break through. UNC is now scoreless in 206 minutes and will need standouts Enzo Martinez, Michael Farfan and Kirk Urso to step up in order to regain its form.

Two of the surprise success stories from the 2010 season are set to square off when No. 5 Southern Methodist welcomes No. 12 William & Mary. SMU barely survived a penalty-kick challenge from a Creighton side who were one of the top unseeded teams in the tournament. The Mustangs had their six-game winning streak snapped in the Conference USA tournament and Juan Castillo and Arthur Ivo, who lead the team with 19 goals between them, will look to make up for a defense that allows 1.17 goals per game.

William & Mary survived a penalty-kick shootout of its own against UMBC. The Tribe have yet to beat any of the teams featured in this year's NCAA tournament in regulation and will need to find some consistency against the top teams. Alan Kroger leads the Tribe with 10 goals while Andrew McAdams anchors the defense with a .830 save average.

Another Ivy League school faces a difficult cross-country trip when Brown travels to take on PAC-10 champions No. 6 California in a matchup of the Bear mascots. The Golden Bears of Cal are unbeaten in their last six games, with five of those games going to overtime. Davis Paul's eight goals and 13 assists leads an offense that is averaging more than two goals per game while the defense has only conceded 12 goals in regulation all season.

The Bears of Brown upset No. 11 UConn with a 7-6 PK victory last Sunday. Brown's defense is allowing a mere 0.53 goals per game but lack a true goal scoring threat. Victories over South Carolina and Indiana show that the Bears can measure up outside of the Ivy League.

Here is the full schedule of Round of 16 matches:

(All games Sunday)

Michigan at South Carolina, 2:00
Michigan State at North Carolina, 3:00
Indiana at Akron, 4:00
Brown at California, 4:30
Penn State at Maryland, 5:00
Ohio State at Louisville, 7:00
William & Mary at Southern Methodist, 8:00
Dartmouth at UCLA, 8:00 


What do you think of this weekend's matchups? Who do you expect to advance to the quarterfinals? Excited to see Indiana take on Akron? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 


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