Photo by Mike Janosz/ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
The remaining field in the NCAA Tournament is down to 16, but that field will be cut in half today after eighth Round of 16 clashes that offer plenty of intrigue and quality match-ups.
All four Pac-12 teams that came into the tournament are still alive, but at least one of them will go home after No. 2 seed Washington takes on Stanford. No. 1 UCLA and No. 4 California are also heavily favored in their Round of 16 match-ups.
The best match of the day? Could take place in South Bend, where Notre Dame play host to Wake Forest in a match-up with plenty of future pros on display.
Georgetown takes on Michigan State in another contest pro scouts are sure to take in. The Hoyas offense and Spartans defense will collide in one of the day’s premier contests.
Here is a rundown of all eight NCAA Tournament Round of 16 matches:
NCAA TOURNAMENT ROUND of 16
(8) Virginia vs. (9) Marquette, 1pm
The Cavaliers come in off an impressive 2-0 victory against St. John’s, and will ride their impressive midfield against a Marquette side that rolls into the match on a three-match winning streak, including a quality victory against Akron in the last round. Virginia’s trio of Jordan Allen, Darius Madison and Eric Bird lead the Cavs attack against a Golden Eagle defense anchored by standout centerback Alex Sjoberg, defensive midfielder Bryan Ciesulka and goalkeeper Charlie Lyon.
(6) Georgetown vs. (11) Michigan State, 1pm
The Hoyas have allowed just one goal in their past six matches, but it is their attack that will be key to beating a tough Spartans squad with a good defense of its own. Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen form one of the best attacking tandems in the nation, but they will find the going tough against a Michigan State side that has allowed just one goal in five. Spartan centerback Kevin Cope is a top MLS Draft prospect while goalkeeper Tyler Miller is one of the best goalkeepers in the nation.
(4) California vs. Coastal Carolina, 4:30pm
The Golden Bears welcomed back senior defender Steve Birnbaum from injury and he responded with a goal in Cal’s second-round win against Bradley. Cal is a different team with Birnbaum in the lineup, and will be favored against a Coastal Carolina side led by star midfielder Pedro Ribeiro. The real match-up to watch will be between Cal’s centerbacks, Birnbaum and Christian Dean, and Coastal Carolina’s forward, Ricky Garbanzo and Sergio Camargo.
(5) Maryland vs. (12) UC-Irvine, 5pm
The Terrapins have the look of a real championship contender, and will be favored against a UC-Irvine side that is riding an eight-match winning streak. Patrick Mullins and Schillo Tshuma lead the Terps attack, while freshman goalkeeper Zac Steffen is a star in the making. The Terps defense, which features Mikey Ambrose, will have its hands full against a UC-Irvine attack featuring Enrique Cardenas and Cameron Iwasa.
(3) Notre Dame vs. (14) Wake Forest, 7pm
The Fighting Irish beat the Demon Deacons, 3-1, in their previous meeting this season, but Wake Forest’s attack has the weaponry to make this a much closer context the second time around. Notre Dame’s attack is led by Harrison Shipp, while midfielder Nick Besler and Patrick Hodan are also key to what the Fighting Irish do. Wake Forest striker Sean Okoli will be a handful for Notre Dame centerback Grant Van De Casteele, while Luca Gimenez will look to create chances for Okoki.
(7) New Mexico vs. Penn State, 7pm
The Lobos rebounded from a Conference USA Tournament drubbing by Tulsa to beat George Mason in their first match of the NCAA Tournament. Junior forward James Rodgers and senior midfielder Michael Calderon lead the New Mexico attack while senior centerback Kyle Venter anchors the defense. Penn State goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton is one of the best netminders in the nation, while forward Jordan Tyler will spearhead the Nittany Lion offense.
(1) UCLA vs. UConn, 8pm
The Bruins are rolling, riding a five-match winning streak that has seen UCLA score multiple goals in each match. Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Leo Stolz, the Bruins are a young team that has really come of age after an inconsistent start to the season. Senior forward Victor Munoz spearheads the attack, while senior Joe Sofia anchors a young defense that faces a tough UConn attack that features freshman sensation Cyle Larin and senior forward Mamadou Diouf. UConn’s Andre Blake is the best goalkeeper in the nation, and his presence alone gives the Huskies a fighting chance.
(2) Washington vs. Stanford, 8pm
The Huskies won both meetings between these Pac-12 rivals this season, by a combined 5-1 scoreline, and while Washington’s physical style has proven too much for the Cardinal to handle during the regular season, Stanford is unbeaten in four matches since the last loss to Washington, and have won some nail-biters. Tough to see the Huskies being stopped though.