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Creighton and Indiana score upsets to secure spots in NCAA Elite Eight

Photo by Creighton Athletics

Creighton and Indiana went into their Sunday NCAA Round of 16 matches as considerable underdogs against higher seeds, but both teams delivered upsets that have shaken up the NCAA Tournament.

Creighton eliminated Akron in penalty kicks while Indiana rode an overtime game-winner from Eriq Zavaleta to eliminate No. 1 seed Notre Dame and book the Hoosiers a place in the Elite Eight.

Indiana will take on North Carolina, which avoided being FDU’s latest upset victim when Cameron Brown scored an overtime winner to secure a 1-0 victory and send the defending champions to the Elite Eight.

Creighton survived an onslaught from Akron’s high-powered offense, with freshman goalkeeper Jeff Gal making a plethora of outstanding saves to keep Creighton in the game. Fellow freshman Timo Pitter nailed an 83rd-minute equalizer to keep the Blue Jays alive. Akron looked like they had the game won just 30 seconds into overtime when Creighton was called for a penalty, but Gal saved Scott Caldwell’s PK attempt.

The Blue Jays won the penalty shootout by converting all five penalties, with Pitter converting the clincher.

In other NCAA Tournament Round of 16 action:

Maryland avoided the upset bug in a big way, riding a Sunny Jane brace to a 5-1 thrashing of Coastal Carolina. The Terps will next face Louisville, which reached the Elite Eight on the strength of their late 2-1 win against Northwestern. Dylan Mares set up the winner in the 85th minute when he fired a shot at goal that ricocheted off a Northwestern defender, into the net.

The biggest remaining underdog in the tournament is San Diego, which eliminated a second straight seeded opponent by knocking off No. 11 seed Tulsa, 2-1. Sophomore Connor Brandt delivered the game-winning goal for the unseeded Toreros. San Diego will now face Georgetown, which beat Syracuse in penalty kicks to reach the Final Eight.

UConn was one of several team to pull off second-half comebacks, erasing a 1-0 deficit to defeat New Mexico, 2-1, in overtime. Freshman Nicholas Zuniga scored the overtime game-winner, his first college goal, to move the Huskies into an Elite Eight showdown vs. Creighton.

Here is a rundown of the Elite Eight schedule, which will take place next weekend:

Friday– (9) North Carolina vs. (16) Indiana, 6pm

Saturday– (3) Georgetown vs. San Diego, 1pm

Saturday– (2) Maryland vs. (10) Louisville, 5pm

Sunday– (4) Connecticut vs. (12) Creighton, 1pm


What did you think of Sunday’s NCAA Tournament action? Which team impressed you the most? Which players caught your eye as quality pro prospects?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I am a Creighton fan and season ticket holder. I watched both CU-Akron games this year. Akron is clearly the better team and are the best college soccer team I have seen this year. They didn’t win in Omaha because their winning goal was disallowed by a bad offsides call. Akron was even more dominant yesterday but couldn’t finish as CU goal keeper Gall played the game of his life and all the breaks went Creighton’s way. What is puzzeling to me is why CU coach Bolowich replaced Gall for the shootout with his son in goal. Gall had just stopped a PK in OT yet he gets replaced. Fortunately for CU the 3rd PK by Akron was not on goal. CU was lucky yesterday but we know how Akron fans feel as last year we dominated Charlotte in the National Semifinal but lost on PKs.

  2. What happened to “the best conference in the country”, The Big East? Again, it’s the ACC, hands down, EVERY YEAR. End of conversation.

  3. One of the interesting ones to me is Louisville. Last year they produced Austin Berry and Nick DeLeon (as well as Dynamo draft pick Colin Rolfe and LA benchwarmer Kenney Walker).

  4. Wow! Only the upset of Notre Dame kept the Big East from having 4 teams in the final eight. I’m not particularly a fan, but that is impressive.

  5. I’ve been saying it all year. Creighton is a top 10 team. They weren’t even in the top 25 at the start of the season and they knock off Akron and are now into the Elite 8. Go Jays!

  6. So Caleb Porter finishes his college career with one championship. And his YNT career with an embarrassing bombing out not even in the crucial round of Olympic qualifiers, at home. Not so impressive… Good recruiting work, sure, but like with college coaches who make the jump to the professional ranks in other American sports, that doesn’t translate over.

    • Perhaps we should let him try first… I mean Larry Brown only had one championship when he made the jump. Bruce Arena is clearly a case study in failure to “translate” to the professional ranks. Herb Brooks’ collegiate coaching experience obviously didn’t help him at the Olympics.

      Championships can certainly be a good metric for quality coaching/managing, but the reverse is not also true. The sporting world is littered with high quality coaches that don’t have a case full of trophies.

      • I’m confused. Arena won NCAA titles from 91-94 at UVa. Moved to DC in 96 and won the 96 MLS and USOC titles, 97 MLS, 98 Concacaf and Interamerican, coached the 02 USMNT (although also the 06), started the turnaround at NY, and then went to LA and got that team to a title by 11. How did it not translate from college to pro? He wins everywhere he goes, and can rebuild teams from the girders, which to me is indicative of a really good coach.

        I give some credit to Porter for winning an NCAA title at Akron but then if you sent that same MLS-draft/ homegrown filled roster to any other school they’d probably be similarly competitive there too. And what raised as many questions as the U23 results was the lack of adaptability I saw. He had an iffy backline heavily laden with Akron grads which he happily crashed and burned with. The defense was 75% of why they finished where they did. He never addressed that team weakness. Also, in the Canada game he was unable to figure out a tactical way to breach a mediocre team’s stalemate machine, and then ES he couldn’t close out a lead (people forget if we don’t give up the late one we win and advance 3-2). I didn’t get a hint of Sir Alex about the guy…..well into that ManU game the team is down 1-0 to QPR…..puts in some speed and they eventually drub them 3-1. There is some usefulness in “recruiting,” ie, rounding up good players. But I didn’t see the game management, and one can argue that as impressive as a NCAA win was, with all that talent how did you not have a dynasty like Arena.

      • I wasn’t being serious about Arena being unsuccessful. It was sarcasm. I was quickly trying to think of coaches in college who had gone on to be successful in multiple sports over a bowl of Rice Chex this morning as a counterpoint to the original post. All I could think of off the top of my head were those three.

        I have no idea if Porter is a good coach or not. I’m not willing to base that opinion on one tournament or the fact that he has only won one championship. That was my point. In my opinion, neither of those facts have any bearing on his ability to coach in Portland – especially the U-23s since he was absent for much of the training. In fact, I’d almost argue that if he can get past the differences between college and the pros, the fact that he was such a good recruiter reflects an ability to relate to the people he is trying to win over that could serve him well in the pros. Professional coaching has as much to do with managing egos as it does coaching – probably why they’re called managers in most places.

        On a side note, by your “Sir Alex logic”, almost every coach in the game is sub-par. Speed… if only it were that simple. Sir Alex’s record stands alone, but bringing Chicharito in to beat pathetic QPR was no stroke of genius.

      • Bradley was also a coach that went from team to team, college and pro, with success. I tend to hold up that kind of adaptibility as my coaching gold standard. All due respect to the Larry Brown argument but there is the Steve Fisher counterresponse. Porter has been handed several youth internationals on these college teams. It is not some team he cobbled together from Ohio spare parts. At minimum that fact should give people pause.

        He’s been coaching since 06 which was when my Dynamo moved here and won its first title. That’s not exactly yesterday. That is enough of a track record versus say Wynalda’s flights of fancy this year where I think this is an “informed” discussion of someone’s CV as opposed to judging them unfairly on “one tournament.” To me he’s had several tournaments in the NCAA plus the Olympic qualifying, and the only thing that impresses me is the actual title year. The rest, well, when you are handed many of the best U23s in the land, either through Akron or the USA, I’d kind of expect something more like the dynasties of Arena at UVa or Sigi at UCLA.

        Your argument might use logic but it’s ad absurdum logic, drawn out to a nonsense level. I’ve watched Sir Alex do that other times, eg, 3-3 with AVB’s Chelsea last year. Another example would be some of the changes made by Arena last year en route to the MLS title…..which finally broke down Houston. Some coaches have a game management knack, others do something closer to rolling out the ball for talent, with pushbutton subs or AVB-esque backsliding as the game progresses. I have yet to see something from Porter to move him from rote management to the sublime.

        You’re mocking the good coaches argument but if you look at the final four in MLS, it was perhaps with Olsen’s exception, a bunch of good coaches….Sigi, Kinnear, Arena. For Portland to truly benefit from the hiring he needs to be that level. Or have we forgotten the Winter and Fraser debacles….

      • Fair enough, but there wasn’t a discussion of his CV. There was only a mention of his “failures” as a coach (ONLY one NC and losses with U23). My argument in a nutshell was that it is too early to tell with Porter. I was arguing against snap judgements period – good or bad. I don’t think that’s absurd or nonsensical.

        I respectfully disagree that six years is enough of a track record. In fact, the three coaches you referenced have about 80 years of experience between them, maybe more. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I do agree that there is a difference between tactical management of the game and a talent-based approach of “letting players play”, but you need talent regardless. Bruce Arena, Sigi Schmid, and SAF have all had truckloads of it.

        I’m willing to give Porter time before passing final judgement. That’s all. There was meant to be nothing more to my “argument” than that.

      • What we have there is the “sample size problem.” You’re talking about roughly half a dozen games or so cumulatively between all the non-championships (and two of those were on penalties) and the Olympics. He’ll have coached more than that for the Timbers by May.

        Also, he had almost no time to work with the players on the Olympic team, between them being with their clubs and Porter being hired very late in the game. In fact, what I blame Porter for there was trying to implement a radically different playing style for most of them with in a matter of a few weeks, one that would have taken probably a year for a lot of them to learn.

        He’ll have to adapt to the pro game and swallow some pride here and there, just like Jason Kreis did, and he may not get the knack right away, just as Kreis didn’t. But he’ll get a lot more games to figure it out than the number you’re citing here.

    • Porter was at Akron for 7 years. It took him a couple years to get his recruits into the system. In 2008, Akron got screwed in the Elite Eight and had to travel to Northwestern when they were the higher seed. In 2009, they lost the championship on PKs. Not exactly Porter’s fault. Also remember that Akron was playing without two of the top offensive mids in Nanchoff and Ampaipitawkwong. In 2010, he won. In 2011, Akron rebuilt, yet still made it to the Elite Eight. Last night, was a complete disappointment. However, this wasn’t Porter’s fault. Akron completely dominated with 30 shots. It’s not Porter’s fault no one could finish. Caldwell should have ended it with his PK in the second OT.

      • Two games against Creighton, two 1-1 ties. I don’t even see it as an upset.

        Not the coach’s fault if his team can’t finish….? What exactly do coaches do then?

      • Did you watch the matches? Creighton is an extremely good team. I would not be surprised if they win the whole thing. Certainly better than Notre Dame of Indiana.

      • I was giving Creighton some respect. If Akron can’t even beat them all season it’s not an upset, it’s a fact of life.

        Related point, people were moaning about Akron’s seed the other day but the reality is that with hundreds of teams and uneven scheduling it can be hard to sort out the true pecking order. Strength of schedule and ratings indices are just an attempt to put some objectivity into what would otherwise be a pretty subjective exercise…..I mean, if you played Akron’s conference schedule with a team laden with youth NT types, you’d have a strong record and make the NCAAs practically rolling out of bed.

      • First, Akron should have won the first match against Creighton. Akron scored a goal in OT that the ref inexplicably ruled offsides. Absolute joke of a call. Secondly, Akron executed their offense last night and created chance after chance. How is it Porter’s fault that none of the guys could finish? Akron kept hitting it off the crossbar, just missing, or the Creighton keeper made a great save. I don’t see how you can blame a coach for his guys not finishing their opportunities. Now if no opportunities were created, then yes it would be the coaches fault through poor strategy.

      • Using the players who can shoot….
        conducting shooting practice…..
        focusing on shooting if it’s a problem…..

        His top two scorers were a Costa Rican U18(Brenes) and a US U18 (Caldwell). The team is loaded in terms of highly recruited talent (not saying they necessarily know what they are doing but they obviously do well in competing for the sort of players most others want). They are good enough where US U17 GK and Dynamo Academy keeper Pina is a mere backup. If that team doesn’t succeed then I back up a step and ask hmmmm how do you mess that up? You’re suggesting the attackers couldn’t shoot but hmmm they got the same result against Creighton earlier in the year. Another hint a coach isn’t impacting the team….the results don’t change over time.

        He’s not as big of a joke as UCLA’s Salcedo who used to lose with players like Zizzo and Feilhaber, but you hand him a bunch of Congan and Costa Rican and US youth players who fill MLS drafts and he wins just once? Something’s off.

      • How about some love for Louisville’s coach Ken Lolla. He was the guy at Akron before Porter. He made Akron a winner (including 5 NCAA appearances) then did the same think to Louisville (which had only 7 winning seasons in 27 years and now has had 14 thanks to him). He took Akron to the Elite 8 in 2005 (losing on PK’s to eventual champ Maryland), Louisville to the championship game in 2010 (losing to Porter and Akron 1-0), then Elite Eight last year (losing to UCLA in double OT after having beat them twice in regular season), and is back in the Elite Eight despite graduating Austin Berry and Nick DeLeon (top two rookies in MLS this year?).

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