NCAA – Second Round/Sweet Sixteen Match Times

(All times from NCAA bracket page, Eastern, and subject to change.)

Second Round – Friday, November 21

2:30 PM – (4) Wisconsin vs UCF
3:00 PM – (3) Kentucky vs Arizona State
3:00 PM – (3) Texas Tech vs Auburn
4:00 PM – (3) South Carolina vs Seattle
4:00 PM – (4) Notre Dame vs Texas
4:30 PM – Virginia Tech vs Georgetown
5:00 PM – (1) Florida State vs Northeastern
6:00 PM – (2) Virginia vs Rutgers
7:00 PM – (2) Florida vs Cal
7:00 PM – (2) North Carolina vs Colorado
7:30 PM – (2) Penn State vs UConn
7:30 PM – (4) Washington vs Missouri
8:00 PM – (1) Texas A&M vs Arizona
8:00 PM – (4) Pepperdine vs Illinois State
10:00 PM – (1) Stanford vs Arkansas
11:00 PM – (1) UCLA vs Harvard

Sweet Sixteen – Sunday, November 23

1:00 PM – Chapel Hill
1:00 PM – Tallahassee
1:00 PM – University Park
2:00 PM – Gainesville
2:30 PM – College Station
4:00 PM – Los Angeles
4:00 PM – Palo Alto
5:00 PM – Charlottesville

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – Kansas vs Missouri

Sunday, 2:00 PM

Kansas (15-5-0; 3rd – Big XII; WTSR – 1.01, T4th – Big XII)
vs
Missouri (11-6-3; 4th – SEC; WTSR – 1.00, 9th – SEC)

Be Real: Is This Going To Be A Bloodbath?

Who knows. The last meeting in 2011 wasn’t eventful for the violence but instead for Missouri erasing a 2-0 deficit in the final six minutes to win, 3-2. The year before that? Thirty combined fouls. In 2009′s regular season meeting? Thirty-one combined fouls and five combined yellow cards. Thirty combined fouls and five bookings in 2008′s Big XII Tournament match. They haven’t all been like that, but given the stakes, this one could be a real blood and thunder affair. Let’s just hope we get a ref that can keep control.

Is Missouri Beginning to Fade?

It’s hard to argue to the contrary when you’ve won just one of the past five and two of the last seven. Based on form, the Tigers might have been in trouble if the season had lasted another week or two. Missouri had started out the season unconvincingly but had turned it around with four wins in five at the beginning of SEC play. But a 3-2 loss to Auburn began a painful spiral downward that saw Missouri drop to fourth in the league and perilously close to the bubble in the RPI. A win on Sunday would likely make most forget about that run.

Wither the Missouri Defense?

It’s something that’s going to have to be set straight if the Tigers are to advance on Sunday. Bryan Blitz’s club has been getting pasted defensively as of late, conceding thirteen goals in the past seven matches, including three to Auburn, Ole Miss, and Tennessee, hardly a murderer’s row of the SEC. Kansas doesn’t exactly have a wrecking crew up front, but they’re more than capable of putting goals on the board. Towering center-back Candace Johnson is the club’s best defender and one of the SEC’s best and is going to have to excel for the Tigers to win some games in the NCAA Tournament. The rest of the backline is pretty stable, but getting them to perform after some struggles is going to be key.

Can Blitz Squeeze Enough Out of the Offense For Mizzou to Succeed?

With the defense playing the way it is, he’s going to have to. Fortunately, Blitz does have one of the SEC’s best playmakers in Kaysie Clark. Clark finished with a team leading eleven assists, as she again took her place as one of the SEC’s dominant midfielders. Clark takes too many shots with little end result though, as she led the club in shots but only finished with three goals. Her production dipped in the league though, and it let her sister, Kaitlyn, get in the mix, along with Reagan Russell. The younger Clark had four assists in the league, while Russell scored four in SEC matches. Taylor Grant led the team with seven goals and three winners but was another who didn’t show her best in the SEC. The Tigers clearly have some dangerous weapons, but they’ll need to get back on track in a hurry if they’re to advance.

Kansas Is Fading Too Though, Aren’t They?

Yeah. The Jayhawks won fourteen of their first fifteen to begin the season and stun the nation. But they’ve promptly lost four of their last five to see them sink to third in the league. They bowed out pretty quickly in the Big XII Tournament also, losing to Oklahoma after having lost to them to close out the regular season. KU’s shipped seven in the last five while scoring just three. It’s symptomatic of a team out of gas. Head coach Mark Francis has to be hoping the early exit from the Big XII Tournament has allowed his side to recharge its batteries.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – (2) Florida vs Mercer

Sunday, 2:00 PM

(2) Florida (14-4-1; 2nd – SEC; WTSR – 1.26, 2nd – SEC)
vs
Mercer (13-5-2; 3rd – Southern; WTSR – 1.35, 2nd – Southern)

Florida vs. Small Club…This Is Not Going To Be Pretty.

Yeah, probably. Putting an emphasis on possession makes clubs like Virginia and Florida all but bulletproof against smaller clubs like Mercer. It’s been over seven years since the Gators even dropped points against a mid-major club. And to put it bluntly, Mercer probably doesn’t have the tools to cause Florida problems. They have only played two major conference clubs this season and beat Houston but lost to Vanderbilt as well. The Bears haven’t been embarrassed in defeat this season but probably don’t have the firepower to trouble the Gators.

Mercer Has A Solid Defense Though, Right?

They do, and it might be the only chance the club has of staying within touching distance. They gave up just four goals in SoCon play, which is saying something considering some of the firepower roaming the conference. The problem is that defense has started to crack as of late. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in five matches, a run which included the three wins in the SoCon Tournament. Maggie Cropp has been the best keeper in the SoCon this season and is probably going to be a busy camper on Sunday. Her backline isn’t awful, but it’s going to have its hands full against the Gators.

Is Mercer Going To Be Able To Hold Onto The Ball Long Enough to Get Opportunities At Goal?

It’s always the question against this Florida team. Mercer has some decent options in the attack. Washida Blackman and Lauren Gassie both had four goals in league play, but leading shot taker Tess Patton had the most shots in the league with thirty-three and was mostly wasteful, scoring just once. While Mercer has found many SoCon defenses to be very pliable, including scoring in seven of their last eight, Florida’s another matter entirely. If they couldn’t score against Vanderbilt, how are they going to breach the Gator backline?

OK, Is This Florida’s Year?

Well, the answer to this question was probably more positive before October 16. Going into the match against South Carolina on that date, Florida had won seven in a row after dropping a narrow game to Stanford in Palo Alto. They had previously beaten Florida State and also topped Texas A&M to seemingly gain pole position in the SEC title race. And then came losses to South Carolina and Kentucky to knock them out of the title picture. Florida would get well against some of the league’s lesser lights but then ended up going out in the SEC Tournament on penalties in shocking fashion to a Tennessee side they had beaten just a few weeks earlier. Let’s just say Florida’s stock has not been rising.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – Arizona State vs Northern Arizona

Saturday, 9:00 PM

Arizona State (11-5-4; 8th – Pac-12; WTSR – 0.84, 10th – Pac-12)
vs
Northern Arizona (12-5-4; 3rd – Big Sky; WTSR – 0.99, 8th – Big Sky)

Does NAU Have A Prayer of A Chance?

*checks scoreboard* I’d say they have more of a chance than when it was 2-0 but less of a chance than they had before the match started.

I’m Guessing NAU’s Bad WTSR Rank Isn’t Improving Your Confidence In Them.

No, it isn’t. NAU did an amazing job of getting to the NCAA Tournament, having to play an extra game and then beat Portland State, who was fully rested. But the numbers say they were a slightly below average team who overachieved in getting to third in the first place in the league table. They did manage to draw a good Valparaiso side and beat UTEP, but they also lost their biggest test to Arizona and have no advantage of unfamiliarity since they play ASU a lot in preseason.

Does NAU Stand Any Chance of Stopping Cali Farquharson?

I’m not exactly optimistic. While the Lumberjacks did end up winning their conference tournament on the back of five straight wins, they also have kept just one clean sheet in six matches. They’ve rarely had their doors blown off, conceding more than two just once, but at the same time, the defense has really taken a step backwards since a solid stretch in the middle of the league season and at the end of the non-conference season. NAU faces their toughest challenge with ASU’s explosive offense on Saturday, and it’s going to be near impossible to keep them off the board.

And The Odds of A Consolation Goal?

*looks at scoreboard* Decent. NAU finished the regular season with ten goals in a five game span, all wins. They’ve been shutout just twice since the stretch against Arizona and Valparaiso and have ridden the goals of Haley Wingender to success in the Big Sky. Wingender’s been clutch this season, with seven of those strikes going down as match winners. All in all though, it’s probably going to be a tough ask to expect her to carry the offense on her back against a Pac-12 defense.

OK, We’ve Established That Arizona State’s Going To Win. What Are Their Odds of Making A Run?

Well, any run probably ends with Virginia squashing them in the Sweet Sixteen, but they’ve got a fair shot at it considering Kentucky contrived to go to penalty kicks with SIU Edwardsville despite enjoying a meaty advantage in all offensive categories. It’s hard to not tip a side that drew with UCLA and beat Texas A&M to be capable of some big results.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – (3) Wisconsin vs DePaul

Saturday, 8:30 PM

(4) Wisconsin (18-2-2; 2nd – Big Ten; WTSR – 1.16, 3rd – Big Ten)
vs
DePaul (16-0-4; 1st – Big East; WTSR – 1.36, 1st – Big East)

Who’s More Aggrieved?

Probably DePaul, but it’s not like Wisconsin should be too pleased either. The Badgers win eighteen games and the Big Ten Tournament and get an undefeated team in the first round? What’s up with that? But really, DePaul has to be fuming at the disrespect shown to them by the committee. I’m not sure they deserved a seed, but how in the world can you argue that they don’t deserve a home game, certainly not against a seed. It’s going to give these two clubs a lot of motivation to prove a point on Saturday night.

How Legit Is DePaul’s Unbeaten Record?

Well, they haven’t beaten any top teams, but how are you going to overlook a team that hasn’t lost in twenty matches? The Blue Demons have struggled defensively at times, but they’ve produced a whole lot of offense to go with their wins, putting up multiple goals in fifteen of twenty matches. And for all the handwringing over the defense at times, they’ve also kept four straight clean sheets going int the NCAA Tournament. Right-back Rachel Pitman has been a hidden gem on the backline for the Blue Demons and was rightly recognized for a great season, while Sarah Gorden has also impressed at center-back. Alejandria Godinez has been impressive in goal as well over the past few years and has a chance to shine this postseason. They aren’t a dominating unit, but the defense could propel DePaul to a few wins in the NCAA Tournament this year.

DePaul’s Attack Is Pretty Good…

Yeah. Surprisingly so far anyone who may have dismissed DePaul’s showing last year as a timely fluke. But the late addition of Indiana State transfer Abby Reed has really kicked things into high gear for the Blue Demons, and the unit has gelled nicely into one of the region’s most threatening. It’s almost impossible to target one DePaul attacker to neutralize, because they send four at you to try and stop. Elise Wyatt, Reed, Alexa Ben, and Amber Paul have each scored at least eight goals and have combined for forty goals and twenty-four assists. Having so many weapons is going to make stopping this DePaul attack a very, very difficult proposition.

They Face A Very Tough Task Though, Right?

Wisconsin is no slouch. They destroyed a good Washington team at the beginning of the season and performed very well in the league save for a disappointing set of losses to Michigan and title rivals Penn State. But the defense was dominant down the stretch, pitching shutouts in the last three league games and the three Big Ten Tournament wins. They haven’t lost in eight matches coming into the Big Dance, and if form holds over, UW is a sneaky pick for a dark horse run to the College Cup.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – (3) Kentucky vs SIU Edwardsville

Saturday, 7:30 PM

(3) Kentucky (15-6-0; 3rd – SEC; WTSR – 1.21, 3rd – SEC)
vs
SIU Edwardsville (13-6-1; 2nd – OVC; WTSR – 1.32, 2nd – OVC)

How Steep Are The Odds For SIUE?

Pretty damn steep. This is their first NCAA Tournament since transitioning up the divisions. There’s also a very real sense that the club could be overwhelmed by the jump in talent of opponent. SIUE hasn’t just played zero RPI Top 100 teams this year, they haven’t played one since 2011!

That Sounds Bad. Can It Get Worse?

It can. SIUE wasn’t exactly renowned for its defense in the OVC. They gave up goals in seven of their last eight, shutting out only a woeful Tennessee Tech side. In fact, they have just four clean sheets on the entire year and have given up multiple goals in two of their last three. They gave up four to Purdue. Kentucky is definitely not Purdue.

Does SIUE At Least Have A Chance of Bagging A Consolation Goal?

They might. The Cougars can’t be accused of being goal shy, having been shutout just once on the season. That must be tempered by the knowledge that the club didn’t exactly play the best competition this season. The three headed monster of Michelle Auer, Kayla Delgado, and Emily Grahl combined for eleven goals and nine assists in the league, with Auer accounting for five goals and three assists of that total. They’ve shown they’re capable against mid-major foes, but can they make the step up in challenging a side like Kentucky?

OK, Kentucky’s Offense Is Probably Going To Walk Over SIUE, Right?

In all likelihood, yes. The Wildcats, perhaps against conventional wisdom, made a fateful change to put Arin Gilliland back at left-back in the middle of the season after some struggles. It worked like magic, with Gilliland able to stretch the field with her surging runs up the line, while the offense clicked in front of goal. Jade Klump had a breakthrough season in front of goal, with five goals in league play to couple four from frequent super sub Zoe Swift and four from the gritty Courtney Raetzman in midfield. It remains to be seen if UK will have enough cutting edge to take advantage of opportunities against high-level opposition in this tournament, but they should slice apart SIUE on Saturday.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – Virginia Tech vs Dayton

Saturday, 7:00 PM

Virginia Tech (14-5-0; 6th – ACC; WTSR – 1.03, 6th – ACC)
vs
Dayton (12-8-2; 3rd – Atlantic 10; WTSR – N/A)

Dayton Left It Pretty Late, Huh?

It’s generally what happens when you lose six of your first eight and begin league play by alternating wins and losses. The Flyers at least found lightning in a bottle late, winning three matches in the A10 Tournament to swoop in for the auto bid. Of course, hosting the competition didn’t hurt.

But You’re Very Skeptical About Their Hopes Here, Right?

Uh, yeah. Have you seen Dayton’s defensive record against big clubs? They shipped four to Texas A&M and Ohio State, eight to Stanford, and multiple goals against a coterie of less than explosive powerhouses like Rice, Indiana, and even a few league foes. The defense only even kept one clean sheet during the A10 Tournament run. And generally, Virginia Tech is not the opponent you want to face with a defense that’s been leaking goals.

Well, At Least Give Me A Reason to Tune In.

Dayton may give up a handful of goals, but odds are, they may get a few themselves. That’s because the duo of Ashley Campbell and Nicole Waters shoot and shoot often, combining for over two hundred shots this season! It’s crazy to have two players combining for that many shots, especially on a club that didn’t exactly dominate their league. Campbell’s a big load to deal with on the frontline and netted sixteen goals, while Waters was architect in chief for Dayton, logging eighteen assists. It might not be enough against a well-drilled ACC side, but the Flyers should at least come out swinging.

Has Anyone Ever Talked About A Team That Made Last Year’s College Cup Less Than Virginia Tech?

Well, everyone seemed pretty enamored with the Hokies when they were killing mid-majors. And then everyone realized that Ohio State was actively bad and that a Georgetown team that was beaten, 6-1, was just above average. While VT did beat Clemson convincingly, they also failed to beat one of the league’s big teams every chance they had to. It meant an upper-mid table finish in the ACC but no ACC Tournament and very little hype around the Hokies going into this match.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – UCF vs Georgia

Saturday, 7:00 PM

UCF (16-4-0; 1st – AAC; WTSR – 1.32, 1st – AAC)
vs
Georgia (10-7-2; 8th – SEC; WTSR – 1.06, T5th – SEC)

Another Rematch?

They pop up like weeds, don’t they?

What Happened The First Time They Met?

Victims of their game against Florida Atlantic going deep into the night as a result of thunderstorms and their own inability to put away a bad team, UCF also dealt with a long bus ride to Athens for a Sunday afternoon match in which they performed quite poorly. Considering the circumstances, it was hardly a surprise, but in the end, it might have been a defeat that ultimately cost the Knights a national seed when all was said and done.

What’s Changed for Georgia Since That Win?

A lot. Namely the fact that the Bulldogs seemingly did the forty-yard dash backwards over the line as they backed into the tournament in thoroughly unconvincing fashion. After winning four of its first five league games, the club proceeded to win just one of its last seven matches, that one win coming against a hopeless LSU side. The offense, so dangerous for much of the season, scored just four goals in that seven game slide, while the defense has been continuously torched, giving up an average of two goals a game over the last five in which the club are winless.

Is There Any Chance of The Defense Not Getting Flambeed by UCF?

It’s not exactly looking likely. The club is operating with an entirely different center-back pairing than it started out the season with with both Kelsey Nix and Summer Burnett sidelined. As a result, the new center-back pairing is Emma Sonnett and former right-back Carli Shultis, who has looked like a right-back playing center-back. There are questions at left-back as well, where Mariel Gutierrez gave way to Josie Roebuck against Texas A&M twice. Considering Roebuck looked like she had concrete in her boots on the turn against Bianca Brinson in the second meeting, it’s a position that has to be addressed with Tatiana Coleman ready to terrorize foes on that flank. Add in skittish rookie Louise Hogrell in goal, and there are serious, perhaps fatal, issues in defense for UGA.

They Better Win With Offense Then, Right?

Yup. It’s a good thing that the club has the services of Gabby Seiler. After a disappointing rookie season, Seiler’s turned into one of the region’s most dynamic forces in midfield as a sophomore. She’s been shooting less and scoring and assisting more, with nine goals and nine assists, including five strikes in the league to lead the team. The problem is, Seiler dominates the ball, and there’s little else consistent in terms of offense on the squad. Rachel Garcia is a one-dimensional basher at center-forward, and Marion Crowder has looked a shell of herself after returning from an ACL injury. If Seiler can control the game from midfield, Georgia has a chance. If she tries to do too much and doesn’t get help from her teammates, it’s going to be a long night.

Well, At Least UGA Doesn’t Have Rachel Hill.

UCF will be breathing a sigh of relief at that. The Knights are probably sick of the thought of UConn after running the table in the AAC save for losses to the Huskies in the regular season and AAC Tournament semi-final.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – South Florida vs Illinois State

Saturday, 7:00 PM

South Florida (13-6-2; 3rd – AAC; WTSR – 1.24, 3rd – AAC)
vs
Illinois State (15-5-0; 1st – MVC; WTSR – 1.60, 1st – MVC)

Just Go Ahead And Indulge My Pessimism About Illinois State’s Chances Right Now.

Sure thing. ISU went 0-4-0 in matches against RPI Top 60 teams this season. That enough for you?

Well, No, Tell Me More…

For all the good ISU does with their Rachel Tejada led attack, their defense has proven to be fragile beyond belief against clubs with a pulse this year. Four to Boston College and Texas A&M, three to DePaul and Miami (OH), even two to a pretty bad Wisconsin-Milwaukee team. While USF’s not as good offensively as some of the above, what exactly would make you believe they’re going to be able to hold the Bulls off long enough on defense to hit them with enough offense to win?

And Yet ISU Still Isn’t Totally Screwed.

Yeah. It helps to have a scoring machine in your ranks. Rachel Tejada has done it with regularity for four seasons and has eighteen goals and ten assists this season, doing it on a respectable ninety-nine shots and putting a fantastic 58% of her shots on goal. She’s driven the Redbirds to new heights in her career, and she’ll need to do more of the same on Saturday if ISU is to advance. The Redbirds aren’t a one-woman team though, as Hannah Leinert has proven she’s a scoring force herself. Eleven goals and seven assists are a fine return for a second option. But ISU’s facing an opponent much tougher than most of their foes in the regular season, meaning all that scoring talent has to be on point to make an upset possible.
Continue reading

NCAA – 2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Preview – Florida Gulf Coast vs Auburn

Saturday, 5:30 PM

Florida Gulf Coast (16-3-0; 1st – Atlantic Sun; WTSR – 1.50, 1st – Atlantic Sun)
vs
Auburn (11-6-3; 6th – SEC; WTSR – 1.06, T5th – SEC)

Way To Go With Those Rice and La Salle Picks. You Sure You Want To Put The Stink on Florida Gulf Coast?

Yeah, sorry about that.

OK, Give Me A Reason Why This Won’t End The Same Way.

Well, for one, FGCU actually has home advantage. That’s a pretty important factor Rice and La Salle were missing out on, and it could be the difference on Saturday. But there are other factors that will work in the A-Sun side’s favor. They’ve actually beaten NCAA Tournament competition this season, topping both Arizona (albeit in controversial circumstances) and La Salle, the latter coming a few days after they had beaten North Florida, with a long flight necessary. FGCU has also tested themselves against top competition like Texas A&M and South Carolina. While not victorious, the Eagles have hardened themselves for occasions just like this.

FGCU Actually Has Offensive Weapons As Well, Right?

The thinking is that you usually need a big-time scorer to be able to challenge major conference schools, and the Fort Myers side certainly has that in the form of Tabby Tindell. Just a sophomore, Tindell already looks like mid-major soccer’s next scoring terror. She netted five goals and three assists in seven league games and finished with twenty goals overall. It’s not just that Tindell scores goals, she scores clutch goals, finishing with eleven game winners, most in Division I entering the NCAA Tournament. FGCU’s not a one-dimensional team either, as Shannen Wacker netted seven goals and fifteen assists herself on the frontline. Oddly enough, Paulina Speckmaier took the most shots in league play with forty-one, though she only scored twice. Speckmaier and Ally Kasun do good work in midfield, but it’s clearly Tindell’s show to run in the attack.

Will The Eagles Be Able To Ground Opposing Offenses?

That’s the big question. FGCU’s defense was hardly a steel curtain against bigger clubs, and there wasn’t a convincing defensive performance to make you think that this club has any more than a single win in it come the NCAA Tournament. They shipped two goals to three of the five NCAA Tournament teams they played and also conceded to South Florida and Arizona. Worse, they also failed to keep a clean sheet in either A-Sun Tournament game. There’s talent, such as center-back Emma Blackwell and right-back Melissa Arnold, on the backline, but how they hold up against top attacks is anyone’s guess. Brittany Brown is a fine keeper, though she’ll be tested much more here than she was in league play.

Is Auburn As Good A Match As Hoped For for FGCU?

As good as they were going to get in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers were sixth place finishers in an SEC that was a giant muddle after the top few teams. They were reasonably strong defensively, giving up just a little over a goal a game, while fifteen goals in eleven league goals wasn’t a particularly promising return. As far as big match pedigree this season? Look elsewhere. The Tigers didn’t beat a team higher in the RPI than #37 Missouri.
Continue reading