The Big XII has having a fine year to this point, with five teams currently in the RPI Top 50, no real anchors on the league’s overall RPI, and a couple of teams in Texas Tech and West Virginia that could make a big impact on the NCAA Tournament. The likes of Kansas and Oklahoma have been surprising, but time will tell if they can match the pace needed to keep themselves in the at-large bid places come season’s end. It could also be a nervous second half of the season for Texas.
Oklahoma State will be hoping for a late surge after a desperately poor start, a notion also echoed by TCU. Iowa State appears to be improved, though they also weren’t bad last season in all reality. Baylor again has struggled with some mid-major opposition, and it may cost them dearly again come November. All in all, the Big XII might get a handful of bids in the Big Dance, and the league’s present looks as bright as it’s been in about half a decade.
Current RPI – 9
Best Result – The comeback win in South Bend against Notre Dame.
Worst Result – They’re perfect.
Chris’ Best Guess % At an NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid – 100%
Six RPI Top 100 wins have been impressive for the Red Raiders, though some of those wins are trawling on the bottom of that line. Still, it’s really hard to deny the fighting spirit of the Red Raiders after their gutty wins against Notre Dame and Cal. I don’t think there’s enough here for a #1 seed, but if they come close to winning out, they may just be able to edge it for a #2 seed, which would continue the tremendous progress in Lubbock under Tom Stone.
The Pac-12 has ascended to be the nation’s unquestioned #1 conference in terms of top-to-bottom depth after the somewhat sudden decline of the ACC this season in non-conference play. It remains to be seen if the league can deliver the goods in the postseason, but on non-conference evidence, they’ve got a chance to more than back up their early season performance in November. Stanford and UCLA are legitimate NCAA title contenders, while plenty of other teams have chances to win multiple games in the Big Dance.
It’s not just a California thing either. Utah still looks to be formidable after last season’s breakthrough, while Arizona and Washington look to be on the rise after the opening month of the season. The likes of Washington State and Arizona State have also shown signs of being capable of a breakthrough as well. The joy hasn’t really extended to the state of Oregon though. The Ducks still look to have a long way to go to be a contender, while Oregon State sadly has a real chance of going the season winless.
Current RPI – 3
Best Result – That 2-0 win against Pepperdine continues to look great.
Worst Result – The 0-0 draw with UNC by default.
Chris’ Best Guess % At an NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid – 100%
It’s all about that #1 seed right now. The draw against North Carolina and win over Pepperdine will likely hold the most weight come November, but it’s likely that UCLA’s going to get that #1 seed unless they totally go down the tubes in league play. The rest of the league’s great RPI performance only helps their cause. They’ll probably be close to a #1 seed lock by the halfway point of the season, and honestly, the league title battle with Stanford’s probably more intriguing than seeding.
Current RPI – 4
Best Result – The win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Worst Result – By default, the draw against Notre Dame.
Chris’ Best Guess % At an NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid – 100%
With wins over North Carolina, Duke, and Florida and a draw against Notre Dame, it’s difficult to argue that any other club has had a greater non-conference season. A #1 seed is likely already in the bag, and the Card probably have a decent margin of error already in the league. Of course, that’s of little mind considering Stanford will want their Pac-12 tittle back and may need to run the table to do so against rivals UCLA.
A season ago, we were mooting the newly formed Big East’s surprising strength and talking about the NCAA Tournament for half the league. It’s been less encouraging this year. The only two clubs with strong hopes of an NCAA Tournament at-large berth are DePaul and Georgetown. The latter, one of the standard bearers of the league, was humiliated by Virginia Tech in their highest profile match of the season. League titan Marquette has come out of the blocks slowly, though signs of a turnaround may finally be there.
Meanwhile, the likes of Butler and Saint John’s (NY), expected to challenge for league silverware have instead been massive disappointments, while Villanova and Seton Hall, both under new management, have shown that there’s a long way to go to be competitive in this league. For a conference that looked like it was ready to take its place at the table with the big conferences last season, this season thus far has been a brutal step backward.
Current RPI – 22
Best Result – The win over Illinois State may be more impressive than the Nebraska win.
Worst Result – Only one non-win, but the draw with Wisconsin-Green Bay was weird.
Chris’ Best Guess % At an NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid – 55%
DePaul is hard to gauge. Or their at-large hopes anyway. That non-conference schedule isn’t flattering, but they still might be good enough to end up above the bubble zone. If they don’t? Uh, bad news. Because unless the bubble is extremely weak, they aren’t likely to get the benefit of the doubt unless Nebraska improves in a big way and they beat Georgetown if the Hoyas have a good league season.
Things probably aren’t as bad as they could be, but the AAC is likely a three horse race for an at-large bid with UCF the best hope by a mile, with UConn and South Florida likely to sweat all the way to Selection Monday. Don’t count out Tulsa either, even if they are a longshot. The Golden Hurricane may be getting done in by Oklahoma’s slide in the past few weeks though. UCF are still likely league favorites with UConn also in with a good shot at silverware, especially if Rachel Hill keeps firing true.
East Carolina, Temple, and Cincinnati have all been surprisingly spry in non-conference action, though none are expected to make a tangible impact on the title race. Memphis continues to be a disappointment as of late with a 3-4-2 non-conference record that is surely leading some to question the long-term direction of the program. Meanwhile, SMU and Houston continue to be huge anchors on the RPI of the rest of the league. SMU may finish out of the RPI Top 100 for the second straight season, while Houston has won just one of seven despite playing just one team that’s currently in the RPI Top 150.
Current RPI – 16
Best Result – The solid win over Texas…but that doesn’t really gel with their RPI position.
Worst Result – No bad losses really, but they were underwhelming against Georgia after a rough travel road to Athens.
Chris’ Best Guess % At an NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid – 85%
The Knights have a lot of marginal level wins over teams they should really be beating…and not much else. There’s absolutely nothing here to indicate the Knights are in the mix for a national seed despite those wins and a lack of bad losses, and there’s not much help to be found in the league either. They’ll probably be fine as they’re better than about everyone else in the league by some margin, but they probably don’t want to be on the bubble when the brackets are unveiled.
171 – High Point
182 – Liberty
214 – Longwood
216 – Coastal Carolina
242 – Campbell
276 – Presbyterian
294 – Winthrop
305 – Gardner-Webb
310 – UNC Asheville
312 – Radford
321 – Charleston Southern
The story is probably more at the bottom instead of the top with the Big South. Yes, perennial doormats Presbyterian, Gardner-Webb, UNC Asheville, and Charleston Southern are all plumbing the depths of the bottom of the RPI. But with them are two of the usual conference standards in recent years. Radford has finished in the RPI Top 100 the past two seasons but had to wait until game seven for a win this year. Winthrop’s current lowly standing might be a reflection of playing just five matches against DI opponents, but they also have only beaten Alabama A&M and South Carolina State. Campbell is perhaps this year’s comeback club after a coaching change and a win over Richmond and draw with Old Dominion. Coastal Carolina began the season hot with three wins in four but are now winless in five, while fellow contenders Longwood have largely performed to expectations in non-conference play thus far. Preseason conference favorite Liberty has done fairly well in beating C-USA sides Old Dominion and Charlotte, though perhaps a loss to Appalachian State was disappointing. High Point are perhaps a bit surprising at the top of the RPI in the league at the moment. The losses aren’t bad, and the draw against Jacksonville might look pretty good come season’s end. As always, this league is highly unpredictable in season, and though you’d still favor Liberty to win the title, there are probably a handful of teams that could topple them still.
(Holding off on ACC/SEC until those leagues play more conference matches.)
Total Shot Ratio
0.71 – Illinois
0.71 – Penn State
0.63 – Rutgers
0.61 – Minnesota
0.55 – Maryland
0.55 – Nebraska
0.54 – Wisconsin
0.51 – Michigan
0.49 – Northwestern
0.41 – Ohio State
0.40 – Purdue
0.39 – Iowa
0.32 – Indiana
0.30 – Michigan State
“True” Total Shot Ratio
0.85 – Penn State
0.68 – Illinois
0.60 – Rutgers
0.59 – Minnesota
0.59 – Nebraska
0.58 – Maryland
0.51 – Northwestern
0.51 – Wisconsin
0.47 – Michigan
0.45 – Iowa
0.36 – Ohio State
0.35 – Michigan State
0.35 – Purdue
0.26 – Indiana
Out at the end of Friday and Sunday’s matches and a little more often during conference tournament week.
RPI Bracket uses ONLY adjusted RPI for field projection. Bubble ladder uses results against top fifty teams for prediction, as does seed projections.
1 – North Carolina – ACC*
2 – Virginia Tech – ACC
3 – UCLA – Pac-12*
4 – Stanford – Pac-12
5 – South Carolina – SEC*
6 – Texas A&M – SEC
7 – Pepperdine – WCC*
8 – Penn State – Big Ten*
9 – Texas Tech – Big XII*
10 – Clemson – ACC
11 – Wisconsin – Big Ten
12 – Florida State – ACC
13 – Georgia – SEC
14 – Virginia – ACC
15 – Florida – SEC
16 – UCF – AAC*
USC vs Pepperdine – 6:30 PM
Southern California college WoSo fans have probably never had it so well. Be it UCLA or these two teams, Los Angeles is in many ways the nexus of women’s college soccer at the moment. The visitors will likely come into this one with most to gain, as the Waves pursue their fourth straight win after their lone defeat on the season to UCLA a few weeks ago. Since that loss, Pepperdine has scored seven goals in three wins, with the offense looking to be humming again after a goalless weekend in Hawaii at the beginning of the month. After the thrilling win against Kentucky a week ago, Pepperdine came back home to face Mountain West side Boise State and got one of their most complete performances of the season. The defense shook off some shaky moments against Kentucky to conceded just one shot on goal against the Broncos while getting great games from Lynn Williams, Taylor Alvarado, and Ally Holtz, with the trio combining for seven shots on goal and the club’s two goals. Given the painful struggles of the WCC this season, this is, realistically, the last chance for the Waves to get a big RPI boosting win. Victory here would be another feather in their cap as they pursue a top-two national seed. A club with wins over USC, Maryland, North Carolina, and Kentucky would be hard to not consider for that coveted position.
USC enters this one unbeaten and, after Friday’s farcical match with SWAC side Arkansas-Pine Bluff, likely unfatigued. The Trojans’ win against the SWAC side was little more than a training exercise designed as a competitive match, with the Pac-12 side breaking their program record for goals in a match in the 9-0 battering that could’ve been double that. While it remains to be seen what effect that UAPB has on USC’s RPI, a win against the WCC favorites would certainly go some way in counteracting that damage. The Women of Troy have a nice profile already with wins over Notre Dame and Long Beach State, but they probably need a few more big results to get themselves in contention for a national seed. With all do respect to the likes of Katie Johnson, Megan Borman, Alex Quincy, and Jamie Fink, all of whom have looked more than competent in the attack this season, the defense is probably going to make or break the Trojans this Sunday. Converted attackers Kayla Mills and Reilly Parker have been brilliant as the club’s full-backs this season but will have to be disciplined positionally in this one given the Waves’ counterattacking power. If one gets caught too high up the pitch, Lynn Williams could burst into the channels and create real problems in transition. USC hasn’t given up multiple goals this season, but they also have just three clean sheets in eight matches. Keeping a clean sheet may not be essential to victory, but keeping the chances for the Waves down might be. This should be a superb test for both sides who each have hopes of making a deep run into November.
Notre Dame vs North Carolina – 7:00 PM
For the first time in an age, Anson Dorrance won’t be staring down Randy Waldrum on the other half of the touchline when these two storied programs meet in their annual rivalry clash. With the former Irish boss off to manage Houston of the NWSL, into the breach steps Theresa Romagnolo. Romagnolo likely won few plaudits among her supporters earlier in the year when her Irish side blew two halftime leads in losses to Texas Tech and USC. The manner of each defeat wasn’t glorious, but considering neither side has lost all season, it’s probably not going to hurt the Irish that badly in the end. Since, Notre dame is 3-0-1 with wins over Santa Clara and Baylor and a draw with Stanford in Palo Alto, a huge result considering the Cardinal’s success this season. The turnaround has also been impressive considering the club has been missing Cari Roccaro the past two weeks as the U20 international heals from injuries. In her stead, Morgan Andrews has stepped it up as this club’s alpha dog, leading in goals and assists with three apiece. The defense has stabilized as well, conceding just one goal in the past four matches. Roccaro coming back would be a big boost for the South Bend side, but there’s an increasing sense that this is rapidly turning into Andrews’ team. If she can lead her side to a win against the rival Tar Heels, her reputation will grow that much more, as will the Irish’s hopes of a high national seed in November.
The Tar Heels will be hoping to join them on one of the top two lines in November. It’s been an age since UNC played, as the club should be well rested after a thirteen day layoff following a impressive weekend spent defeating Penn State and Arkansas that restored a whole lot of faith in the ACC side after just one win in four matches to begin the season. The early worries in the first few weeks of the season were offensive in nature, with the Tar Heels netting just one goal in the first four matches. It was especially frustrating considering the club also conceded just two goals in that span. The offense did get going a bit in their last weekend of action, netting against Penn State to break a goal drought before putting up multiple goals for the first time in 2014 in a 2-1 win against Arkansas. Summer Green broke out for three shots on goal and the club’s opener, while Annie Kingman also scored for the Heels. Still, UNC has scored just four goals in six matches, with main shot takers Green and Joanna Boyles scoring just one combined goal on thirty-eight combined shots. That clearly has to improve if UNC is to contend for trophies this season. The good news is the defense has been excellent all season, and that clean sheet against Penn State looks better and better as the Nittany Lions keep throttling Big Ten teams. The defense will face a challenge in hostile territory in the league opener though, and the attack will also have to prove they’re up to the task against an improving Notre Dame defense.
Virginia Tech vs Clemson – 6:00 PM
Sitting at a combined 16-0-1, these two clubs will have a big chance to make an immediate impact at the beginning of league play on Friday night in Blacksburg. Many expected the Hokies to take a step backwards after last season’s stunning rise to the College Cup after some big offseason losses. Instead, VT has clobbered everyone on their schedule by multiple goals, including a 6-1 thrashing of Big East title contenders Georgetown and a 3-1 win over Ohio State. At the same time though, much of the rest of the schedule has been filled with mid-major punching bags. The Hokies have yet to really play an elite team, and though you’d have a tough time arguing Clemson is elite right now, they may well be the best team Chugger Adair’s side has encountered in 2014. The defense hasn’t been spotless, keeping six clean sheets in nine games, but it’s been good enough considering the sensational attack in Blacksburg thus far. It’s been a very well rounded effort through nine matches, as seven players have three or more goals, including leader Murielle Tiernan, with seven goals. Tiernan had two against Georgetown and will be aiming for more against the Tigers in this key clash. A win would be another big step towards a #1 seed once again.
Clemson will hope to continue to put the headlines off the pitch in the rear-view mirror with performances on the pitch after a 7-0-1 start. The non-conference slate hasn’t exactly been the most taxing for a club, but Clemson have only slipped up against Charlotte, a game after an energy sapping win at South Carolina. That win against the rival Gamecocks and another win against Auburn should see the Tigers in with a great chance at the NCAA Tournament, especially given a pretty good draw in ACC play, with the team missing Virginia and Florida State. The defense has conceded just three goals, though, again, the club’s non-conference strength of schedule may be accounting for some of that. The offense, a real sticking point last season, has been great in large part, and like Friday’s opponent, the attack is well balanced. Tori Andreski and Catrina Atanda have both developed nicely, with each having netted four goals, while Shannon Horgan has assisted on six. The first half of the league season is brutal, with North Carolina and Boston College to follow, but a win here by the visitors would be a huge statement of intent heading into a tough stretch.