NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – (1) UCLA vs (28) Arizona

(1) UCLA vs (28) Arizona – 10:00 PM

The defending national champs already likely have a #1 seed in the bag, so all that’s left for them really is both extending their unbeaten streak, which has hit thirty-five matches, and step closer to a Pac-12 title, with Stanford hot on their heels after the Card beat Colorado like a drum on Thursday night. The Bruins have the thoroughly odd Pac-12 schedule with this being the last of five straight matches at home, while the club ends the regular season with five straight on the road (though that last match is against USC down the road). After the high drama of the 2-1 comeback win against Stanford, UCLA was able to flex its muscles against Cal on Monday night in a 3-0 win against the NorCal side. Of course, that also brings up the fact that the Bruins are coming into this one on short rest, having played Cal just four days ago. While you seriously doubt there’ll be any fitness issues considering Amanda Cromwell’s reputation, it’s still something to keep in mind against the Wildcats. Sam Mewis will look to continue her push towards the Hermann Trophy with another starring display on Friday. She had assists on UCLA’s first two goals on Monday and continues to impress in her senior season. The defense limited Cal to a single shot on goal, which bodes well against an Arizona side that can get in amongst the goals when on form.

Arizona will be looking for some payback after they saw their Pac-12 winning streak snapped at three with a defeat at Washington last Sunday. The Wildcats looked to be hanging tough against UW but were ultimately undone by a pair of late goals. Despite that setback, the Wildcats are all but assured of an NCAA Tournament berth thanks to earlier results against Texas A&M and Washington State. More success means better odds of a home match in the first round though, so Arizona will want to come away with one of the upsets of the season on Friday. When it’s gone wrong, it’s gone really wrong though, as both of Arizona’s league defeats were by multiple goals, with Zona being shutout in each. The four goals they scored against Washington State showed just what this club can do offensively though, which has to give them a little confidence heading into a showdown with UCLA’s defense. Gabi Stoian and Alexandra Dollar have combined for fourteen goals, and each is going to have a sizable impact on Friday if Arizona’s to upset the odds. With Stanford and Cal next week, this is a brutal stretch for Tony Amato’s team, but there’s little evidence that these Wildcats are going to have a late season swoon in the final weeks of the regular season.
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 10/16/14 – (15) South Carolina vs (3) Florida

(15) South Carolina vs (3) Florida – 7:00 PM

The RPI says “glamour tie”, the reality does not. After six of eleven rounds in the league, Florida is pushing for another league title, while South Carolina are still battling to ensure they qualify for the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks currently sit in ninth place in the league having won just two of six SEC matches, and their most notable accomplishment in the league thus far has likely been keeping many bubble hopefuls’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive. The Gamecocks have won just one of five in the league since beating Auburn in the SEC opener, hobbled by a toothless offense. SC scored two in that win against Auburn but have scored just two in the five matches since. The defense has been typically tough, but it also has kept just one clean sheet in the league thus far, another worry for a club that makes its bones on defense. That defense had some trouble keeping Jade Klump of Kentucky in check in their last match, as the Wildcat had three shots on goal, which was just two less than the five the entire SC team put up in ninety minutes. Where the goals are going to come from is anyone’s guess, but with the Gators and Texas A&M left on the schedule, Carolina needs some answers, even if the rest of the regular season schedule is quite doable.

Winners of seven straight and all six league games thus far, Florida has batted aside just about every challenge they’ve faced since their defeat at Stanford in mid-September. They’ve looked quite efficient in wins against Arkansas and Mississippi State since beating Texas A&M in a likely title decider, and three points on Thursday would all but wrap up a league title with the Gators likely to roll over the likes of LSU and Vanderbilt in the final weeks of the regular season. There’ll likely be a little bit of personal vengeance in the air for Florida in this one as well, considering a 2-1 loss in Gainesville last season cost the club a solo league title last season. The Gators were hardly challenged by Mississippi State in their last match…after the first seventy-seven seconds. MSU took a shock lead but were then pegged back five times. Savannah Jordan netted a brace, while Tessa Andujar also shone with a goal and two assists. More of the same offensive form will likely sink South Carolina in short order considering the Gamecocks’ woeful attack. The away team has won this fixture the last four seasons in the SEC, and Florida will be odds on to make it half a decade since a home side’s tasted victory in this derby on Thursday night.
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NCAA – Bubble Watch Proper – Week Three

AAC

Bubble – UCF, UConn, Memphis, South Florida, Tulsa, Temple, East Carolina

Yes, this league may actually be a one-bid conference if UCF wins the AAC Tournament. Not that UCF’s resume is any great shakes either. The Knights’s best result is a win over #33 RPI Texas, but UCF would probably make it in through sheer competence in a season where it may be in short supply. Otherwise? Uh, good luck. UConn still has a chance to beat UCF this weekend and improve their position markedly, but if they don’t, they’re in deep trouble but could get another shot in the conference tournament. Memphis has had plenty of chances to rack up decent wins but have only managed draws against UConn and Ole Miss. South Florida probably has a decent shot at making it with wins against Texas and Boston College, but they’re going to have to finish strong to stay on the bubble. That goes double for Tulsa who has draws with Oklahoma and UConn but is further out from the bubble and has the terrible Texas twosome left in the league to further drown their RPI. Temple’s probably too far out with not enough results, even if they beat UCF on Thursday, while East Carolina also gets their shot at UCF but would basically need to run the table and win a few games in the AAC Tournament as well.

Atlantic 10

Bubble – La Salle, Rhode Island, VCU
Bubble (Danger) – George Washington

Well, the RPI says La Salle is good…for now. And that really is, “for now”, as with five teams out of the RPI Top 100 left to play in the regular season, the Explorers’ RPI looks likely to start to drop. What’s worse is the lack of RPI Top 50 results for the club. Will they get the benefit of the doubt if they don’t get the auto bid? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to find out if I were them. Rhode Island’s been a nice story but hasn’t even played and RPI Top 50 team, while VCU’s probably hanging around here thanks to it’s really tough non-conference schedule. All three of George Washington’s losses have been to teams in the RPI Top 76. Their best win is against RPI #90 Liberty though, so they aren’t long for this list.

ACC

Lock – North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Virginia
Bubble – Clemson, Notre Dame, Boston College, Duke
Bubble (Danger) – Wake Forest

Ch-ch-changes. North Carolina and Florida State will be aiming for a #1 seed, while Virginia is trying to make up for lost time, though a #2 seed might be the best they can hope for. Clemson and Notre Dame are both in the clear as well, and the latter has a pretty good case for a national seed if they can move up in the RPI enough. Boston College looks like the prototypical good bad team, with wins over Colgate and…well nobody else really, so BC probably will want to take care of business against struggling NC State and Wake Forest sides before a huge clash at Duke. Duke’s odds plummeted earlier after a draw with Louisville. They probably have to beat Boston College and avoid defeat against one of North Carolina, Virginia, or Florida State to ensure they’re at .500. Wake Forest is alive in only the most technical sense. They’d have to win their final four regular season matches, hope they somehow slide into the ACC Tournament, win their semi-final match, and lose in a shootout in the final to have a chance at an at-large bid. So, yeah, probably not going to happen.
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NCAA – Weighted Total Shot Ratio – Week 5

AAC

1.40 – UCF
1.34 – South Florida
1.22 – Cincinnati
1.22 – UConn
1.06 – Temple
1.05 – Memphis
0.82 – Tulsa
0.76 – East Carolina
0.50 – Houston
0.49 – SMU

ACC

1.62 – Florida State
1.59 – Virginia
1.32 – North Carolina
1.29 – Clemson
1.28 – Duke
1.16 – Notre Dame
1.01 – Virginia Tech
0.89 – Louisville
0.81 – Boston College
0.75 – Wake Forest
0.66 – Pittsburgh
0.58 – Miami (FL)
0.50 – NC State
0.50 – Syracuse
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NCAA – Keep Punching That Ticket – Week One

Welcome to AWK’s weekly roundup of who’s in and who’s out of the conference tournament picture around the country. We’ll be adding conferences as every team finishes half its league schedule, so everyone should be on here within a week or two. The number in parentheses is maximum possible points for each club with matches remaining in the league. Leagues without any divisions between teams either take all teams to the conference tournament or don’t have a conference tournament. I’ve tried to use tiebreakers properly to separate teams when necessary.

* = Clinched Conference Tournament Berth

America East

12 (24) – Hartford
07 (19) – Albany
06 (15) – Maine
05 (17) – UMBC
05 (14) – New Hampshire
04 (16) – Binghamton
-
04 (16) – Stony Brook
04 (13) – Vermont

Ineligible – UMass-Lowell

AAC

15 (27) – UCF
11 (20) – Memphis
10 (19) – Temple
09 (18) – UConn
07 (16) – Tulsa
06 (18) – Cincinnati
06 (18) – South Florida
06 (18) – East Carolina
06 (18) – SMU
01 (13) – Houston

ACC

18 (30) – Florida State
18 (30) – North Carolina
15 (27) – Virginia
12 (24) – Notre Dame
-
10 (22) – Clemson
10 (22) – Duke
09 (21) – Virginia Tech
08 (20) – Louisville
06 (18) – Syracuse
06 (18) – Pittsburgh
06 (18) – Boston College
04 (16) – Wake Forest
01 (13) – Miami (FL)
00 (12) – NC State
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 10/13/14 – (1) UCLA vs (23) Cal

(1) UCLA vs (23) Cal – 10:00 PM

It’s a rare Monday night feature with big name clubs, as the Bruins try to pull the sweep over the Northern California Pac-12 schools that they started by topping Stanford in a superstar showdown last Thursday. Now at 3-0-1 in the league, UCLA is in the driver’s seat to claim their second straight league title and have all but wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament thanks to that win over the RPI #2 Stanford side. Amanda Cromwell’s side would leave it oh so late, going down after a corner kick early in the second half but seeing a mad dash to equalize late pay off when Ally Courtnall netted the equalizer after an assist from Annie Alvarado. Alvarado would put her name in lights with five minutes to play, latching onto a Sam Mewis pass and hitting for the winner. It was the type of comeback win Stanford had been known for for so long and was further evidence that this UCLA side may have grown its own indomitable spirit against adversity. They’ll be dealing with a minor bit of adversity soon enough, when Rosie White departs for OFC WWC Qualifying with New Zealand, which will likely mean a recall to the starting lineup for Darian Jenkins who assisted on the first goal on Thursday. Until then, UCLA will be counting on White and the rest of the attack to keep on chugging against Cal and Arizona this week as they try to sign off in style from their home regular season schedule before finishing with five on the road.

Cal comes into this one with a day’s fewer rest, which might be a bit contentious considering they had a close shave of their own against USC on the road on Friday afternoon. The Golden Bears also had to come from behind, going down after the hour mark to the Trojans before striking right back with a gorgeous equalizer from range from Grace Leer. The winner was not as aesthetically pleasing, especially for USC supporters, who were livid at what they felt was interference against goalkeeper Caroline Stanley on the header from Arielle Ship. At the end of the day though, Cal ran out with the three points and put a halt to a two-game losing streak that had seen the club begin to slide in the RPI. With UCLA and Stanford left on the schedule, there certainly is time for a big move back up with an upset. The club really could use with a good result against one of the league’s better teams to act as a counterweight against a mostly tepid non-conference resume. That’s a lot to ask on the road against the nation’s best team though. Supporters may be especially worried about a defense conceding a goal and a half in league matches thus far. Keeping that pace up could be disastrous on Monday.

NCAA – Bracket Projections v4.0

Note: Projected auto-bid winners are gradually moving to league leaders as conferences complete half their league schedule. Those that haven’t are still projecting top RPI team as their auto bid winner.

Seeded Teams

#1 Seeds

1 – Florida – SEC*
2 – Stanford – Pac-12
3 – UCLA – Pac-12*
4 – North Carolina – ACC

#2 Seeds

5 – Florida State – ACC*
6 – Rutgers – Big Ten
7 – Penn State – Big Ten*
8 – West Virginia – Big XII*

#3 Seeds

9 – Pepperdine – WCC*
10 – Wisconsin – Big Ten
11 – Virginia Tech – ACC
12 – Washington State – Pac-12

#4 Seeds

13 – Washington – Pac-12
14 – Texas A&M – SEC
15 – Virginia – ACC
16 – Kansas – Big XII
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 10/12/14 – (7) Florida State vs (10) Virginia Tech

(7) Florida State vs (10) Virginia Tech – 1:00 PM

Halfway home in the ACC season, and Virginia Tech is just one of many teams that are trying to solidify their ACC Tournament hopes by finishing in the top four of the league. While Sunday’s opponent and North Carolina both look to be Greensboro bound, up and down form looks to have consigned the Hokies to a nervous last three weeks of the regular season. The Hokies have generally shone against the teams they should have, beating Clemson, Duke, and Miami (FL) each by 2-0 margins but have also dropped matches to heavyweights Notre Dame and North Carolina, who have each torched the Hokie defense. It’s true that VT was without key center-back Jordan Coburn for the game against Notre Dame, but the club can’t fall back on that excuse for the showing at North Carolina, where the team shipped three unanswered goals at the beginning of the match. The defense had little trouble on Thursday in shutting down Miami (FL), but questions do remain about the Hokies’ ability to slow down top clubs’ attack. That’s certainly little solace ahead of a match against a Florida State team that’s been sawing through opponents all season. But if the Hokies really want a high national seed, they’re going to need a standout win, and maybe more than one. That might mean winning four of their final five in the regular season, which would be made much easier with an upset on Sunday.

Florida State will not be in a giving mood. They have won eight in a row since their loss at home to Florida and have not given up a goal in five league matches thus far. For all the handwringing about the defense in the non-conference season, FSU’s come good when its really begun to matter. OK, the Noles have faced four clubs who probably aren’t going to finish in the top half of the league, but they’ve also shutout Virginia, which was a much needed result for the club’s hopes of a #1 seed. The Hokies are one of two remaining RPI Top 10 teams left in the regular season schedule, and FSU might need to win both of those matches to propel themselves to a top seed. They’ll struggle to top their Thursday performance against Syracuse. FSU held the Orange to two off-target shots all night and easily could have scored more than the two they did put up on the evening. Berglind Thorvaldsdottir hit double figures with the eventual winner and has blossomed into a player of fine repute. She’ll fancy her chances of sinking her teeth into the Hokie defense. Victory on Sunday could set up a huge clash with North Carolina in a week and a half and move FSU closer to a #1 seed.

(14) Washington vs (22) Arizona – 4:00 PM

Very quietly, Arizona has turned into the darkest of dark horses for a shock Pac-12 title run. OK, the Wildcats got thumped by USC and haven’t played UCLA or Stanford yet, so that’s going a bit far, but Arizona should at the very least be confident of breaking their long NCAA Tournament duck. With a draw against Texas A&M and win at Washington State, Tony Amato’s side might also be fancying their chance of a national seed. That will require the Wildcats to keep winning after three league victories in a row, but that looks doable after they pounded Washington State on Friday. WSU had previously given up just three goals on the season, which made it all the more shocking when Amato’s bunch put up a four spot on the Cougars, tied for the most goals UA had scored in a single game this season. Reliant on Gabby Stoian for offense some what, the club benefitted from a great day instead from Alexandra Dollar, who netted a brace in the win and had three shots on target. The scoreline probably flattered Arizona overall though, and expecting another four goal outburst might be a bit much. The club will still be hoping though that the defense continues to show strides of improvement after the league opening shellacking at USC’s hands. They’ll need strong defense again with a confident Washington side opposing them.

The Huskies indeed are very confident after winning their last two league games to put them in a great position for getting back to the NCAA Tournament. That had been in a little bit of doubt after a league opening loss to Oregon that doesn’t look terrible now, while the club got pasted by Stanford in the next league game they played. But gutty wins at Cal and against Arizona State on Friday have propelled Washington up the RPI and into a position where they now surely must be thinking about a national seed. With a dreadful Oregon State side and a freefalling Utah team next on the docket, UW may very well have a great chance to extend their winning streak to five games if they can overcome Arizona. Kate Bennett continues to have a fine season for the Huskies, coming through with four shots on goal and the equalizer against Arizona State after the club had gone down after just eleven minutes. The Huskies found a late winner through reserve Becca Schoales for a huge win to draw the club’s Pac-12 record back to 2-2-0. The defense is still a worry though. The club hasn’t kept a clean sheet in five matches and has just three on the season in thirteen matches. Against a Arizona side that found its shooting boots Friday, that could be as big a concern as ever.

Other Big Matches To Watch

(46) USC vs (2) Stanford – 6:00 PM
(17) Washington State vs (38) Arizona State – 4:00 PM
(27) Oklahoma vs (44) TCU – 2:00 PM
(41) Oregon vs (50) Colorado – 4:00 PM
(55) Memphis vs (60) East Carolina – 2:00 PM

NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 10/11/14 – (5) Penn State vs (23) Rutgers

(5) Penn State vs (23) Rutgers – 4:30 PM

It’s another case of Penn State trying to beat back a title challenger after having downed Wisconsin last Sunday in a 2-0 win in Madison that put PSU in pole position for another Big Ten title. The Nittany Lions have won nine in a row since their 1-0 loss to North Carolina at the beginning of September and can actually wrap up a conference tournament berth with a win and Ohio State loss this weekend. But the goal will be three points to move closer to that Big Ten title and perhaps boost its case for a #1 seed, though that still looks an uphill climb given the weakness of the club’s Big Ten brethren. The scoreline of the Wisconsin match was perhaps a bit harsh on the Badgers, with the stats being almost identical, but PSU showed the critical cutting edge in front of goal with Emily Ogle and Salina Williford scoring inside the final twelve minutes. It was a big gut check win since most of the club’s Big Ten opponents haven’t come close to challenging the club in league play this season. Oddly enough, PSU’s been much better defensively away from home thus far, with four clean sheets in six matches away from University Park, while keeping just two in seven at home. Familiarity will not be an ally for this one, with Rutgers in its first year of Big Ten play and very much in form after a great season to this point. But Penn State knows this is probably their last best chance at making a case for a top seed. Nobody else remaining in the regular season has a current RPI in the Top 30, meaning victory here could have real ramifications come Selection Monday.

Rutgers aren’t harboring hopes of a top two seed, but they may well be able to work their way into a national seed with a strong finish. The problem for the Scarlet Knights is that their resume is very light at the moment. With only a win over Michigan to their credit as far as results against RPI Top 50 teams is concerned, the Scarlet Knights need much more if they want to grab one of the coveted national seeds. Penn State and Wisconsin are the big fish remaining on the conference schedule, and Rutgers probably needs a result against at least one to get themselves in the seeding mix. They certainly can’t argue they’re coming in out of form, having won three straight in the league and having gone unbeaten in six since a loss to fellow league newcomers Maryland in their league debut. The defense has been simply dominant, having conceded just one goal in their last six and having kept three straight clean sheets coming into this one. The offense hadn’t really sparked to life until the win over Purdue though. It was the first time the club had scored two goals in the league, much less four. Amanda DeVolk had her first two goals of the season, but getting Stefanie Scholz off the mark may have been more important. It was her fifth of the season, and more will be needed from the club’s leading scorer if Rutgers is to prosper. Offensive questions aside, the defense will probably need to continue to excel for any hopes of an away upset on Saturday afternoon.

NCAA – Bracket Projections v3.5

OK, I’ve decided to streamline the process a bit to eliminate some redundancy. The listed seeded teams are what was before my projected seeded teams, the seed candidates are the remaining RPI Top 25 teams ranked according to results against Top 50 teams. Teams in the “above the bubble” section are ranked only by RPI. Teams in “the bubble” section are those in the bubble ladder from previous versions that would be “in” PLUS auto bid qualifiers in that zone that are also ranked against the bubble teams. One-bid conferences are pretty self-explanatory and ranked by RPI.

Bubbles burst are teams on the outside looking in according to the bubble ladder in previous versions of this. After that are the next five teams that did not make the bubble scrutiny list.

Seeded Teams

#1 Seeds

1 – Stanford – Pac-12
2 – North Carolina – ACC
3 – UCLA – Pac-12*
4 – Florida – SEC*

#2 Seeds

5 – Pepperdine – WCC*
6 – Florida State – ACC*
7 – Penn State – Big Ten*
8 – Wisconsin – Big Ten

#3 Seeds

9 – Notre Dame – ACC
10 – Washington State – Pac-12
11 – Texas Tech – Big XII
12 – Virginia – ACC

#4 Seeds

13 – West Virginia – Big XII*
14 – Texas A&M – SEC
15 – Virginia Tech – ACC
16 – Kansas – Big XII
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