With the regular season winding down, it’s time to take a look at where the contenders for at-large bids and national seeds stand. Reminder that I’m using Chris Thomas’ guide for who past precedent tells us is in and out at this point of the season. New updates will come out once a week until Selection Monday.
BUBBLE – New Hampshire
The Wildcats are in rarefied air, as an America East team still in the bubble frame after Boston University’s departure a few years back left the league mostly as an afterthought. Brooke Murphy remains one of the nation’s best kept secrets and has eight goals to this point and could draw some late round attention in January’s NWSL Draft. UNH’s profile isn’t going to get it in at-large bid though, as it’s played just two teams in the RPI Top 100, losing to Princeton, 3-1, but also beating Northeastern, 1-0, in their best result of the season.
LOCK – UCF
BUBBLE – Cincinnati, South Florida, Memphis, SMU
DANGER – Houston
Few expected UCF to be in the position they’re in, but they’ve been a wrecking ball thus far, profiting behind a swashbuckling attack. A win over North Carolina adds to their hopes of a #1 seed, but the lack of a truly great second win could push them down a bit. Cincinnati is the other team in the AAC that looks like a near lock, and their draw against the aforementioned UCF helps their hopes for a seed, but the Bearcats also have just a single win over a team in the RPI Top 30, which could keep them unseeded.
It’s shaky after those two. South Florida has a decent RPI number and solid wins at Alabama and against Memphis, but how those two results hold up isn’t necessarily set in stone. A result in the regular season finale against UCF would be a big boost for their hopes. Memphis has been erratic to a fault, with a brutal stretch of just one win in seven matches, where the defense gave up a shocking twenty-one goals in that span. The Tigers have just a win over Rice as their sole RPI Top 50 result and really needs a positive result against Cincinnati this Sunday.
SMU looked to be in good shape with wins early over Arkansas and Washington, but those results have eroded over time. The Mustangs have also made a frigid start to league play, going 0-3-1 in their first four, including what’s likely to be a backbreaking loss against Tulsa. Houston looks likely to vanish from this list next week, but that they’re even still in the conversation (even on the margins), is nice progress considering how the Cougars have struggled the past decade.
BUBBLE – Saint Louis, La Salle
DANGER – Saint Joseph’s
Saint Louis looked likely to walk the league after tearing through their non-conference schedule, which featured a win over Vanderbilt and draw against Kansas. But those results haven’t aged well, and the Billikens have dropped points in the early part of the A10 schedule, likely meaning they’ll need the league’s auto bid to go dancing. That’s a tough ask with La Salle stomping the league with four fixtures to go. The Explorers look like the La Salle clubs of old and have obliterated the A10 thus far and played West Virginia to a one-goal defeat earlier in the year, though they have almost no chance at an at-large bid.
Saint Joseph’s was a sensation last year and has a shock win at Ohio State in September but have been faltering in A10 play to crush fleeting at-large hopes. The loss of Dakota Mills to injury after just a pair of games has hit hard, though the Hawks could still be dangerous in the A10 Tournament.
LOCK – North Carolina, Duke, Notre Dame, Florida State
BUBBLE – Wake Forest, Virginia, Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Syracuse
DANGER – Louisville
North Carolina and Duke look the best sides in the ACC by a mile, but the intricacies of the league schedule mean that the two aren’t playing in a league game. UNC beat the Blue Devils in a non-conference meeting though, and that could be decisive if the two are fighting for a #1 seed, though both are on the shortlist of prime contenders for that honor.
The rest of the league is a crapshoot. Notre Dame and Florida State both have great RPI numbers and should be locked in, but they don’t have great results at this point that could boost them up the seed order. The Irish’s best win is over RPI #32 Santa Clara, though opportunities against FSU and North Carolina remain. FSU’s profile is even worse, with only wins over Virginia Tech and NC State on it, though they get a shot at Florida on Thursday, with matches against Wake Forest & Notre Dame also remaining.
It’s a logjam behind them. Wake Forest has one of the season’s best wins against South Carolina and also has beaten Notre Dame away, but they’ve cooled noticeably as of late with just one win in four and may need a strong finish to jumpstart hopes of a top two seed. Virginia are in a similar circumstance despite wins over West Virginia and Penn State. A draw against East Carolina sticks out like a sore thumb, and UVA might not get as many chances to make a big jump with Duke the sole “big” remaining regular season opponent.
There’s much bigger bubble trouble behind them. Clemson notched a win over Auburn in the season’s early weeks but has literally nothing else to fall back on and has won just two of six in the ACC thus far. There’s resume building opportunities down the stretch, but the Tigers may not be consistent enough. NC State are finishing up with a brutal four game road stretch that saw them lose three of four, and the Wolfpack’s strongest win at the moment is over RPI #51 Boston College. There’s little upside the rest of the way in the regular season, meaning a nervous wait could be in store.
Virginia Tech’s profile looks eerily similar to last year, with zero wins in the RPI Top 90 (!) but draws against Pepperdine and Wake Forest. They’re sitting at zero wins in the ACC right now though, and it’s impossible to believe they’ll get in the field without some creditable wins. Boston College has a shaky number but a nice win against Boston College but may need two or three out of four down the stretch if they want to avoid a big task in the ACC Tournament. Syracuse is alive in name only and hasn’t beaten anyone in the RPI Top 95. Louisville has managed that with a win over Clemson, but their overall win profile just doesn’t add up, with their days on the Watch looking numbered.