The second half of the NCAA bracket features two of the country’s heavyweights in Maryland and Akron. Both are riding high at the moment, and if either of those sides trip up prior to the College Cup, it would be a huge shock.
Still, there are plenty of talented teams like Connecticut, Cal and Michigan capable of challenging both of those high-powered programs. So before assuming that the Zips and Terps will square off in the semifinals, let’s check out the opposition.
The only thing standing between the Zips and the No. 1 overall seed was a loss to Cleveland State on Oct. 30. That loss could prove costly, as it’s going to be a difficult path to the final for Akron. Connecticut and California are among the teams standing in the way, and the Zips will truly have to earn their second straight trip to the College Cup.
No. 3 Akron: Much has been made about the talent of Akron. Darlington Nagbe, Darren Mattocks, Perry Kitchen, Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Kofi Sarkodie are just a few of the names on a lengthy list. A good number of these players remember the agony of defeat suffered in the final last year, and they will do their utmost to avoid a repeat of that feeling.
[inline_node:323562]No. 6 California: Built on the bedrock of central defender A.J. Soares, the Pac-10 champions will be thirsty to contest the final that will be held in their home state. Davis Paul and Servando Carrasco must continue to be on form offensively as well.
No. 11 Connecticut: One of the most talented teams in the nation has proven to be one of the most inconsistent. ‘Keeper Josh forward and attacker Tony Cascio are two immensely gifted players, but the Huskies need to pull themselves together and score on a consistent basis if they hope to go deep.
No. 14 Indiana: Some might question the Hoosiers as a seeded team, posting a record of 9-7-2 and crashing out in the semifinals of the Big 10 tournament. But thanks to a strong RPI, the Hoosiers sit in the 14-hole, and the scoring ability of Will Bruin give them a chance to ruin the championship dreams of a higher seed.
Watch out for…
Boston College: While the ACC may not be as strong as in years past, the Eagles and the scoring talents of Charlie Rugg could wreak destruction if the sophomore can get going in the tournament. A tough first round matchup against Brown stands in their way.
[inline_node:323561]UC Santa Barbara: This talented Big West school will be desperate to go on an unlikely run to the College Cup – they’re the 2010 hosts. With Danny Barrera, David Opoku and Sam Garza suiting up for the Gauchos, they’ve got the talent.
Arguably the hottest team in the nation right now, the No. 2 ranked Terrapins are fresh off an ACC Tournament title, and now have their eyes on replicating their 2008 run. Out to hunt down the Terps will be a pair of Big 10 sides – Michigan and Penn State – and C-USA Tournament winners South Carolina.
No. 2 Maryland: As talented as ever and on a 13-game winning streak, it’s very difficult to see the Terps trip up. Offensively, they’ve scored the most goals in the nation, and during their winning streak, have conceded only four. Jason Herrick and Casey Townsend are arguably the best forward tandem in the nation, and goalie Zac MacMath is solid as usual in net.
[inline_node:323560]No. 7 South Carolina: With a win over highly ranked Southern Methodist, the Gamecocks appear to be peaking at the appropriate time. Blake Brettschneider, the Co-Offensive Player of the Year in C-USA, is their main threat, and he must be instrumental as he was in the conference tournament.
No. 10 Michigan: The Wolverines have proven to be more than just a handful of late. The blossoming young talent in Ann Arbor stormed through the competition in the Big 10 tournament. If Soony and Harmoody Saad, who have played so well along with Justin Meram, can fire at all cylinders, it could be another successful competition for Michigan.
No. 15 Penn State: When the Nittany Lions host their second round game, it will be their first since a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Michigan in the Big 10 tournament final. Forward Corey Hertzog is the major offensive force other sides will look to clamp down on. Bouncing back with a win in that first game is crucial.
Watch out for…
Virginia: The Cavaliers of 2010 aren’t nearly as formidable as the 2009 version. But players remain from last year’s success, and it would be dangerous to underestimate the defending champions.
Duke: This talented team couldn’t deliver the goods in the ACC, and will need one of their big guns to step up – whether that’s Ryan Finley, Cole Grossman or Andrew Wenger doesn’t matter – if the Blue Devils want to keep their season alive.