Monday, November 17, 2008

Soccer Outlook: Maryland Wins ACC, Loyola Loses First Game, NCAA Selection Tomorrow

Quite the weekend for soccer teams in the Old Line State.

#5 Maryland won their third ACC Championship with a 1-nil victory over Virginia on Sunday. The Terps played as the 2-seed and expected to take on 1-seed Wake Forest, but the Deacs lost their first every games to the Cavaliers in the semifinals. The lone goal was scored by Jeremy Hall in the first two minutes, and goalie Zac MacMath did not allow a goal in all three games. With their three wins this week, Maryland may break the top-3 in the rankings.

Meanwhile, #6 Loyola lost their first game of the season, losing 1-nil to Fairfield in the MAAC Championship. The Stags scored in the 26th minute, and despite the Greyhounds pressuring in the second half, they were unable to get the equalizer.

So with the selection show today, how do the state's teams fare? 48 teams make the NCAA Tournament, including 22 automatic qualifiers from conference champions and 26 at-large bids. The top-16 teams are seeded and receive a first-round bye, while the bottom 32 must play.

I will be mentioning some possible teams in the DC/Northern Virginia area as well. In this tournament and in the current economy, many of the early matchups are localized. Last season, Maryland and Loyola met up in the Round of 32. So, chances are teams close by will play each other in the first couple rounds. Until the Final Four, games are played at campus sites hosted by the higher seed in each contest.

Maryland Terrapins (#5, 18-3-0, 6-2-0 ACC, ACC Champion AQ)
--Key wins: UCLA, North Carolina (twice), Virginia (twice), Boston College (twice)
The ACC has won two of the last three national championships, Maryland winning in 2005. Because of automatic qualifier rules, the Terps are already in the tournament, though that was not an issue anyway. With the conference victory, a top-4 seed will almost certainly be given to Maryland. This will mean the Terps can play at home until the Final Four, a huge advantage.

Loyola Greyhounds (#6, 18-1-1, 9-0 MAAC, MAAC runner-up)
--Key win: Campbell
Loyola is going to be hard to predict. On the one hand, they had an undefeated regular season record. On the other, they had a very easy strength of schedule and did not win the conference championship. They played nobody currently ranked; Campbell had 2 votes in the last poll (#25 Butler had 52, to compare). Based on last season, I believe they will get one of the 16 seeds, but not a top-8 seed. Coach Mettrick has Milos Kocic one more year if he decides to stay; he needs to get harder teams on the schedule next season.

Georgetown Hoyas (11-5-3, 5-3-3 Big East)
The Hoyas have had a good season, led by the senior forward Peter Grasso with seven goals. They don't have a win against a ranked team and were ranked themselves earlier in the season, but they have played close against other ranked teams including Connecticut, Notre Dame, and South Florida. The problem is, normally wins are all that matters to the committee. If the Hoyas make it, they will likely play a first round game on the road, but their record should be enough to get them in.

George Mason Patriots (13-6-2, 6-4-1 CAA, CAA Champion AQ)
--Key win: Tulsa
The Patriots will head to the NCAA after winning the crazy CAA championship, the last of seven straight victories. Led by senior forward Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe, who has nine goals and six assists, GM had very few big name teams on the schedule, but they had a big upset win of Tulsa, currently #7 in the country. With that win and their current winning streak, they could get a first round game at home, but they will play in the first round.

After Maryland, Loyola, and George Mason, only Georgetown has the opportunity to make the tournament in the local area. The selection comes out tonight from the NCAA.

(Photo credit: Maryland athletics (ACC trophy), Loyola athletics (Kocic))

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