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Men’s College Soccer – A Game-By-Game Prediction Of Who Advances In The Always Exciting and Pressure Packed One And Done Environment of The 2020-21 NCAA Tournament. Fasten Your SeatBelts For What Promises To Be An Be An Exciting Tournament. By Brian Ludden

It has Been Longer Than Expected But The Men’s College Soccer NCAA Tournament Is Back. The Field Has Been Reduced From 48 To 36 Teams Which Reduces The Number of At-Large Berths And The Number Of Teams Playing In The First Round. In Addition The Entire Tournament Will Take Place In The State Of North Carolina.

Game-By-Game Predictions And The Resulting Progression Of The Teams Follows. Some Of The Projections Will Be No Doubt Be Wrong.

One Thing For Certain Though Is That This Will Be A tournament Like No Other In The Past For A Variety Of Reasons. However, Like In The Past, It Will Be Extremely Competitive And A rewarding Experience For All Of The Teams Who Have Earned A Spot In The Tournament Field.

The Brackets Are Identified By The Top Seed In Each Bracket.

#1 Clemson Bracket

First Round – April 29, 2021

Jacksonville (7-4-1) vs. American (4-1-2) – Jacksonville 2 – American 1

Second Round – May 2, 2021

Jacksonville vs. Clemson (13-3-2) – Clemson 3 – Jacksonville 0

Fordham (7-0-2) vs. Marshall (9-2-2) – Marshall 3 – Fordham 1

Penn State (8-1-2) vs. Massachusetts (7-1-3) – Penn State 3 – Massachusetts 0

High Point (12-1-0) vs. Georgetown (8-1-2) – Georgetown 3 – High Point 1

Third Round – May 6, 2021

Clemson vs. Marshall – Clemson 3 – Marshall 0

Penn State vs. Georgetown – Georgetown 2 – Penn State 1 (overtime)

Quarterfinals – May 10, 2021

Clemson vs. Georgetown – Clemson 3 – Georgetown 2

Clemson Bracket Analysis:

It was anticipated that the winner of the Clemson and Pittsburgh ACC title match would be the number one overall seed. The Tigers defeated Pitt 2-0 and indeed secured the number one seed. However, Georgetown dropped to the number eight overall seed after losing to Seton Hall 2-1 in the Big East Conference title match. This set up what could be a very exciting quarterfinal match between the defending national champion Hoyas and the top seeded Clemson Tigers. The departure of several key players to enter the professional ranks has taken a bit of the edge off of the Hoyas. Regardless, Georgetown remains a dangerous team to face but they are not likely strong enough at this point to top a very talented, experienced and unified Clemson Tiger side.

Marshall (9-2-2) out of CUSA and Penn State (8-1-2) out of the Big Ten look to be the other members in the bracket that might play their way into the quarterfinals.

#4 Stanford Bracket

First Round – April 29, 2021

Omaha (6-2-1) vs. UNCG (9-2-2) – (Omaha replaced Denver as the Summit League representative. The Pioneers had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols) – UNCG 2 – Omaha 1

Second Round – May 2, 2021

Wake Forest (11-2-2) vs. Coastal Carolina (9-4-2) – Wake Forest 3 – Coastal Carolina 1

Kentucky (11-4-2) vs. New Hampshire (8-0-1) – Kentucky 2 – New Hampshire 2 – Kentucky advances in penalty kicks

North Carolina (7-4-3) vs. Charlotte (6-3-1) – North Carolina 2 – Charlotte 0

UNCG vs. Stanford (9-2-1) – Stanford 3 – UNCG 1

Third Round – May 6, 2021

Wake Forest vs. Kentucky – Wake Forest 1 – Kentucky 0

North Carolina vs. Stanford – Stanford 2 – North Carolina 0

Quarterfinals – May 10, 2021

Wake Forest vs. Stanford – Wake Forest 3 – Stanford 2 (overtime)

Stanford Bracket Analysis:

An upset is not out of the question but it looks like this bracket could very well end up with a matchup of the top two seeds, which would be a very entertaining game. However, another intriguing matchup in the second round is Kentucky and New Hampshire. New Hampshire enters the tournament as the only undefeated team (8-0-1) and Kentucky has played very well at times and not so well at others. Wake Forest and Stanford can’t look past anyone but if they play to their potential both should play their way into the quarterfinals.

North Carolina and Charlotte, who face each other in the second round, are among the teams in this bracket that could surprise and play their way into the quarterfinals. Coastal Carolina is a long shot but historically the Chanticleers usually find a way to secure a win or two in the tourney. The potential exists for Coastal Carolina to cause problems for Wake Forest.

#3 Indiana Bracket

First Round – April 29, 2021

Milwaukee (8-4-0) vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (5-1-2)- Milwaukee 2 – St. Francis Brooklyn 1

Second Round – May 2, 2021

Indiana (9-1-1) vs. Milwaukee – Indiana 3 – Milwaukee 0

Marquette (8-2-1) vs. Loyola Marymount (6-0-2) – Marquette 3 – Loyola Marymount 2

Oregon State (9-4-0) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6-3) – Oregon State 2 – Virginia Tech 0

Air Force (6-4-2) vs. Seton Hall (9-1-3) – Seton Hall 3 – Air Force 1

Third Round – May 6, 2021

Indiana vs. Marquette – Indiana 3 – Marquette 0

Oregon State vs. Seton Hall – Oregon State 2 – Seton Hall 1

Quarterfinals – May 10, 2021

Indiana vs. Oregon State – Indiana 3 – Oregon State 2

Indiana Bracket Analysis:

This could very well be the most entertaining bracket and the most difficult to advance out of due to the level of competitiveness of the teams. Indiana comes into the tournament after securing the Big Ten Tournament title by topping Penn State 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout after the contest was tied 1-1 at the end of 110 minutes of play. A potential Oregon State and Seton Hall matchup in the third round looks to be a dandy that could go either way. Seton Hall is having a breakthrough season while Oregon State rocketed upward in the national polls early in the season before struggling somewhat during the second part of the spring season. On paper, Indiana looks to have a straight path to the quarterfinals but contests are not played on paper. The potential exists for the Hoosiers to have a difficult time against the winner of the Marquette and Loyola Marymount contest should they not bring their A game.

Loyola Marymount out of the West Coast Conference is a team that has performed well on both sides of the ball during the regular season. Seton Hall out of the Big East Conference has momentum and a ton of enthusiasm as a team. Both LMU and Seton Hall have the potential to shake things up. Virginia Tech (6-6-3) is a team that has been hard to get a handle on which makes them a dangerous opponent. The Hokies are a much more competitive side than their record indicates with impressive wins on the road down the homestretch over North Carolina and Notre Dame.

#2 Pittsburgh Bracket

First Round – April 29, 2021

Bowling Green (7-4-1) vs. Monmouth (5-2-1) – Bowling Green 3 – Monmouth 0

Second Round – May 2, 2021

Washington (10-3-0) vs. Grand Canyon (8-1-0) – Washington 3 – Grand Canyon 3 (Washington advances in pks.

Maryland (4-4-2) vs. Missouri State (11-1-0) – Missouri State 1 – Maryland 0

UCF (8-3-1) vs. James Madison (5-0-3) – UCF 2 – James Madison 1

Pittsburgh (13-3-0) vs. Bowling Green – Pittsburgh 2 – Bowling Green 0

Third Round – May 6, 2021

Washington vs. Missouri State – Washington 2 – Missouri State 0

UCF vs. Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh 3 – UCF 1

Quarterfinals – May 10, 2021

Washington vs. Pittsburgh – Washington 3 – Pittsburgh 2

Pittsburgh Bracket Analysis:

This group is wide open with several of the teams in it capable of getting hot and advancing to the College Cup semifinals. Pitt has continued to improve and had a truly banner season. Washington vs. Grand Canyon is among the most interesting second round contest, as both teams are coming off very successful regular seasons. If there is going to be a second round upset of a top seed, this may be the bracket where it is most likely to occur with Bowling Green and Grand Canyon good candidates to pull off an early upset. However at the end of the day, the top seeds are likely to survive with Washington’s experience giving them the edge they need to top a very strong Pitt team out of the ACC to advance to the semifinals.

College Cup (FINAL Four)

Semifinals – May 14, 2021

Clemson vs. Wake Forest

In a potential All-ACC semifinal, Clemson and Wake Forest could meet each other for the fourth time in the combined fall 2020 and spring 2021 seasons. The teams have split the season series, with each team securing a win and one of the contests ending in a scoreless 0-0 draw. If the two programs do meet in the College Cup semifinals it is likely to be a low scoring affair, where one mistake or one moment of brilliance could determine the outcome. This one really could be considered a toss-up, but give Clemson the nod in a close and very thrilling edge of the seat nail biter.

Prediction: Clemson 1 – Wake Forest 0

Indiana vs. Washington

Unlike Wake Forest and Clemson, Indiana out of the Big Ten and Washington out of the Pac-12 didn’t play any games in the fall of 2020. However, both have had excellent 2021 spring seasons. Two of Washington’s losses this season came to teams in the NCAA Tournament field of 36. The Huskies started the season on fire, going 8-1-0 in their first nine matches. Indiana’s only loss was a 1-0 loss on the road to Northwestern back on February 27. The Hoosiers have not lost since that contest. If Indiana and Washington do meet in the semifinals, it promises to be an entertaining high intensity contest. Look for the Big Ten champion Hoosiers to prevail and advance to the finals.

Prediction Indiana 3 – Washington 1

Final – National Championship Match – Two Left Standing – May 17, 2021 – Wake Med Soccer Park – Cary, North Carolina

Clemson vs. Indiana

Clemson has looked good all season, with three wins against teams who were number one at the time, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh (twice). On the other hand, Indiana hasn’t lost since February and they have only conceded a total of three goals this season. Clemson vs. Indiana would be a very entertaining hard fought contest between two very talented and well coached teams with a traditional of success. It would likely be a close, back and forth game that could clearly could go either way but when it is all said and done look for the Clemson Tigers to come out on top and lift the trophy on May 17.

Prediction: Clemson 3 – Indiana 2

Picture from Pittsburgh Athletics

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