Five-Minute Guide: Everything You Need to Know About the NCAA Tournament

ncaa tournament

Behind a 14-win regular season and the ACC Midfielder of the Year Sam Coffey, Boston College women’s soccer ended a two-year break with an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, earning a No. 4 seed and what could be consecutive home games to open the bracket. Alongside nine other ACC teams, the Eagles (14-4-1, 6-3-1 Atlantic Coast) will be looking to avoid a first-round exit similar to what happened to them in 2015. So to prepare fans for the path that lies ahead for BC, here’s a brief guide on the 64-team bracket.

Five Title Contenders

Stanford (1): The No. 1 team in the nation by a healthy margin, the Cardinal boast a 41-game undefeated streak having last lost on Aug. 25, 2018. The defending national champions, all paths to the College Cup run through head coach Paul Ratcliffe’s team. Ratcliffe, the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year is 43-11-4 in postseason play and has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal—Catarina Macario, Jordan DiBasi, and Sophia Smith all scored seven-plus goals.

Georgetown (1): Any team facing off against the Hoyas will likely be starved for much offensive success. Georgetown finished the season with the second-best defense in the country by goals against average (0.336), conceding just five over the course of the season. Pair that with Caitlin Farrell, the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, and six other All-BIG EAST selections, the Hoyas are in good shape for a deep run.

UCLA (2): The perils of playing in the same division as Stanford means you’ll forever be overshadowed, but the Bruins have done well at keeping a high profile. UCLA only lost three times all season—to ACC champion Florida State, in a surprise setback to Washington State, and to Stanford. The Bruins finished the season with nine wins in a row and boast the 11th scoring offense in the country.

Florida State (1): The Seminoles finished an uncharacteristic seventh in the ACC during the regular season, but showed why they can’t be taken lightly during the conference tournament. Entering postseason play following a 1-0 setback in overtime to Miami, many expected FSU to just bow out—it instead knocked off Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina in succession to claim the title and establish itself as a legitimate title contender.

Southern California (4): Three Pac-12 teams? I know, I know. However, of the four teams to play in the last two national championships, three have been from the westernmost conference. USC is a year removed from taking the title and is incredibly balanced—it boasts top-10 ranks in both scoring offense and defense. The Trojans only lost twice this year—both times in overtime—to Stanford and UCLA.

Five Dark Horses

Princeton: Surprisingly, the Tigers didn’t merit a first-round home game in the tournament. That perceived slight from the selection committee could spark a team that could be dangerous in later rounds. Princeton swept through the Ivy League postseason, are a perfect 6-0 on the road, and have shut out opponents in eight of the last nine games.

Santa Clara (3): One of the top 16 overall seeds doesn’t seem like much of a dark horse, but the Broncos likely aren’t earning as much respect at they should. Santa Clara lost to three top-50 teams by RPI, then had plenty of impressive performances—it knocked off UNC and tied Stanford for instance. The Broncos are 12th in RPI, have a top-15 scoring offense, and four players—paced by Maddy Gonzalez’s eight—have more than six goals. (Don’t forget: Santa Clara won it all back in 2001)

St. Louis: Another team that hits the road in the first round, the Billikens haven’t lost since Sept. 14, when they fell to then-No. 14 Kansas. St. Louis ranks 17th in scoring offense and 15th in goals against average, and while this has largely come against lesser Atlantic 10 competition, it’s still a team others shouldn’t take lightly. Hannah Friedrich (11 goals, eight assists) and Maddie Pokorny (12 goals, two assists) are an elite scoring duo up top.

South Florida: The Bulls might not make it past the first round—Albany is a tough early test—but if they do, they have pieces to make things interesting. Evelyne Viens is the nation’s leading points scorer and paces the country’s highest-scoring offense, which scores nearly three goals per game. USF was upset in the AAC final by Memphis, but had won 13 of 14 with top-25 wins over Baylor and the Tigers.

Memphis: The Tigers, to their credit, might not be much of a dark horse—they vaulted five spots to No. 15 in the polls after winning the AAC title. Still, Memphis, like its conference companion USF, warrants a closer look. The Tigers averaged 2.5 goals per game this season, eighth in the country, and did so while also locking things down on the other end of the field. Goaltender Elizabeth Moberg leads the country with 13 shutouts under her belt.

Five Top Players

Arielle Schechtman, GK, Georgetown (1): Schechtman is the heart and last line of defense for the aforementioned elite Hoyas backline. The BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year, Schechtman has steadily improved from what is often the peak for many keepers. She finished 18th in goals against average as a freshman and fifth as a senior, and paced the nation this season with a .267 mark.

Jordan DiBasi, M, Stanford (1): Last season, DiBasi was named to College Cup All-Tournament team, capping off a productive season in which she tallied six game-winning goals and finished with nine total. The senior has enjoyed a similarly strong season in 2018, scoring nine goals and chipping in 10 assists for an undefeated Cardinal squad. Her performance down the stretch has been something to behold—DiBasi scored twice in consecutive games to close out the season.

Catarina Macario, F, Stanford (1); It’d be disservice to talk about DiBasi without her partner in crime in Macario, a sophomore who is already one of the best players in the country. Macario, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year a season ago, followed up a remarkable 50-point effort with a “pedestrian” 29-point output this season—having played 10 fewer games. She also has thrived as of late, with five goals in her last three games.

Sam Coffey, M, Boston College (4): An incredibly balanced midfielder, Coffey is a player you’d be hard-pressed to find an equal to. Not only does she possess the capability to score from distance with either foot, she’s also one of the nation’s best facilitators. The sophomore ranks fourth in D1 with 38 points, having racked up a nation-best 14 assists alongside 12 goals.

Evelyne Viens, F, South Florida: A Canadian forward, Viens has taken the American Athletic Conference by storm the last three years to the tune of 112 points. Her latest campaign has been her most successful, finishing first in D1 with 43 points (19 goals, five assists). She was held scoreless in a loss to Memphis in the AAC title game, but recorded goals in four of the previous five games.

Five First-Round Matchups to Watch

Rutgers at Duke, Friday, 7 p.m. (ACCN) This game is likely the toughest of the games that feature No. 4 seeds, as the Blue Devils are staring down a Rutgers team that could pull off the upset. The Scarlet Knights finished the regular season in the receiving votes section of the top-25 poll despite the fact that all three of their losses came to teams in the tournament field. Rutgers doesn’t do one single thing better than anything, but is a well-rounded group and has a double-digit scorer in Amirah Ali to fall back on.

Ole Miss at Clemson, Saturday, 6 p.m.  The No. 25 Tigers pulled off an upset of BC in the ACC quarterfinals, then came within a goal of UNC in the semifinals. They’ll have quite the fight awaiting them in the first round, though, as the Rebels—save for a tough setback in the SEC tourney against Arkansas—have been playing quite well. They closed the season with top-25 wins over Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. In terms of RPI, just seven spots separate the two teams, the narrowest margin of any first-round matchup.

Ohio State at Wake Forest, Friday, 7 p.m. (ACCN) A balanced scoring attack leads the host Demon Deacons into this game—they have six players with three or more goals, spearheaded by six from Bayley Feist. A late season surge in conference play earned Wake Forest a matchup with the Buckeyes, who haven’t lost in regulation since Oct. 5. OSU has a similar group of scorers, with seven players having found the back of the net at least twice.

Princeton at Texas Tech, Friday, 6 p.m. This game was touched on before—the Tigers are a dark horse—so this will be brief. The Red Raiders lost the Big 12 semifinals to Baylor, but had been playing some of their best soccer before then. The big struggle for Texas Tech is scoring, though, as it ranks 123rd. That could be a significant obstacle against Princeton, who has allowed just three goals the last nine games.

North Texas at Texas A&M, Friday, 7 p.m. (SEC) Could a big upset be in the cards? North Texas enters as the Conference USA champions with just two losses to its ledger on the year, one of which came to No. 12 Santa Clara. The Mean Green are anchored by a capable goaltender in Kelsey Brann and rank highly in both scoring offense or defense. They’ll have their hands full with A&M, though, as the Aggies scored over two goals per game with a deep roster of threats. Ally Watt is the name to remember, though, as the junior piled up 13 goals—scoring in four straight games at one point.

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor

Bradley Smart
About Bradley Smart 199 Articles
Bradley is the associate sports editor for The Heights. He believes that America does truly run on Dunkin, March is the best month, baseball teams should always wear stirrups, and being down 3-1, in anything, is never cause for concern. You can follow him on Twitter @bradleysmart15.