2018 NCAA Tournament Preview

It’s time for the big one – the NCAA Tournament – and two teams featuring Aussies are among the favourites as Stanford and UCLA look to make return trips to the College Cup.

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The 2018 NCAA Tournament sees six teams featuring seven Aussies in the mix for a national title, as at-large teams Texas Tech and UCLA joined conference champions Stanford, LSU, Hofstra, and Albany in the big dance. The chips have fallen the right way for a potential rematch between Beattie Goad’s Stanford outfit and Teagan Micah’s UCLA side in the championship game after 2017’s barnburner that resulted in a 3-2 Stanford victory, with the teams again on opposite sides of the draw. Both sides will be fully expecting to at least reach the College Cup again, whilst for LSU and Texas Tech a Sweet 16 berth is certainly a realistic goal, and from there anything is possible. Hofstra and Albany face the toughest draws, but neither are without their chance to upset the applecart against some bigger teams. 

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

First Round: @ South Florida – 11am, Sunday November 11 

Live on South Florida YouTube

Claire Urquhart and Albany certainly have the toughest test of any of the six teams featuring Aussies, travelling to Tampa to face a South Florida side hellbent on making amends for a 3-0 defeat to Memphis in their conference championship game. Albany reached the NCAA Tournament courtesy of a 5-1 win in their own conference championship game, albeit in a much smaller league, but nonetheless come in on far more of a high than their opponents. South Florida will come in as heavy favourites, but there are always a few upsets in the NCAA Tournament in any sport, so don’t write the Great Danes off just yet.

Albany Team South Florida
14-6-2 Record (W-L-D) 13-3-0
96 RPI Rank 16
2.18 Goals Per Game 2.31
1.23 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.88

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr) 

First Round: @ Boston College – 11am, Saturday November 10

Live on ACC Network Extra (US Only)

The only other team here to play on the road first up, Hofstra certainly have a shorter trip than Albany as they travel from Long Island to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College. The Eagles upset the odds to finish fourth in the ACC after being tabbed to finish tenth in the league in the preseason poll, a remarkable feat considering the level of play in that conference. However, Hofstra have plenty of tournament experience, both in terms of conference and national tournament games, and can hopefully use that to their advantage to come up with the upset. If Hofstra can manage to dictate the pace of the game, expect to see plenty of Monique Iannella getting up and down the flank from her fullback position, whilst her delivery from set-pieces could be another ace up Hofstra’s sleeve.

Hofstra Team Boston College
15-5-1 Record (W-L-D) 14-4-1
63 RPI Rank 25
1.67 Goals Per Game 2.26
0.95 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.63

 

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill) 

First Round: v Boston University – 6am, Monday November 12 

Live on SEC Network+ (US Only)

LSU were teetering on the bubble with four weeks left in the season, but a remarkable run to the end of the season made talk of an at-large bid moot as the Tigers rolled through the SEC Tournament to secure the conference championship on penalties against Arkansas. LSU are a team nobody will want to face in this sort of form, and more than a few title contenders will be hoping that Boston University can pull off the upset and get the Tigers out of the bracket early. It doesn’t look likely though, as although Boston University are certainly a decent team, LSU should have enough in their locker to secure a comfortable victory as they look to turn what was a decent season a month ago into one for the ages.

LSU Team Boston University
13-6-3 Record (W-L-D) 11-7-3
27 RPI Rank 90
1.50 Goals Per Game 1.24
1.05 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.90

Stanford (Beattie Goad) 

First Round: v Seattle – 2pm, Sunday November 11

Live on Stanford Live Stream

As defending champions and riding a 41-match unbeaten streak, facing Seattle in the first round should pose no significant problems for a Stanford side that has been dominant for the past two seasons. The Cardinal won their first-round match in 2017 against Utah Valley 9-1, and whilst a similar result is not exactly expected here against Seattle, a wide margin of victory would not be in the least bit surprising as they look to continue their march to back-to-back championships. Beattie Goad has been in and out of the starting lineup as an occasional member of the matchday eleven, but even off the bench has been providing outstanding play for the entirety of the season, with the junior set to see far more playing time than in the Cardinal’s run to the 2017 title.

Stanford Team Seattle
17-0-2 Record (W-L-D) 10-7-3
1 RPI Rank 152
2.68 Goals Per Game 1.75
0.47 Goals Conceded Per Game 1.15

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

First Round: v Princeton – 11am, Saturday November 10

Live on TexasTech.com

Probably the tightest match on paper of the six involving Australians, Texas Tech host Princeton in a matchup of two teams separated by just ten positions in the RPI rankings, which in a nation of 335 teams is incredibly close. This game is almost a coinflip, with Princeton finishing second in the smaller Ivy League but doing enough throughout the season to earn an at-large bid, and Texas Tech reaching the Big 12 semi-finals to round out a solid season in the high-major Big 12. Both of these teams are the kind of team that could have proven to be banana skins for bigger teams in the opening weekend, particularly Princeton, who knocked off #2 North Carolina in the Sweet 16 last year and will be hungry to make another deep run. Demi Koulizakis has been coming off the bench to provide some spark to the Texas Tech offence on occasion, and it may just come to pass that the junior provides what the Red Raiders need to get over the line in this one.

Texas Tech Team Princeton
13-5-2 Record (W-L-D) 11-3-2
34 RPI Rank 24
1.50 Goals Per Game 1.50
0.60 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.56

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

First Round: v San Jose State – 1pm, Saturday November 10 

Live on UCLA Live Stream

Like Stanford, UCLA are one of the favourites to progress deep into the tournament and as such, will be expected to dominate their game against San Jose State. San Jose State came in as Mountain West Conference champions, having won the tournament despite finishing fourth in the league, so their body of work throughout the season is perhaps not as glittering as most other teams in the tournament. UCLA, on the other hand, finished second in the Pac-12, arguably the toughest league in the country, and did so despite missing Hailie Mace and Jessie Fleming to national team duty for several matches. Teagan Micah is back to her best after a concussion scare earlier in the season, and the Bruins should be primed to make another run towards the College Cup and will be hoping to go one step better than last season’s championship game defeat to Stanford.

UCLA Team San Jose State
14-3-1 Record (W-L-D) 9-6-6
8 RPI Rank 128
2.44 Goals Per Game 0.76
0.83 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.67

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