On Tuesday, the topic was home field advantage, which proved once again to be a major factor in this year’s NCAA tournament. In the first round, the home teams were an impressive 13-3, pretty much consistent with recent years.
Now, with the second round approaching on Sunday, the home teams enjoy even more of an advantage after receiving a bye into this stage of the tournament. There will be a few road victories here or there, but once again the familiarity of home will be the deciding factor in many of these games.
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UNC (17-2-2) – Coastal Carolina (18-3)
After a thrilling 4-3 victory against Elon in the first round, Coastal Carolina gets the honor of facing top overall seed UNC. The Tar Heels earned that right after winning both the ACC regular season and conference tournament.
There really is no mystery to how these teams will approach the game. UNC, with its cornucopia of playmakers, will breakdown the opposing defense with unremitting pressure.
While Coastal Carolina has the nation’s leading scorer, Ashton Bennett, and hope he can capitalize on a mistake or beat the Tar Heels defense with pace. Bennett may get his, but the visitors will need a miracle to limit the UNC attack.
Prediction: UNC 3-1
Indiana (12-3-5) – Old Dominion (13-5-1)
The Monarchs survived a bit of a scare from Liberty and advanced in PKs after a scoreless draw on Thursday. It was a positive step for ODU to hold the opponent to only two shots on goal over 110 minutes after struggling the last few games defensively.
However, Sunday’s challenge is a daunting task against the rested Hoosiers and on the road, where ODU is 3-4 on the season. Indiana is a well-disciplined squad and will take advantage of set piece opportunities in this one.
Prediction: Indiana 2-1
St. John’s (14-6-2) – Brown (11-4-3)
The Brown Bears showed a lot of heart in battling back from a two-goal deficit against Fairfield with three goals in the final 11 minutes in the first round. Now, they face a familiar foe St. John’s.
These two sides battled to a scoreless draw earlier this season and Brown won the lone meeting 1-0 last year. Sunday will be much the same with two stout defenses ruling the proceedings and only a moment of brilliance likely providing the difference.
Prediction: St. John’s 1-0
UC Irvine (16-5-1) – St. Mary’s (9-6-5)
The Gaels provided a minor upset on Thursday when they knocked off Cal State Bakersfield 1-0. The result was not as shocking as how Saint Mary’s was able to limit the previously potent Runners attack to only three shots on goal.
Irvine, despite being the home side, is at a disadvantage in this situation. The Anteaters home field is narrow, which helps defensive teams due to the limited space needed to occupy.
Prediction: St. Mary’s 1-0
Creighton (18-2) – Northern Illinois (15-5)
NIU won its first round game comfortable over an intimidated Western Illinois squad. The roles will be reversed for the Huskies in this clash. They will be the underdog on Sunday, heading to one of the most difficult places in the country to win.
The Bluejays have only allowed one goal at home this season and have rarely been threatened. Jose Gomez and Bruno Castro will dictate the pace and Elmar Bolowich’s side will cruise into the next round.
Prediction: Creighton 2-0
UCSB (14-6-1) – Providence (11-7-1)
Providence is in a difficult spot here. After knocking out Dartmouth 1-0 on Thursday, the Friars make a cross-country trip to Harder Stadium where the Gaucho Locos will be electric for some post-season glory.
UCSB has had an up-and-down year due to injuries, inconsistent play, and a challenging schedule. This is by no means the spot where it ends though.
Prediction: UCSB 2-1
South Florida (12-3-3) – UCF (12-5-3)
UCF grabbed a late goal in double overtime against FGCU in the first round, but were outplayed for large stretches of the contest. USF is not like FGCU, the Bulls are not content with just an advantage in possession.
Dom Dwyer’s unrelenting desire to lead this team to a lengthy post-season run will be the difference here. USF grabs a massive win for the program and holding down the top recruits in Florida.
Prediction: USF 3-1
New Mexico (17-0-3) – Duke (10-7-3)
Duke beat Georgia State 1-0 in the first round to book the trip to New Mexico. The Lobos are undefeated on the season and perfect at home with only two goals conceded in nine games.
Duke brings a bit of a wildcard to this game with Andrew Wenger, who has been the best player in the country. However, New Mexico already has the blueprint in stopping a star after facing Bakersfield’s Gyasi Zardes twice this season.
Although, Duke has a better supporting cast, it is going to be tough for the traveling Blue Devils to adapt to the venue and tough Lobo defense.
Prediction: New Mexico 1-0
Connecticut (17-3-2) – Monmouth (14-5-2)
Monmouth won on Thursday in penalty kicks over Stony Brook, but now travel to the haunted field in Storrs. Despite the proximity of these two programs, they have only played twice with the last meeting in 1998.
The key for UCONN is to get the offense clicking again after being frustrated in the Big East tournament final. Monmouth has the personnel to duplicate the game plan that St. John’s used in that game to win, but it is much easier said than done.
Prediction: UCONN 2-1
James Madison (12-4-2) – Wake Forest (8-7-5)
Wake Forest’s record is incredibly ugly for this point of the season, but all that matters is the Demon Deacons are still playing. After a thrilling performance by goalkeeper Michael Lisch in the shootout, Wake Forest advanced past South Carolina 4-3 in penalty kicks on Thursday.
JMU has been good this year, but unconvincing at times. The home record for the Dukes is perfect, but the opposition is questionable.
The general rule of thumb is to take the confident keeper with everything else equal.
Prediction: Wake Forest 1-1 JMU, Wake Forest advances 4-3 in penalty kicks
SMU (13-6-1) – Akron (14-3-4)
Akron easily handled Northwestern 3-1 in the first round in the way most people believed the Zips would play all season. It was commanding, authoritative, and clinical at times from the reigning national champions.
SMU, despite being the home side, might be considered the underdog at this point. The Mustangs played well in the Conference USA tournament, but still have some gaps defensively. The Texas based program is physical, but not gritty enough to knock Akron off its game.
Prediction: Akron 2-1
UAB (13-4-3) – Charlotte (14-4-2)
The 49ers battled back from a goal down to the tune of a 3-1 victory over Furman in the first round. Now, they travel to Alabama for a second round clash against UAB, which serves as the host of this year’s College Cup.
Both of these sides have a similar ideology, which is effectively possession with a purpose. The result will likely depend on the striker who is more efficient with his chances between Charlotte’s freshman Giuseppe Gentile and UAB’s senior Babayele Sodade.
Prediction: UAB 2-1
Boston College’s bracket
Boston College (14-6) – Rutgers (10-6-3)
Rutgers cruised to a 4-2 victory over Colgate on Thursday and now settle for a matchup against Boston College to end the weekend. Rutgers holds a 7-2-2 advantage in the all-time series but the two teams have not played since 2004.
This is a game that the Scarlet Knights could win on the road, but lack the mental toughness or experience for the high-pressure environment. Boston College has been strong at home this year with only losses against Maryland and UNC.
The Eagles have a good keeper and leader in Justin Luthy, and this is the situation for him to step up and prove his worth to the program.
Prediction: Boston College 3-2
UCLA (15-4-1) – Delaware (12-5-4)
Delaware pulled off a somewhat surprising result in the first round with a 1-0 victory over the hapless Virginia Cavaliers. The Blue Hens have a quick turnaround now for the trip out to LA to face the PAC-12 champions.
The Bruins enter this game riding a five game winning streak, which also includes 462 minutes without conceding a goal. The home side is the more talented squad of the two and should assert its will easily on the game.
Prediction: UCLA 3-1
Louisville (12-6-2) – Bradley (14-5-2)
The Bradley Braves were not in top form on Thursday but survived a scrappy affair against Loyola Chicago to keep postseason dreams alive. The Braves will need a more comprehensive defensive performance to hang with the Cardinals on Sunday.
Ken Lolla’s side has not played for over a week now and questions of rust will certainly be in some minds, but the Louisville coaching staff should have this side raring to go come Sunday.
Prediction: Louisville 2-0
Maryland (13-3-3) – West Virginia (11-7-1)
West Virginia looked pretty tired by the end of Thursday’s 2-1 overtime victory over Xavier. It took a diving header from center back Eric Schoenle, in what was his best game of the season, to send Marlon LeBlanc’s team to a rematch against Maryland in the second round.
The Terps and Mountaineers squared off earlier this season, which had some questionable calls that resulted in a Maryland win. But this is a distant cry from early in the season; the Terps have struggled recently with a four game winless streak to enter the postseason.
Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski told the Diamondback that all of his players are healthy now. However, this will be the first game with this lineup in over a month. Still, when Maryland was healthy, the Terps looked nearly impossible to beat at home.
Prediction: Maryland 2-1
2011 prediction record: 11-5