How does a Boston College-Wake Forest rematch in the 2007 Men's College Cup final sound? Or what about a UCSB-UConn final? Those are two of the possibilities if the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament goes as we predict.
BC and Wake, who met in Sunday's ACC final, were seeded 1-2 in the NCAA Tournament ahead of Connecticut, which romped through the Big East Tournament in convincing fashion and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Soccer America Men's Top 25.
Boston College, Wake Forest and UConn are the clear standouts in this year's field.
Of the three, Wake has the shortest but potentially the most difficult road to the College Cup in Cary, N.C. West Virginia, seeded No. 15, has already beaten ACC teams Duke and Maryland on the road, as well as UConn in Morgantown, and could face the Demon Deacons in the third round.
The Big Ten's Indiana and Ohio State are seeded 4-5, though they don't have the firepower to match the top three. If they swept their first two games, they'd meet in a rematch of the Big Ten final that the Buckeyes won on penalty kicks.
Brown and Santa Clara both have only one loss, but they are only seeded 6-7 and could face very tough opponents in Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, respectively, in the round of 16.
At No. 11, Virginia Tech is the next best of the ACC teams, but the Hokies face a potentially tricky second-round match in Blacksburg against the winner of Friday's match between Pac-10 champion Cal and first-time tournament participant UC Davis. Last year, the Hokies also had a first-round bye but fell at home in the second round to UNC Greensboro.
As for 10-seed Notre Dame, the 2007 season has been rather quiet at 12-4-5, but the Irish cannot be counted out as long as they have Joseph Lapira. No, he hasn't matched last year's Player of the Year numbers, but he's a scrapper and can just as well serve as setup man as scorer, as evidenced by his eight assists to go along with seven goals.
Our pick to join Boston, College, Wake Forest and UConn at the Men's College Cup Dec. 14-16 in Cary, N.C., is defending champion UC Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos have been playing well of late and have one of the country's best trios in Ciaran O'Brien, Eric Avila and Chris Pontius. Back in the role of enforcer is giant Englishman Any Iro, for whom a trip to Cary would represent his third College Cup in four years.
Last year UCSB won the championship after being unseeded. This year the Gauchos got a little more respect. They enter play next Wednesday as the No. 12 seed.
First-round play begins Friday with seven first-round games and continues with nine more on Saturday. The 16 seeds have byes and begin play next Wednesday.
This weekend features two intriguing matchups.
UCLA, the 2006 runner-up, faces New Mexico, the 2005 runner-up. As Soccer America predicted in Monday's College Soccer Reporter, UCLA got into the NCAA Tournament despite a 8-8-3 record. Can the Bruins turn things around in the postseason like they did in '06? Recent form says no.
The match of the weekend, though, takes place Friday at Louisville. The Cardinals, one of six first-year teams in the NCAA Tournament, host Duke. The match pits second-year Louisville coach Ken Lolla against his former coach and mentor, John Rennie, who is retiring after this season.
Lolla was a midfielder on Rennie's first great Blue Devil team in the early 1980s and later served as a Duke assistant in 1985 and 1988-89.
Besides Louisville and UC Davis, Central Connecticut State, Campbell, DePaul and Liberty are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Of Soccer America's bubble choices five of the six made it into the 48-team field. Besides UCLA, St. Peter's, Portland, Boston University and Providence were selected. Gonzaga was picked over Fairfield.