Preview: Favorite Indiana joins three red-hot teams in Men's College Cup

The Men's College Cup returns to Santa Barbara, California, a traditional hotbed for college soccer. No California team is in the final four after three-time defending Stanford fell spectacularly to Akron in the quarterfinals, but the field includes No. 2 seed Indiana and three teams that have all gotten hot at the right time.

Friday, December 7:
Michigan State (14-4-4) vs. Akron (14-6-2), 8 pm ET (ESPNU)
Indiana (20-2-1)
vs. Maryland (11-6-4), 10:30 pm ET (ESPNU)

#2 INDIANA. The No. 2 seed Hoosiers have been on a mission to win the title since losing to Stanford in overtime in last year's final -- their only defeat of the season. They fell at Wake Forest in their season opener, but they have been almost perfect after that. They will enter the College Cup as the favorites.

Road to Santa Barbara. The Hoosiers yet to give up a goal in the NCAA Tournament: UConn 4-0, Air Force 2-0 and Notre Dame 1-0.

Player to watch. After last year, Grant Lillard went from the Hoosiers to the Chicago Fire on a Homegrown Player contract. Andrew Gutman, another defender, could follow him to the Fire. Gutman, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has scored 11 goals and added nine assists in 2018.

Probable XI

Goalkeeper
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
*Trey Muse
, Soph. (Kentucky/Seattle Sounders FC)
Defenders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Timmy Mehl, Sr. (California, Fram SC)
*Jack Maher, Fr. (Illinois, St. Louis FC)
Andrew Gutman, Sr. (Illinois, Chicago Fire)
Rece Buckmaster, Sr. (Indiana, Indiana Fire)
Midfielders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Cory Thomas
, Sr.  (Indiana, Javanon)
Austin Panchot, Sr. (Missouri, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri)
Griffin Dorsey, Soph. (Colorado, Colorado Rush)
Jeremiah Gutjahr, Sr. (Indiana, Indiana Fire)
Trevor Swartz, Sr. (California, California Development Acad.)
Forward
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Justin Rennicks, Soph. (Massachusetts, New England Revolution)
*Played in USL.

#11 MARYLAND. The biggest credit to the Terrapins is that they've overcome a lot of adversity and gotten stronger as the postseason has progressed. They didn't score a goal in their first four games of the season, extending a losing streak to 10 games dating back to their 2017 collapse. The keys in the NCAA Tournament have been scoring first -- they scored on their first shot on goal in all three wins -- and closing out games -- which was somewhat of a problem in Big Ten play.

Road to Santa Barbara. Like their semifinal opponent, Indiana, Maryland has shut out all its opponents en route to the final four:
N.C. State 2-0, No. 6 seed Duke 2-0 and No. 3 Kentucky 1-0.

Player to watch. Donovan Pines, the 6-foor-5 junior, shut down Kentucky star JJ Williams in the quarterfinals, just like he didn't allow Denver’s Andre Shinyashiki, the leading scorer in the country, to score when Maryland won earlier in the season.

Probable XI
Goalkeeper
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Dayne St. Clair, Jr. (Ontario, Vaughan SC)
Defenders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Donovan Pines, Jr. (Maryland, D.C. United)
Johannes Bergmann, Jr. (Germany)
Ben Di Rosa, Soph. (Washington, D.C., Bethesda SC)
Chase Gasper, Sr. (Virginia, Bethesda SC)
Midfielders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Amar Sejdic, Sr. (Kentucky, RSL Arizona)
Andrew Samuels, Sr. (Florida, Clearwater Chargers)
Eli Crognale, Jr. (Ohio, Columbus Crew)
Forwards
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
William James Herve, Fr. (France)
Sebastian Elney, Sr. (Florida, Philadelphia Union)
Paul Bin, Jr. (South Korea, RSL Arizona)

AKRON. The Zips almost didn't make the NCAA Tournament -- they started 1-3-1 and needed to win the Mid-American Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament. Since it's gotten into the tournament, Akron has been excellent, starting three American freshmen: Carlo Ritaccio, Colin Biros and Sam Tojaga.

Road to Santa Barbara. After a win at home against Rider 3-1, the Zips went on the road and beat No. 16 seed Syracuse 3-1, No. 1 Wake Forest 1-0 and three-time defending champion Stanford 3-2. 

Player to watch. Marcel Zajac, the former Canadian U-20 from Sigma FC, scored twice in the 3-2 win over Stanford and had an assist on the 34-pass sequence that led to the winning goal. His stats for the season are now 10 goals and eight assists.

Probable XI
Goalkeeper
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Ben Lundt, Sr. (Germany)
Defenders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Carlo Ritaccio, Fr. (New York, BW Gottschee)
Marco Milanese
, Fr. (Italy)
David Strachan
, Soph. (Ohio,  Internationals SC)
Abdi Mohamed
, Sr. (Ohio, Classic Eagles)
Midfielders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Skye Harter
, Jr. (Ohio,  Internationals SC)
Morgan Hackworth
, Sr. (Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Union)
Colin Biros
, Fr. (Ohio, Columbus Crew)
Sam Tojaga
, Fr. (Pennsylvania, Real Salt Lake)
Forwards
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
David Egbo
, Soph. (Nigeria, Century Soccer)
Marcel Zajac, Jr. (Ontario, Sigma FC)

MICHIGAN STATE. The Spartans put the disappointment of losing in their three previous trips to the quarterfinals (2013, 2014, 2017) behind them by beating James Madison, 2-1, and reaching the final four for the first time since won their second of back-to-back (shared) titles 50 years ago. They crawled into the NCAA Tournament, going winless and scoring just one goal over in their last four games, but their experience -- six senior and three junior starters -- has helped them in the postseason.

Road to Santa Barbara. Roads wins over No. 4 seed Louisville 2-1 (OT) and No. 13 Georgetown 1-0 were sandwich between wins at home against UIC 2-0 and James Madison.

Player to watch. Senior Ryan Sierakowski, the Spartans' leading scorer in each of his four seasons, scored two second-half goals to lead Michigan State to the comeback victory over James Madison.

Probable XI
Goalkeeper
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Jimmy Hague, Sr. (Michigan, Michigan Jaguars)
Defenders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Patrick Nielsen, Soph. (Denmark)
John Freitag, Sr. (Illinois, Sockers FC)
Connor Corrigan, Sr.  (Illinois, Indiana Fire)
Michael Wetungu, Jr. (Michigan, Vardar)
Midfielders
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
Michael Pimlott, Jr. (Michigan, Crew SC Wolves)
Hunter Barone, Sr. (Michigan, Crew SC Wolves)
Giuseppe Barone, Jr.  (Michigan, Crew SC Wolves)
Jack Beck, Fr. (Michigan, Crew SC Wolves)
Forward
PLAYER, YEAR (STATE/CLUB)
DeJuan Jones, Sr. (Michigan, TNT Dynamite)
Ryan Sierakowski, Sr. (Illinois, Chicago Fire)
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