NCAA Tournament bracket preview, pt. 2

Akron, Maryland overwhelming favorites to win their brackets

The second half of the NCAA bracket features two of the
country’s heavyweights in Maryland and Akron. Both are riding high at the
moment, and if either of those sides trip up prior to the College Cup, it would
be a huge shock.

Still, there are plenty of talented teams like Connecticut,
Cal and Michigan capable of challenging both of those high-powered programs. So
before assuming that the Zips and Terps will square off in the semifinals, let’s
check out the opposition.

Akron Bracket

The only thing standing between the Zips and the No. 1
overall seed was a loss to Cleveland State on Oct. 30. That loss could prove
costly, as it’s going to be a difficult path to the final for Akron. Connecticut
and California are among the teams standing in the way, and the Zips will truly
have to earn their second straight trip to the College Cup.

Seeds

No. 3 Akron: Much
has been made about the talent of Akron. Darlington Nagbe, Darren Mattocks,
Perry Kitchen, Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Kofi Sarkodie are just a few of the
names on a lengthy list. A good number of these players remember the agony of
defeat suffered in the final last year, and they will do their utmost to avoid a
repeat of that feeling.

No. 6 California:
Built on the bedrock of central defender A.J. Soares, the Pac-10 champions will
be thirsty to contest the final that will be held in their home state. Davis
Paul and Servando Carrasco must continue to be on form offensively as well.

No. 11 Connecticut:
One of the most talented teams in the nation has proven to be one of the most
inconsistent. ‘Keeper Josh forward and attacker Tony Cascio are two immensely
gifted players, but the Huskies need to pull themselves together and score on a
consistent basis if they hope to go deep.

No. 14 Indiana:
Some might question the Hoosiers as a seeded team, posting a record of 9-7-2
and crashing out in the semifinals of the Big 10 tournament. But thanks to a
strong RPI, the Hoosiers sit in the 14-hole, and the scoring ability of Will Bruin
give them a chance to ruin the championship dreams of a higher seed.

Watch out for…

Boston College:
While the ACC may not be as strong as in years past, the Eagles and the scoring
talents of Charlie Rugg could wreak destruction if the sophomore can get going
in the tournament. A tough first round matchup against Brown stands in their
way.

UC Santa Barbara:
This talented Big West school will be desperate to go on an unlikely run to the
College Cup – they’re the 2010 hosts. With Danny Barrera, David Opoku and Sam
Garza suiting up for the Gauchos, they’ve got the talent.

Maryland Bracket

Arguably the hottest team in the nation right now, the No. 2
ranked Terrapins are fresh off an ACC Tournament title, and now have
their eyes on replicating their 2008 run. Out to hunt down the Terps will be a pair of Big 10 sides –
Michigan and Penn State – and C-USA Tournament winners South Carolina.

Seeds

No. 2 Maryland:
As talented as ever and on a 13-game winning streak, it’s very difficult to see
the Terps trip up. Offensively, they’ve scored the most goals in the nation,
and during their winning streak, have conceded only four. Jason Herrick and
Casey Townsend are arguably the best forward tandem in the nation, and goalie
Zac MacMath is solid as usual in net.

No. 7 South Carolina:
With a win over highly ranked Southern Methodist, the Gamecocks appear to be peaking
at the appropriate time. Blake Brettschneider, the Co-Offensive Player of the
Year in C-USA, is their main threat, and he must be instrumental as he was in
the conference tournament.

No. 10 Michigan:
The Wolverines have proven to be more than just a handful of late. The
blossoming young talent in Ann Arbor stormed through the competition in the Big
10 tournament. If Soony and Harmoody Saad, who have played so well along with
Justin Meram, can fire at all cylinders, it could be another successful
competition for Michigan.

No. 15 Penn State:
When the Nittany Lions host their second round game, it will be their first
since a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Michigan in the Big 10 tournament final.
Forward Corey Hertzog is the major offensive force other sides will look to
clamp down on. Bouncing back with a win in that first game is crucial.

Watch out for…

Virginia: The
Cavaliers of 2010 aren’t nearly as formidable as the 2009 version. But players
remain from last year’s success, and it would be dangerous to underestimate the
defending champions.

Duke: This
talented team couldn’t deliver the goods in the ACC, and will need one of their
big guns to step up – whether that’s Ryan Finley, Cole Grossman or Andrew
Wenger doesn’t matter – if the Blue Devils want to keep their season alive.