Soccer Report: A close look at the men's tourney
Penn State and Northwestern were both crowned Big Ten regular season champions on Saturday, as Michigan State failed to jump a Michigan hurdle in Ann Arbor. Losing to their close friends was one thing, but knowing that more clinical finishing would have giving them their first title since 2008 must be frustrating for Damon Rensing and his troops. On a positive note, they don’t have time to reflect as Indiana waits on Wednesday.
This year’s Big Ten Tournament is impossible to call. Last year the Wildcats went undefeated in regular season play and thoroughly deserved all the accolades that came their way. This season the landscape has shifted and all seven teams have a chance.
The top of the bracket sees Indiana face Michigan State, for a chance to play No.1 seed Penn State in the semi-final. That certainly looks like the tougher draw, and Bob Warming and the Nittany Lions will benefit from watching their opponent while they rest up on Wednesday.
Here’s how it shapes up:
|Wed., November 7 (All times ET)
|2:00 p.m.||Game 1 #4 Indiana vs. #5 Michigan State||Gametracker | Watch on the Big Ten Digital Network|
|4:30 p.m.||Game 2 #3 Michigan vs. #6 Wisconsin||Gametracker | Watch on the Big Ten Digital Network|
|7:00 p.m.||Game 3 #2 Northwestern vs. #7 Ohio State||Gametracker | Watch on the Big Ten Digital Network|
|Friday, November 9|
|1:00 p.m.||#1 Penn State vs. Winner Game 1*||Watch on BTN/BTN2Go|
|3:30 p.m.||#2/#7 Winner vs. #3/#6 Winner*||Watch on BTN/BTN2Go|
|Sunday, November 11|
|1:00 p.m.||Championship Match*||Watch on BTN/BTN2Go|
It’s hard to look past the Hoosiers. They may be a No.4 seed, but for me they have the most talented players in the conference and in Zavaleta they possess the league’s top marksman. Michigan State has the players to upset Indiana again and Penn State will hope that their performance reflects their No.1 seed, so all three teams have what it takes to make Sunday’s final.
As for the bottom end of the bracket, Northwestern looks like the front runner. The Wildcats have home advantage and will be clear favorites to overcome Ohio State. The Buckeyes have had many issues this season, mainly trying to tie down a goalkeeper, and the lack of goals from Offensive Player of the Year, Chris Hegngi hasn’t helped. But within that management and squad is a determination to prove the doubters wrong. Ohio State performed admirably against Akron a couple of weeks ago, and if they play with similar heart and courage against Northwestern it will be a very intriguing game.
Michigan is the team I see making a surprise run. They face a Wisconsin team on Wednesday that’s had a poor season (1-3-2). The wolverines have won three on the bounce and seem to be hitting a bit of good form at the right time, so this might be bad news for John Trask. It was always going to take some time for Chaka Dailey to implement his ideas and thoughts, and now I think we’re seeing a more fluent, organized and confident Michigan team. With that being said, my tip is Michigan to topple Wisconsin and then surprise Northwestern to clinch a final spot. That’s my number, so call me crazy!
Indiana vs. Michigan would be an incredible final, and I think the midfield battle would be the telling factor, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The tournament promises to be closer than ever before. All seven schools can win it, and all seven squads should believe they can win it.
From a players’ perspective, enjoy it. For all lot of guys this may be your last chance to don your team’s colors, so go out and have fun.
Another big congratulations goes to the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s team for their Big Ten Tournament win over Illinois in Bloomington. Tiffany Cameron was the player of the tournament, and her two goals in the final were worthy of winning any game. Cameron has now scored 20 goals this season and her scoring production will be sorely missed in Columbus next season.
Good news came yesterday when it was announced that five Big Ten schools will compete this weekend in the NCAA tournament. Below are the fixtures:
- Wisconsin at 3 UCLA
- Illinois at Missouri
- Long Island at 1 Penn State
- Central Michigan at Michigan
- Oakland at Ohio State
Track the event via NCAA.com’s Interactive tourney bracket and find more news on the Women’s College Cup homepage. And make sure to tune in to BTN Soccer Report next week for a full recap of the men’s tournament, as well as reaction from the first round of the women’s NCAA Championship.
|The Big Ten Soccer Report is a weekly online-only show that looks at the last action in Big Ten men’s and women’s soccer. Follow the show on Twitter @BTNSoccerReport and find previous shows here. Kevin Egan is the host of the BTN Soccer Report, an online-only weekly show spotlighting Big Ten men’s and women’s soccer. Want to send a note to Egan about Big Ten soccer and the BTN Internet show? Use the form below and subscribe to the Big Ten Soccer Report RSS here.|