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Alberto Camargo | | November 4, 2022

4 storylines to watch during men's soccer conference tournament week

College soccer storylines and postseason predictions

The 2022 DI men’s soccer postseason has arrived, with a few conference tournaments already underway and the rest of the pack to follow this weekend. Next week will be jam-packed with high-stakes matches and teams looking to secure a spot in the DI men’s soccer championship with an automatic bid.

CHAMPS SEASON: Tournament schedules, AQ tracker

Looking ahead to the heart-stopping knockout soccer coming our way, here are four storylines around the country that we should keep an eye on as conference tournament champions are crowned and the national championship tournament field takes shape. 

An ultra-competitive American

Tulsa men's soccer Malik Henry-Scott Tulsa'a Malik-Henry Scott is second on the team in goals scored (5), and he opened the scoring in a 2-0 win over then-undefeated Charlotte on Sept. 25.

Coming into this season, I did not have the American penned as a wide-open conference. In fact, it looked like No. 12 Tulsa’s to lose. Going into the final day of the regular season, the Golden Hurricane were in play for a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament — along with FIU, SMU and South Florida.

By the final whistle on its 3-2 loss to SMU in the finale, Tulsa was saddled with a No. 4 seed. The win propelled the Mustangs into a top-2 seed that granted them a first-round bye along with FIU. 

The latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) slots three AAC teams in the top 20 — Tulsa (10), SMU (12) and FIU (17) — that are joined in the conference tournament by three teams in and around the top 50. Looking back on the regular season, Tulsa holds a 2-3 record over the five teams in the tournament field, while FIU and South Florida enjoyed the most success, with just one loss each against the field.

Would any of the top four seeds winning the tournament be a surprise at this point?

The resurgent Hoyas

Georgetown men's soccer Ryan Schewe No. 17 Georgetown is 9-0-1 in which goalkeeper Ryan Schewe plays the full 90 minutes.

This current No. 17 Georgetown team that is riding a 10-game unbeaten streak into the Big East tournament is a far cry from the alarming state the Hoyas were in back in September. With one win in their first seven games and a free fall from the national spotlight, Georgetown has turned into one of the hottest teams in the country. 

So where did this turnaround come from? It’s impossible to break it down to one change, but since junior goalkeeper Ryan Schewe won the starting job after a perplexing 2-0 loss to James Madison on Sept. 20, the Hoyas have not lost. Their 10-game streak has included four wins over RPI top 50 teams on the strength of a defense that has allowed just six goals in that stretch.

A Big East regular season and tournament title would have been far from a surprise in August — in fact, it was more of an expectation — but the way this season has played out, winning the Big East double would be a huge momentum boost for last year’s College Cup semifinalists heading into this year’s tournament. 

BRACKETOLOGY: Predicting the men's soccer bracket before selections

Uncertainty in Big Ten country

Maryland men's soccer Malcolm Johnston No. 7 Maryland is led in scoring and points by Malcolm Johnston's five goals and four assists.

On the surface level, No. 7 Maryland should be favored to win the Big Ten tournament. A top-10 team in the polls that has yet to lose in conference play? An easy pick, right? Far from it, in my opinion. 

The Terrapins are on a side of the bracket with three teams they failed to beat in the regular season (Northwestern, Indiana and Penn State). On the other side of the bracket are No. 18 Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers and Wisconsin, and of the four, the six-seeded Spartans hold the best record in head-to-head competition among them (two wins to one loss).

We cannot say with certainty — or even any confidence — what the matchup will look like in the final come Nov. 13. What’s clear is this: the Big Ten tournament is sure to continue what the regular season provided: chaos and excitement.

Sun Belt is Kentucky's to lose — so will they?

Kentucky vs. Coastal Carolina men's soccer Coastal Carolina is the only team to have kept a clean sheet against No. 2 Kentucky this season.

No. 2 Kentucky is one of just three teams left in college soccer that has yet to lose this season. It would be a shocking upset for the Wildcats to not end this week as Sun Belt tournament champion.

But let’s have fun with the possibility! The main challenger for the SBC crown is Marshall, who tied Kentucky 1-1 in a top-10 showdown on Sept. 16. The Herd has an offense that can be just as potent and explosive as Kentucky’s on its day, with three games in which it's scored five or more goals. Combined with the Sun Belt’s best defense by goals allowed, a rematch with Kentucky in the conference tournament final would be must-watch soccer.

If we really want to get crazy, let’s take a look at Coastal Carolina. If the Chanticleers can get past West Virginia in the first round, it would set up a semifinal clash with the Wildcats, who Coastal also tied when the teams met in October. Holding the high-flying Wildcats scoreless is no easy feat (it was the only time Kentucky has been shut out this season), so it shows the Chanticleers have the ability to hold their own against one of the country’s best teams.

Is it likely? Certainly not — but knockout soccer (and penalty shootouts) routinely spring upsets and unexpected results. Bring it on — we cannot wait.

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