The NCAA Division 1 soccer tournament has provided college soccer fans with an exciting 48 team ride that settles the matter of the best team on the field.
In case you aren't familiar with the system, allow me to break it down. The top 16 teams are seeded and given a first round bye, as the other 32 battle to take on a seeded team.
The seeds are numbered one through 16, so in reality the top four teams are similar to basketball's No. 1 seeds. Until the College Cup (Final Four), the higher seeded team hosts each game played. The College Cup this year will be played in Cary, North Carolina.
The second round, played last night, was highlighted by some huge upsets and thrilling finishes. In the end, six of the 16 seeded teams ended up falling to their unseeded foes. Football is not the only sport being hit by the upset bug this fall.
The first two games could have foreshadowed what was to come, as No. 5 Ohio State escaped against a game Louisville squad 1-0 on a second half goal.
No. 13 Maryland, the 2005 NCAA Champions, over-matched Loyola (MD) but could not score in regulation and were forced to advance in penalty kicks.
As the night progressed, we saw several seeded teams get pushed to the max, some not fortunate enough to earn a spot in the third round.
No. 2 Wake Forest, No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 12 UCSB (the defending champions), and No. 15 West Virginia all advanced by single goal margins. Seeded teams upset included No. 16 Tulsa, No. 14 Akron, No. 9 Northwestern, and No. 6 Brown.
The two biggest upsets of the night, however, saw unlikely foes derail the road to the College Cup for two top-four teams.
Bradley went into Bloomington and shocked No. 4 Indiana in penalties, while No. 1 Boston College led 1-0 at halftime, only to have Massachusetts storm back for two goals in the second half to pull the shocker.
With the third round scheduled over the weekend, Wake Forest slides into the tournament favorite as the highest remaining seed. No. 3 Connecticut, No. 5 Ohio State, and No. 8 Creighton are the top remaining seeds in the other three regions.
However, as we have seen this year and others, a high seed is no indication of future success. Last season, the aforementioned Gauchos of UCSB won the national title despite not being seeded.
In 2005, Clemson crashed the College Cup from an unseeded position, and Duke and Santa Clara did the same in 2004.
With Boston College's region comprised of three unseeded teams and three more in two other regions, it is not a stretch to say we will see yet another unseeded team find their way into the College Cup. Only the Wake Forest region saw all four of its seeded teams progress, meaning the highest seed remaining arguably has the toughest road ahead.
While my predictions at this point call for a College Cup comprised of No. 2 Wake Forest, No. 3 Connecticut, No. 13 Maryland, and unseeded Illinois-Chicago, I am glad it will be settled on the field, the way it should be.