Five soccer teams give themselves a chance

October, 25, 2009
With conference tournaments around the corner for some leagues, and championship races taking shape in those that don't stage postseason events, it's now or never for teams looking to make impressions on the NCAA tournament selection committee. A quick look at five teams that enhanced their postseason profiles this weekend -- and five teams that may have seen things slip away.

Auburn: I'll come clean; I wrote off Auburn before the weekend. Sporting a losing record as they prepared for games at Tennessee and home against Georgia, the Tigers were on the precipice of postseason extinction. But after winning both games -- their first all season against top-50 RPI opponents -- they aren't just near the bubble, they're potentially on the right side of it. But they must close the regular season with a win at Alabama next weekend or risk finishing with a losing record in the event of a first-round SEC tournament loss.

Miami: The Hurricanes desperately needed at least four points out of home games against NC State and North Carolina. They managed just that in the unlikeliest manner, beating No. 2 North Carolina 1-0 on Sunday after tying NC State 1-1 on Thursday. It may not be enough. The RPI (43) is strong enough to warrant bubble consideration, but with an 8-8-1 overall record and games remaining at Virginia and Virginia Tech before the ACC tournament, staying at .500 or better will be a chore. But they gave themselves a chance with their fourth win against a top-35 RPI foe.

Oregon State: After watching Stanford take down a very good Washington side by three goals Sunday in Seattle, I'm more convinced than ever that the Pac-10 deserves the attention that could be headed its way with nine teams ranked in the RPI top 35. That said, Oregon State needed Friday's 2-1 win on the road against USC to lend some legitimacy to a record built on a so-so schedule (previously highlighted by wins against Denver and Loyola Marymount and a tie at San Diego State). Take six points from their final four games, and the remade Beavers shouldn't need to worry when the bracket comes out.

San Diego: The toughest team for me to slot at the moment, the Toreros are going to have to leapfrog some teams with better RPI numbers to make the field. They do have a neutral-site win against Rutgers and a tie against UCLA to their credit (they also have ugly losses against Kansas and USC, for what that's worth in the sniff test). But sweeping Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine this weekend, combined with an earlier win against Santa Clara, puts them in the thick of things at the very least.

Virginia: Last season brought the strangeness of an NCAA tournament without mainstays Connecticut and Santa Clara. Virginia looked like the vulnerable traditional power this fall, but while the Cavaliers aren't out of the woods yet, their chances are distinctly more favorable after earning four points with a draw against Wake Forest and a win against Duke. Earlier draws against Arizona State, Maryland and West Virginia plus a win against Hofstra weren't going to get it done, but the profile is now much improved.

Five Teams That Didn't Help The Cause

Minnesota: Tied 1-1 at Michigan; lost 2-1 at Michigan State

California: Lost 1-0 at Washington; lost 2-1 (OT) at Washington State

Colorado: Lost 2-0 at Texas A&M; lost 1-0 (2OT) at Texas

Illinois: Lost 3-0 vs. Ohio State; lost 6-0 at Penn State

South Florida: Lost 1-0 (2OT) at St. John's; lost 3-2 at Syracuse

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.



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