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Can UCF Men’s Soccer Get a Top 4 National Seed in the NCAA Tournament?

Knights are #3 in RPI

Cal Jennings of UCF Men’s Soccer
Cal Jennings
Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics

This week, the UCF Knights Men’s Soccer team will host the American Men’s Soccer Championships, facing Temple in the semifinal on Wednesday night. Should the Knights advance, They will play in the Championship game Saturday night against the winner of SMU and USF. The Knights are looking to back up the regular season title with a conference tournament win and improve their resume for the NCAA Committee when it comes to seeding for the NCAA Tournament. With the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show taking place on Monday November 18th, where do the Knights stand?

The Knights came in as national #6 seed on November 1st, when the committee unveiled their initial seeding:

Since then, UCF would get wins over Memphis at home and at Cincinnati to clinch the American regular season title, which is significant because The American is rated the 3rd strongest conference in Men’s Soccer behind the Big East and the ACC.

The Knights are ranked #3 in the RPI, so they are very much in the mix for a top-4 seed. That is significant because in the 48-team NCAA Tournament, the top 4 seeds gets to host every round up until the College Cup in Cary, North Carolina, which is Men’s Soccer’s version of the Final Four.

So what is standing in the Knights’ way of a top 4 national seed? Here is a breakdown:

The Knights’ schedule strength is ranked 19th toughest overall and 22nd in non-conference games, with a 4-1-2 record vs. the RPI Top 50. The weak spot that the committee holds against UCF from being in the top-4 line is perhaps their 0-1-2 record vs. the top 25, with a loss at Wake Forest and draws vs. Penn State and SMU.

UCF’s Resume

  • RPI - #3
  • United Soccer Coaches’ Poll - #5
  • Schedule Strength - 19th
  • Non-conference Schedule Strength - 22nd

How does UCF’s resume compare to other teams in the mix for a top-4 national seed ?

  1. Virginia (RPI #1) won a share of the ACC regular season championship and has the most top-25 and top-50 wins in the field with a 9-1-1 record vs. Top 50, and the 26th-strongest overall schedule strength should make the Cavaliers a top-4 seed lock. They play Wake Forest in the ACC Semis on Wednesday.
  2. Georgetown (RPI #2) is 8-1-1 vs. the Top 50 and winners of Big East, which is rated as the second-best conference in Men’s Soccer. The Hoyas’ schedule strength is 37th and they seem to be close to a lock for a top-4 national seed, ahead of UCF.
  3. Clemson (RPI #4) won a share of the regular season ACC title and is the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament. But although the Tigers benefit from playing in the best league, their non-conference schedule ranked 174th. How bad is that? There are only 206 teams that play Men’s Soccer. In comparison, UCF’s non-conference schedule strength is 22. Overall Clemson’s schedule strength is 72nd, which is still lower than the Knights (16th). Also despite playing in ACC, Clemson has only 6 wins vs. the top 50. Clemson may need to win the ACC Tournament to secure a top-4 seed. Clemson plays Pittsburgh in the ACC semis on Wednesday.
  4. Wake Forest (RPI #5) on the other hand is 8-3-1 vs. the Top 50 and they have 3 wins vs. the top 25 including wins over Clemson and UCF. Wake Forest’s schedule strength is ranked 12th. Wake Forest is also the 3-seed in the ACC Tournament, and winning the ACC Tournament should put Wake as a top-4 seed. It will be tough for UCF to jump ahead of Wake in any scenario. Wake Forest plays Virginia in the ACC semis on Wednesday.
  5. Washington (RPI #10) is in position to win the Pac-12 title and was seeded 3rd overall by the committee. But the Huskies’ resume is questionable for a top-4 seed after being upset by California (RPI #87) on Thursday at home. Now the Huskies have to battle Stanford this week with the Pac-12 title on the line. The Huskies’ schedule strength is ranked 88th overall and the Pac-12 (4th) is rated behind the American (3rd) as the strongest league in Men’s Soccer. UCF has a strong argument to be ahead of Washington.
  6. St. John’s (RPI #6) is 4-2 vs. the top 50 and their schedule strength is 16th, but they have only one win vs. the top 25. St. John’s were upset at home by Providence (RPI #21) on Senior Night last Wednesday. St. John’s would need to win the Big East Tournament, which means a win over Providence in the semifinal and a win over Georgetown more than likely in the final to have a shot at nabbing the top-4 national seed.

So if you’re UCF, here’s what you need to root for to get top-4 national seed:

  1. Win The American Conference Championship Tournament with a win over top-10 SMU (RPI #9) as an added bonus.
  2. Have Clemson lose in the ACC Tournament. Losing to Pittsburgh (RPI #32) on Wednesday would be preferable.
  3. Have Virginia beat Wake Forest on Wednesday and win the ACC Championship. Hope that the committee drops Wake Forest for not winning the ACC regular season or conference tournament.
  4. Have St John’s not win the Big East Tournament
  5. Washington to lose or draw to Stanford and get punished for their loss to Cal. The Huskies dropped from 7 to 10 in the RPI after loss to California.