Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament Preview

Nov. 10, 2009

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The 2009 Big Ten Men's Soccer Championship is set to kickoff this week with all seven conference programs invading Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Indiana University's Bloomington campus. The 19th annual event begins Thursday, Nov. 12 and extends through Sunday, Nov. 15.  This year's bracket looks to be very competitive as it presents a group of teams characterized by talent and parity. Two teams represent the conference in the latest NSCAA/adidas national top 25, while four Big Ten squads rank in the RPI's top-15, tied with the ACC for the most among all conferences.  

Ohio State will make its debut at the No. 1 spot in the postseason event after capturing its first-ever outright Big Ten regular-season crown with a 4-2-0 record.  The Buckeyes are led by freshman goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who leads the conference in save percentage (.861) and shutouts with eight on the year. The top-seeded Scarlet and Gray will square off against the winner of Game 2 as it receives a first round bye.

Second-seeded Penn State earns its highest seed since 2005 after tying for second place in the conference standings with a 3-2-1 Big Ten ledger.  The Nittany Lions boast one of the Big Ten's most potent offensive contingents, leading all teams in total goals (32), including goals scored in conference play with eight. Guiding the Nittany in 2009 has been the triple threat of Jason Yeisley, Corey Hertzog and Matheus Braga, who have combined for 62 of PSU's 89 team points.  Penn State will look to improve on its 23-12-4 Big Ten Tournament record when it meets No. 7 Michigan in the opening round on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. The Wolverines finished the year ranking among the conference's top two in every offensive statistical category, including first in points (96), assists (34) and goals per game (1.82). 

Northwestern earned the No. 3 seed in this year's event, and will face defending Big Ten Champion and sixth-seeded Michigan State in the tournament opener at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. The contest will mark the second meeting between the two teams in as many weeks with the last matchup resulting in a 1-0 decision in favor of the Wildcats. Northwestern leads the conference in the national rankings, voting in at No. 16 in the latest poll, and has consistently rated among the top-10 in the national RPI, checkin in this week at No. 3. For leadership, NU will look to a pair of veterans in junior forward Matt Eliason and senior defender Mark Blades. Eliason leads the Big Ten in points (28) and goals, owning 13 of the Wildcats' 25 goals on the year. His six game-winning goals also rank first on the conference leaderboard.

Tournament host Indiana will battle Wisconsin at 12:30 ET in one of the more intriguing matchups of the event on Thursday.  Both teams finished the conference slate knotted at 3-3-0, but the Hoosiers earned the Nov. 4 seed over the Badgers by virtue of their 1-0 win in Madison in September.   Indiana owns a conference- leading 25-5-4 Big Ten Tournament mark, joining Penn State as the only two teams to own a winning record in the postseason event, and is 5-0 all-time in conference tournament games against Wisconsin. The Badgers are coming off an impressive season, earning the most wins against conference foes since 2006, including a 2-0 triumph over Ohio State on Oct. 25. The winner of the contest will advance to play the Buckeyes in Friday's first semifinal contest, slated to begin at  2 p.m. ET.