2009 NCAA Championship Preview

Nov. 19, 2009

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The 2009 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship is set to begin this weekend with 48 teams from across the country vying for the national title, including five from the Big Ten. Michigan State Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State received first-round byes and will begin action on Sunday, Nov. 22. Indiana will enter tournament playThursday as the Hoosiers play host to first-round action in Bloomington, Ind. 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, fresh of its third Big Ten Championship title in program history, earned the conference’s highest seed in the national tournament at No. 4. The No. 13-ranked Buckeyes will host the winner of Western Illinois and Drake on Sunday, Nov. 22. OSU went 4-2-0 in conference play this season to earn its first-ever outright Big Ten title. Conference Coach of the Year John Bluem pilots the Scarlet and Gray in his 13th year at the helm, leading OSU to its seventh berth in the national tournament, all coming under Bluem's reign. The Buckeyes boast the Big Ten’s best winning percentage at .700 (12-4-4) and have allowed only 15 goals all season to rank seventh in the country with a .865 save percentage.

Penn State enters the Championship for the 11th time in school history and the first since 2005. The Nittany Lions will face the winner of the Loyola (Md.)-Maryland matchup on Sun., Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. ET at Jeffrey Field. Penn State posted an unblemished 7-0-2 record at Jeffrey Field this year outscoring opponents by a 24-4 margin. The Nittany Lions have a wealth of talent, anchored by Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Jason Yeisley and Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Big Ten Tournament Corey Hertzog. The offensive tandem has combined for 19 goals this season, piloting the highest scoring offense in the conference.

Northwestern will host the winner of Green Bay and Notre Dame on Sunday for a second-round matchup at 2 p.m. ET. With a 10-4-4 record and a RPI rank of No. 3, NU has proven itself as one of the nation’s best in 2009, earning a No. 9 seed to match the 2007 squad as the highest in program history. The bid marks the Wildcat’s fifth tournament berth, making the 2009 NU senior class the first to compete in the NCAA Championship in each of its four years. Junior Matt Eliason enters the NCAA event with 28 points and 13 goals, including six game-winning strikes, leading the Big Ten in all three categories.

Michigan State is making its 13th NCAA Championship appearance and fifth since 2001. The Spartans are 17-9-4 all-time in the national tournament will enter the event as the No. 14 overall seed. MSU will take on either Duke or Winthrop on Sunday at DeMartin Stadium at 1 p.m. ET.

The Big Ten’s most storied program, Indiana, makes its 34th overall NCAA appearance and 23rd consecutive. Boasting seven national titles, the Hoosiers own an all-time record of 74-24-4 in NCAA tournament play with a Division I-best 74 wins and .745 winning percentage. Indiana welcomes sixth-ranked Louisville in the tournament opener on Thursday, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. ET.