After upsetting then-No. 17 Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon, the Maryland men’s soccer team may have effectively clinched an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Terrapins are finally getting some recognition in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, garnering 35 votes, which is the second-most among unranked teams. And in the NCAA’s RPI rankings, Maryland is currently the No. 12 team in the nation.
It would appear as though the Terps’ resume is strong enough to earn them an at-large bid, but for now, their focus is on winning the Big Ten Tournament. To achieve that goal, Maryland will need to do what it could not earlier in the season: beat the No. 2-ranked Indiana Hoosiers on the road.
Friday’s semifinal game is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
What happened last time
On Oct. 12, Maryland held its own against then-No. 4 Indiana for 89 minutes and 42 seconds.
Andrew Gutman, who Sasho Cirovski considers “the best player in [college] soccer,” gave the Hoosiers the lead in the 32nd minute, before Paul Bin tied the score in the 57th minute. The Terrapins had a few chances to pull of the upset, but in the 90th minute with 18 seconds remaining, Gutman beat Dayne St. Clair to score his second goal of the game and stun Maryland.
What’s happened since
That loss put the Terrapins into high gear, and they won three straight matches on their ensuing homestand. In the first match following the defeat, Maryland upset then-No. 7 Denver 1-0 to kick off the stretch thanks to a Bin header in the fifth minute. The Terps carried the momentum of that win to defeat Ohio State and Penn State, which allowed them to finish as the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
After a loss to Michigan in the regular season finale, Maryland traveled to East Lansing to upset the Spartans to kick off the conference tournament. The game was scoreless into overtime, but Eric Matzelevich was the hero in the first extra period.
On the other side, the Hoosiers did what they do. Indiana won the final four matches of the regular season, outscoring opponents 6-0. And in the quarterfinal round, the Hoosiers put away Northwestern in overtime, winning 2-1.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland stop Andrew Gutman? In the first meeting, the answer was a resounding “no.” With nine goals and seven assists this season, Gutman leads the Hoosiers in points by 11, which is pretty remarkable for a team as great as this one. The biggest problem in neutralizing Gutman is that he plays left back. Even if you keep him from scoring, he can wreak havoc on the defensive end.
2. Is Indiana motivated? As the No. 2 team in the country, Indiana is already locked into a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and has much less to play for than Maryland does. Yes, winning a Big Ten tournament championship is a big accomplishment, but the Hoosiers have their sights set much higher.
3. Does Chase Gasper play? After missing six games with a back injury earlier in the season, Gasper returned against Indiana and assisted Bin’s goal. He then played three more games in a row, including tying a school record with three assists against Ohio State. But Gasper has missed the past three games, and his presence is invaluable on the back line and on the offensive end. He participated in practice on Wednesday, and we’ll find out very soon whether he will play against Indiana.