Friday, 8:00 PM
(3) Texas Tech (14-3-2; 4th – Big XII; WTSR – 1.26 – 2nd, Big XII)
Prairie View A&M (11-7-1; 2nd – SWAC; WTSR – 1.40 – T1st, SWAC)
Wait, Why Is Prairie View A&M Here? Didn’t They Lose in The SWAC Tournament Final?
Yeah. But for whatever reason, Howard was banned from winning the SWAC’s auto bid as a new team to the conference. PVAM is here as runners-up in both league and conference tournament. Doesn’t seem particularly fair, does it?
How Much Are We Going to Suffer With The Second Best SWAC Team Instead of the Best?
Probably not much. Prairie View finished equal with Howard on WTSR and just a little behind them in the league before falling in the SWAC Tournament final last Sunday. For all intents and purposes, the biggest effect on things might have been geographically with the bracket, with Howard being in Washington D.C. and PVAM being in Texas.
So, Does Prairie View A&M Have A Chance of Not Being Rolled Like Past SWAC Teams Have Been?
Doubt it. The club definitely has some firepower for a SWAC side, with Alicia Cooper leading the attack with eight goals in league matches this year. The club also boasts one of the league’s best goalkeepers in Bianca Garza and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Deborah Arguelles. But the Panthers also just don’t have enough talent to keep up with a side like Texas Tech over ninety minutes. They won just one non-conference game, against Incarnate Word and also lost to a first-year club in Texas-Pan American. They haven’t played anyone near TTU’s level in ages and are likely to be overwhelmed on Friday.
Alright, What Are Texas Tech’s Odds Of A Deep Run In This Tournament?
Hard to gauge. Before league play, most probably would’ve pegged the Red Raiders as a dark horse to make it all the way to the College Cup. Now? A lot less certain. Tom Stone’s side seemingly had some of their mojo sapped though by an extra time loss to Texas that saw them start out league play with just one point in their first four matches. They won four on the back end to bounce back but again were foiled by Texas in the Big XII Tournament. In short, the Red Raiders are a totally unpredictable side coming into this tournament.
Wait, How Is A Side With Both Janine Beckie and Jaelene Hinkle Finishing Fourth In The Big XII?
That’s the $64,000 Question. It may come down to the defense though. While TTU finished only behind West Virginia in league goals scored, they also finished in a tie for fourth in the league for goals allowed. The low water mark was conceding four at West Virginia, by far the best club TTU faced all season. They had seemingly turned it around with three straight clean sheets after but conceded against Iowa State and then again against Texas in the Big XII Tournament. On paper, the unit should be solid with Hinkle on the left flank and the promising Cassie Conarty joining her on the backline. The club has shifted Hannah Devine between defense and midfield, and it remains to be seen where she’s deployed for the club on Friday and beyond. Veteran Lauren Watson has been solid in goal as well. Despite those talented pieces, the club has kept just three clean sheets in the past ten matches. If Stone can’t find a way to plug those leaks, it could be a short run in November.
So, They Can Still Score, Right?
Yeah. Thank god, for that. Beckie hasn’t really suffered through some of the malaise that afflicted many of the players returning from the U20 World Cup and was on-target with thirteen goals this season, more than double that of any of her teammates. Needing a little more than eight shots to net those thirteen goals is a bit of a worry though considering the NCAA Tournament is all about making the most of scarce chances in front of goal. Devine is also a threat if she plays up the pitch with six goals, while midfielder Paige Strahan also is a formidable force in the middle of the park. Unsung heroine Alli Murphy led the club with twelve assists as well and could be in line for a breakout showing in this year’s NCAA Tournament. But without question, the offense runs through Beckie. If she’s not playing well, the Red Raiders are in trouble.
What Are The Odds of A Long Run?
Well, let’s put it this way: The Red Raiders probably won’t be complaining about their draw. They should march to the Sweet Sixteen if they play to their potential, where a showdown with a faltering Florida side or a Cal side they’ve already beaten likely awaits. It’s difficult seeing TTU beat Stanford on the road if it comes to that, but few would likely begrudge the Red Raiders falling at that hurdle if they get that far. But there’s still a prevailing notion that Stone’s side may have already bumped into its ceiling with the current core built around Hinkle and Beckie. Some probably felt that they could contend for a College Cup spot building around that duo, but it’s difficult to believe this will be the year for it. An Elite Eight run is possible, but would it really be surprising to see TTU crash out early next weekend after some of its midseason results?Powered by Sidelines