MLS on Campus: Elite 8 still alive as NCAA tourney rolls on

MLS on Campus: Creighton's Timo Pitter with Akron’s Scott Caldwell

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Creighton Athletics

Welcome back to MLS On Campus, our weekly look at the goings-on in the college game. Every Monday, we'll give you the week's best highlight, the standout players, which games to watch in the week ahead and, of course, our national Top 10 list.

The NCAA Tournament kicked off earlier this month, with a spate of upsets and some of the country's best showing why they're regarded as surefire first-round SuperDraft picks. Now, we're down to the final eight. Check out the bracket HERE

Big Men on Campus

Maryland junior Sunny Jane This midfielder/forward is generally more of a sparkplug who does much of the hard work to facilitate the goals of others rather than find net himself, but that all changed on Sunday. Jane scored his first two goals of the season to solidify Maryland’s 5-1 defeat of Coastal Carolina.

At just 5-foot-6, the South Africa native is a handful for defenders, combining speed with a low center of gravity, and could be a hot prospect after his senior season.

North Carolina senior Jordan Gafa – After five years with the Tar Heels, Gafa looks to be a potential later-round steal in the 2013 SuperdDaft. The outside back has started every game for UNC this season and has made key contributions to both of the Tar Heels’ NCAA Tournament shutouts. Gafa is definitely one to watch in the next few weeks as he looks to lead UNC to its second straight NCAA Championship before hitting the MLS Combine in January.

Rank Trending Last College Comment

1

1

Maryland
(19-1-2)

Booked their fourth quarterfinal appearance in the past five years with an impressive 5-1 thumping of Coastal Carolina, cementing their status as the best team in the country — for now. The stifling Terrapins defense held the nation’s highest-scoring team to just one goal while three second-half strikes made this one a bit of a runaway. They’ll host red-hot Louisville on Saturday for a spot in the College Cup.

2

4

Georgetown
(18-3-2)

The Hoyas were five minutes from elimination at the hands of Syracuse when freshman Brandon Allen poked home his 15th goal of the year from close range to tie the match. Sophomore goalkeeper Tomaz Gomez made two saves in the penalty shootout to book Georgetown’s first ever trip to the Elite Eight, where they will host another Cinderella in the University of San Diego.

3

2

Akron
(18-1-3)

To win five games in a row and take home the national championship, you need some luck along the way. Akron’s ran out on Sunday night when they fell to Creighton in penalty kicks despite outshooting the Blue Jays 31-11 and missing a PK in overtime. A devastated Caleb Porter now turns his attention to the Portland Timbers, where he will take over as head coach in the coming days.

4

5

North Carolina
(16-3-3)

When you don’t allow a goal, it doesn’t take a lot to win. And the Tar Heels don’t allow many goals. The reigning champs pitched their 13th shutout in their past 15 matches in the 1-0 win over Fairleigh Dickinson to book their spot in the Elite Eight. They now boast a 40-game home unbeaten streak, the second longest in NCAA history, and host Indiana on Friday night looking to go to their fifth straight College Cup.

5

6

Connecticut
(17-3-1)

The Huskies were pushed to the limit by New Mexico, but an overtime goal from freshman Connecticut native Nick Zuniga earned UConn a spot in the last eight. Ray Reid’s squad, loaded with potential first round SuperDraft picks, hosts Creighton on Sunday afternoon in its second straight quarterfinal appearance.

6

9

Indiana
(13-5-3)

Star forward Eriq Zavaleta claimed another scalp in the Tournament on Sunday, scoring the game-winning goal in double overtime as the Hoosiers took down top-seeded Notre Dame. IU is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008 and travel to Chapel Hill, where a must-see showdown with UNC looms on Friday night.

7

(NR)

Louisville
(14-5-1)

The Cardinals booked their fourth straight quarterfinal appearance with a late 2-1 win over Northwestern, becoming the third Big East team in the last eight. Louisville must now travel to College Park for a do-or-die matchup with Maryland, the top remaining seed — and our No. 1-ranked team here.

8

8

Creighton
(16-3-3)

Incredibly, the Blue Jays survived their trip to Akron, defeating the Zips in PKs to earn their second straight quarterfinal spot. Elmar Bolowich’s side found a late equalizer through freshman Timo Pitter and survived an overtime red card to win the match in penalties. A highly anticipated matchup at Connecticut awaits.

9

3

Notre Dame
(17-4-1)

The top-seeded Fighting Irish became one of many teams beaten by Zavaleta this season. The loss to their in-state rivals means they don't get the College Cup they'd targeted, but a Big East Tournament Championship is a fantastic prize. Seniors such as Dillon Powers and Ryan Finley will now turn their attention to the MLS Combine. 

10

(NR)

San Diego
(14-8-0)

The only true Cinderella left in the field, USD has upset UCLA and Tulsa on its way to the school's first Elite Eight appearance in 20 years. The Toreros have come from behind in all three tournament victories, and face the daunting task of a trip across the country to face Georgetown for an improbable spot in the College Cup. 

Highlight of the Week

First up, watch the goals from Maryland’s comprehensive win over Coastal Carolina, then check out Eriq Zavaleta’s game-winner over Indiana. Wrap it up with Caleb Porter’s heartbreaking postgame press conference after his last game as Akron coach. It’s a must-watch.

What to Watch For:

NCAA Tournament

We’re down to just eight teams left and, with the start times staggered throughout the weekend, all four games will be available for viewing through the respective university websites.

No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 7 Louisville
No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 10 San Diego
No. 5 Connecticut vs. No. 12 Creighton
No. 4 North Carolina vs No. 6 Indiana