Breaking Down the Bracket … 

2012 NCAA Women's Soccer Brackets – Printable (PDF) & Interactive

Hypothetheical Bracket (straight draw, seeded 1-64; courtesy CS360)

Based on College Soccer 360's recently-updated Composite National Rankings (and RPI, for teams outside the CNR), here are some observations about the 2012 NCAA tournament field (DI women's soccer):

• The CNR preferred (3) San Diego State and (4) Virginia among the four national seeds, rather than (5) Penn State and (6) Florida State.

• The CNR forecasted (7) UCLA as one of the four national 2-seeds, rather than a 3-seed.

• The CNR saw (11) North Carolina as a 3-seed and (14) Duke as a 4-seed (the actual bracket has UNC a 2 and Duke a 3). The CNR also had (9) Marquette as a 3-seed, rather than a 4, and missed out on only one of the 16 total seeded teams – (13) Texas A&M, which was forecasted to be one of the four national 4-seeds.

• The CNR correctly predicted two #1 seeds (1-Stanford & 2-BYU), one of the #2s (8-Florida), two of the #3s (10-Baylor & 12-Wake Forest) and two of the #4s (15-Ohio State & 16-Maryland).

• Based on the CNR, the following four teams that are playing on the road were most-deserving for home slots: (18) California, (19) Georgetown, (29) La Salle and (31) Miami Ohio – while these four teams, by merit (instead of geography) should be playing on the road: (35) Kentucky, (37) Denver, (39) Washington & (54) Colgate.

• BYU (vs. 51-Utah State) has the toughest first-round matchup, on paper, among the 1-seeds, while Florida State is matched up with the lowest seed in the field (Mississippi Valley State). … Virginia clearly has the toughest opening game for the 2-seeds (vs. 29-La Salle) while the other #2 seeds are playing 1st-round games vs. teams in the 49-52 range.

• Among the #3 seeds, Duke has the "easiest" opening-round opponent (58-Loyola MD) and Baylor the toughest (43-Arizona State, with the added difficulty of playing at ASU, as Baylor was unable to host due to "administrative error). … Finally, among the #4 seeds, Portland clearly has the biggest challenge (vs. 41-Washington State) while the other three lucked into easier draws: Maryland vs. (63) Stony Brook, Ohio State vs. (60) Oakland and Marquette vs. (56) Illinois State.

• Here are five noteworthy matchups, based on combined seed total:
… (29) La Salle at (4) Virginia  
… (18) California at (24) Pepperdine
… (19) Georgetown at (27) Virginia Tech
… (34) Stephen F. Austin at (13) Texas A&M
… (31) Miami Ohio at (17) Tennessee

• Here are five noteworthy matchups, based on proximity of the respective seeds (within 10 spots):
… (36) Colorado College at (37) Denver
… (40) Auburn at (39) Washington
… (18) California at (24) Pepperdine
… (48) Rutgers at (54) Colgate
… (19) Georgetown at (27) Virginia Tech

• Outside of the 16 national seeds mentioned above, here are some other lopsided matchups (gap of 20+ spots): 
… (59) Milwaukee at (20) Notre Dame
… (55) Hofstra at (26) Boston College 
… (61) Tennessee-Martin at (35) Kentucky
… (44) Long Beach State at (21) Santa Clara
… (34) Stephen F. Austin at (13) Texas A&M
… (50) North Texas at (29) Texas North

• Looking ahead to the second round, assuming the favored teams win, Stanford has the toughest game-2 among the #1 seeds (likely vs. 21-Santa Clara) and BYU the easiest (39-Washington). … Among 2-seeds, there's a huge disparity between San Diego State's potential/likely round-2 opponent (18-California) and Virginia's (48-Colgate). … For the 3-seeds, UCLA has the clearest road (on paper) in round-2 (likely vs. 35-Kentucky), while the other #3 seeds likely will have to face teams in the 17-20 range during the second round. … Finally, for the 4-seeds, Ohio State clearly has the toughest potential week-2 opener (vs. 13-Texxas A&M) and Maryland would face the "easiest" (36-Colorado College). An interesting round-2 matchup could see Marquette tangle with Big 12 newcomer West Virginia, its former America Division rival in the BIG EAST.

• Assuming all the seeds advance to the round-of-16, Penn State on paper has the easiest potential matchup among the #1 seeds (vs. 25-Portland). For the 2-seeds in the rd-of-16, San Diego State likely would have to tangle with (7) UCLA. Moving ahead to the quarterfinals, Penn State again hypothetical faces the toughest task – vs. a Virginia team that actually graded out one spot higher (4th) than PSU in the CNR. Based on the CNR, Stanford also would have an above-average challenge in the quarters (vs. 3-San Diego State), while BYU would be matched up with (9) Marquette and Florida State vs. (8) Florida.

editor@CollegeSoccer360.com