1. New Mexico–The top seed and league newcomer has all the tools needed to win the tournament. They’ve scored 31 goals and allowed just 15; keeper Michael Lisch and the defense have kept seven clean sheets. Niko Hansen, James Rogers and Michael Calderon can all find the net with ease.
2. Old Dominion–The Monarchs have made a seamless transition from the CAA to the much-deeper C-USA behind the efforts of top scorer Tim Hopkinson (10 goals). Their D isn’t as stingy as the Lobos, but they have allowed just seven goals in the last five matches (three of them to New Mexico).
3. UAB–The Blazers’ high powered offense (42 goals) gives them a shot to beat any team in the tournament. Despite giving up four goals each to New Mexico and South Carolina before squeaking out a 2-1 win over Marshall, they have the luxury to light up the scoreboard.
4. South Carolina–The Gamecocks may be a sleeper if their defense (22 goals allowed, with two or less allowed in six of the last seven games, including three shutouts) can get the job done. They did defeat UAB 4-3 on November 3, but as a whole, they won’t be able to match the offensive firepower the higher-ranked teams have.
5. Tulsa–Despite back-to-back wins over FIU and FAU, the Golden Hurricane have had a bumpy road to the tournament (winless in four of five matches before that). Like South Carolina, compared to the higher-scoring teams in the conference, they may not be able to survive an offensive shootout, and will have to depend on their defense to win.
7. Kentucky–The Wildcats topped ODU earlier in the season, but their other two conference wins have been against two lower-tier teams in Marshall and Florida Atlantic. It’s unlikely they’ll sneak up on the talented Monarchs a second time.
(4) South Carolina vs. (5) Tulsa–3pm ET
(2) Old Dominion vs. (7) Kentucky–5:30pm ET
(3) UAB vs. (6) Charlotte–8pm ET