Women's NCAA soccer bracket was a real head-scratcher

When the bracket was announced Monday for the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, no doubt there was some head-scratching, as well as some gnashing of teeth. And maybe some muttered expletives under the breath.

Those would all be natural reactions to some of the selection committee’s selections.

Several results look like somebody threw a dart at the bracket to place teams. Here are the most notable ones:

• South Carolina vs. Clemson: Sounds like a fun idea, matching bitter state rivals, but it’s an unfair first-round matchup. South Carolina (13-5-3) is a No. 3 seed with an RPI of 11. Clemson (13-3-2) has a respectable RPI of 31. The Tigers’ seeding is akin to a No. 14, which seems like a stretch for a team that the coaches ranked No. 22 this week. Neither team gets a break here.

• Wisconsin vs. DePaul: This one is absolutely criminal. The ninth-ranked Badgers (18-2-2) are a No. 4 seed despite an RPI of 9 and, oh yes, winning the Big Ten championship. They were rewarded with a first-round pairing with the Big East champion Blue Demons (16-0-4), who were the only team in the nation other than top-seeded UCLA to go undefeated. DePaul also had an RPI of 18 and is ranked 13th in the coaches poll.

• Virginia’s seeding: The Cavaliers (18-2) were ranked in the top four all season, with two 1-0 losses to Florida State, a No. 1 seed. Their RPI was 7. The No. 1 seeds went to the four teams with the highest RPI – UCLA, Florida State, Stanford and Texas A&M. So maybe Texas A&M (18-2-2) slipped ahead on the wave of winning the SEC championship Sunday, when UVa was losing in the ACC final to FSU. But that doesn’t explain how the Cavaliers ended up with the worst placement among the No. 2 seeds. They were penciled into UCLA’s bracket, behind UNC (12-3-2 and lost to UVa last Friday), Penn State (17-3 and lost to UNC this season) and Florida (14-4-1), which had the lowest RPI (10) of the No. 2 seeds and didn’t even reach the SEC championship game.

And while we’re at it, why are Florida State and UNC Nos. 1-2 in the same region? Why set up a possible conference rematch when it would have been easy to avoid? The top eight seeds comprised three teams from the ACC, two from the Pac-12, two from the SEC and one from the Big Ten. Nos. 1 v. 2 pairings of UCLA-Florida, FSU-Penn State, Stanford-UVa and Texas A&M-UNC would have avoided regular-season rematches.

Blue Devils’ bubble: Duke (9-9-1) remains a long shot to make the 48-team NCAA men’s bracket, which will be announced Monday, as the Blue Devils own an RPI of 49 entering the final weekend of the regular season.

Had Duke beaten No. 1 Syracuse last Sunday in the ACC quarterfinals, that might have been enough to get in. North Carolina’s upset loss to Louisville on Sunday also hurt Duke, because a long ACC tournament run by UNC would have increased the value of the Blue Devils’ regular-season win over the Tar Heels.

Terps’ turnaround: For the first half of the season, Maryland was struggling in its initial Big Ten campaign and didn’t look anything like the team that played in the College Cup final last year for the NCAA men’s championship.

The Terrapins were 3-5-2, and coach Sasho Cirovski had been fined $10,000 and suspended for one game by the Big Ten for chasing the officials from the field after the controversial conclusion of Northwestern’s 3-2 overtime victory on Oct. 5. Various media accounts of the game reported that the ball may have been out of bounds and a foul could have been called on Northwestern on the play where the golden goal was scored.

Since then, Maryland has reeled off nine consecutive victories, the longest winning streak in the country. Their notable wins in their streak were a 4-0 rout of then-No. 3 Penn State and a 2-1 victory at then-No. 5 Indiana.

Their most recent win came at home Sunday, 2-0 over Rutgers in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The top-seeded Terps will host the semifinals and final Friday and Sunday. Maryland is ranked eighth in this week’s coaches poll, and if it adds the Big Ten tournament title to its resume, it looks like a top contender in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Attendance drop: Here’s an interesting comparison of attendance figures from the 2012 and 2013 ACC women’s tournaments at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary and the 2014 tournament, which made its Greensboro debut at UNCG Soccer Stadium last weekend.

Sunday’s FSU-Virginia final in Greensboro drew 928, while the UVa-UNC and FSU-Notre Dame semifinals had a combined 1,239.

The 2013 final at WakeMed drew 3,319 fans for Florida State-Virginia Tech and 5,192 for the FSU-UNC and UVa-Virginia Tech semifinals.

In 2012 at WakeMed, there were 1,227 for the UVa-Maryland final and 1,472 for the UVa-FSU and Maryland-Wake Forest semifinals.

All-tournament picks: Satara Murray of UNC and Kaleigh Olmsted of Notre Dame were the only players from losing semifinalists to make the ACC women’s all-tournament team. Champion Florida State had five picks: MVP Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Megan Campbell, Carson Pickett, Cheyna Williams and Jamia Fields. UVa’s four were Makenzy Doniak, Danielle Colaprico, Emily Sonnett and Morgan Brian.