The leaves are changing. The NFL is in full swing. The World Series is starting. You know what that means, it’s that time of year again: Big Ten Tournament soccer season! The Badgers are in, by the skin of their teeth, and face a tough matchup on Sunday against No. 1 seeded Rutgers at Yurcak Field.
“Tough matchup” is probably an understatement. Rutgers, uh, hasn’t lost or tied a Big Ten game all year. They also haven’t lost a home match against a conference opponent since 2019. And Wisconsin hasn’t been in the best of form lately- through their last eight games, the Badgers have posted a 1-2-4 win/loss/draw split.
That end of season slide- until the start of those final eight games Bucky had been 7-1-2- is a key reason why the Badgers just sneaked into the eight seed slot instead of in the top four where Wisconsin had previously resided in the last three tournaments.
Wisconsin can take some solace in the fact that in recent years teams doing the “double” (winning both the regular season and conference tournament crown) have been somewhat of a rarity in the Big Ten. The last team to enter the tournament as the top seed to win the tournament itself was Minnesota, who completed the double six tournaments ago in 2016.
⚽ # !— Big Ten Soccer (@B1GSoccer) October 24, 2021
Eight teams will kick off postseason play Oct. 31, beginning their chase to the #B1G Tournament title and an automatic berth into the @NCAASoccer Tournament.
️ https://t.co/FhR67kqB7x pic.twitter.com/1nImZHj9LR
And this Badgers team knows plenty well even top seeds can be vulnerable. In 2019 Wisconsin played an invincible regular season conference schedule, but were immediately bounced in the first round by No. 8 seeded Purdue.
Ok, so now that we’ve got Wisconsin out of the way it’s time for some more general predictions.
Here’s my bracket:
To address the elephant in the room: yes, Penn State still scares me. While the Nittany Lions train has been a wild one this year, they have, for the most part, gotten things together as of late. The fact that they just recently lost to Michigan in a head to head isn’t promising, but at the end of the day I think Penn State knows they have work to do in terms of their NCAA tournament placement and that will spark the talent out in full force.
Iowa is always a difficult team to bet against come tournament time- see: last year, especially when they have Macy Enneking, who is already showing signs of being one of the college games best keepers as a sophomore, tending net. But Michigan State is enjoying the bounce back season of the decade and I think that will give the Spartans the momentum on home turf.
‼️#RUWS claims the 2021 Big Ten Championship outright with a 2-0 victory at Indiana! The Scarlet Knights improve to 9-0 in #B1GWSOC play for its first B1G title in program history! pic.twitter.com/7TyFBByl8O— RUWS | BIG TEN CHAMPIONS (@RUWSoccer) October 22, 2021
And then I have Rutgers to win it all. That one’s all chalk. Since the start of the season there’s been buzz that this was finally the year in Piscataway. And they’ve now proven themselves with an undefeated conference regular season trophy. They’ve been smashing teams and narratives left and right this season, and with a national one seed up for grabs as well, I think the Scarlet Knights bring their best in front of the home faithful.