University of Akron men’s soccer coach Jared Embick watched the NCAA Tournament selection show Monday and came away surprised.
The NCAA selection committee put together its 48-team bracket and did not feel compelled to give UA a top 16 seed, even though it is ranked between No. 6 and 8 in four national polls and has posted a 9-0-1 record in its past 10 matches.
Embick’s predecessor on the Zips sideline, Caleb Porter, also had several moments during his seven-year tenure when he was stymied by the NCAA’s thought process.
Monday was Embick’s turn to shake his head as unseeded UA (16-3-1) was tabbed to host defending national champ Indiana (8-11-2) in a first-round match at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“This is a great opportunity to start with last year’s champs and move from there,” Embick said. “This game can be a statement. When we saw the draw, my first reaction was obviously we thought we should have been seeded.”
Embick said he wonders whether anyone on the selection committee actually watched UA play recently.
“I think this just shows Akron as a whole, we have got to stick together,” he said. “People always want to try to downplay us as a community and as a team. We have got to stick together, fight through this and prove them wrong.”
If UA wins, they will play at No. 9 Marquette (12-5-2) at 6 p.m. Sunday. Other seeded teams in UA’s region are No. 1 UCLA, No. 8 Virginia and No. 16 Maryland, Baltimore County.
UA won the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament championship and has wins over Wake Forest, the No. 14 seed, and unseeded Penn State. UA also has a draw with No. 11 seed Michigan State and losses to tournament participants Virginia Commonwealth and St. John’s.
“I think it is very disappointing and very shocking to see the seed that we just got,” said UA senior Robbie Derschang. “I did not see that coming, but this team has battled through a lot of adversity throughout this whole season. This is another opportunity to go and prove ourselves once again. I am pretty excited to knock out the reigning national champs, get going and prove to college soccer that we are the best team out there.”
Embick is in his first year as head coach after serving as Porter’s assistant for six years.
The coach said this is not the first time he has questioned the seeding.
“One time, that was 2009, we didn’t lose a game so they put as the No. 1 seed,” he said. “We gave them no choice.... We were the third seed in 2010, the year we won the national title, and we thought we should have been the No. 1 seed going in.”
Embick said one that sticks out is 2008 when they were stripped of a home game because of weather and field concerns.
“We had to play at Northwestern even though we were the better seed,” he said. “Last year, we definitely thought we should have been a higher seed. We were No. 1 in the polls and No. 3 in the RPI, and yet we got the fifth seed.”
Washington, Notre Dame and California are seeds two through four.
“All year everyone has not been giving us respect that we deserve,” said UA senior Zac Portillos. “You can see in the seeding that they still don’t think we’re a top team, which they are wrong because I think we are. I think it is fitting that we will be playing the defending national champions and knock them off and continue from there.
“I think this will be a startup game where we will prove to people that we are the real deal.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.