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Indiana men's soccer's national championship banners hang at Bill Armstrong Stadium during IU's win over Penn State in the Big Ten championship game on Nov. 12, 2023. (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)
Indiana men's soccer's national championship banners hang at Bill Armstrong Stadium during IU's win over Penn State in the Big Ten championship game on Nov. 12, 2023. (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)

Looking at IU’s NCAA opponent, the Lipscomb Bisons

Indiana men’s soccer hosts Lipscomb in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday evening

After winning the Big Ten and not receiving a national seed by the committee, the Indiana Hoosiers will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as they host the Lipscomb Bison with the match on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.

Similarly to the Hoosiers, the Bison won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN), so let’s take a look at what to expect from this Lipscomb team. 

Elite attacking front

This Lipscomb team has one of the more prolific and dangerous attacking units in the entire nation that is highlighted by three First-Team All-ASUN players.

We’ll begin with the ASUN Player of the Year Tyrese Spicer. 

Spicer put together an elite season in his left wing spot for the Bison this season where he played 15 of the 17 games and scored 13 times in those matches. This mark left him fourth in the entire nation in goals per game (0.87), as well as fourth in the nation in points per game (1.93). 

The redshirt junior is one of 12 international players on the roster. Spicer is from Trincity, Trinidad and Tobago.

Joining Spicer on the ASUN first team is center attacking-mid Ploutarchos Alonefti and right winger Malachi Jones, who each compiled 12 assists on the season which was tied for best in the nation. 

This Bison team had no strangers to creativity up top as Jones (five) and Alonefti (four) combined for nine goals on the season alongside the 24 goals that they assisted on.

Somehow, senior forward Javanne Smith was left off of the ASUN postseason lists after putting together a season where he was fourth in the conference in goals (nine), and tied for first in game-winning goals (three). 

If it hasn’t been mentioned before…this offense is dominant and was able to score with ease as the Bison were eighth in the entire nation in goals scored (43), and fourth in the nation in total assists (48).

The strongest scoring tendencies from Lipscomb came in the second half of play as 25 of its goals came in the second 45 minutes of action. 

The Bison did an excellent job in the first 15 minutes of play after the break while scoring eight different goals in the 46-60 minute marker of the season. 

What was truly scary about this attack was how no lead was ever safe as the highest rate of goals of any 15-minute interval came in the final 76-90 minute marker of the season where the Bison compiled 10 goals in that stretch. 

Defensive mishaps

For how strong as the offense was, there is a level of concern from the Bison’s season after allowing 30 goals, which was fourth most in the entire ASUN. 

The Bison opened up regular-season play with a 6-4 loss to Florida Atlantic if it shows any of the gaps the defense may be having heading into the NCAA Tournament. 

In eight matches this season teams were able to score multiple goals as the Bison had a record of 3-3-2 in those matches. 

There was a tough stretch at the beginning of the season where Lipscomb drew Charlotte 2-2 and lost to then No. 19 Kentucky 3-2. Both of those teams are playing this week in the NCAA Tournament. 

One of the issues outside of the goals being allowed comes from the fact that the starting back four of the Bison underwent five different starting rotations while rearranging the back line eight different times over the course of 17 matches. 

Juan Carlos Rodriguez was one of the bright spots of the defense as the freshman keeper was named to the second team All-ASUN as well as the All-Freshman team in the 2023 season. 

Rodriguez was 60th in the nation in total saves (53), while posting himself at third in the ASUN in saves per game (3.78). 

In the first half of matches this season, Lipscomb looked well put together defensively, only allowing nine goals in the first period. The second half is where matches became much more intriguing for the Bison. 

Right after the break was very dangerous for Lipscomb as they allowed nine goals in the 46-60 minute mark, the only 15-minute interval that the Bison were outscored on this season. 

Even down the stretch came some very tight contests as for how good the Bison were at scoring late goals, they also gave up quite a few with eight goals being allowed in the 76-90 minute interval of the season. 

Final thoughts

Thursday will showcase two offenses that have a strong ability to put shots away. One piece that Indiana may have on paper is its defensive presence as the Hoosiers have consistently been one of the nation’s top defenses this season. 

Lipscomb has plenty of weapons in its arsenal to create scoring chances at a rate that Indiana really has not seen all season long. 

Even against the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in Peter Mangione of Penn State, Indiana was able to nullify his usage en route to a shutout. However, Lipscomb has three to four in its attacking unit that will pose a new threat for JT Harms and the Indiana defense. 

This game is trending toward a shootout where Lipscomb will likely be able to get at least one of its own as it has done all season long. In 17 games the Bison were never shut out. 

With the gaps in the defense as well as a freshman keeper, it is trending towards Indiana being able to get two or maybe three goals in this first round of NCAA Tournament play. 

With the in-form play of Sam Sarver, Maouloune Goumballe and Tommy Mihalic, there may be too much in the face of the Bison backline for them to stay within this match.

Ultimately one of the most important things to watch out for is the Bison’s ability to score right out of the break where Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley has preached all season long about being better on the restarts and after the half. 

I’m no fortune teller, so all that remains is to watch the Hoosiers vs. the Bison on Thursday evening.

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