Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rankings 1-12 and Mid-Season Reports April 1, 2009

1. Emory - They had a good win against CMS in California. The thing I took from that 5-4 result is that this team is beatable on a bad day. That being said, the opponent has to be playing unbelievable for the Eagles to fall this year. All signs point to a national championship for this season and I think it will take a lot to derail them from this goal. They will be tested against Williams in a few days and of course in the semis and final at UAAs. Emory has to keep themselves from feeling the pressure of being expected to win every match and if they can do so, I think they will win nationals. If they can take 2 doubles points, they are unbeatable against anyone.

2. Wash U - The Bears haven't had a lot of D3 action lately, but they have an action packed weekend coming up. they have 3 very tough matches against DePauw, Gustavus and Kenyon. I would be most worried about Kenyon though and I'm anxious to see how Watts responds against Greenberg in their 3rd encounter this season. The Bears looked great at Indoors and we will see if they can continue their excellent play for the rest of the season. They have outstanding singles and their doubles has improved more than any team in the country. They have to set their sights on beating Emory and I'm looking forward to seeing how they respond in the probable UAA final.

3. CMS - Their loss to Williams showed that they are beatable on their home courts and probably was good for the Stags, showing them that there is work left to be done. Their doubles has been good and if the defending national champions cold find their old form, life would be a lot easier. The middle of their singles lineup has proven to be vulnerable and this could hurt them against tough competition. Everything now is leading up to their regular season match with Santa Cruz to most likely determine the site of NCAAs. If CMS gets to the Elite 8, they will be a tough out because it is being played on their home turf.

4. UC Santa Cruz - The Slugs have avenged their Indoors losses very well in recent weeks and they are one of the hottest teams in the country. Their 9-0 win against Redlands now looks very impressive and wins against Kenyon, Gustavus and Middlebury show that this is one of the best teams in the country. Their singles is so tough top to bottom and they boast a great 1-2 punch in doubles. Their season could come down to their regular season match with CMS to determine who hosts NCAAs. Lucky for Cruz they are hosting this match. I'm sure this will be another classic between two great teams and don't be surprised to see the Slugs in the Final 4 again.

5. Williams - Despite a heartbreaking loss to Redlands, the win against CMS was more impressive to me. CMS had been almost unbeatable at home and Williams showed that they can bounce back from anything. They went from being swept in doubles to sweeping doubles, so while being inconsistent, this team also has a lot of heart. Their singles are very good but beatable. They have a good mixture of experience and youth and it's too hard to say right now what to expect from them in the long run. As of right now, I would say that they are the favorite for the NESCAC title but they are very evenly matched with the other two contenders. A Final 4 contender for sure.

6. Middlebury - Three great matches out in California by Middlebury and it's unfortunate that they came out on the wrong end of two of them. The CMS match was a great battle and it was appropriate that it came down to the last match. Their doubles were good but not great and they will need to get 2 of the doubles to put themselves in a position to win against tough competition like Williams and Amherst. The NESCAC title is really up for grabs and Midd has as good of a shot as anyone. This team seems to always make a final 4 run and they have a great chance at winning their Elite 8 match. I don't think they are talented enough to beat Emory, but another top 4 finish looks promising.

7. Amherst - They did what they were supposed to in California and supplemented their fall wins with a good win against Redlands. They showed that they won't lose to teams ranked below them, but at the same time they probably won't pull a big upset, as they got beaten by CMS very solidly. This team has great depth, but their doubles could be a weakness against the other NESCAC teams. They have a great coach who will definitely have his guys ready for every match. Their tough regular season NESCAC matches will tell us a lot more about this young team. I could see them making the Elite 8, but I think they may have a tough time getting past that stage in NCAAs.

8. Kenyon - The Lords showed good resolve with two wins last weekend after a string of losses. They have a top 5 caliber team, they just need to put all the pieces together. Their doubles have been very streaky and if they can get 1 win somewhere in the lineup they are in good shape for singles. They need work to compete with the likes of Emory, but they will get a shot at Wash U this weekend in a rematch of the Indoors semis. Greenberg and Piskacek will need to step up and an upset is not out of the question. If they keep winning, they could move ahead of the NESCAC teams in the rankings and I would also expect them to host a very winnable regional in NCAAs.

9. Redlands - Despite good wins against Williams and Gustavus, they still have a bad loss to UT-Tyler and this is holding them back a bit. It is also an advantage that they get to play every match at home. The bottom of the lineup as well as their doubles has really been excellent this year and Spearman is a solid #1 player for the next few years. This is a good team that is very hard to play because they fight hard, but they will have a hard time making it out of their NCAA regional. A second round match against Santa Cruz or CMS should spell a loss for this team but that doesn't mean they aren't having an excellent season. They should finish in the top 10 but won't be a real factor in the tournament.

10. Gustavus Adolphus - Their Indoors results were offset by 3 losses in California. Gustavus was beaten soundly by Redlands and Williams and their 5-4 against Santa Cruz was never really close after singles started. They just don't have enough players to compete with the top teams this year and I think they got a false sense of security at Indoors. That being said, they should dominate their conference once again and most likely will find themselves hosting NCAAs with a great opportunity to make the Elite 8. Barring a meltdown late in the season, they should hold their #10 spot for quite a while. The truth is they are overmatched by most of the top 10 though.

11. Bowdoin - Their California swing produced mixed results that are hard to interpret right now. Their doubles as well as the middle of their singles lineup were extremely inconsistent. One thing we do know is Sullivan has found last year's form and Pena could be a future star in Division 3. I doubt they have it in them to beat one of the top 3 in the NESCAC but a 4th place finish should be plenty to qualify them for the tournament. They actually match up well with Amherst and Williams and they could pull an upset in the tournament but I just don't see them cracking the top 10 this year. They have a lot of talent and if they can get their doubles in order, this could be a very good team.

12. Johns Hopkins - They looked tough in the one match they played, but playing such an easy schedule is a questionable strategy. It's too hard to say whether they will be prepared for NCAAs because they haven't faced the same sort of competition as other teams. They will be going into NCAAs without exposure to a top 10 team and their upcoming Mary Wash match won't be that tough if the Eagles continue their losing ways. That being said, this is a good team with a great 1-2 punch and two of the best doubles teams in the country. If their bottom guys can win consistently, they could find themselves headed to a Final Four. Their NCAA fate is too hard to say right now because we haven't seen enough of them.