Saturday, December 26, 2009
10 Things to Watch in 2010
10. Does Kenyon continue to plateau? Kenyon announced themselves as a national title contender two years ago but since then they have really plateaued and found it tough to break out of that 6-10 range in the rankings. Will their win against Amherst in the Fall help them with confidence in the Spring? They are the favorite to come out of their half of the Indoors bracket but this could be their last chance at glory for several years. They lose their Brody, Greenberg, Vandenberg core and I believe Piskacek is graduating as well. This may be Kenyon's last chance at a national title for many years to come.
9. NC Wesleyan in the top 15? Mary Wash out of the top 20? It sounds strange, but it's definitely possible. A potential shakeup in the Atlantic South. Mary Wash has their weakest team in several years and although they are pretty deep, they don't have any stars. That being said, the more I look at this team the more I think they could be dangerous come May. NC Wesleyan quietly had an excellent season last year and beat UMW in NCAAs. Their influx of foreign players and great work by Coach Modise have them listed as a team that nobody wants to play. They play a tougher schedule this season so we will see how they fair.
8. Trinity (TX) ends their year long meltdown The Tigers entered the 2008 SCAC tournament ranked #1 in the country. Since then they lost to an 18th ranked DePauw, lost in regionals, then followed it up by missing NCAAs in 2009. Their team is a year older now and they seem to have an outstanding Freshman in Delafuente. Can they make their way back into the top 10 in the country and end DePauw's 3 year streak of conference titles? I really like this team and I think they are very dangerous with 3 excellent players near the top of their lineup supplemented by above average doubles and a tough bottom.
7. Continued UAA Dominance? Wash U and Emory have entered the last 2 NCAA tournaments as the top 2 seeds. They really have controlled D3 the past two years and all eyes have been on them being on a collision course for the finals. While they were both derailed in the semis last year they were probably the two most talented teams. Emory has been to 8 straight final fours but I think this could be their weakest team in several years with the loss of Michael Goodwin. Pottish had a great fall but can he carry them? Will these two UAA powers meet again in the national finals? They are scheduled to play in the semis of Indoors.
6. A lot of very even teams this year 2 years ago we had upsets galore during the season. Last year things were a bit more predictable. This year I expect something in the middle, but to me there is no outstanding team who is unbeatable. I see a cutoff around #4 in the country but after that you could say the next 10-12 teams are evenly matched and could beat each other on any given day. I expect to see a lot of switching in the rankings from the preseason to the end of the year and I would be surprised if any one team comes out of this year undefeated.
5. JHU and CMU announce themselves on the national scene I thought these two were academic powerhouses? Both have announced themselves on the national scene moving into the top 10 in the preseason rankings. CMU beat Amherst in the fall and JHU has arguably the best 3-4-5 punch of anyone in the country. Both of these teams can knock off anyone on the right day and I don't think its a stretch to say they are both very legitimate Final 4 contenders. If both teams' players can conquer their schoolwork and put in long hours on the court we could potentially see one of these two making a deep run at nationals.
4. Gustavus doesn't win the MIAC I cannot remember the last time Gustavus was ranked outside the top 15 in the country, let alone the top 10. But 25th? 7 spots behind MIAC rival Carleton? This is crazy. But is it? Carleton has slowly built up a very strong team and Gustavus is in the definition of a rebuilding year with a very young team and a new coach replacing a legend. In my heart of hearts I still think Gustavus will find a way to win the conference at home and get the NCAA bid, but Carleton is certainly closing the gap and this could be their year. Coach Valentini needs to do some serious restructuring.
3. A down year for West powerhouses The Slugs and CMS both lost some valuable senior leadership. Cruz has a very young team and they have their hands full immediately at Indoors with CMU in a match that I frankly expect them to lose. That being said, Hansen is probably the best coach in the country and finds a way to win. CMS lost their 4-year superstar Larry Wang and although Erani is emerging as a top player, I don't know if he can carry them. While these should both be fixtures in the top 12, I see both teams finishing probably 5th at best. These two probably have harder training regimens than anyone in the country and they will need extra work to hang with the big boys this year.
2. 3 of the top 5 in the country from NESCAC? It's not a stretch. Amherst dug themselves into a hole this fall but when they return to full strength with Chafetz and Koenig, you could call them #1 in the country. Middlebury is pleasantly surprised with the return of Conrad Olson and the emergence of Andrew Peters, giving them clearly the strongest top 4 in the country in addition to the ITA doubles national champions. Williams is the weakest of the bunch but with a new coach and several strong freshman including potential superstar Felix Sun, they are a tough out. I expect Amherst and Midd in the top 4 in the country, but I think Williams would need some magic to break into the top 5.
1. Wash U returns to the winner's circle My preseason prediction for nationals. John Watts is a senior and he'e been the best player in D3 post-Seeberger. It's only fitting to see him go out a champion. Although they lost a strong senior class, the Bears have an excellent supporting cast after Watts. Stein/Woods are a dominant #1 doubles team and potentially devastating 2-3 punch in singles as well. Freshman Putterman looks like he will definitely be playing in the top 4 and should be very instrumental in Wash U's success. If they are weak anywhere it's the bottom of the lineup in singles and doubles. They will be tested immediately against an improved Chicago team followed by national title contender JHU in what should be the best Indoors 1st round in years.