Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Season Preview #13: Johns Hopkins

General Team Discussion - It's been quite a turnaround for Hopkins tennis the past few years, but in a way I think all of the expectation may get to this team. They gave the national runner-up a very tough time in NCAAs last year, but they still have yet to break through. I would be shocked if this year's team didn't end up in the Final 8. This is another complete team with very good players top to bottom including 2 NCAA Singles qualifiers, a D1 transfer and one of the top freshmen in the country. And their most dangerous player may not even be listed there. After the top 4 schools, Hopkins is my #1 contender to win a national title. While I doubt they can have 3 huge wins 3 days in a row at nationals, they definitely are capable of doing so. This is a team on the rise and they continue to bring in good recruiting classes every year. They are to the point of dominating their conference and 2010 should be a breakout year for them. While I think a Final 4 run is possible, I'm expecting a trip to the Elite 8 this year and they will fall to one of the top 4 in a battle.

Where They'll Win - One of the deepest teams in the country and maybe better than anyone at 4 and 5 singles. I'm not sure what their order will be in the middle of their lineup but whoever plays at 4 and 5 singles will be a huge weapon for Hopkins. I'm not sure what their doubles teams will look like either, but a Barnaby/Blythe combo at 2 would be an automatic win for Hopkins against most teams. 3 doubles has traditionally been a problem for Hopkins but they now have many good singles players and I would expect them to produce a very strong #3 team.

Where They'll Lose - I don't see any true weaknesses on this team. I have to compare them to the other top 5 teams in the country. Maldow has been a force for 4 years but I don't know if he can keep up with the best #1's in the country. Wang has been very tough at 2 singles but the same applies for him. He needs to step up against the likes of Chris Goodwin and Andrew Thomson if Hopkins wants to have a chance at a national title. I'm not sure if they can put together a winning combination at 1 doubles either. 6 singles is still up in the air and I'm expecting Barnaby to fill in. Whether or not he's a consistent winner is yet to be seen.

Schedule Analysis - A very unlucky Indoors draw playing Wash U in the first round. If they win this, I think the country will take them very seriously as a national title contender. How they finish at Indoors is also important. Their first real test is NCW and they play Chicago at home a week later. They need to pass both of these tests with flying colors. A tough two day road stretch in early April against Kenyon and CMU, which will really test the Blue Jays. Their last test of the year will be on the road against Mary Washington. They need to practice hard before NCAAs because there's a gap in the schedule.