Sunday, January 24, 2010

Season Preview #18: Carnegie Mellon

General Team Discussion - I don't know if there is any team entering 2010 that is more unpredictable. CMU can do anything from finishing in the top 5 in the country to missing the NCAA tournament and I wouldn't be surprised. The past two years they have snuck into the tournament as the last team from Pool C but this really shouldn't be an issue this year. The Tartans should be more concerned about getting a top seed in their region than making the tournament, mostly so they can avoid Kenyon again. They had a great fall win against Amherst to get them into the top 10 in the country and they couldn't ask for a better draw at Indoors. They play a very tough out-of-conference schedule so they are tested start to finish during their season. This is one of the most talented teams in the country it's just a matter of them all getting on the same page on the same day. They have a lot of experience on this team and I would expect them to spend the majority of their season inside the top 10. As far as their NCAA outlook, it's too early to say. One thing I have been thinking about is that with the fall Amherst win, CMU could have an edge over Williams if the Ephs don't come up with any big wins. This could be important for NCAA seeding and hosting. CMU is definitely a team to watch this year, but they can blow up just as easily as they can make the Final 4.

Where They'll Win - Depth wise, they can compete with anyone in the country. They won at 4, 5 and 6 against Amherst and their 3 is a former ITA Singles Champion. I think they will be one of the best in the country at the 3 through 5 positions in particular and they really need these spots against good teams. Doubles is always a question mark but it seems like they have a good #3 combo in King/Miller who took out Hopkins #1 team in ITAs. Their #1 team Ljuboja/Muliawan also won the regional taking out the NCAA qualifier from Salisbury last year.

Where They'll Lose - They really lack a superstar and this is uncharacteristic of a top 10 program. They need those bottom spots to come up big for them because when they are playing teams ranked in the top 12 in the country, I don't see them getting many wins at 1 or 2 singles. If Chafetz is around, that Amherst result could be very different, but as it was they were able to manage a win at #1 singles. If they can somehow manage to generate wins at the top of the lineup this is automatically a national championship contender. We don't know yet if doubles will be a strength or weakness.

Schedule Analysis - A huge match against a vulnerable Cruz team in the 1st round of Indoors. To me, a must win for CMU to start their season on the right note. Three tough matches in California which will be very important for Pool C standings. They then return home for matches against their regional competition. I expect them to defeat Mary Wash but Hopkins at home will be a great test. A probable match against DePauw in GLCA semis is another big one for NCAA selection. They get a crack at both SCAC teams. The season concludes with UAAs on their home courts and I'm sure they will get a chance to knock off Wash U or Emory in the semis. A 3rd-4th with Chicago is also a potentially huge match.