Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Season Preview #28: North Carolina Wesleyan

General Team Discussion - This team is definitely one of the biggest question marks for me coming into this year. For the most part, their players all unknowns due to them being foreign. This team really flew under the radar in 2009, coming out of nowhere to put together an undefeated regular season and steal the USA South championship away from Christopher Newport. Although NC Wesleyan had an undefeated season, they really didn't beat anyone very good so I wasn't all that impressed. What caught my attention was their NCAA performance. They crushed Mary Washington and then gave Emory all they could handle in the Sweet 16. Apparently the Eagles were really sweating. So that makes the Bishops a real contender coming into 2010. They had a young team last year and all those guys now have a year of experience under their belt. Whether they can break into the top 10 is yet to be seen, but I expect a big upset from NCW this year. They start the year as pre-season #15 and I think that could improve. I don't see them falling in the rankings, that's for sure. I would feel much more comfortable assessing NCW's team after they play 3 or 4 ranked teams. As of now, I just don't know what to make of their team in 2010.

Where They'll Win - They have some strong players, but I don't know if the top of their lineup is the caliber of the other top 15 teams in the country. Junior Antti Saari is their leader and top player and he certainly had a good fall regional knocking off some tough Emory players, but whether he can win at #1 against the likes of David Maldow and Nick Lebedoff is still to be seen. If Saari can generate wins at the top, this could be a very dangerous team. I think their true strength is probably their depth. They seem to have a lot of strong players and could be tough to beat in the 3 through 6 positions.

Where They'll Lose - I don't know this team all that well like I said before so I'm not sure where their holes are. They didn't have very impressive doubles results in the fall, so this could be an area where they need work. When they play Williams and Hopkins and even Salisbury, they really need to come through in the bottom of their lineup in both singles and doubles because their opponents have very deep teams. I would feel much more comfortable talking about NCW's strengths and weaknesses about 60 days from now.

Schedule Analysis - Now that they are known on the national scene, they have greatly improved their schedule. They start with an early season match against a good Salisbury team on the road. I would expect a win here. A week later they play the Wash U Bears. The result of this match will tell me a lot about NCW. About 10 days later they have a very difficult day, with Mary Wash in the morning and Hopkins in the afternoon. The JHU match will be another great test. The last match I really have my eye on is a home match against Williams. The Ephs are vulnerable this year and I'm keeping my eye on this one as a potential upset.