Friday, February 12, 2010

Season Preview #29: Redlands

General Team Discussion - I've seen a trend from Redlands over the past few years. Start off pretty slow, get hot during their very tough March, and then wilt at the end during conferences and NCAAs. Redlands is a very deep team that trains hard and has the potential to play with the big boys, but they have fallen short of CMS and Cruz in the past few years. There are pros and cons of playing the toughest schedule in the country and Redlands has certainly learned that. They have numerous opportunities during March to bolster their NCAA resume and they have taken advantage of this, but at the same time I feel like their team gets beaten up and worn out after playing 15 ranked teams in a season, plus D2 and NAIA schools. This year's team is a typical Redlands squad. No one really strong at the top, but good doubles and good depth. They have the advantage of playing 13 ranked teams this season on their home courts and they fight hard every match. I have them currently at #5 in Pool C according to my power rankings. I think this Redlands team has the ability to go as high as about #8 in the national rankings and I don't see them dropping below 15. I don't think they should have too much trouble qualifying for the tournament but it will be hard for them to escape the California regional.

Where They'll Win - As I eluded to earlier, doubles and depth are the strong spots for Redlands. They return their top 2 doubles teams from a year ago. Reading/Spearman can be an NCAA qualifier in a very tough West and Hammond/Wong have been a good doubles team for a while. They have a good bottom of the lineup with most likely Liebman and Hammond playing somewhere 3 through 6 as well as their top recruit Darren Dahl fitting in there somewhere. Although they lost two key seniors, they have plenty of players to fill in. Redlands can play with anyone in the country in the bottom 3-4 spots.

Where They'll Lose - Take nothing away from Reading and Spearman in singles, but I don't feel like they can hang with the other top teams at #1 and #2. Against top competition, I don't see Redlands generating a ton of wins at the top 2 singles spots and this could hurt them if they run into someone who can match their depth. Another trouble spot could be #3 doubles and if they lose at one of the top two doubles spots they could find themselves in a hole. Redlands is competitive at all 9 spots, they just all need to play well on the same day to pull an upset.

Schedule Analysis - The hardest schedule in the country with 14 teams who will probably be ranked at year's end. I have my eye on a few big matches for Redlands. The first is a road match at Cal Lu and Redlands needs to be ready to play to avoid the upset. During their "March Madness" stretch, I have my eye on 4 big matches. CMU, Trinity (TX), Amherst and Cruz. I think these are all potentially winnable matches for Redlands. if they manage to win 3 of these, I think they are a legitimate threat to make the Elite 8. SCIAC tournament will be big for them because if they beat CMS, they could potentially host NCAA Regionals which would be a big advantage.