Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday May 8th

Two big pieces of news from today. The first is that Gustavus had its streak of 22 consecutive conference titles snapped when they fell 7-2 to Carleton. This loss marks only the 4th time the Gusties have failed to win the conference in the past 40 years. This was something that I speculated early in the season but after Gustavus won the regular season match between the two, I didn't see them losing in the conference final. It's May and not snowing in Minnesota so the match was played outdoors and I have to think not playing in the very loud Swanson Tennis Center had to help Carleton. I'm still in a bit of shock that Gustavus went from #9 in the country at the end of last year to being out of the top 30. The Gusties have to be questioning their program after this season and they need to hope for some good recruits and a quick turn around because a season like this is unacceptable for a program with a rich tradition like Gustavus.

The second occurrence of the day surprised me even more as Williams finally played to their potential and upset Amherst in the NESCAC tournament semifinals. Williams #1 doubles team has been weak all season but they came through today as well as #2 doubles. I think Amherst has arguably the best 2 doubles combo in the country so this is a great sign that Williams was able to take the lead. If Amherst wants to make a run to the national finals again I think they need big contributions from the bottom of their lineup and Williams just killed them today in the 3 through 5 spots. Chafetz is looking like one of the best singles players in the country at the moment but he didn't get much help today. Midd took out Trinity (CT) with a very routine 5-0 ending the Bantams chances at a surprise NCAA bid. On Friday, Trinity was able to squeak out a 5-2 win against Bowdoin who has to be disappointed after the news about their NCAA hopes being dashed. I expect Midd to dominate the final tomorrow, especially if Olson is ready to go in singles. Unless they play spectacular doubles, I don't see 5 wins for Williams in this match. Midd has been rock solid everywhere and Williams will need to turn in an even better performance than they did today if they want to have a chance.

So the question I've been pondering is what do these two upsets mean for NCAAs? The first thing to look at is the seeding of the top 8 teams. The top 4 stay constant obviously but the bottom 4 can now be numbered several ways. You can make arguments for many different combinations, but I'll share me personal opinion and support it. I think Carnegie Mellon gets the 5 seed because Amherst drops. Post-Indoors, CMU has only lost to CMS and Emory and they have wins over Kenyon, Hopkins and Trinity (TX). That's a solid resume in my book and I think they are in line to take on Wash U in the quarters. Amherst gets the 6 seed. Herst could definitely be 5, but they just lost to the #12 team, for me offsetting their great win against CMS. They have also lost to CLU and their next best win after CMS is Williams. I hate to dwell on this, but if they aren't going to count, why even play dual matches in the fall? Herst has also lost to Kenyon and CMU. I think number 7 goes to Kenyon. One could make an extremely valid argument for Williams being at #7 as well. The Lords have lost to no one below them and also have a win against Hopkins. The problem with them is that their only other respectable wins are DePauw and Kalamazoo. Williams on the other hand has lost to NCW who's out of the top 10. They now have wins against Bowdoin, Trinity (CT) and Amherst. I think you could almost flip a coin for who gets #7, but it's an important spot because Emory is significantly more beatable than Middlebury.

I don't think this is going to have a huge effect on Hopkins. My guess would be the Blue Jays will now travel north like they did last year, but it will be to Williams rather than Amherst. That would be a fantastic regional final and I really hope it happens. NCW is an interesting case since Hopkins will now most likely go north. The two possibilities for them are either being grouped with Emory at Washington & Lee or potentially making the very long trip to Pittsburgh to take on CMU. The latter would probably mean Mary Wash also goes to W&L and becomes Emory's 2 seed. I personally think the first scenario is more simple as well as more likely. I know NCW wants a shot at Emory and I think they will get it. Mary Wash will probably travel north to CMU. A W&L host site with Emory and NCW allows that to become a 5 team regional when I had it as a 4 in my bracketology. With the lack of teams in the northeast I think Amherst probably takes on Vassar and Midd takes on MIT. The fact that Carleton won doesn't really change anything because they are just out of driving distance of St. Louis. Whitewater is a probable host site and I think Kenyon probably goes there to take on Trinity (TX). As I mentioned, the only way things would get complicated is if there are too many teams in the Midwest which is a definite possibility. It's possible that Trinity (TX) goes elsewhere and Wash U or Kenyon could get a cupcake #2 seed. I'll be very interested to see what the brackets look like on Monday.