Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 Pre-Season Rankings

1. Amherst - They may not go undefeated in the regular season but it doesn't matter. They are the best team and have shown they will raise their game in May. The Jeffs will win the national title if they play like they have the past three seasons. This team is loaded top to bottom and has no weaknesses. Anything can happen on any given day, but I just don't see them losing.

2. CMS - The only team who can seriously threaten Amherst in my opinion. They have a reputation for choking in May, but their top 4 is as good as its ever been this year. The Stags are hungry to finally break through and get to the national title match, but they have to be careful not to wear themselves out during the regular season, which I think may play a part in their postseason collapses.

3. Emory - You know what you're going to get from their top 2, but its their freshmen that will determine how good this team is. With the best 2 players in the country its hard to rank them at 3, but they aren't as deep as the top 2. They still have the intimidation factor going in their favor and I'd be surprised if they don't make the Final 4. They would have to get lucky to win it all.

4. Williams - 4 through 10 in these rankings I consider even, but I'm giving the edge to the Ephs for now due to their great postseason and fall season. They have some great players at the top and are deep and last year's young team managed to finish 4th in NCAAs. They, and their coach, are a year older and will use that experience to hopefully find their way back to the Final 4.

5. Wash U - On paper, they probably aren't the 5th best team in the country, but I really like the Bears intangibles. They are a fairly inexperienced team, but no matter what team they put on the court, they always manage a respectable performance. Beating Emory and their 5th straight Final 4 aren't out of reach, but just like last year, I don't think they have enough talent to win it all.

6. Middlebury - Another very young team, and I have the feeling most of the country isn't all that familiar with their roster. I'll be interested to see what kind of impact Hansen's coaching will have on their team because they certainly have a lot of talent. The Peters loss is tough to weigh at the moment. One sure thing is that the ultra-competitive NESCAC will test them and they will come to play in May.

7. UC Santa Cruz - A massive match to begin their season against Trinity (TX), and it will define this year's team. Can they win without Hansen is the question on everyone's mind. Their coaching staff remains excellent and they have a great team despite losing Pybas. I don't see them as a serious threat to CMS this season, but I'd also be very surprised if they dropped out of the top 8 in the country.

8. Kenyon - They overachieved in '11 and underachieved in '10, so if they revert to the mean this is about where they are in '12. They lose their top player, but some good recruits should keep them as a dominant force and a top 10 team. I can see them being as high as 4th, but historically they haven't been able to get past the Final 8 and beat the top teams. A well-rounded team that's still young.

9. Johns Hopkins - They have so much talent, no amount of choking will cause them to lose to a team outside the top 10. Or so we think. They have yet to get past the Sweet 16 and their postseason collapses have turned into a running joke. I think they will have a strong regular season and are a threat against anyone in the country, but no one cares about anything but NCAAs when it comes to JHU.

10. Pomona-Pitzer - Probably overachieved in '11, but this is still a good team who will be a tough out this season. Unfortunately they didn't win their most important matches of the season, but I can see them giving Cruz a run this year. As always they play a loaded schedule that will give them plenty of opportunities against the big boys, but they need to save something for May.

11. NC Wesleyan - As always, kind of a wildcard in all of this. They predicted national titles for themselves, but they haven't moved into the top echelon of teams yet. They have definitely established the program as a perennial top 15 team, but that signature win still eludes them. This season is another opportunity as I believe this strength of this team is overlooked due to their poor doubles in the past.

12. Trinity (TX) - Don't have quite the firepower they did last year, but still a respectable team with top players and depth. It would take a big time effort to get back to the Final 8 for the 3rd year in a row, but if anyone has the heart to do it its these guys. A good mix of youth and experience and if they field a strong doubles lineup like they usually do, anything can happen with the 9-pt system.

13. DePauw - They are switching conferences and I believe they are entering this season with high expectations after a somewhat disappointing last couple seasons. Last year they were better then their ranking while going through a coaching change and I expect them to pick up their level and challenge Kenyon for the conference title. This is a sleeper who could cause an upset if they get to NCAAs.

14. Chicago - A new coach, who is a female I might add, but still the same talent and high expectations. They had their best season in program history last year but still couldn't break through to the Final 8. I don't think they are quite as strong as last year, but they still remain a contender to make NCAAs and could give Wash U and Emory a hard time. Still up in the air on this team, hard to predict what they'll do.

15. Redlands - Probably don't deserve to be 15, but it seems like they always end up around here and they had a deep recruiting class after losing some key players. I see them as a distant 4th best team in California who will once again be on the brink for NCAAs. The difference between the past 2 seasons and all the other ones is they haven't been able to pull out their most important matches recently.

The Rest: Bowdoin, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western, Cal Lutheran, Mary Washington, Trinity (CT), MIT, Rhodes, Bates, Whitewater, Whitman, Gustavus, Tufts, Brandeis, Tyler, Skidmore, Vassar, Washington & Lee

Top 10 Stories of 2012

10. Can Williams do it again? The Ephs pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Final 8 history with their win against CMS, on the road, in last year's quarterfinal. Williams returns their whole team for this year and the good news for them is they are out of the spotlight in the NESCAC this year. All eyes are on Amherst and Midd and Williams will go about their business and quietly be a top 8 team for the whole season. At the end of last year, I was worried about them beating Hopkins to qualify for the Final 8 - but they did a lot more than that. I really like their chances to get back to the quarterfinals, but going further will be the real test.

9. Emory hasn't won a title since 2006 - 2nd is great, however anything but a national title is not acceptable for the Eagles. Emory has to feel like they've been punched in the stomach 2 years in a row by the same team, although the losses were very different. The Eagles got flat out crushed in singles last year and I don't see any signs that would make me think they can win it all in 2012. Yes, they have the two best players in the country, but if Goodwin can't win his singles matches in NCAAs then Emory doesn't have a chance to beat the Jeffs. The Eagles will almost definitely be a top 5 team and most likely a top 3 team this year, but if they aren't winning national titles they aren't happy.

8. Watch out for Case Western - A team in the rise who quietly crept into the top 20 in 2011 and stayed there for a decent portion of the season. They have solidified themselves as a solid #5 in the UAA and I can even see them finishing 3rd in the conference in 2012. I think that this is a solid top 20 team in 2012 who could flirt with the top 15 and an NCAA berth. They are bringing in one of the best recruits in school history and Coach Wojtkowski has done wonders with this program over the past couple seasons. I expect Case to give a lot of top 15 teams a very hard time and I can see this as the true breakthrough year for this program where they establish themselves on the national scene.

7. CMS and Hopkins performance in NCAAs - At this point, both teams have a reputation for choking during May. You can't even argue with that fact. That being said, I believe both of these teams will field the best teams they've ever had during the 2012 season. Hopkins has the top recruiting class in Division 3 and how their freshmen respond will go a long way in determining their fate this year. CMS has 4 of 6 starters back from last year's team that should have finished #3 in the country, plus the best recruit entering D3 this year. I expect to see both of these teams in the quarterfinals this year and I think on paper, Hopkins is close to a top 5 team and CMS is the clear #2 in the country.

6. 5 consecutive Final 4s for Wash U - The Bears are usually overshadowed by other more flashy teams, but more so than anyone else, they go about their business and collect wins. More so than other years, they will have a young team in 2012 with no seniors in the starting singles lineup. The Bears currently hold the longest streak of Final 4s in D3 with 4 in a row, and I think they have a good chance to make it 5 in a row if the NCAA draw goes their way. They finished #3 in the country last year, but anyone who thinks they were actually the 3rd best team is foolish. I think a lot depends on what happens with Wash U's doubles this year, as beating Emory and taking back the UAA title are certainly attainable goals.

5. Pomona-Pitzer the new #2 in SCIAC? P-P really had a breakthrough year last year, but their year was very similar to CLU's 2010, and we saw what happened to the Kingsmen last year. P-P showed separation between Redlands and CLU, but there is also a large gap between the Hens and CMS. I like P-P to be in the bottom half of the top 10 again this year, as they return most of their starting lineup from last year and they have a solid recruiting class. What they do in 2012 will be one of the most interesting stories for me personally, as I'm anxious to see if they can close the gap with the top dogs in California. They play a tough schedule as always, and you wonder if they are tired by the end of the year because they clearly didn't have their best stuff in the last month of the season.

4. DePauw's conference switch - For those unaware, DePauw switched conferences from the SCAC, where they used to be grouped with Trinity (TX) and Rhodes, to the NCAC, where they will now compete against Kenyon and Denison. This is great news for the Tigers of Trinity and bad news for Kenyon, as the Lords will now have to constantly watch their back when it comes to NCAAs because they don't necessarily have an auto bid to NCAAs. I really like this year's DePauw team and I expect them to be somewhere between 11 and 13 in the country. I don't think their ranking of 16 did last year's team justice and I expect the Tigers to make a lot of noise in their new conference this season.

3. Indoors returns to Gustavus - After a one year hiatus in which National Indoors moved to Mary Washington, the Gusties announced that Indoors will be returning to its proper home. I would think last year's switch was a combination of Gustavus being overmatched and financial issues. Either way, its great to see GAC take back this great event and I hope that they can give some tough matches to the Indoors field which is always elite. The Gusties have incredible fan support and the atmosphere during their matches is as good as any in D3 tennis. I was delighted to see this news a couple months ago, as I think Indoors is the next best thing to NCAAs despite the outstanding Stag-Hen field this year.

2. Hansen to Middlebury - This was just a shocker and I have mixed feelings about it. I have my own theories as to why Bob Hansen left his beloved Cruz, but I think that he saw a dead end in California and a new beginning in Vermont. I don't expect Midd to be a top 5 team this year because they still don't have a lot of experience, but I'm anxious to see where they will be in 3-5 years as Hansen now has a very attractive school to market. Obviously it's going to be a different environment from Cruz and we will see how the best coach in D3 history adjusts. I think that there will be unnecessary pressure on Midd this year and they won't perform up to everyone's expectations. I see them being 3rd in NESCAC and somewhere between 5 and 9 in the country this year.

1. Can anyone touch Amherst? The Jeffs simply go through the motions during the regular season and everyone knows that now. They really don't care about wins and losses in March and April, but rather focus on getting better and being healthy in May. The only weakness they showed during NCAAs last year was the first 15 minutes of doubles against Trinity. Other than that, they were completely untouchable. Nothing suggests this won't happen again and for 5 more years. I think that we have a dynasty in the making in Amherst, MA and no one can stop it. If this team feels like winning nationals, they are going to do just that. In other news, the Jeffs have signed 2 5-stars who will start in Fall 2012. I'm not joking when I say I think we could see 5-6 national titles in a row from Amherst, but how long does Garner hang around?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Future of This Blog

I'm writing this post now because I was thinking about tennis this morning for the first time in a very long time. And that is a big part of the problem. Everyone I played with in D3 has now graduated and I began to lose interest toward the end of last season. It became a chore and that shouldn't happen. Couple that with a 65 hour work week and I cannot maintain the quality that I once did. I have some free time today for the first time in a long time and I'm going to take a look at spring schedules and put a calendar together as I always do and potentially throw some rankings together.

The point is that a change needs to be made and I have a couple potential solutions. I'd ask for reader feedback via email to decide what's best. I began this blog so that it would be a source of information for everything you need to know about D3 tennis. I want it to stay that way and I want to pick the best solution so the content doesn't slip.

1. Rather than posting 5-6 times a week during the season as I used to, I turn that into 1-2 times a week and attempt to stay up to date on everything. Posting every day just isn't realistic and I would basically post whenever I have time. Some weeks that may be 4 times and other weeks that may be 0 times.

2. I get contributions from others. This means match previews, match recaps, team updates, etc. You could be anonymous or have your name attached. Obviously I'm not going to pay anyone, but I think I have enough of a reader base that this is possible. I would be a stickler about what gets posted so I'm obviously editing what you write for grammar and any content that I'd consider derogatory toward a team and/or player.

3. The tennisd3 blog becomes the main blog and I submit content to him whenever I can. I have issues with this because for the past 2 years, that blogger has disappeared for weeks at a time during the season.

4. I give 3 or 4 trustworthy people access to the email account and this blog and they take it over. I submit content whenever I can. I get a high volume of emails which I try to answer. That would be part of the job as well.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Revisiting Top 10 Stories of 2011

10. NCAA Selection Process - In Pool C, things were more clear cut this year with Bowdoin clearly deserving of the last spot. Teams were left out, but most likely none of the teams left out would have made a true impact in the tournament. Also, we saw TCNJ and Whitewater advance to the Sweet 16, and under the old process where the top 32 teams were picked based upon ranking, it is likely that neither team would have made the tournament.

9. Can Chicago play to their talent?
- Baby steps. The Maroons took it to the next level this year and at least made the tournament. They entered as a top seed after a good regular season win against Wash U, but faltered in their most important match of the season against Trinity (TX). I wouldn't say Chicago actually played to their talent, but they certainly took a large leap forward and improved upon their performance in past years.

8. CLU and CMU - One-hit wonders?
- Absolutely. A large step backward for both programs this year, as Cal Lu struggled with the bottom of their lineup and CMU struggled with everything. Even with Ballou, the Kingsmen were not true contenders, and CMU faltered after a promising Indoors performance. We will see if these 2 can rebound, but they certainly did not use the momentum and experience they gained in 2010 to help them in 2011.

7. Former powerhouses become non-factors
- Kalamazoo fell very far this year, but Gustavus was actually a pleasant surprise. Kzoo kept their conference winning streak alive and qualified for the tournament, but they weren't very competitive with the strongest teams on their schedule. GAC took back their conference and turned in a spirited performance in the NCAA tournament in a tight loss to Trinity (TX), which was a big boost for their team.

6. A rebuilding year for Kenyon? Couldn't have been more wrong about this. Coach Thielke was robbed of national coach of the year honors after the Lords turned in an incredible season. They lost 4 starters from a team ranked 12, added 1 freshman, and will finish ranked 7 most likely. That's unbelievable and they should be just as good, if not better, next year. Along with Pomona-Pitzer, the biggest surprise of the year for me.

5. Can Hopkins perform in the post-season?
What a mess. It's not that they lost to Williams, it's how they lost to Williams. This team gave Emory by far their toughest match of the regular season and they got hammered in NCAAs. It's in their heads at this point, it's not about their play. They just don't show up in May and no one will take them seriously as a top national power until they do.

4. How far will the best 2 players in the country take you?
Very far, but not far enough. Emory's top 2 met in the NCAA singles final, but Goodwin was cracked in the team competition for the 2nd year in a row and Emory fell. They put together an amazing regular season, but anything but a national title for Emory is unacceptable. These 2 will return next year and we'll pose the same question, but the supporting case may not be strong enough.

3. Midd minus Schwarz, Wash U minus Watts
- Midd had their weakest season in quite a while as they will most likely finish 8 or 9 after a quarterfinal loss. They were young and missing their top recruit, so they actually had a good season in my eyes. Wash U made their 4 straight Final 4, but they measure themselves against Emory, and the Bears lost to the Eagles 3 times this year, going a combined 1-10 in singles.

2. Indoors leaves Gustavus - A wonderful job by Mary Washington putting on this tournament and UMW even got a big win out of it. The Cal Lu victory was a huge win for UMW and there were also some of the top matches of the season at this tournament including CLU-CMU and Wash U-Cruz. I hope that UMW will retain this tournament for the next several years because it's a necessary event to start the season.

1. Third time is the charm
- Amherst did it, and they did it convincingly. They wanted it more than everyone else and cruised through the draw to take the title after having been beaten badly the last 2 finals. Amherst really goes through the motions during the regular season, but they come to play in May. They dominated all 3 opponents and were basically untouchable for those 3 days. They look to make it 2 in a row as they return all 6 singles starters.

Season Recap

Will begin Thursday evening. Check back Sunday night for everything.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breaking Down the Final

A dream final tomorrow between the 2 best teams in the country. They both deserve to be here and something has to give. Amherst has been to 3 consecutive finals, but the past 2 times they were up against a superior team. Now, they are up against an equivalent team and need to grind out a win. Something has to give tomorrow and many will remember the epic quarterfinal these 2 teams played last year. Emory swept doubles and ended up losing, and I'm pretty sure that is the only time in the 5 years of the 9-point system that's happened to Emory.

Chris Goodwin's only D3 singles loss in his 3 year career was to Mark Kahan last year. Those 2 will meet tomorrow. Dillon Pottish's only D3 singles loss in his 2 year career was to Austin Chafetz last year. Pottish, Goodwin and Egan are now a combined 43-0 this year in singles play. If all 3 of them win, that means Amherst needs 5 of the 6 remaining matches, a very tall task against an Emory team with a very formidable 1 and 3 doubles team and a not too shabby bottom of the lineup either. Amherst desperately needs 2 of the doubles matches. The other thing that's interesting to me is that Moritz Koenig isn't starting singles. I think it's a questionable to move to bench your senior captain who pretty much single handedly took you to the final last year with 2 ridiculous wins. He would be up against Noah Simonson tomorrow, the same player he beat last year to clinch the match against Emory. No disrespect to Andrew Jung, I just think it's a shocker Koenig is not in the lineup.

If Amherst gets up 2-1, it's anyone's match. But to beat Emory, you have 2 choices: get up in doubles or beat their top 2. Neither of those is easy, but the first is easier. Emory has done a great job winning close doubles matches this year, see the CMS match and today. You can't count on getting down in dubs and then winning 3 through 6 against the Eagles, so Amherst needs to start well and grab the lead.

I like Herst to win at 1 and 2 doubles, and I think Chafetz steps up tomorrow and gets a win against Egan, couple with wins at 4 and 6 to give Amherst the title in a really close 5-3 or 5-4. It really is anyone's match, but doubles is the key for both teams because of the depth and quality of both singles lineups.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Picks

I'm going to break down each match the next few days but for now...my picks.

Emory d. Middlebury 5-1
Wash U d. Kenyon 5-1
Amherst d. Trinity (TX) 5-1
CMS d. Williams 5-2

Emory d. Wash U 5-2
Amherst d. CMS 5-3

CMS d. Wash U 5-1

Amherst d. Emory 5-4

General Quarterfinal Discussion

In my opinion, four lopsided quarterfinals and three teams who can potentially win it all. A lot of good storylines here, headlined by CMS trying to win the national title on their home court. They have an opener against Williams, which is a team with a very similar make-up to CMS. The Stags just do everything a little bit better than Williams. In the semifinal, potentially awaiting CMS is Amherst, the 2-time defending NCAA runner-up. The Jeffs desperately want that national title and traditionally have played their best tennis in May. In the way for Amherst is Trinity (TX), appearing in their 2nd consecutive Elite 8. They had high expectations entering this season and didn't really meet them, but they find themselves still playing and have a lot of experienced players. On the other half of the bracket, the clear favorite to advance to the championship match is Emory, who enters as the #1 seed and has strung together an undefeated regular season. Their top 3 singles players are undefeated in D3 play and they are very focused on winning their first national title since 2006. They take on defending national champion Middlebury, who only returns 1 starter from last year's team and is very young. They finished 3rd in NESCAC after winning the conference several years in a row. The last quarterfinal pits Wash U against Kenyon, and I don't see either of these teams as a true threat to win the title. Wash U is looking for their 4th consecutive Final 4 appearance and Kenyon is back in the Final 8 after a one-year hiatus.

I think it would be great to see semis between Emory-Wash U and CMS-Amherst. That has the best current rivalry in D3 along with a match between two unbelievable teams. When you look at the top 3, it really is anyone's tournament to win. This will be about who wants it the most and who executes, because talent wise there is not a large difference.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sweet 16 Results and Brief Thoughts

Emory d. NC Wesleyan 5-0
Emory did what they had to do and got through the regional, but at the same time I'm disappointed in NCW's doubles. They were just outclassed in doubles and an interesting stat is the last 5 times they stepped on the court with a top 10 opponent, they are a combined 1-14 in doubles. That's just not going to get it done, no matter how strong your singles play is. They will never get above that 9-12 range playing doubles like this, so their coaches and players have to go back to the drawing board for next season. Obviously they hung with Emory in singles which was a good accomplishment, but no one in the country can come back from a doubles sweep against Emory this year. As a final note, W&L's Will Hall played in the regional semifinal against NCW and won his doubles match, giving W&L it's only point in a 5-1 loss. An unbelievable performance and comeback from Hall. Emory moves on to the Final 8 and is certainly a top 3 favorite, if not the top favorite.

Middlebury d. Bowdoin 5-2
Another case of two even teams and Midd getting the doubles sweep. You can't win after getting swept in doubles and even though Bowdoin played tough in singles, Midd hung on for the win. Certain programs just know how to win no matter who's on their team, and Midd is one of them. Bowdoin has their typical season, as they just can't manage to get over the hump. Steve Sullivan had a fantastic career, but Peters one upped-him in this match and made the score 4-2 instead of 3-3, a very big difference. Coach Barr did a good job with this year's Midd team, although they would need an incredible effort to top Emory. I liked Bowdoin's chances in the round of 16 after they crushed a good MIT team, and I bet the Engineers wish they were put in a different regional. Midd gets the job done to return to their 10th straight Elite 8.

Kenyon d. Mary Wash 5-1
As expected, not too much mystery here. A good win for Mary Wash against Kalamazoo to get them back the the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008, but they just didn't have enough to beat Kenyon. The Lords swept doubles and things were just about over after that. Kevin Ye lost twice for Kenyon which was uncharacteristic, and they can't afford that to happen in the quarterfinal against Wash U. Kenyon was rewarded for their fantastic season with this easy regional and they have a great shot to make their first ever Final 4. On another note, I personally thought Coach Thielke got robbed, as Marty Perry won Central Region Coach of the Year. Thielke did an unbelievable job putting Kenyon as high as #6 this year and I thought he not only deserved regional honors, but also national.

Wash U d. Whitewater 5-1

Wash U was just a little too talented for Whitewater and that showed, although I think the Warhawks should be very proud of what they accomplished in this regional. A win over Whitman and a Sweet 16 appearance was a wonderful accomplishment. They also had to be pleased taking a point from Wash U in doubles. A disappointing end to an interesting season for Whitman, who got their wish to be shipped out of California and didn't take advantage of it. The inability to attract top recruits shows when Whitman plays talented teams, but I feel as though Whitewater is a team they should be beating. I'm not quite sure what happened to them in that match, but I'm sure that had to be a very tough loss. For Wash U to really make a splash in NCAAs, they will need to play great doubles, as their flaws have shown this year. They come in as the 4th seed, but I don't see them as a serious threat to win it all.

Trinity TX d. Chicago 5-2
I criticized the Tigers singles, but this is what got them through to the Final 8, which is exactly where they belong. They had a real war against Gustavus which they were lucky to get through, but that can be expected against a team that fights as hard as the Gusties. I was worried about their singles heading into the Sweet 16 match because they struggled against a Gustavus team that hasn't done much in singles this year. Chicago went down 2-1 in singles against Grinnell, but I attributed that to first time NCAA nerves. They showed their muscles in singles and I liked their chances heading into the regional final after Trinity's grueling match. Seeing Chicago take 2 of 3 doubles against Trinity was a shocker, and I honestly thought they were well on their way to victory after the doubles points. I think Trinity found that will that Chicago didn't have and took it to another level. They were able to use their experience of being there before to propel them to easy wins before Chicago could get on the board. Trinity enters the Final 8 much like last year: with nothing to lose. Chicago has to be happy with their season because this was a step in the right direction.

Amherst d. TCNJ 5-0
Amherst rolls without dropping a point as expected. Not too much else to say. The Jeffs are very focused heading into the Final 8 and have their eyes on the prize. I really like Amherst's chances and I'm sticking with my preseason pick. A great win for TCNJ against Skidmore and it was actually the only 5-4 match all weekend. They got revenge for a loss to Skidmore a couple weeks ago and had to learn a lot after playing Amherst. TCNJ's second Sweet 16 in 4 years and that's a great accomplishment for a program that doesn't get much national attention. Skidmore is up there when it comes to most disappointing teams this season. I thought they had a lot of talent but they were never able to put it all together. They did take back the conference from Vassar, but they have to expect much more from themselves than that.

Williams d. Johns Hopkins 5-0

Hopkins disliked the speed of the indoor courts at Williams, but you have to deal with what's thrown at you and Hopkins couldn't do it in the postseason as usual. Another solid season and poor ending for Hopkins who turns in their usual performance. They didn't just lose in this match, they got crushed. A really good win for Williams to get back to the Final 8. I would like their chances if they weren't playing CMS. The Ephs took care of business and hope to extend their season in a tough environment.

CMS d. Cruz 5-3
Unbelievable stuff from both teams. Cruz took that 2-1 doubles lead as I expected, but CMS used their advantage in talent to come back and win the overall match. Robbie Erani and Alex Johnson were the real heroes today, as they both came back from huge holes to turn the match in the Stags favor. It's the 2nd year in a row when Cruz has blown match points in the regional final. Last year I believe it was a doubles match. The Stags showed a ton of mental toughness and I love their chances at the Final 8 now after this confidence boost. Cruz has to be disappointed with this loss, especially on their home court, now having CMS go to the Final 8 2 years in a row out of the West.

Analysis on the way...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NCAA Updates

Emory d. Grove City 5-0
NCW d. W&L 5-1

Bowdoin d. MIT 5-0
Midd d. Stevens 5-1

Kenyon d. Ohio Northern 5-1
Mary Wash d. Kzoo 5-1

Wash U d. Luther 5-0
Whitewater d. Whitman 5-2

Amherst d. Roger Williams 5-0
TCNJ d. Skidmore 5-4

Chicago d. Grinnell 5-2
Trinity (TX) d. GAC 5-3

CMS d. Cruz 5-3

Williams d. Farmingdale 5-0
Hopkins d. Vassar 5-1

Friday, May 13, 2011

Regional Preview: Cruz

The one thing Cruz cannot do is overlook Pomona-Pitzer. I think they are too well-coached to do that though, so I like the Slugs to take care of business fairly comfortable. An amazing season for the Hens, but as usual I think this is going to be about Cruz and CMS. On CMS’ side of the bracket, Tyler can play as shown by their win against Whitman, but they don’t have the personnel to win more than a match against CMS. The showdown on Saturday should be a great one.

The shocking thing about Cruz’s win against CMS during the regular season was not that they won, but they did so after being down 2-1. I don’t see that happening again, especially with Erani back in the lineup for the Stags. I like 1 to Cruz and 2 to CMS, and that 3 doubles match will be a huge swing point. Singles is just about even with the exception of a CMS edge at 6. These 2 have played some fantastic matches throughout the years and I expect another one, but I can’t remember a time when the Stags won against Cruz on the road. On paper, I think it’s clear that CMS is the better team, but coaching and home court can’t really be measured and my gut tells me that Pybas and Koenig feed off the home court energy and put the team on their backs in this one. I really like their chances of getting 4 points for their team and I don’t normally pick against “the better team,” but I’m going to do it here. Cruz has had a lot of great players, but Pybas has to be up there with the best and I’m sure he wants to go out in style. CMS desperately wants a shot at the national title on their home courts, but knowing these 2 programs, I feel like UCSC just has that ability to dig deeper. They know how to win grinding matches and that’s exactly what this is going to be. I’ll go with Cruz 5-4 in an instant classic.

Regional Preview: Williams

To me, this regional is the one to watch. Vassar had an okay season and I think their result against Hopkins will be similar to when the 2 teams played in early March. Hopkins wins 5-0 and may be tested in one of the doubles matches. Williams will post a similar result in their round of 32 setting up a blockbuster Sweet 16 match.

Both teams have very similar make-ups and that’s why I think this will be so interesting. The story here is about who can get over the hump mentally. Williams has a young coach who has done this as a player, but this is a very different spot compared to where they were last year. Last year, they slipped in the beginning of the season and that cost them an NCAA seeding, so they had to go on the road as an underdog and played Amherst tough before losing. This year they come in as the host and the favorite, but no one on the team has won a match of this magnitude before. They have to draw confidence from the Midd match in the NESCAC semifinal, but the Ephs haven’t exactly been super consistent this year. Again, I think there’s a lot of pressure on Dan Greenberg to produce after falling short last year. Honestly, I question the ability of both coaches to prepare their teams mentally for a match like this. It’s one thing if your team is significantly more talented and just has to go out and win, but these 2 are pretty much dead even. I think Hopkins has an edge in doubles, but Williams may have an edge deep in the singles lineup. Both teams are deep and good, but not incredible, at the top. Hopkins has to get over last year’s debacle as well as the TCNJ loss in 2008 which some of their guys remember very well. That’s not easy to do against a team like Williams on the road. I can’t bring myself to pick in favor of Hopkins in the tournament with their track record, so I’m going with Hopkins up 2-1 after doubles and Williams ends up winning 5-4 in a match that goes deep into the 3rd set. It’s going to be about who is mentally tougher and who wants it more.

Regional Preview: Washington & Lee

I see W&L as a non-entity here. They are the hosts and they made the Sweet 16 last year, but I don’t see them as a serious threat. They lost one of their top players to injury and recently lost 6-3 against an unranked Oglethorpe team. NCW wins 5-0 or 5-1. The regional final should be a good one. Both teams aren’t happy about this match, especially Emory, who put together an undefeated D3 season so they could drive 8 hours and take on one of the toughest regional #2 seeds in the tournament. The good thing for the Eagles is I think they match up well against NCW. If you are going to beat Emory, you’ve got to get up in doubles or crack their top 2, and I don’t know if NCW has the capability to do either of those things. It takes a great 3 doubles team to beat Pottish/Egan and combine that with Emory’s top 2 and you have NCW needing to win 5 of the 6 remaining matches.

There’s a reason Emory’s 1 through 3 singles players are 37-0 this season and they will show that this weekend. NC Wes should come in confident because they are a good and dangerous team who could knock off some of the regional top seeds on a good day, but this is the top team in the country we are talking about. You have so little margin for error against Emory, and in the past when NCW has run into a top tier team, it hasn’t been pretty. One thing the Bishops can draw positives from is a 5-3 Sweet 16 match against Emory in 2009 that was very close. NCW will need to play inspired tennis to win this one and they may have to get a little lucky. I think they can take a doubles match and they are competitive at the 3 through 6 spots, but as I’ve said before, being competitive and winning are very different. I’ve talked about Emory’s focus all season and now is when they take it up a notch. I’m taking Emory 5-2 to advance to the Final 8.

Regional Preview: Middlebury

Midd is looking for their 9th consecutive Elite 8, Bowdoin is looking to avoid the typical Bowdoin performance and MIT is looking for a breakthrough that is within reach. To begin, 2 solid New Jersey teams and an interesting story with MIT’s opponent, Hunter College.

Drew and Stevens face off for the right to play Middlebury and these are 2 teams who consistently win their conference and qualify for the tournament They always seem to be floating around the Northeast regions as 4th or 5th seeds, so a match win for either of them would be a good accomplishment for the programs. I don’t think either could pose any sort of threat to Middlebury. I’m pretty unfamiliar with both of these teams so I won’t make a prediction, but I will say Midd wins 5-0 in the round of 32. The best player in this region most likely plays for the 6th seed, Hunter. I was doing my research and noticed a familiar name in Yevgeny Perepelov as Hunter’s top player. Perepelov was a former top Eastern junior who won several matches at the Kalamazoo nationals and reached a Tennisrecruiting ranking of 27 in his class. I believe he took 3-4 years off and competed on the Futures circuit, and he is currently listed as a sophomore at Hunter. He hasn’t lost a match this year, so I’ll be interested to see how he does against MIT’s top player. Hunter doesn’t have much after him so I’ll go with the Engineers in a 5-0 win.

I’m assuming the committee placed MIT in this region rather than Amherst’s with the thought that they would rather be the 3 seed in the #8 overall team’s region versus the #2 seed in the #3 overall team’s region. Either way, Bowdoin is going to have their hands full with MIT. In the regular season match, the score was tied 4-4 and MIT led 5-1 in the 3rd set at #6 singles before Bowdoin came back to win. Granted, the Polar Bears were playing short handed that day and they are now back to full strength, but this is going to be a really good match. If MIT can get up in doubles, anything can happen, but I think Bowdoin is playing well right now and I like them to win 5-2.

Bowdoin’s typical season is to finish about where they did this year, qualify for the tournament and then lose to their regional top seed in the Sweet 16. Since Bowdoin’s NESCAC title run in 2008, they have not knocked off a top-notch team. They beat people below them and lose to teams above them. They are always dangerous, but they never seem to break through and make a Final 8. This is a great opportunity. Midd is fairly inexperienced, however they did beat Bowdoin in what I consider a comfortable 5-4 win during the season. Midd has done what they were supposed to do this season, but they are susceptible to an upset. Bowdoin has the firepower to take on the Panthers and I’m surprised more people in the poll haven’t picked Bowdoin. Bowdoin has the experience edge here, but I can’t pick them due to the track records of these teams. I’ll take Midd in a 5-3 win that goes down to the wire.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Regional Preview: Wash U

Some interesting matches in this region, but obviously Wash U is the heavy favorite. An interesting note is that 4 of the 6 teams begin with W. Just thought that was a little funny.

I think Whitewater wins their first round easily. The other first round is an interesting match. Earlham ended Transylvania's 8 year streak of conference titles and is a team on the rise. They take on Luther, who won their 5th consecutive conference title and has previous NCAA experience. Luther's coach is in his last year, so they will definitely be playing for him. The Norse had what I consider a disappointing NCAA result last year also in St. Louis, when they lost to Kalamazoo 5-1 in a match that I thought was winnable for them. I'm sure they will have some built up fire after that result and take out Earlham by a 5-1 score.

Luther has the potential to give Wash U a hard time at some spots, but I think the Bears re-focused after getting destroyed by Emory in the UAA Final. They just crushed a very solid DePauw team and are looking to make a 4th consecutive run to the Final 4. Luther will give a great effort and make the Bears work, but I don't see them getting a match. Wash U will win 5-0 and advance to the round of 16. The Whitman-Whitewater contest is interesting. Whitman is up and down. They have a win over Trinity and loss to Tyler this season, and those happened within 5 days of each other. WC has a lot of talent on their team and is always a tough team to play. Whitewater beat Kalamazoo this year and gave Chicago a hard time. Both of those were early in the season and they haven't done a whole lot since. Even though they haven't had great results, Whitewater is a tough team and will make Whitman work for every match. The Whitties should be a little too solid and I see them beating Whitewater 5-3 in a match that features very close doubles matches and a couple 3-setters in singles.

Whitman has the personnel to play with Wash U, but winning matches and being close are 2 very different propositions. Wash U's whole team played NCAAs last year, and they remember their struggles in their round of 16 match against Kalamazoo when they went down 2-1 after doubles. Wash U is not a team that gives away anything, and as I said previously, I think the UAA loss to Emory really motivated them to get better. Whitman will hang, but they won't win. Both teams have solid doubles lineups and 2 of the 3 spots will probably come down to a few points here or there. I like Wash U to win those on their home court though. Whitman has solid players at the top of their lineup and this is also where Wash U is beatable. The Bears depth will pay off though and lead them to a victory. I expect a somewhat similar result to Whitman's match with Kenyon earlier this year. 5-1 Wash U and they advance to the quarterfinals.

Regional Preview: Kenyon

As I discussed briefly yesterday, Kenyon could not have drawn up this bracket better. This is really a gift for them, but I won't say that it's not well deserved after their great season. The Lords are a heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals, but they do have to get through 2 matches first. This bracket is eerily similar to the one Carnegie hosted last year with Mary Wash as a somewhat weak 2 seed and UT-Tyler as the 3 seed after a down year. Coincidentally, CMU was also the #5 overall seed in last year's tournament.

In the round of 32, Kenyon will most likely play Ohio Northern, who is actually a solid team that played a decent match against Denison early this season. I expect Kenyon to come out with a 5-0 win, but make a note that ONU is a team on the rise and could be flirting with the top 30 in a couple years if they keep improving at their current pace. The bottom half of the region is an interesting match between Mary Washington and Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo hasn't had anything resembling an impressive result all season, but all they have to do is beat Mary Washington, who wasn't too impressive themselves this season. The Eagles have shown nothing since the middle of February and ended their season gutting out a close win against a Salisbury team who was very weak this year. Denison was the only ranked team they beat since Indoors, so the story in this match is a battle between 2 teams that had really bad seasons. I think it will be a very close match and I'll take the Eagles in a 5-4 win. Mary Wash was the favorite in their round of 32 match the past 2 years and lost both times, so I wouldn't be too surprised with a Kalamazoo win.

Mary Wash can really make up for the last 3 years by winning this regional. I haven't changed my opinion that the talent is there, it just might be a matter of heart and mental toughness. The problem is that if they make the Sweet 16, they are up against Kenyon on the road, a team with as much heart and mental toughness as anyone. This could be a close match in Fredericksburg, but at Kenyon it's no contest. Mary Wash is losing to teams outside the top 20 and Kenyon is beating teams inside the top 10. On paper these two are close, in reality they are not. Kenyon wins 5-0 with absolutely no problems and advances to the Final 8.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Regional Preview: Gustavus

A very intriguing Sweet 16 match on the horizon, but a lot of work to be done before we arrive there. Chicago's women took priority over the men and were able to host, which clearly shows where the priorities lie at UC. This is Chicago's first NCAA tournament since 2005 and the first time anyone on their current team has played in the tournament. The truth is this remains one of the most talented teams in the country, but they are at this spot because of 1 win this season against Wash U. Other than that 1 day, they've been the same old Chicago, so it depends which teams shows up this weekend. Their first round match should be a nice test as they get the winner of Grinell and UWEC, 2 teams who are solid, but not good enough to beat the Maroons. I see Chicago moving forward to the round of 16 with a 5-0 win.

If you want to talk about disappointing seasons, Trinity (TX) is up there. I had them overrated as a top 5 team in the preseason, but they've spent most of this season on the outskirts of the top 10. I still think this team is very good and can beat anyone on the right day, but to win this regional they will have to do something that they couldn't do this entire season: beat a top 10 team. To start, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is overlooking Gustavus. GAC has to be thrilled to be back in the tournament after a year hiatus and I'm sure they will have a great crowd out for their round of 32 match against Trinity. I think the Gusties will hang with TU, but every time GAC has run into a ranked team this year, they've lost. Trinity is a little better than just a "ranked team" as well. I like TU to advance to the Sweet 16 after a 5-1 win against Gustavus. I think energy could propel GAC to a doubles win, but they won't get very far in singles.

Even though Chicago holds the title of regional top seed, I see Trinity as the favorite in this match. TU is looking to get back to their second consecutive Elite 8 and make something of this year after a sloppy regular season. They have the experience edge and I think their strong doubles play matches up well against Chicago. The Maroons have been very weak in doubles besides the Wash U match. They dropped 2 to Denison, Kenyon, Carnegie and Gustavus, and they dropped all 3 to Emory and DePauw. If Chicago doesn't bring a high level in doubles, they will be down 3-0 before they know what hit them. TU remains as one of the best doubles lineups in the country, although they have been shaky at times this season. This is when they usually step up and I expect them to do it. Chicago's #2 team held them up during UAAs, but they can't count on that against versus TU's #2 team. Chicago needs to put a point on the board because TU is too good and too experienced to squander a 3-0 lead.

I've talked time and time again how TU needs to find wins throughout the singles lineup and this holds true in this match. Chicago probably has a slight edge in singles talent and the Tigers have to find guys who will step up. I expect a very similar match to last year's regional final between Trinity and Kenyon. I think TU will find a way to win, but it will be close. A lot depends upon how Chicago handles the moment, because the nerves get to you in doubles more than singles. I like Trinity to jump out to a 2-1 lead after doubles and hold on for a very close 5-3 win. I think their seniors will step up and their experience will pay off in this. The Tigers know they have potential and I think they will just want it more than Chicago. If the Maroons can somehow manage to get ahead after doubles they become a heavy favorite, but given the results during the season, I think that's an unlikely scenario.

Regional Preview: Amherst

Probably the least mystery of all the regions. Amherst won't really be challenged if they play their full lineup, which I expect during NCAA competition. It seems as though Austin Chafetz is finally healthy and the timing couldn't have been better for the Jeffs. They were absolutely dominant in the NESCAC tournament, and I am still picking them to win the whole thing this year. I would expect them to get out of this region without dropping a point, although Skidmore does have the potential to play some solid doubles. As I said in my initial reaction, I'm quite surprised that Skidmore drew the #2 seed in this region over MIT, and Amherst certainly has to be pleased with this. MIT has some talent and could have given the Jeffs battles at several of the singles spots.

One thing that jumps out to me is the undefeated record of the Little East champion, UMass Dartmouth. This is the 2nd year in a row that the champion of this league is coming into the tournament with an undefeated record. We will see how they do in their first match against Roger Williams, but whoever wins should be thrilled to simply be on the court with Amherst. Skidmore knocked off TCNJ 5-4 a couple weeks ago, and I expect another close match. Since their Sweet 16 run in 2008, I don't think TCNJ has cracked the top 30 or done anything of note. They have no notable wins on their schedule this year and had a bad loss against Stevens. Skidmore came into this year with a lot of potential and high hopes, but I don't really know if they've met that. They started off strong going ahead of Bowdoin 2-1 in doubles back in March, but since then they've been very mediocre. The best win they have is probably Vassar, and this Skidmore squad is talented. They got lucky to have the #2 seed in a region and I think they will take advantage of it and get to the Sweet 16 after a 5-2 win vs. TCNJ.

Not much analysis necessary for the regional final. If Skidmore manages a point in this match, I think they should come away very happy. Amherst is too talented and too deep, and add the fact that they are playing at home, I expect them to drop about 10 games in doubles and very few in singles. Like I said, Skidmore is talented, but the Jeffs beat Skidmore a little over a month ago playing only 3 of their starters in singles. Amherst moves on to the Final 8 with an easy 5-0 victory.

NCAA Previews

Tonight: Amherst & Gustavus
Tomorrow: Wash U & Kenyon
Wednesday: W&L & Middlebury
Thursday: Hopkins & Cruz

subject to change

Brackets Released

Bracket is here!

I'll break down each region as this week goes by, but first some initial impressions. The first thing that popped out was obviously the potential Sweet 16 between Emory and NC Wesleyan. Neither team can be happy about this. I got it right that Emory would travel to W&L, but I can't think they were expecting this. I found out in the middle of the day that TCNJ did not put in a bid to host, and when I heard that I figured NCW may be grouped with Emory. Their only other option was to meet a NESCAC team halfway, and there were a limited number of sites where that could happen. Emory's undefeated season is rewarded by having to play an incredibly dangerous NCW team who is ranked 12 in the country. They look at the bottom half of their bracket and see Kenyon hosting and having a potential Sweet 16 match with 25th ranked Mary Wash. This is an absolute dream draw for Kenyon. They couldn't have made it better themselves. Not only can they waltz through their regional, they also pulled the #5 overall seed and a potential quarterfinal with Wash U who is significantly weaker than the top 3.

In my opinion the 6 through 8 seeds got messed up, but I think the NCAA was trying to avoid conference matches in the quarters. That's the only explanation I have for Chicago jumping both Williams and Middlebury and grabbing the #6 overall seed. It doesn't make much sense, but after all I guess it doesn't matter a ton because I still consider the top 3 overall seeds just about even.

A unique scenario where Cruz is hosting but CMS is the top seed. The Slugs have to be careful not to overlook a dangerous round of 32 with a top 10 team in Pomona-Pitzer. Whitman got their wish and got shipped to St. Louis. They have a tricky round of 32 against Whitewater before a potential Sweet 16 clash with Wash U where I actually think Whitman has a decent shot at a win.

Obviously a Cruz-CMS Sweet 16 is great, but if I could pick, I'd definitely go to Williams for the potential Williams-Hopkins match. There's so much pressure on both of these teams. The host Ephs missed the Final 8 last year for the first time since 1996 under first year head coach Dan Greenberg. The rest of the nation gave Williams some weird looks when one of the most storied programs in D3 hired a 23 year old as head coach. Missing the Final 8 in his first 2 years as coach would not bode well for Greenberg. On the flip side, you have Hopkins who is notorious for their NCAA tournament meltdowns. This has to be in the back of their minds, but at the same time, they could get the monkey off their back with a win here. This will be a wonderful test for Hopkins, going on the road and beating a tough team. 2 of the last 3 years, Hopkins has lost in NCAAs when they were the favorite, so let's see if they can take advantage of the underdog role this year.

Top 3 Winners and Losers from this bracket:

Winners
1. Kenyon - a great draw for the Lords
2. Whitman - they avoid California
3. Middlebury - they avoid traveling to play NCW and get Bowdoin at home instead

Losers (excluding California because that's a given at this point)
1. NCW - a match with undefeated Emory to get back to the Final 8
2. Emory - they will have to sweat through regionals rather than taking it easy
3. MIT - a round of 32 against Bowdoin when they easily could have been the 2 seed in Amherst's region

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Final Bracket Plus Explanation

My field:
American Southwest - UT-Tyler
Capital Athletic - Mary Washington
Centennial - Johns Hopkins
CUNY - Hunter
Colonial States - Marywood
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown
Empire 8 - Stevens
Freedom - Wilkes
Heartland - Earlham
Iowa - Luther
Landmark - Drew
Little East - UMass Dartmouth
MIAA - Kalamazoo
Midwest - Grinnell
Minnesota - Gustavus
NESCAC - Amherst
NCAC - Kenyon
Northern Athletics - Concordia Wisconsin
Northwest - Whitman
Ohio - Ohio Northern
ODAC - Washington & Lee
President's Athletic - Grove City
Skyline - Farmingdale State
SCIAC - CMS
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
St. Louis - Westminster
Commonwealth Coast - Roger Williams
UAA - Emory
USA South - NC Wesleyan

Pool B
1. Cruz
2. MIT
3. Skidmore
4. Vassar
5. UW Whitewater
6. UW Eau Claire
7. TCNJ

Pool C
1. Wash U
2. Williams
3. Middlebury
4. Pomona-Pitzer
5. Chicago
6. Bowdoin

1. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*, Elizabethtown, Marywood, Grove City
2. CMS, Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer, UT-Tyler
3. Amherst*, MIT, Skidmore, Hunter, UMass Dartmouth
4. Wash U*, Whitman, UW Whitewater, Grinnell, Westminster
5. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, Kalamazoo, Ohio Northern, Earlham
6. Williams*, Bowdoin, Vassar, Roger Williams, Farmingdale State
7. Middlebury, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*, Stevens, Drew, Wilkes
8. Chicago, Trinity (TX), Gustavus*, Luther, UW Eau Claire, Concordia Wisconsin

The first thing I did is figure out the #1 seeds. I don't know who else could crack the top 8 and I don't see it happening. The top 3 order is obvious. Wash U has two wins over Cruz plus a win against Chicago, Trinity TX and NC Wesleyan. Kenyon has beaten Chicago and PP. Williams and Midd's best wins are each other. That's why I gave Wash U and Kenyon the edge in overall seeding. Williams and Midd could go either way, but it could end up being important who gets that #6 overall if one of them has to travel to face NCW. I'll get to that scenario later. Chicago is the obvious #8 seed overall and I've been told they aren't putting in a bid to host.

The next thing to consider is the 500 mile rule. This means that if a team is more than 500 miles away from their host site, they have to be flown at the NCAAs expense. The NCAA is cheap and doesn't want this, so they try to limit the amount of flights. 3 teams must be flown and those are Trinity (TX), Tyler and Whitman. This is why the 3 top 10 California teams are grouped together. It is cheaper to fly team in versus all of those teams out. The team coming into California will either be Tyler or Whitman. Whitman has gone to Cali the past 3 years, but this year I see Tyler going there because I don't know if I'd say they are ranked high enough to act as a 2 seed in a region. I send the weaker team to California and I think that's Tyler. The California hosting is also weird. CMS is the higher ranked team and I think they will be the top seed in the region, however I like Cruz to host because they beat CMS head to head. I'm really not sure what's going to happen, but hosting is very important. And with Pomona-Pitzer as a dangerous 3 seed, getting that top seed is important also to avoid the Hens in the opening round. I'm very interested to see what the committee will do with this, but my guess is CMS gets the 1 seed and Cruz hosts.

Every year Emory's men and women switch on and off putting in bids to host. This year its the men's turn. However, I see a problem with this. Only 2 teams are within driving distance of Emory. That's Washington & Lee and NC Wesleyan. The thing that puzzles me is 2 years ago Mary Washington was sent to the Emory regional and I'm not sure how they got there. This could happen again, but Google Maps is showing me UMW is 580 miles from Emory. Either way, I see Emory having to travel to W&L with UMW also going there. You then can send some PA teams down to VA to fill the region. I don't think NCW will get sent to Emory since the Bishops are ranked so high and it can be avoided. That would be unfortunate for NCW. Even if they did, someone would have to fly there and it won't be Trinity. That leaves Tyler or Whitman, whoever doesn't go to California. If that happens, there's no legitimate #2 seed in Wash U's region and I think Trinity is ranked high enough to avoid St. Louis. That's why I structured things with Emory traveling.

I think region 3 is pretty clear cut. I see Skidmore taking on MIT for the right to play Amherst. Bowdoin will draw either Midd or Williams since they are ranked higher than MIT. Not much to this.

Kalamazoo was the 2 seed for Wash U last year, but they aren't even top 30 this year and can't be a 2. Chicago is a 1 so they will avoid STL. There are no other candidates in the area to be a 2 seed, so this is where a flying team comes into play. I mentioned how I sent Tyler to Cali because they were weaker than Whitman, so I have Whitman coming to Wash U. This may be wishful thinking, but I definitely see either Whitman or Tyler as the 2 seed in this region. The Bears would luck out if they drew Tyler as a 2, because I think the Pats aren't that strong this year. Whitman on the other hand could give Wash U a run for their money, so if I'm the Bears I'm hoping for Tyler.

Midd beat Williams, but Williams beat Midd more recently. The next best win for both of them is Bowdoin and they have very similar resumes. Due to the fact that Williams beat Midd more recently, I gave them the 6 overall seed. This really could go either way though. Whoever draws #6 will almost definitely host and have Bowdoin come to town. Bowdoin played a 5-4 match with both teams this season so this could be an interesting Sweet 16 encounter. Whoever comes out of this region would be in line to play Amherst in the Elite 8.

The other NESCAC team will definitely draw #7 overall. Since there are no other northeast teams and if NCW doesn't end up getting sent to Emory, I see the NESCAC team traveling south and NCW traveling north for those 2 to meet in New Jersey which is a central location. Two teams in NJ, Drew and TCNJ, have both hosted regionals within the past 5 years. A Midd-NCW match could be an intriguing rematch of last year's NCAA quarterfinal. I believe whoever gets that #6 overall seed has a massive edge getting to play at home against Bowdoin versus traveling to play NCW.

Chicago is the clear #8 overall seed and Trinity is the top #2 regional seed (besides Cali), and given the fact that Trinity is flexible since they have to be flown, I see these two in the same region. Chicago is not putting in a bid to host, so I could see them potentially going to Whitewater or Gustavus. Gustavus is far from a lot of teams, but they have hosted in the past and have great facilities, to I gave them the edge here. Chicago can drive there and Trinity would fly in.

Sorry If I was not clear during this explanation. Brackets to be released late afternoon tomorrow and I'll have analysis this week.

Amherst Takes NESCAC

Amherst wins the NESCAC 5-0 over Williams. The Ephs beat Middlebury on Saturday in a 5-4 nailbiter. In other news, Gustavus took back the MIAC with an 8-1 win over Carleton and Luther beat Coe 5-1 to win the IIAC.

Williams win over Midd shakes things up a bit. This is my guess at the top 3 teams in each region. Brackets released tomorrow evening.

1. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*
2. CMS, Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer
3. Amherst*, MIT, Skidmore
4. Wash U*, Whitman, UW Whitewater
5. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, Kalamazoo
6. Williams*, Bowdoin, Vassar
7. Middlebury, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*
8. Chicago, Trinity (TX), Gustavus*

I will try to create another scenario and fill in the rest of the teams and post it tonight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

NESCAC Preview and Bracketology Update

A couple big matches in the NESCAC tournament this weekend, but most notably a chance for Bowdoin to take all mystery out of Pool C tomorrow. They have the 6th Pool C spot on their rackets tomorrow against Tufts. Win and they're in, lose and they still might be in it but the committee would take a much closer look at things. In the other first round match, Williams plays Trinity (CT) in what should be a routine win for the Ephs. A Trinity (CT) could make things interesting in Pool C, but I don't think it will be much of a match. Amherst and Midd receive byes, and both of them have locked up regional top seeds. They are simply playing for overall seeding. Amherst can't help themselves, the best they can do is the #3 overall seed. Midd stands at #4 overall now, but a loss to Williams in the semifinal could potentially hurt and a victory this weekend could send them up to #3. Williams currently stands as the #8 overall seed according to my projections, so a win against Middlebury in the semis could help their seeding and hurt Midd. We will see how things play out and hopefully I can break things down on Sunday before the brackets are released Monday evening.

My guess as to how things are right now. I haven't been following closely, especially in Pool B, so please correct me if I get one of those teams wrong. Teams marked wit a * have already won their conference, the rest are just projections.

American Southwest - UT-Tyler*
Capital Athletic - Mary Washington*
Centennial - Johns Hopkins*
CUNY - Hunter*
Colonial States - Marywood
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown*
Empire 8 - Stevens
Freedom - Wilkes*
Heartland - Earlham*
Iowa - Coe
Landmark - Drew*
Little East - UMass Dartmouth
MIAA - Kalamazoo*
Midwest - Grinnell
Minnesota - Gustavus
NESCAC - Amherst
NCAC - Kenyon*
Northern Athletics - Concordia Wisconsin
Northwest - Whitman*
Ohio - Ohio Northern
ODAC - Washington & Lee*
President's Athletic - Grove City*
Skyline - Farmingdale State*
SCIAC - CMS*
SCAC - Trinity (TX)*
St. Louis - Westminster*
Commonwealth Coast - Roger Williams*
UAA - Emory*
USA South - NC Wesleyan*

Pool B
1. Cruz
2. MIT
3. Skidmore
4. Vassar
5. UW Whitewater
6. UW Eau Claire
7. TCNJ

Pool C
1. Middlebury
2. Wash U
3. Pomona-Pitzer
4. Chicago
5. Williams
6. Bowdoin

1. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*, Elizabethtown, Marywood, Grove City
2. CMS, UC Santa Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer, UT-Tyler
3. Amherst*, MIT, Skidmore, Hunter, UMass Dartmouth
4. Middlebury*, Bowdoin, Vassar, Roger Williams, Farmingdale State
5. Wash U*, Whitman, UW Whitewater, Grinnell, Westminster
6. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, Kalamazoo, Ohio Northern, Earlham
7. Chicago, Trinity (TX), Gustavus*, Coe, UW Eau Claire, Concordia Wisconsin
8. Williams, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*, Stevens, Drew, Wilkes

* denotes host

Sunday, May 1, 2011

NESCAC

Haven't been super active lately but not a ton has happened.

Most of the current action is in the NESCAC right now with the biggest news of the weekend being Amherst's win over Middlebury 6-3. This was a very close match and makes the Jeffs the top seed in next weekend's NESCAC tournament. Williams should be 3 and Bowdoin 4 after the Polar Bears easy 7-2 win against Trinity (CT). Bowdoin looks to be well on their way to gaining the last Pool C bid and could be a dangerous team in the tournament. The 5 and 6 seeds are interesting cases. The NESCAC tournament only allows 6 teams in. Tufts, Trinity (CT) and Bates are competing for those spots. I'm really not sure how the selection will go because they all have wins over each other. Tufts has the best record in the conference, but I'm not sure if that means anything.

Overall seeding in NCAAs now looks like this:
1. Emory
2. CMS/Cruz
3. Amherst
4. Middlebury
5. Wash U
6. Kenyon
7. Chicago
8. Williams

And I really don't see many changes from my bracketology from a few weeks ago but I will update it and post a new one this week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Automatic Bids

The following teams have received auto bids to NCAAs

Capital - Mary Washington
Northwest - Whitman
ODAC - Washington & Lee
SCIAC - CMS
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
UAA - Emory
USA South - NC Wesleyan

Update On Past Weekend and NCAA Picture

I apologize for the quality of the blog faltering slightly, but it's somewhat out of my control. The fact that I don't do this for profit makes it a distant second priority to my actual career.

I don't have time to get all the box scores together but I'll recap the past weekend that I missed and discuss the significance of some of the results.

Last Thursday, Mary Wash played Salisbury in the CAC Final and won their 12th consecutive conference title. The match was much closer than I expected because Salisbury has been really down this year. Mary Wash has this tendency to play down to weaker opponents and this was on display here. The bottom line is the Eagles pulled it out and will be headed to NCAAs once again. Despite the fact they may finish out of the top 25 in the country, I still think Mary Wash has talent and could be a sleeper in the tournament. They did beat CLU, but besides that their only somewhat good result has been a win over Denison.

On Friday, the big match was Pomona-Pitzer vs. Redlands in the SCIAC semifinal. P-P won 7-2 in a match that was much closer than the score. Once again, Redlands managed 2 of the doubles to give them a shot at a win. I've talked time and time again about how mentally weak the Bulldogs are this year and that showed again because Redlands won 4 first sets and proceeded to get blown out after that. Again, that winning edge they used to have just wasn't there. After seeing that Trinity (CT) lost to Tufts which I'll discuss soon, my opinion of Redlands really drops. Another year where they will finish out of the top 15 and miss the tournament. They have zero chance of making Pool C even if everything happens perfectly. Another unfortunate season for Redlands as the tide is turning in the SCIAC. Congratulations to P-P on a great semifinal win, but they were given a clinic the following day. CMS dominated start to finish for the 2nd weekend in a row, really asserting their dominance by winning their 6th consecutive conference title. With Erani back at full strength, I think the Stags will be a force to be reckoned with in NCAAs. I'm really looking forward to the West Regional in a few weeks and it's probably a mistake to count out P-P, but I'm already penciling in a Cruz-CMS regional final. I'm thinking Cruz will be hosting, so it will be a heck of a match. CMS doesn't have much tarnish on their results this year, but that loss to Cruz was the biggest match of the season for the Stags. I'm really anxious to see the outcome of that because I think it's very unpredictable. There's a lot of pressure to win on both teams and whoever emerges will surely be a frontrunner for the national title.

Next I want to discuss the recent results from Williams as they beat Bowdoin 5-4 and then lost to Middlebury 7-2. Bowdoin is still playing without Fenichell, their normal 3 or 4, who they claim will be back for the NESCAC tournament. This was an excellent match and Williams was lucky to sneak out with a win. I think both teams have to feel decently about the result as Bowdoin have a top 10 team and a potential NCAA opponent a very hard time while Williams showed great mental toughness to come back and win the match. I think Williams locked up an NCAA bid after this win and I think it's unlikely they'll get derailed from a top seed in a regional. I expected them to beat Midd solidly the next day and that certainly wasn't the case. Midd just played with more heart and the match was all but over after the doubles sweep. I'm very impressed by the Panthers in this one and can't wait for their showdown with Amherst this weekend. Williams has been up and down and has had impressive results here and there, but given their team and their ability to recruit, they've certainly underachieved from a big picture perspective since Dan Greenberg took over at the beginning of last year. They've got a dangerous match against a desperate Trinity (CT) team tomorrow which should be a real test for them. Williams has a lot of talent but I feel like they don't show up mentally every time out.

This transitions into the most shocking result of the weekend and possibly the year as Trinity (CT) lost to unranked Tufts to all but ruin their NCAA chances. Tufts is a team I don't pay much attention to, but they deserve some credit. They got smoked early in the season by Bowdoin and Herst as well as losing to MIT, but they've beaten Trinity (CT) and Brandeis in a 5 day stretch. When the next rankings come out they will be flirting with the top 20. A match against Bates this weekend is huge for Tufts. Only 6 teams qualify for the NESCAC tournament and usually who goes is pretty clear cut, but I feel like Trinity (CT), Tufts and Bates will be battling it out for the 5th and 6th spots, which means 1 team gets left out. I don't know how the selection will work but it could get interesting. As far as Pool C is concerned, Bowdoin is now in the driver's seat for the 6th and final spot despite their loss to Williams. I think a win against Williams may have locked them in, but now they have to sweat it out. If Bowdoin does what they are supposed to do, meaning beat Trinity (CT) and Bates this weekend and then win their 1st round NESCAC tournament match, they're in for sure. Things get interesting if Trinity (CT) knocks them off. Those 2 would then be in contention and another team you could look at would be DePauw who has some decent wins. DePauw played an epic match against Rhodes in the SCAC tournament semifinal this past weekend before succumbing to Trinity (TX) in the final. TU hasn't been making a lot of noise lately but this was a good win for them going into the tournament. There are a lot of scenarios, but I'll first wait to see how things play out with Bowdoin over the next few weeks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sorry

Sorry guys, have to push things back to Tuesday. Getting crushed at work right now and I'm doing my best with this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update On...Things

Not too much has happened the past few weeks as far as shake-ups on the national scene, but I want to look at a few potential scenarios concerning Pool C and NCAA seeding. First of all, the oft talked about Pool C has become quite clear at this point. Wash U, Chicago, Pomona-Pitzer and the NESCAC 2 and 3 are all but locks. The NESCAC 2 and 3 will most likely be some combination of Williams, Herst and Midd. The 6th spot still remains and in my mind there are 3 contenders, 2 of which have a large leg up. The team sitting in a distant 3rd place for that spot is Redlands. The Bulldogs are still alive because they have a winnable match in their conference tournament this weekend in a probable semifinal against Pomona-Pitzer. Just a few weeks ago, Redlands had the Hens on the ropes in a match they should have won. I don't think there's much doubt as to who will win the SCIAC tournament after seeing what CMS did to PP last weekend. PP isn't really playing for anything because they've locked up a spot in the tournament and there's a 99.9% chance they will just stay in the West for regionals with Cruz and CMS. They can't really help themselves at all. Same story goes for Cal Lu...too many losses, their NCAA hopes are gone. However, this tournament is extremely significant for Redlands. I don't know if people are nerds like me and read the season previews published on school's websites, but I revisited the Redlands 2011 preview and enjoyed some of Coach Roche's quotes about this season. The goals he laid out for the team are getting back to NCAAs, winning the conference and finishing top 10 in the country. They are so far from those it's a joke. They made the tournament 17 consecutive years and they are about to miss for the 2nd consecutive year. That's just bad. They have all the tools to be a great team with talented young players, senior leadership and good coaching, but they are so mentally weak and can't win any close matches. On paper this is a top 12 team but the intangibles are missing.

The interesting thing is, even if Redlands beats Pomona-Pitzer, I don't think they are a lock for the tournament, they just keep their hopes alive. That's because they lost to Trinity (CT), a team they are competing against. One thing we know is Redlands has to win, so let's see that happen first and then we can discuss scenarios.

Williams has a huge weekend. They play Bowdoin and Middlebury. The thing is I don't know if the Ephs can really help themselves because they lost to Pomona-Pitzer, currently ranked 8th. Midd is #1 in the country, but that is still because of last year, so if Williams beats Midd, we are looking at the Panthers moving down to #10 in the country and Williams staying where they are. For Midd to run the table, they will need to win against Williams, beat Amherst next weekend and then win the NESCAC tournament. That's no easy task and frankly I don't think anyone besides themselves expects them to do it. Their best win to date was against a shorthanded Bowdoin team, so this Williams match will show us if they are for real. This is a massive match for Midd because of NCAA seedings and a potential region. Right now things look like this...

Midd
Emory
CMS/Cruz
Herst
Wash U
Kenyon
Chicago
Williams

Things could look like this if Williams wins...

Emory
CMS/Cruz
Herst
Wash U
Kenyon
Chicago
Williams
Midd

With that 8th seed, most likely going to be Midd or Williams, probably comes NCW on a neutral court in the Sweet 16. Probably at TCNJ, that's no easy match after seeing NCW this season. Whoever finishes 2nd in the NESCAC most likely gets to remain at home for NCAAs and will have a Sweet 16 against whoever makes the tournament between Bowdoin and Trinity (CT) (barring a win from Redlands as previously discussed). That is significantly easier than traveling to take on NCW. Plus, whoever gets that 8th overall seed is in line to play a pretty much untouchable Emory, with the Eagles Pottish-Goodwin-Egan combo extending their singles record to 37-0 combined after this past weekend.

Let's say Midd beats Williams but loses to Amherst...

Emory
CMS/Cruz
Herst
Midd
Wash U
Kenyon
Chicago
Williams

Much nicer for Middlebury once again. So as I've explained, a huge weekend for Midd and Williams. Another note is on a wildcard here and that's Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have been playing without 2 starters the second half of the season and they could be dangerous if they get back to full strength.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend Recap

Please pardon my recent slacking. I've been extremely busy with work and unfortunately the blog takes a distant backseat. I'll do my best to finish the season strong.


UAA Tournament

I was praising Amherst last week about their great performance against Williams, but after Emory doing what they did against Wash U, I think they are going to be very difficult to beat in May. The Eagles didn't just beat Wash U, they crushed them. Compare this to a 6-3 battle at Indoors 2 months ago. I've said the entire season that I think Emory is very focused and they continue to show that. They will head into NCAAs as certainly a top 3 favorite to win it, if not the #1 favorite. Wash U has shown signs of struggling in the past several weeks and this is more along the lines of what I expected from them this season. Their doubles was hot early in the season, but it hasn't been clicking recently, and this is something they will desperately need if they want to make a Final 4 run. The win against Chicago was important for NCAA seeding purposes. The Bears should go into the tournament as the 4th or 5th overall seed, but I don't know if they are a serious threat to win the whole thing. I just have a hard time believing that they would beat Cruz if the 2 played tomorrow. I'm not saying a 2nd place finish at UAAs is bad, I'm just saying I know the Bears expect more from themselves than getting to the final and getting crushed by Emory. Chicago did what they needed to do and I think they will head into NCAAs as a top seed in their region. I know they wanted that win against Wash U in the semifinal, but I think what they've accomplished this season is great. I'll be very interested to see how they perform in NCAAs because I'm sure that they will have a brutal Sweet 16 match on the way to the Final 8.

Middlebury d. Bowdoin 5-4
Don't let the 5-4 score deceive you, this wasn't close. Midd continues to move through their season quietly as a team that most people aren't paying a lot of attention to, but they are undefeated in D3 play at the moment. Obviously their big tests this season will be against Williams and Amherst which have yet to come. Midd is playing for NCAA seeding at this point, and I think it would be a great accomplishment if they could head into NCAAs as a top 4 seed overall. We'll really be able to judge them better after this weekend's clash with Williams.

Cruz d. Pomona-Pitzer 6-3
CMS d. Pomona-Pitzer 8-1
P-P looks like they are pulling a 2010 Cal Lu. Be great in the beginning of the season against everyone and then lose to the teams you actually need to beat in NCAAs. I know Pomona-Pitzer's program, and I know they aren't satisfied with just making the NCAA tournament because they haven't been there in a long time. They will want to go there and win the whole thing. The bottom line is it doesn't matter what they're ranked, they lost easily to the 2 teams they need to beat to make a run in NCAAs. I don't know if they have the singles talent to beat these 2, but they'll have to find something in the next few weeks to at least put up a fight. I don't see them derailing another Cruz-CMS Sweet 16 match. Good job by both of the powerhouses to push aside a tough P-P team that has given a lot of people trouble. Cruz and CMS are in the top 5 for a reason and they showed that this weekend.


Newest ITA Rankings were finally released.
No surprises here. The proposed NCAA bracket that I proposed last week looks no different now. Pretty much everything happened as expected over the weekend.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Update

830PM PT - update coming shortly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SFA Interview With Scott Thielke

Recently, Scholarship for Athletes, a service that helps student-athletes select colleges, interviewed Scott Thielke, Head Coach of Kenyon College. The reason I'm posting this is because I know some prospective D3 players read this blog and I think Coach Thielke hit the nail on the head with his answers to all these questions. It sheds some light on what a D3 coach looks for and how a student-athlete looking at D3 should be thinking.

http://blog.scholarshipforathletes.com/2011/04/11/sfa-coaches-interview-e-scott-thielke-kenyon-university/

Weekend Recap: April 7 - April 10

Mark Kahan, Amherst

I apologize again for the absence, but everyone needs a vacation. I thought a little downtime might be appropriate since we are entering the last third of the season and things will get busy. I will try to touch on all the key matches from this past weekend and discuss their significance.

Brandeis d. MIT 6-3
There will be a lot of good matches in these recaps, but this one is definitely up there in best comebacks of the year. Brandeis was down 2-1 in doubles and lost 5 first sets on the road and they managed to come back and win. After a rough California trip for the Judges I was questioning them a little bit, but this match leaves no doubt in my mind that they are on the brink of being a top 20 team. This was a big win for them and had to give them confidence heading toward a Sunday showdown with Trinity (CT) which I'll discuss later in this recap. A disappointing loss for MIT who started the season well with a win against Bates. I think they are also a borderline top 20 team and usually don't play up to their talent. This was obviously a winnable match for them, but I still thought they would be a threat to Bowdoin the following day after this result.

Bowdoin d. MIT 5-4
One thing that pops out at me is Bowdoin is missing 2 starters from their starting lineup to begin this season. Nico Fenichell hasn't been in action since California and this was Chris Lord's first match out of the lineup. Bowdoin can't afford to have injuries if they are hoping to finish top 4 in NESCAC this year. The injuries almost cost them in this match but they managed to win somehow. MIT again went up 2-1 in doubles and ended up losing a heartbreaker. Bowdoin's release said that MIT led 5-1 in the 3rd set at #6 singles before Bowdoin staged a comeback. This basically kept Bowdoin's tournament hopes alive and allowed them to play another day. Their chances of winning NESCAC are almost none so that Pool C bid is their ticket to the tournament and every win is huge for them. Kudos to the Polar Bears for battling in this and finding a way to win. Sullivan has really been rock solid at the top of the lineup this year and I think he deserves a last NCAA appearance during his senior year.

Redlands d. Cal Lutheran 6-2

I thought CLU has a good chance in this because it was a good matchup for the Kingsmen, but obviously they needed to get ahead in doubles because Redlands is too deep to succumb to CLU's weak bottom half. The Kingsmen's weakness is on display perfectly in this boxscore, but what impressed me was Redlands ability to sweep doubles. This match all but ends Cal Lutheran's NCAA tournament hopes and despite a rough season, Redlands is still hanging on by a thread if they could manage a big win in the SCIAC tournament. A solid and much needed win for the Bulldogs against a feisty opponent. One thing that worries me for Redlands is that Anish Nanda was nowhere to be found in the starting lineup. I tapped him as the key to Redlands success this year so that's very disappointing to see.

DePauw d. Denison 5-3
Carnegie d. Case Western 6-2
Case Western d. Denison 5-4
DePauw d. Carnegie 5-1
As I said previously, the GLCA tournament lost a lot of its luster after Kenyon withdrew, but some good tennis was played this weekend as DePauw came out on top for their first GLCA tournament win since 2007 when they also beat Carnegie in the final. The Tigers needed this for confidence purposes heading into the SCAC tournament. They don't have enough of a resume to get an at-large bid so they will need to beat Rhodes and Trinity (TX) on back to back days to gain entry into the tournament. DPU's doubles has been solid this year and if they end up meeting Trinity, I think they need to put up at least 1 point on the board in doubles if they want to have a shot. This is a tricky team who could be dangerous if they find their way into the tournament.

Carnegie is the big disappointment of this season by far and they could finish out of the top 20. I'll take some time to discuss them now since their season is virtually over entering the impossibly difficult UAA tournament. This season tells me that they remain a 2nd tier program who had a good year in 2010, rather than a 1st tier program who had a bad year in 2011. There's really no excuse for what happened this year because if you look at other teams around the country who were decimated by graduations, those teams were just fine (Kenyon, Trinity (CT)). One loss is acceptable, but they've been consistently bad for a while. This is a bit shocking after Girard's National Coach of the Year award in 2010 and I'm surprised that he would let this happen. I thought the gap was closing between CMU and Wash U/Emory, but the truth is it remains very wide. This is a large blemish for this program because the top teams don't have "down years." I don't talk a lot about intangibles, but clearly something big was missing this year, because the fact remains they are a solid team on paper. I expect them to lose to host Brandeis in the UAA 1st round this weekend.

Another disappointing showing for Denison as they led 2-1 after doubles against DePauw and let the lead slip away again. The following day when they fell behind against Case, they couldn't manage to win 4 singles matches. They play Kenyon tomorrow, and if Kenyon is anywhere close to healthy, I don't expect it to be much of a match. Good fight from Case in the 3rd place match. I think they could be a factor in this weekend's UAA tournament. If they can get a big win this weekend, they could get some Brandeis-like momentum and confidence heading into the 2012 season. Case is a program ready to turn the corner, but they still need that big win to get there and they could get it this weekend.

NC Wesleyan d. Mary Washington 8-1
This was destruction and at the moment, I think NCW could be the most under the radar team in the country. It's no mystery that NCW can play amazing singles, and if they can somehow get their doubles working, I expect to see them in the Final 8 for the 2nd year in a row. They have to hope for a little luck of the draw from the NCAA committee, but if they can get in a decent region, they are probably the favorite even if they aren't the top seed. The Bishops have been playing great tennis since Indoors and I expect it to continue. This confirms once again that UMW isn't a threat to top 15 teams. Wichlin seems to be injured and he's really their only hope at remaining competitive. They will limp into the post-season, but I think it could be a big boost if they can manage a win in the NCAA tournament.

Middlebury d. Trinity (CT) 7-2

Good showing from Midd, they were dominant across the board and to me this win cements their place as a definite top 10 team. Their was very little doubt that was true, but now that doubt is gone. They seem to be solid everywhere, but this was a statement win and I look forward to their upcoming matches against the other NESCAC powerhouses. This was a good chance for Trinity to get their feet wet in NESCAC play, but by no means was it a bad loss. If anything it was a good learning experience to remind them they need to get better, because they had some big wins coming into this match. This brought them back to down to earth and they still have a long way to go before they clinch a tournament spot.

CMS d. Redlands 8-1
Not much to say here. CMS was impressive and showed no mercy against their conference rivals. They reminded Redlands that the gap between the teams remains huge. A good confidence builder for CMS heading into a match against Pomona-Pitzer followed by the conference tournament. I was impressed by the Stags doubles and this is something that will need to be clicking for them to make a national title run.

Amherst d. Bowdoin 7-2
Again, not much to say here. Amherst took care of business with half their lineup and Bowdoin also played shorthanded as I mentioned earlier. The Jeffs were dominant heading into the Sunday showdown with Williams.

Gustavus d. Carleton 8-1
I was very wrong about these 2 this year. Gustavus has picked up their play significantly without much in the way of personnel additions, and it seems as though Carleton has fallen off after a big 2010. Gustavus will enter the conference tournament as the heavy favorite. I think the Gusties are a serious sleeper in the NCAA tournament who could knock off a top team on the right day. This team continues to grow and I expect to see them in the top 30 at year-end which is a big accomplishment. It shows that the team has a lot of heart and the program is making strides towards a rebound.

Skidmore d. TCNJ 5-4
Skidmore is a team I really like, but they were points away from getting swept in doubles against a team I don't consider top 30 material. Skidmore is talented as shown by their near upset against Bowdoin early in the season, but this result worries me a little bit. They are the favorite to win their conference tournament against Vassar and could also be a sleeper in NCAAs if they are all on the same page. A good rebound for Skidmore in singles, but they still need to improve over the next month to compete with anyone respectable in NCAAs.

Trinity (CT) d. Brandeis 7-2

A really impressive result for Trinity (CT). The thing that pops out to me is the 2 singles match where Simon Miller of Brandeis retired when he was leading. I hope he is okay for this weekend because he has been the cornerstone of Brandeis tennis for the past few years and deserves to play UAAs at home as a senior. This had to suck the life out of the Judges and they went down easily after that. Trinity (CT) continues to be solid and from the looks of it, it will be them and Bowdoin battling it out for that 6th and final Pool C spot. Their regular season match with Bowdoin was rescheduled for April 29th, and they could also meet again in the NESCAC tournament. Although I think these 2 are quite far from the NESCAC top 3, 4th in the conference should be enough to get you into the tournament.

Amherst d. Williams 5-4
Every time these 2 step on the court it's a war. There's not much else that needs to be said. There have been many incredible matches this year, but because of the rivalry and significance of this, I have to say this is the best match of the year up to this point. Williams managed 2 of the doubles as well as 5 first sets and Amherst managed incredible comebacks at the top 3 spots. Every team in the country should mimic Amherst's fight because it is absolutely unmatched. They never give up and they dig themselves out of ridiculous holes time and time again. They are still playing without Austin Chafetz and I have no reports on his status. Williams youth showed in this match and they folded in a match they should have won. I hope it will only make them hungrier and I hope they aren't effected by this loss going forward. Amherst was tougher in this and they have been the tougher team for the past several years. I would be surprised if these 2 don't meet again this season, but the headline match of this weekend surpassed the hype. I think specifics and analysis are irrelevant, I'm just in awe of this match result. Williams showed that they are a very good team because they certainly have some critics, myself included. But the story here is really Amherst, showing that they are tough as nails and will rise to any challenge. Despite struggles this season, this is why they remain as my pick to win it all this year.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Update

AIMING FOR 9PM PT. BEGINNING WRITING SHORTLY

Been out of town for the past several days so I won't be able to write a weekend recap until Tuesday evening. I will have a look at this past weekend's results as well as the latest updates on NCAA scenarios. Conference championships are beginning soon. I apologize for the inconvenience and please check back Tuesday night.