Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 Team Preview #14: Wash U

Isaac Stein and Max Woods

Coach: Roger Follmer, 10th Season
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Conference: UAA
2008 Ranking: 1
2009 Ranking: 4
2010 Ranking: 6
2011 Projected: 7

Their year-end ranking of #6 certainly did not do the 2010 Bears justice. This team was one of the best in the country and gave Middlebury all it could handle in the NCAA semifinal. I don't know how they finished 6 after making the Final 4. To me, this year's Wash U team is a huge question mark. This will be the first year in quite a while that they don't have a true star player, something they took for granted the past 3 years. It was an anomaly for Watts to lose a singles match, and the 2011 Bears don't have that to fall back on, which makes life a lot tougher. This will certainly be a very good team and they are a lock for the top 10, but I don't consider them a true national championship contender given who else is out there. For their standards, they had a bit of a down year recruiting-wise, and this will really hurt them because their team gets significantly weaker. They've got 6 quality starters, but when comparing them to other teams, there are a few spots that are glaring weaknesses, and those don't exist on teams that win national titles. To begin, they've got a top 5 doubles team in the country in Stein/Woods which certainly helps. After that, I'm not sold on their doubles. They've got players, but are they players who can win at #2 doubles against CMS and Trinity? In singles, the #1 spot should be a problem, no matter who is there. I don't consider anyone on their team a top 10 player in D3 this year. They'll be solid at the bottom of the lineup as always, but the middle could be a problem as well, as you will probably see someone who was at 6 or 7 last year in the 4 spot, which is a large jump. All that being said, Follmer is one of the top 5 coaches in the country and his teams always know how to win and step up when it really matters. I think they can do as well as #4 this year if they really play well. They currently hold a streak of 3 consecutive Final Four appearances, which is the longest current streak in the country. The Bears play a very tough schedule, starting with Indoors where they have a very tricky opening round against NC Wesleyan that they should not overlook. They have the quad in Texas with Trinity, Cruz and CMS where they will probably be the weakest team, and they also have a big mid-season date with Chicago before the UAA tournament. Although they always get up to play Emory, I don't see them winning the conference this year. The Bears are a great team and deserve a lot of respect, I just don't think they will be as good as they've been the past 3 years.