Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 Team Preview #25: NC Wesleyan

Coach: Dominic Modise, 4th Season
Location: Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Conference: USA South
2008 Ranking: NR
2009 Ranking: 16
2010 Ranking: 9
2011 Projected: 11

NC Wesleyan has had a breakout 2 years, particularly last year when they made their way to the Elite 8. You would think at this point, everyone would know about them and their program would not remain mysterious to the majority of the nation. This is not the case though, and a large part of that is due to their player turnover, as they often don't retain their entire team from the previous year, but they are constantly bringing in new players. They lost their #1 from NCAAs last year in lefty Kalle Nikunen, but bring in 6 international freshmen, and I'm assuming a couple of them may have an impact on the starting lineup. We will get to see NCW early this season as they have qualified for the National Indoors and will take on Wash U. I'll get to this match and its significance a little later in the preview. One big thing stands out to me and it will define NC Wesleyan this year. Look at their doubles results against the last 4 ranked teams they played last season. They were down 2-1 to CNU, 2-1 to Vassar, 3-0 to Hopkins and 3-0 to Middlebury. They cannot get away with this type of doubles play and I'm sure their coaches will go back to the drawing board when it comes to doubles. I'm thinking this team will probably be as good as last year, and probably better. They get back Antti Saari who sat out NCAAs last year for unknown reasons, although he wouldn't have made a difference against Midd. He should solve some of their doubles problems and will put together an excellent top of the lineup along with returning starters Alexey Rumyantsev and Fred Lemongo. Rumyantsev ended last year as one of the best players in country and will be crucial to the Bishops' success this year. They have so many players, I don't know who else is going to be in the lineup. I can see NCW being as high as #4 and I doubt they will drop below #12. I definitely have them under-ranked at 11, I think they will finish higher than that. The Indoors 1st round is huge for NCW. I think they have a better chance of beating Wash U than the other 2 teams in the bottom half, so with a loss they could end up playing for 7th, but with a win they could easily finish 3rd and possibly make the final. They also have regular season matches against Mary Wash, Newport and Hopkins. The JHU match is on my matches to watch as a rematch of the epic 2010 Sweet 16 encounter. NCW should take care of business in their conference easily if they have a half decent bottom of the lineup. This team will have a great shot at another Elite 8, but they may have to beat Hopkins again to get there.