Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2011 Team Preview #26: Denison

Evan Verbofsky

Coach: Peter Burling, 21st Season
Location: Granville, Ohio
Conference: NCAC
2008 Ranking: 26
2009 Ranking: 25
2010 Ranking: NR
2011 Projected: 26

I don't have all that much to say about Denison and I don't know their team that well, but they deserve a preview after making it into my top 30. Denison fell off a little bit last year after finishing in the top 30 the previous 2 years, but more importantly their hated rival Kenyon has really been widening the gap in the NCAC and the Big Red haven't had a chance to qualify for the tournament. This is certainly the closest they have been to Kenyon talent-wise since 2007 and although Kenyon is still a heavy favorite to win the conference, Denison does have a shot at them this year. They are tricky to play at home on their fast indoor courts and they will have a chance to knock off a big time team this weekend when Chicago comes to town and may be suffering from a post-Kenyon hangover. Rhodes and Emory are both on their schedule and they also will get a crack at CMU and Mary Washington before the GLCA tournament where a likely match with Kalamazoo awaits. The Big Red has a good mix of experience and youth, but one of their problems is they don't have any individuals who stand out. I can't remember the last time Denison had someone qualify for NCAA singles and this has hurt them against better teams who can match their depth. This year's team will be anchored by senior Evan Verbofsky, junior Matt McErlean and junior Tyler Cempre, who took out Chicago's #1 Will Zhang in fall ITAs. To put it simply, this is a tricky team and I think several of their opponents may overlook them. They certainly are deserving of the #26 ranking I gave them and they may even find themselves in the top 20 sometime during the year. The main problem for Denison, and the only thing that matters, is they can't compete with Kenyon at the moment. They are getting out-recruited and out-developed by the Lords, and if they ever want to see the NCAA tournament again, they have to pick up their recruiting. Denison is a solid program and another victim of the NCAA selection process. I expect them to be ranked at the end of the season but it will all be fairly irrelevant because I think they will need a massive effort to topple the Lords in the conference tournament, especially with Kenyon knowing they probably won't qualify for the tournament themselves if they lose.