Coach: Paul Settles, 8th Season
Location: Claremont, California
2008 Ranking: 3
2009 Ranking: 5
2010 Ranking: 3
2011 Projected: 2
Even with the graduations of 2 top players, I think this year's Stags team is significantly better than last year's team. Maybe it's because they have a year of development under their belt or maybe it's because of new additions Alex Lane and Zhenya Perezevin, but this team has all the tools to win a national title. The problem is that Emory and Amherst are in their way and they probably will have to beat those 2 on back-to-back days to win a national title. This team is as deep as anyone and as good as anyone, but I'm just not sure if this is their year to win it all. They don't have Pottish and Goodwin, or Trinity's doubles lineup, or Amherst's experience playing in the NCAA Final, and these types of things will hurt them against those opponents. They really have to be a team to win and while Lane will be an upgrade at #1, I don't think he will be so dominant that #1 becomes an automatic point against Cruz and Cal Lutheran. I don't know if anyone runs a better pure program than CMS. Their training, facilities and conditioning are top notch, but they get out-recruited by Emory and Amherst and this has been the difference for them the past couple years. It may have been good to lose the semifinal last year because they will come back hungrier and you can bet they will be ready to play during the Final 8 on their home courts. What they cannot do is look past their regular season and NCAA regional, and hopefully they learned that after nearly being swept in doubles by Cruz in last year's Sweet 16. The West is far from won, and they will have a ton of work to do to even get to play on their own courts for the Final 8, something they weren't able to do when they hosted in 2009. On paper, they really shouldn't lose in singles, as last year's #1 Robbie Erani is expected to be at the #3 spot, and they have returning starter Russell Brockett most likely at #5. I'm not a believer in their doubles yet, as they were a bit shaky during NCAAs and they can be beaten here by a team like Cruz who has the ability to raise their level in doubles. CMS plays a brutal schedule as always and it has worked out for them in the past. They take on 6 of the top 8 teams this year and the real test will be the quad in Texas when they have to play away from Claremont. The pressure builds with each passing year that they don't win a national title, but as I mentioned, they haven't been to 2 consecutive Elite 8s in quite a while, so that should be something they focus on in 2011. Once they get to the Elite 8, they will have to let adrenaline and the home crowd take them to the title, and a wealth of talent certainly doesn't hurt either.