Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Team Preview #31: Bowdoin

Stephen Sullivan

Coach: Colin Joyner, 5th Season
Location: Brunswick, Maine
Conference: NESCAC
2008 Ranking: 10
2009 Ranking: 13
2010 Ranking: 15
2011 Projected: 14

Bowdoin is becoming a fixture in the top 15 under head coach Colin Joyner and are only 3 years removed from their NESCAC tournament title. I think this team deserves, and gets, a lot of respect, even from the top NESCAC schools who beat them year after year. Season over season they have been a model of consistency as you can see from their rankings, but they often have their bad matches during the season. I don't think anyone benefits more than Bowdoin from the NCAA adding back the 6th Pool C spot in 2011, because after Chicago has slipped, guess who's in line to get that spot? The Polar Bears were robbed last year, and of course they were disappointed by it. You could see that in their uninspired performance during the NESCAC first round when they fell to Trinity (CT) without much of a fight. This was a good team last year, they took out Redlands in March, and they did it all after an injury to their #2 Oscar Pena, who was out for the season. The combination of having him at full health along with my preseason All-American Stephen Sullivan gives Bowdoin a top 2 that can go toe to toe with the best in the country. What I'm worried about on this year's team is the supporting cast. Juniors Nicolas Fenichell and Josh Cranin should give Bowdoin a decent middle of the lineup, but they have to win against the likes of Williams and Trinity (CT), and I'm not sold on them yet. Bowdoin hasn't had a ton of success against the NESCAC top 3 during the past couple years, so they have to get things done during their out of conference matches. They get shots at CLU, Cruz and Trinity (TX), and getting even one win in those 3 would give Bowdoin a sterling NCAA resume. There are obviously danger matches for Bowdoin too, and these include Bates, Trinity (CT) and Whitman. Those 3 are must wins if Bowdoin wants to be playing in the post-season. The Polar Bears have set up their schedule so they don't need to beat the NESCAC top 3 to get into the tournament. It's unfortunate they won't have a legitimate shot at a conference title, but 4th in the NESCAC should get you in the tournament this year. One thing I didn't mention is Bowdoin's doubles, and this separates their good matches from bad matches. Out of all the teams in the country, they may have the most inconsistent doubles results, and they have to recognize that and be ready to play every match. I don't think the top 10 is within their reach this year, but not finishing top 15 and missing the tournament would be a big disappointment. If they get a nice NCAA region with Midd or Williams as their top seed, Bowdoin could find themselves in their first Final 8 in quite some time.