Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Automatic Bids

The following teams have received auto bids to NCAAs

Capital - Mary Washington
Northwest - Whitman
ODAC - Washington & Lee
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
UAA - Emory
USA South - NC Wesleyan

Update On Past Weekend and NCAA Picture

I apologize for the quality of the blog faltering slightly, but it's somewhat out of my control. The fact that I don't do this for profit makes it a distant second priority to my actual career.

I don't have time to get all the box scores together but I'll recap the past weekend that I missed and discuss the significance of some of the results.

Last Thursday, Mary Wash played Salisbury in the CAC Final and won their 12th consecutive conference title. The match was much closer than I expected because Salisbury has been really down this year. Mary Wash has this tendency to play down to weaker opponents and this was on display here. The bottom line is the Eagles pulled it out and will be headed to NCAAs once again. Despite the fact they may finish out of the top 25 in the country, I still think Mary Wash has talent and could be a sleeper in the tournament. They did beat CLU, but besides that their only somewhat good result has been a win over Denison.

On Friday, the big match was Pomona-Pitzer vs. Redlands in the SCIAC semifinal. P-P won 7-2 in a match that was much closer than the score. Once again, Redlands managed 2 of the doubles to give them a shot at a win. I've talked time and time again about how mentally weak the Bulldogs are this year and that showed again because Redlands won 4 first sets and proceeded to get blown out after that. Again, that winning edge they used to have just wasn't there. After seeing that Trinity (CT) lost to Tufts which I'll discuss soon, my opinion of Redlands really drops. Another year where they will finish out of the top 15 and miss the tournament. They have zero chance of making Pool C even if everything happens perfectly. Another unfortunate season for Redlands as the tide is turning in the SCIAC. Congratulations to P-P on a great semifinal win, but they were given a clinic the following day. CMS dominated start to finish for the 2nd weekend in a row, really asserting their dominance by winning their 6th consecutive conference title. With Erani back at full strength, I think the Stags will be a force to be reckoned with in NCAAs. I'm really looking forward to the West Regional in a few weeks and it's probably a mistake to count out P-P, but I'm already penciling in a Cruz-CMS regional final. I'm thinking Cruz will be hosting, so it will be a heck of a match. CMS doesn't have much tarnish on their results this year, but that loss to Cruz was the biggest match of the season for the Stags. I'm really anxious to see the outcome of that because I think it's very unpredictable. There's a lot of pressure to win on both teams and whoever emerges will surely be a frontrunner for the national title.

Next I want to discuss the recent results from Williams as they beat Bowdoin 5-4 and then lost to Middlebury 7-2. Bowdoin is still playing without Fenichell, their normal 3 or 4, who they claim will be back for the NESCAC tournament. This was an excellent match and Williams was lucky to sneak out with a win. I think both teams have to feel decently about the result as Bowdoin have a top 10 team and a potential NCAA opponent a very hard time while Williams showed great mental toughness to come back and win the match. I think Williams locked up an NCAA bid after this win and I think it's unlikely they'll get derailed from a top seed in a regional. I expected them to beat Midd solidly the next day and that certainly wasn't the case. Midd just played with more heart and the match was all but over after the doubles sweep. I'm very impressed by the Panthers in this one and can't wait for their showdown with Amherst this weekend. Williams has been up and down and has had impressive results here and there, but given their team and their ability to recruit, they've certainly underachieved from a big picture perspective since Dan Greenberg took over at the beginning of last year. They've got a dangerous match against a desperate Trinity (CT) team tomorrow which should be a real test for them. Williams has a lot of talent but I feel like they don't show up mentally every time out.

This transitions into the most shocking result of the weekend and possibly the year as Trinity (CT) lost to unranked Tufts to all but ruin their NCAA chances. Tufts is a team I don't pay much attention to, but they deserve some credit. They got smoked early in the season by Bowdoin and Herst as well as losing to MIT, but they've beaten Trinity (CT) and Brandeis in a 5 day stretch. When the next rankings come out they will be flirting with the top 20. A match against Bates this weekend is huge for Tufts. Only 6 teams qualify for the NESCAC tournament and usually who goes is pretty clear cut, but I feel like Trinity (CT), Tufts and Bates will be battling it out for the 5th and 6th spots, which means 1 team gets left out. I don't know how the selection will work but it could get interesting. As far as Pool C is concerned, Bowdoin is now in the driver's seat for the 6th and final spot despite their loss to Williams. I think a win against Williams may have locked them in, but now they have to sweat it out. If Bowdoin does what they are supposed to do, meaning beat Trinity (CT) and Bates this weekend and then win their 1st round NESCAC tournament match, they're in for sure. Things get interesting if Trinity (CT) knocks them off. Those 2 would then be in contention and another team you could look at would be DePauw who has some decent wins. DePauw played an epic match against Rhodes in the SCAC tournament semifinal this past weekend before succumbing to Trinity (TX) in the final. TU hasn't been making a lot of noise lately but this was a good win for them going into the tournament. There are a lot of scenarios, but I'll first wait to see how things play out with Bowdoin over the next few weeks.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Sorry guys, have to push things back to Tuesday. Getting crushed at work right now and I'm doing my best with this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update On...Things

Not too much has happened the past few weeks as far as shake-ups on the national scene, but I want to look at a few potential scenarios concerning Pool C and NCAA seeding. First of all, the oft talked about Pool C has become quite clear at this point. Wash U, Chicago, Pomona-Pitzer and the NESCAC 2 and 3 are all but locks. The NESCAC 2 and 3 will most likely be some combination of Williams, Herst and Midd. The 6th spot still remains and in my mind there are 3 contenders, 2 of which have a large leg up. The team sitting in a distant 3rd place for that spot is Redlands. The Bulldogs are still alive because they have a winnable match in their conference tournament this weekend in a probable semifinal against Pomona-Pitzer. Just a few weeks ago, Redlands had the Hens on the ropes in a match they should have won. I don't think there's much doubt as to who will win the SCIAC tournament after seeing what CMS did to PP last weekend. PP isn't really playing for anything because they've locked up a spot in the tournament and there's a 99.9% chance they will just stay in the West for regionals with Cruz and CMS. They can't really help themselves at all. Same story goes for Cal Lu...too many losses, their NCAA hopes are gone. However, this tournament is extremely significant for Redlands. I don't know if people are nerds like me and read the season previews published on school's websites, but I revisited the Redlands 2011 preview and enjoyed some of Coach Roche's quotes about this season. The goals he laid out for the team are getting back to NCAAs, winning the conference and finishing top 10 in the country. They are so far from those it's a joke. They made the tournament 17 consecutive years and they are about to miss for the 2nd consecutive year. That's just bad. They have all the tools to be a great team with talented young players, senior leadership and good coaching, but they are so mentally weak and can't win any close matches. On paper this is a top 12 team but the intangibles are missing.

The interesting thing is, even if Redlands beats Pomona-Pitzer, I don't think they are a lock for the tournament, they just keep their hopes alive. That's because they lost to Trinity (CT), a team they are competing against. One thing we know is Redlands has to win, so let's see that happen first and then we can discuss scenarios.

Williams has a huge weekend. They play Bowdoin and Middlebury. The thing is I don't know if the Ephs can really help themselves because they lost to Pomona-Pitzer, currently ranked 8th. Midd is #1 in the country, but that is still because of last year, so if Williams beats Midd, we are looking at the Panthers moving down to #10 in the country and Williams staying where they are. For Midd to run the table, they will need to win against Williams, beat Amherst next weekend and then win the NESCAC tournament. That's no easy task and frankly I don't think anyone besides themselves expects them to do it. Their best win to date was against a shorthanded Bowdoin team, so this Williams match will show us if they are for real. This is a massive match for Midd because of NCAA seedings and a potential region. Right now things look like this...

Wash U

Things could look like this if Williams wins...

Wash U

With that 8th seed, most likely going to be Midd or Williams, probably comes NCW on a neutral court in the Sweet 16. Probably at TCNJ, that's no easy match after seeing NCW this season. Whoever finishes 2nd in the NESCAC most likely gets to remain at home for NCAAs and will have a Sweet 16 against whoever makes the tournament between Bowdoin and Trinity (CT) (barring a win from Redlands as previously discussed). That is significantly easier than traveling to take on NCW. Plus, whoever gets that 8th overall seed is in line to play a pretty much untouchable Emory, with the Eagles Pottish-Goodwin-Egan combo extending their singles record to 37-0 combined after this past weekend.

Let's say Midd beats Williams but loses to Amherst...

Wash U

Much nicer for Middlebury once again. So as I've explained, a huge weekend for Midd and Williams. Another note is on a wildcard here and that's Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have been playing without 2 starters the second half of the season and they could be dangerous if they get back to full strength.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend Recap

Please pardon my recent slacking. I've been extremely busy with work and unfortunately the blog takes a distant backseat. I'll do my best to finish the season strong.

UAA Tournament

I was praising Amherst last week about their great performance against Williams, but after Emory doing what they did against Wash U, I think they are going to be very difficult to beat in May. The Eagles didn't just beat Wash U, they crushed them. Compare this to a 6-3 battle at Indoors 2 months ago. I've said the entire season that I think Emory is very focused and they continue to show that. They will head into NCAAs as certainly a top 3 favorite to win it, if not the #1 favorite. Wash U has shown signs of struggling in the past several weeks and this is more along the lines of what I expected from them this season. Their doubles was hot early in the season, but it hasn't been clicking recently, and this is something they will desperately need if they want to make a Final 4 run. The win against Chicago was important for NCAA seeding purposes. The Bears should go into the tournament as the 4th or 5th overall seed, but I don't know if they are a serious threat to win the whole thing. I just have a hard time believing that they would beat Cruz if the 2 played tomorrow. I'm not saying a 2nd place finish at UAAs is bad, I'm just saying I know the Bears expect more from themselves than getting to the final and getting crushed by Emory. Chicago did what they needed to do and I think they will head into NCAAs as a top seed in their region. I know they wanted that win against Wash U in the semifinal, but I think what they've accomplished this season is great. I'll be very interested to see how they perform in NCAAs because I'm sure that they will have a brutal Sweet 16 match on the way to the Final 8.

Middlebury d. Bowdoin 5-4
Don't let the 5-4 score deceive you, this wasn't close. Midd continues to move through their season quietly as a team that most people aren't paying a lot of attention to, but they are undefeated in D3 play at the moment. Obviously their big tests this season will be against Williams and Amherst which have yet to come. Midd is playing for NCAA seeding at this point, and I think it would be a great accomplishment if they could head into NCAAs as a top 4 seed overall. We'll really be able to judge them better after this weekend's clash with Williams.

Cruz d. Pomona-Pitzer 6-3
CMS d. Pomona-Pitzer 8-1
P-P looks like they are pulling a 2010 Cal Lu. Be great in the beginning of the season against everyone and then lose to the teams you actually need to beat in NCAAs. I know Pomona-Pitzer's program, and I know they aren't satisfied with just making the NCAA tournament because they haven't been there in a long time. They will want to go there and win the whole thing. The bottom line is it doesn't matter what they're ranked, they lost easily to the 2 teams they need to beat to make a run in NCAAs. I don't know if they have the singles talent to beat these 2, but they'll have to find something in the next few weeks to at least put up a fight. I don't see them derailing another Cruz-CMS Sweet 16 match. Good job by both of the powerhouses to push aside a tough P-P team that has given a lot of people trouble. Cruz and CMS are in the top 5 for a reason and they showed that this weekend.

Newest ITA Rankings were finally released.
No surprises here. The proposed NCAA bracket that I proposed last week looks no different now. Pretty much everything happened as expected over the weekend.

Friday, April 15, 2011


830PM PT - update coming shortly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SFA Interview With Scott Thielke

Recently, Scholarship for Athletes, a service that helps student-athletes select colleges, interviewed Scott Thielke, Head Coach of Kenyon College. The reason I'm posting this is because I know some prospective D3 players read this blog and I think Coach Thielke hit the nail on the head with his answers to all these questions. It sheds some light on what a D3 coach looks for and how a student-athlete looking at D3 should be thinking.


Weekend Recap: April 7 - April 10

Mark Kahan, Amherst

I apologize again for the absence, but everyone needs a vacation. I thought a little downtime might be appropriate since we are entering the last third of the season and things will get busy. I will try to touch on all the key matches from this past weekend and discuss their significance.

Brandeis d. MIT 6-3
There will be a lot of good matches in these recaps, but this one is definitely up there in best comebacks of the year. Brandeis was down 2-1 in doubles and lost 5 first sets on the road and they managed to come back and win. After a rough California trip for the Judges I was questioning them a little bit, but this match leaves no doubt in my mind that they are on the brink of being a top 20 team. This was a big win for them and had to give them confidence heading toward a Sunday showdown with Trinity (CT) which I'll discuss later in this recap. A disappointing loss for MIT who started the season well with a win against Bates. I think they are also a borderline top 20 team and usually don't play up to their talent. This was obviously a winnable match for them, but I still thought they would be a threat to Bowdoin the following day after this result.

Bowdoin d. MIT 5-4
One thing that pops out at me is Bowdoin is missing 2 starters from their starting lineup to begin this season. Nico Fenichell hasn't been in action since California and this was Chris Lord's first match out of the lineup. Bowdoin can't afford to have injuries if they are hoping to finish top 4 in NESCAC this year. The injuries almost cost them in this match but they managed to win somehow. MIT again went up 2-1 in doubles and ended up losing a heartbreaker. Bowdoin's release said that MIT led 5-1 in the 3rd set at #6 singles before Bowdoin staged a comeback. This basically kept Bowdoin's tournament hopes alive and allowed them to play another day. Their chances of winning NESCAC are almost none so that Pool C bid is their ticket to the tournament and every win is huge for them. Kudos to the Polar Bears for battling in this and finding a way to win. Sullivan has really been rock solid at the top of the lineup this year and I think he deserves a last NCAA appearance during his senior year.

Redlands d. Cal Lutheran 6-2

I thought CLU has a good chance in this because it was a good matchup for the Kingsmen, but obviously they needed to get ahead in doubles because Redlands is too deep to succumb to CLU's weak bottom half. The Kingsmen's weakness is on display perfectly in this boxscore, but what impressed me was Redlands ability to sweep doubles. This match all but ends Cal Lutheran's NCAA tournament hopes and despite a rough season, Redlands is still hanging on by a thread if they could manage a big win in the SCIAC tournament. A solid and much needed win for the Bulldogs against a feisty opponent. One thing that worries me for Redlands is that Anish Nanda was nowhere to be found in the starting lineup. I tapped him as the key to Redlands success this year so that's very disappointing to see.

DePauw d. Denison 5-3
Carnegie d. Case Western 6-2
Case Western d. Denison 5-4
DePauw d. Carnegie 5-1
As I said previously, the GLCA tournament lost a lot of its luster after Kenyon withdrew, but some good tennis was played this weekend as DePauw came out on top for their first GLCA tournament win since 2007 when they also beat Carnegie in the final. The Tigers needed this for confidence purposes heading into the SCAC tournament. They don't have enough of a resume to get an at-large bid so they will need to beat Rhodes and Trinity (TX) on back to back days to gain entry into the tournament. DPU's doubles has been solid this year and if they end up meeting Trinity, I think they need to put up at least 1 point on the board in doubles if they want to have a shot. This is a tricky team who could be dangerous if they find their way into the tournament.

Carnegie is the big disappointment of this season by far and they could finish out of the top 20. I'll take some time to discuss them now since their season is virtually over entering the impossibly difficult UAA tournament. This season tells me that they remain a 2nd tier program who had a good year in 2010, rather than a 1st tier program who had a bad year in 2011. There's really no excuse for what happened this year because if you look at other teams around the country who were decimated by graduations, those teams were just fine (Kenyon, Trinity (CT)). One loss is acceptable, but they've been consistently bad for a while. This is a bit shocking after Girard's National Coach of the Year award in 2010 and I'm surprised that he would let this happen. I thought the gap was closing between CMU and Wash U/Emory, but the truth is it remains very wide. This is a large blemish for this program because the top teams don't have "down years." I don't talk a lot about intangibles, but clearly something big was missing this year, because the fact remains they are a solid team on paper. I expect them to lose to host Brandeis in the UAA 1st round this weekend.

Another disappointing showing for Denison as they led 2-1 after doubles against DePauw and let the lead slip away again. The following day when they fell behind against Case, they couldn't manage to win 4 singles matches. They play Kenyon tomorrow, and if Kenyon is anywhere close to healthy, I don't expect it to be much of a match. Good fight from Case in the 3rd place match. I think they could be a factor in this weekend's UAA tournament. If they can get a big win this weekend, they could get some Brandeis-like momentum and confidence heading into the 2012 season. Case is a program ready to turn the corner, but they still need that big win to get there and they could get it this weekend.

NC Wesleyan d. Mary Washington 8-1
This was destruction and at the moment, I think NCW could be the most under the radar team in the country. It's no mystery that NCW can play amazing singles, and if they can somehow get their doubles working, I expect to see them in the Final 8 for the 2nd year in a row. They have to hope for a little luck of the draw from the NCAA committee, but if they can get in a decent region, they are probably the favorite even if they aren't the top seed. The Bishops have been playing great tennis since Indoors and I expect it to continue. This confirms once again that UMW isn't a threat to top 15 teams. Wichlin seems to be injured and he's really their only hope at remaining competitive. They will limp into the post-season, but I think it could be a big boost if they can manage a win in the NCAA tournament.

Middlebury d. Trinity (CT) 7-2

Good showing from Midd, they were dominant across the board and to me this win cements their place as a definite top 10 team. Their was very little doubt that was true, but now that doubt is gone. They seem to be solid everywhere, but this was a statement win and I look forward to their upcoming matches against the other NESCAC powerhouses. This was a good chance for Trinity to get their feet wet in NESCAC play, but by no means was it a bad loss. If anything it was a good learning experience to remind them they need to get better, because they had some big wins coming into this match. This brought them back to down to earth and they still have a long way to go before they clinch a tournament spot.

CMS d. Redlands 8-1
Not much to say here. CMS was impressive and showed no mercy against their conference rivals. They reminded Redlands that the gap between the teams remains huge. A good confidence builder for CMS heading into a match against Pomona-Pitzer followed by the conference tournament. I was impressed by the Stags doubles and this is something that will need to be clicking for them to make a national title run.

Amherst d. Bowdoin 7-2
Again, not much to say here. Amherst took care of business with half their lineup and Bowdoin also played shorthanded as I mentioned earlier. The Jeffs were dominant heading into the Sunday showdown with Williams.

Gustavus d. Carleton 8-1
I was very wrong about these 2 this year. Gustavus has picked up their play significantly without much in the way of personnel additions, and it seems as though Carleton has fallen off after a big 2010. Gustavus will enter the conference tournament as the heavy favorite. I think the Gusties are a serious sleeper in the NCAA tournament who could knock off a top team on the right day. This team continues to grow and I expect to see them in the top 30 at year-end which is a big accomplishment. It shows that the team has a lot of heart and the program is making strides towards a rebound.

Skidmore d. TCNJ 5-4
Skidmore is a team I really like, but they were points away from getting swept in doubles against a team I don't consider top 30 material. Skidmore is talented as shown by their near upset against Bowdoin early in the season, but this result worries me a little bit. They are the favorite to win their conference tournament against Vassar and could also be a sleeper in NCAAs if they are all on the same page. A good rebound for Skidmore in singles, but they still need to improve over the next month to compete with anyone respectable in NCAAs.

Trinity (CT) d. Brandeis 7-2

A really impressive result for Trinity (CT). The thing that pops out to me is the 2 singles match where Simon Miller of Brandeis retired when he was leading. I hope he is okay for this weekend because he has been the cornerstone of Brandeis tennis for the past few years and deserves to play UAAs at home as a senior. This had to suck the life out of the Judges and they went down easily after that. Trinity (CT) continues to be solid and from the looks of it, it will be them and Bowdoin battling it out for that 6th and final Pool C spot. Their regular season match with Bowdoin was rescheduled for April 29th, and they could also meet again in the NESCAC tournament. Although I think these 2 are quite far from the NESCAC top 3, 4th in the conference should be enough to get you into the tournament.

Amherst d. Williams 5-4
Every time these 2 step on the court it's a war. There's not much else that needs to be said. There have been many incredible matches this year, but because of the rivalry and significance of this, I have to say this is the best match of the year up to this point. Williams managed 2 of the doubles as well as 5 first sets and Amherst managed incredible comebacks at the top 3 spots. Every team in the country should mimic Amherst's fight because it is absolutely unmatched. They never give up and they dig themselves out of ridiculous holes time and time again. They are still playing without Austin Chafetz and I have no reports on his status. Williams youth showed in this match and they folded in a match they should have won. I hope it will only make them hungrier and I hope they aren't effected by this loss going forward. Amherst was tougher in this and they have been the tougher team for the past several years. I would be surprised if these 2 don't meet again this season, but the headline match of this weekend surpassed the hype. I think specifics and analysis are irrelevant, I'm just in awe of this match result. Williams showed that they are a very good team because they certainly have some critics, myself included. But the story here is really Amherst, showing that they are tough as nails and will rise to any challenge. Despite struggles this season, this is why they remain as my pick to win it all this year.

Monday, April 11, 2011



Been out of town for the past several days so I won't be able to write a weekend recap until Tuesday evening. I will have a look at this past weekend's results as well as the latest updates on NCAA scenarios. Conference championships are beginning soon. I apologize for the inconvenience and please check back Tuesday night.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brief Weekend Preview

Running a bit short on time after Bracketology so I apologize for the brief post. Several good matches this weekend. To begin, the GLCA tournament is happening at Kalamazoo this weekend. Potential semis are CMU-Case and DePauw-Denison. I think the only team who can really help themselves is CMU. They still have a tiny bit of hope for an at-large bid, but obviously they need to win this tournament first. The others are out of it in Pool C and are really just playing for pride in my opinion. This tournament really fell off when Kenyon pulled out.

Also on Saturday, NC Wesleyan will be tested when they take on Mary Washington. This will be a good test for NCW's doubles teams, because they've obviously been shaky this year and you're not doing anything in NCAAs without solid doubles. Middlebury has another test as they play Trinity (CT). Midd started a little rough, but I expect them to pick up their play now that they are back at home against conference opponents. The Bantams are trying to prove they are a solid top 15 team and pushing a team like Midd would certainly help that cause. A huge rivalry as always taking place in California with Redlands playing CMS. CMS has dominated the past several times out, however this remains a rivalry where anything can happen, especially with desperation setting in for Redlands. Also in the Northeast is Bowdoin at Amherst as the Jeffs look to continue their dominance of the past couple weeks against a solid opponent. Lastly, the regular season match between the top 2 teams in the MIAC: Carleton and Gustavus. GAC has been tough this year and Carleton has been shaky, but I can be sure the Knights will get fired up for this. Gustavus won the regular season match between these 2 last year, but Carleton ended up winning in the conference title. I definitely expect a good one in Minnesota on Saturday.

On Sunday, a dangerous Brandeis team travels to Hartford to take on Trinity (CT). This is a match Trinity can't afford to lose, but with a Brandeis win against MIT today, I know they will be upset-minded. This is an interesting match because both teams are top heavy and somewhat lacking depth. I am definitely on upset watch here; this would be a huge win for either team.

The main event of the weekend is Williams and Amherst. This is one of the best rivalries in D3 at the moment because even though Amherst seems better, Williams is always ready to play against the Jeffs. These 2 met 3 times last year with Amherst winning 2, including an NCAA Sweet 16 nailbiter that was one of the best matches of 2010. Williams knocked off Amherst in the NESCAC tournament semifinals last year on Amherst's home court, so I'm sure that stung for the Jeffs. I'm going to pick Amherst in this but I expect it to be tight. This would be a huge win for Williams locking them into the NCAA tournament, but it's also a chance for Amherst to make a statement after they looked vulnerable in California.

Bracketology Issue #1

I talk a lot about NCAAs, but it's late enough in the season to start looking at some potential scenarios. The NCAA Breakdown has been in the latest news tab for most of the season, but for those who haven't seen it, here's a brief overview...29 spots are available to teams that win their conference, these are called automatic qualifiers. Their conferences are recognized by the NCAA as conferences who's champion receives an auto bid to NCAAs. The next group is for teams that don't come from automatic qualifiers. There are 7 spots for these teams. It is called Pool B. The remaining 6 teams come from conferences that have automatic bids, but these teams don't win their conference. This is what I constantly refer to as Pool C.

I've made a couple assumptions for the purposes of simplicity. I think this is what the tournament will look like IF IT STARTED TODAY. I had to make "predictions" as to who would win each conference, however I just used the higher ranked team. For example, I think Amherst will end up winning the NESCAC, however, at the moment, Middlebury is #1 and Amherst is #4, so I have the conference going to Middlebury. This is just to make things simple and avoid conflict.

The Field of 42:

Automatic Qualifier
American Southwest - Tyler
Capital Athletic - Mary Washington
Centennial - Hopkins
CUNY - Baruch
Colonial States - Marywood
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown
Empire 8 - Ithaca
Freedom - Manhattanville
Heartland - Transylvania
Iowa - Luther
Landmark - Drew
Little East - Western Connecticut State
MIAA - Kalamazoo
Midwest - Grinnell
Minnesota - Gustavus
NESCAC - Amherst
NCAC - Kenyon
Northern Athletics - MSOE
Northwest - Whitman
Ohio - Ohio Northern
ODAC - Washington & Lee
President's Athletic - Grove City
Skyline - Farmingdale State
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
St. Louis - Westminster
Commonwealth Coast - Western New England
UAA - Emory
USA South - NC Wesleyan

1. Santa Cruz
2. MIT
3. Skidmore
4. Vassar
5. Whitewater
7. UW Lacrosse

1. Amherst
2. Wash U
3. Pomona-Pitzer
4. Chicago
5. Williams
6. Trinity (CT)

Regions (* denotes host team)
1. Middlebury*, MIT, Vassar, Ithaca, Western Connecticut, Western New England
2. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*, Elizabethtown, Grove City
3. CMS, Santa Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer, UT-Tyler
4. Amherst*, Trinity (CT), Skidmore, Baruch, Manhattanville,
5. Wash U*, Whitman, Kalamazoo, Grinnell, Westminster
6. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, UW Whitewater, Ohio Northern, Transylvania
7. Chicago*, Trinity (TX), Gustavus, Luther, UW Lacrosse, MSOE
8. Williams, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*, Drew, Marywood, Farmingdale State

In the Final 8: Champ of 1 plays 8, 4v5, 3v6, 2v7.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quick Friday Notes

The GLCA got a whole lot less interesting, but there are still 2 matches of note on Friday that have big time NCAA significance. First, Cal Lutheran takes on Redlands. Both of these teams are playing to save their seasons. Lose this match and you have no shot at NCAAs, it's as simple as that. Obviously Redlands is looking for revenge after 2 losses to Cal Lutheran last year, and the Bulldogs have yet to put a top 20 win on their schedule. Redlands had high hopes coming into this season, but they haven't performed, and time is almost up. They need a convincing win here because this looks terrible at the moment. They made the tournament 17 straight years and now they are going to miss if for the 2nd year in a row. CLU is playing for pride at this point and they would love nothing more than to beat Redlands. I'm sure the Kingsmen will gear up for this and Redlands will have to play very well if they want to win.

In the Northeast, Bowdoin travels to MIT. MIT has notoriously fast courts so this could be a tricky match for the Polar Bears. But it's one they absolutely need to win with Pool C being so competitive this year. Bowdoin can't afford a loss in this, and likewise I think a win would really help their resume. MIT is playing at home with nothing to lose and I expect them to turn in a good performance. Bowdoin has to be careful not to look ahead to Amherst on Saturday and focus on the task at hand. I think a lot depends on if Sullivan can take over this match and get 2 wins for his team. If he does that, this could turn into a routine win for Bowdoin. But if the Engineers get ahead in doubles, this will turn into a tight one.

Kenyon Withdraws From GLCA

In a surprising and controversial move, top seed and #7 Kenyon has withdrawn from this weekend's GLCA tournament citing injury concerns. I'm not going to pretend this isn't a controversial move, because it is, and I have mixed feelings about it. With Pool C being as competitive as it is, when you are in a winnable conference, your conference play and conference tournament are the most important things. Coach Thielke has told me that 3 of his top 4 players are banged up and he wishes to rest them for next week's match against Denison. If you look at the 2 through 6 seeds in this weekend's tournament, Kenyon has beaten 4 of the 5 teams, so they have to feel they don't have a lot to prove. The truth is Kenyon has nothing to gain by playing this weekend, because a victory does nothing for them, but a loss could move them down in the rankings, hurt their NCAA seeding, and add additional injuries to their players. From Kenyon's standpoint, this is an excellent move, but not everyone sees things that way.

The obvious question that comes to mind is: does this decision get made if Kenyon is ranked 13 or 14 and enters this tournament as the 2 or 3 seed? I don't know, but I'd have a hard time believing they would withdraw under those circumstances. People I've talked today say you have to go play no matter what. What if these were dual matches? You can't just cancel them. Kenyon has a large enough roster to fill the voids left by their injured players, so therefore they should go play and not duck their competition and be scared of losing. This is terrible news for Carnegie and DePauw. Carnegie now has to win the tournament this weekend and then go to UAAs and finish top 3, and it's an even worse situation for DePauw, who has to beat Rhodes and Trinity (TX) on back to back days to win the SCAC tournament and qualify for NCAAs. A win this weekend doesn't do much for the Tigers in my opinion.

It's a shame for the GLCA tournament who had 4 teams in the top 20 competing last year, including 2 in the top 10, and now the #1 seed is 17 in the country. I completely understand both sides of the argument here, and the move is open for interpretation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mid-Season Reports

Lately, I haven't been focusing a lot of attention on individual teams and their specifics. With this post, I will be grading and evaluating all the play this spring on a team by team basis and hopefully uncover a few statistics behind why each team is doing what they are doing. When I refer to a player or doubles team's record, I mean their record against tough D3 competition, meaning teams who are ranked or close to ranked. I will use the most recent ITA rankings.

Key Wins: Carnegie Mellon
Losses: Chicago, Rhodes, Mary Washington, Emory
Analysis: Although Dension got a win on the road against CMU which I'm sure is their program's biggest win in several years, they can't be all that happy with their performance this year. This is a solid team that plays good doubles, but their singles have let them down. They led in doubles against UMW and Chicago and went on to lose 4 of 6 singles matches. 3 of their losses were very winnable and with that they have to be disappointed. I think they will judge their season by how they perform against Kenyon in the next month, but after seeing flashes of brilliance this season from the Big Red, I'm not impressed with their overall performance, highlighted by the Rhodes match.
Grade: C+

Key Wins: UT-Tyler, Denison
Losses: None
Analysis: Rhodes has done what was asked of them and for that they should be praised, but the fact remains that they haven't beaten anyone legitimate. This is a veteran team and I was quite impressed with the Denison win, but the fact remains they are untested. In my opinion, it's easier to get fired up for a couple big matches over the course of a season versus having to play great teams every week. Rhodes benefits from that and I expect them to enter the SCAC tournament with upsets in mind. A potential semifinal against DePauw will define their 2011 season and tell the country how good they really are.
Grade: A-

Mary Washington
Key Wins: Cal Lutheran, W&L, Swarthmore, Denison
Losses: Emory, Trinity (TX), Pomona-Pitzer, Whittier, CMU, Redlands, Bates, CMS
Analysis: Talked a lot about these guys and they are up and down. Player To Watch Sam Wichlin has a record of 7-15 playing at the top spot in both singles and doubles. This is a talented team who isn't meeting their potential and this has been going on for 3 years. They've got a solid top of the lineup and good depth, but can rarely put everything together on the same day. If you take out the California stretch, they aren't terrible, but a loss to Bates at home certainly isn't what I expected. This should be a top 20 team, but it looks like they will finish outside the top 20 for the 2nd year in a row.
Grade: D+

Key Wins: Trinity (TX), Swarthmore
Losses: Kenyon, Tyler, Cal Lutheran, Bowdoin
Analysis: I've said it time and time again, this team would be a lot better if they were constantly tested. The talent is there as shown by their win over a top 10 program, but they turned around and lost 2 matches which I thought were very winnable against CLU and Tyler. The fact that they got outplayed by Tyler doesn't give me a ton of confidence in them, and I think they are ranked appropriately at 22. I thought the Trinity match could be a breakthrough, but they were fatigued by the end of their trip which is understandable. At this point, all they can do is sit back and win their conference and then pray that they don't get sent to California. 8-10 in doubles play isn't typical Whitman, but this team has a lot of room to grow.
Grade: B-

Key Wins: Kalamazoo, Mary Washington
Losses: Hopkins, MIT, Brandeis
Analysis: I said depth was an issue. They are 4-11 at the 4 through 6 singles spots and 1-4 at 3 doubles. You can't be a top 20 team if you only have half a team. I know they had high expectations for this season, but they've lost to 2 teams outside the top 20, including Brandeis who was ranked 30th on Saturday. I think they still have the potential to knock of Trinity (CT) because of the matchup, and like I said preseason, 5th in the NESCAC should be a victory for them. At the moment, this looks a typical Bates season where they expect results and don't get a lot. While they look well on their way to a 4th straight 6th place finish in the NESCAC, they still have time to turn things around.
Grade: C


Key Wins: Bates
Losses: Amherst
Analysis: Not a whole lot to say as the Engineers play a fairly soft schedule. I thought it was a great win for them to beat Bates, but when they moved to the big leagues they got walloped by Amherst. The match I have circled on my calendar to judge MIT is a date with Bowdoin in a few days. This is winnable for MIT and will show us whether or not they are truly top 20 material. This is a very talented team who will make the tournament through the independent pool, but I don't see them a serious threat to upset a top seed in their region. If they can manage to beat Bowdoin I'd be impressed, but I don't know what to make of this team at the moment.
Grade: B

Key Win: Gustavus, Carleton
Losses: Chicago, Emory
Analysis: DePauw hasn't made as much noise as they usually do and this weekend's GLCA tournament will define their season. They don't have a top 25 win on their resume and unless they win GLCA, they won't be a Pool C contender. The Tigers are playing solid doubles with a 9-3 record and 2 of the losses coming to Emory. The story remains that they lost their biggest match of the season and they did after they swept doubles. No doubt this is a dangerous team as they swept Chicago who just swept Wash U. The positive for DePauw is that they have their conference tournament to fall back on if things don't work out. I actually expect a GLCA final appearance from them this weekend, but I don't know if they can take out Kenyon.
Grade: C

Cal Lutheran
Key Wins: Brandeis, Tyler, Whitman
Losses: CMU, UMW, NCW, Kenyon, Amherst, Bowdoin, Williams, Middlebury, CMS
Analysis: I know this isn't how they envisioned their season, but I absolutely commend the Kingsmen for their effort after the adversity they've faced. They could have gone into the tank, but they continue to give top teams trouble. One stat defines this season for the Kingsmen. They are 1-23 at 5 and 6 singles. That's just putting too much pressure on your top guys to win and that's why they don't have a top 20 win on their resume. Player To Watch Ray Worley is playing higher than his comfort zone and is 11-13 overall. I think a victory for CLU would be finishing 3rd in the conference and beating Redlands, but I expect a typical match from CLU, meaning they win at the top and lose 5-4. This is a dangerous team, potentially top 12, with Ballou, but he's not around and they have to deal with things the way they are.
Grade: B-

Carnegie Mellon
Key Wins: Cal Lutheran, W&L, Mary Washington
Losses: Emory, Santa Cruz, Kenyon, Denison, Johns Hopkins
Analysis: Things went downhill quickly. I don't know why it happened, but a 9-0 loss to Hopkins shows me they're done. They came into this season with high hopes coming off a program-best year in 2010, but this team has been terrible the past 6 weeks. I don't believe loss of seniors is an excuse; look at Kenyon. There are no reliable positions each match and they haven't been winning close matches like they usually do. Player To Watch Bobby Mactaggart is 1-15 on the season and he would need a miraculous turnaround to put CMU in the tournament. They're 8-16 in doubles and don't have enough players to dig out of holes every match. I expect a 3rd or 4th place finish from them at GLCA and they are lucky to escape a tricky UAA quarterfinal against Brandeis or Case Western. A promising start has turned into an absolute disaster and I'm not quite sure where to put the blame.
Grade: D

Key Wins: Mary Washington, Skidmore, Gustavus Adolphus
Losses: Emory, Santa Cruz, Amherst, Trinity (CT), Williams, Middlebury, Pomona-Pitzer
Analysis: Looks like another mediocre year and NCAA tournament miss for the Bulldogs. I can understand the losses to top teams, but a loss to Trinity (CT) is bad for a team this talented. It looks like the P-P match last Saturday is the first time they showed fight and desperation, but the winning edge they used to have isn't there anymore. They don't have a top 20 win on their resume despite looking like a good team on paper. Player To Watch Anish Nanda is 2-14 on the season. He has been removed from the doubles lineup and demoted to 4 singles. This is not what Redlands needed. They were really expecting a turnaround this year and although it could still come, this seems like another massive disappointment for a team that isn't used to adversity and losing like this.
Grade: D

Key Wins: Case Western, Whitewater, Gustavus, Denison, Kzoo, DePauw, Wash U
Losses: Kenyon, Emory
Analysis: Chicago has obviously turned their season around with a win against Wash U and although things looked grim at the beginning with a loss to Kenyon and a near loss to Denison, this team deserves a lot of credit for sticking with it. I expect them to enter the top 10 for the first time in program history when the next rankings are released, and they may very well find themselves in the Final 8 this year. They've put together a doubles record of 13-14 and manage to get contributions from all positions in the singles lineup. This remains a dangerous team who can beat anyone on any day, and if they can turn in a repeat performance against Wash U in a potential UAA semi, the country should be scared and I'll be flat out impressed. It's about time the Maroons stepped up and did something good.
Grade: A-

Key Wins: Whitman, Skidmore, Cal Lutheran
Losses: Trinity (TX), Pomona-Pitzer
Analysis: Bowdoin has been solid this year. Nothing more and nothing less. They don't have a top 16 win on their resume, but they also have beaten the teams that they were supposed to beat, although I'm sure the Skidmore match was closer than they would have liked. With the emergence of Chicago, Bowdoin may need to make some noise in the NESCAC if they want to qualify for the tournament. 2 years ago, Oscar Pena was one of the best freshmen in the country, however last year's season-long injury clearly set him back, as he has turned in a record of 2-7 so far this spring. If he can find his game and become the elite player that he used to be, I think this team has the ability to rise to the next level. But as is, they don't have enough depth and they are nothing more than solid.
Grade: B

Trinity (CT)
Key Wins: Redlands
Losses: Pomona-Pitzer, Santa Cruz
Analysis: Although I think this team is still vulnerable and they will show it when they play Bates, Brandeis and Bowdoin, so far I can't criticize them because they've taken care of business. They played an unbelievable match against Redlands which was one of the closest matches I've ever seen. That shows me that this team has a ton of heart, unlike some Trinity (CT) teams of the past. On paper, they aren't really a top 15 team, but if they continue to win that's all that matters. I don't expect the Bantams to make the tournament this year with all of the stiff competition that they have, but for the lack of personnel, I think they are doing a great job at the moment.
Grade: B+

Johns Hopkins
Key Wins: Vassar, Bates, Kalamazoo, Carnegie Mellon, Swarthmore
Losses: Emory, NC Wesleyan
Analysis: Hopkins has shown vast improvement over their last couple matches and that's a great sign. They've blown out the teams they were supposed to, and put together great matches against CMU and Emory. The thing that bugs me is the NC Wesleyan match. They just didn't show up for singles, and maybe it's because NCW is in their head, but you just can't do that as a top team. Player To Watch Andy Hersh is 6-2, but has been removed from the doubles lineup. I like this JHU team because I think they have more depth than previous years, and as I've said, it's all mental for them. They will most likely be on the road for NCAAs and face a higher ranked team in the Sweet 16, but they love that underdog role and this could be their breakthrough year.
Grade: B-

NC Wesleyan

Key Wins: Cal Lutheran, Johns Hopkins, Christopher Newport
Losses: Wash U, Trinity (TX)
Analysis: In my opinion, one of the most dangerous teams in the country, as you don't really know what you're going to get. What they have yet to do, is really win a big time match against a great team in a pressure situation. They've proved that they beat Hopkins, but I have a feeling they may need to beat a top notch team to make the Final 8 again. I think this is a much better and more mature team than the one that showed up at Indoors, but we won't see their true colors again until NCAAs. At that point, we'll figure out how much they've grown. If they can get back to the Final 8, that's a fantastic accomplishment, and I definitely think they have the tools to do so. Where they are going to get wins is unpredictable, but the thing I like about this team is they don't really have any weak spots in the singles lineup. If their doubles is on, they will be tough.
Grade: B

Trinity (TX)

Key Wins: Mary Washington, NC Wesleyan, UT-Tyler, Bowdoin, Vassar
Losses: Santa Cruz (2), CMS, Wash U, Whitman, Pomona-Pitzer, Amherst
Analysis: Maybe I overrated Trinity (TX) heading into this season. The end result remains to be seen, but when you look at their current resume, it's not impressive. The fact that they beat NCW and played well at their Texas quad is a good sign, but they lost to Whitman. It's great they tested Wash U and Cruz, but they didn't win, and I hope coming just short isn't the story of the 2011 Trinity Tigers. Player To Watch Max Frey is 13-11, to go along with a team doubles record of 22-14. This is great, but all the teams are a little inconsistent and can't seem to get on the same page in the same day. Their entire lineup has had flashes of brilliance, but when you've lost against every top 10 team you've played and a team outside the top 20, it's hard to consider yourself a true national title contender. I expect them to win the conference and be dangerous in NCAAs, and for the sake of making me look good, I hope they make a Final 4 run.
Grade: C+

Key Wins: Redlands, Cal Lutheran
Losses: Pomona-Pitzer, Santa Cruz
Analysis: This isn't really a midseason report because the Ephs haven't played a ton. They define their season by NESCAC success, and I think they have a legitimate shot to get 2nd in NESCAC this year. They aren't a fantastic team as shown by their California losses, but they are a solid 9 or 10 in the country and will be a contender for a Final 8 spot depending on their NCAA regional. I've said before that this is the youngest team in the country, and that can show at times. Player To Watch Felix Sun is 5-3 so far, and the Ephs will need him to be an on court leader if they want success this year. The real tests for Williams will be against Bowdoin, Amherst and Middlebury and if they find themselves in the NESCAC title match and the Final 8 of NCAAs, that's a great accomplishment. If they don't, and miss the Final 8 2 years in a row, it could be a sign that the program is slipping. It's a thin line between success and failure for Williams right now.
Grade: B

Key Wins: Whittier, Brandeis, Mary Washington, Trinity (TX), Tyler, Bowdoin, Skidmore, Trinity (CT), Williams, Redlands
Losses: Emory, Kenyon
Analysis: Their resume speaks for itself. Along with Kenyon, they are the biggest surprise of the year. The Hens are playing at a significantly higher level than anyone expected and with all their wins, have solidified themselves as a legitimate top 8 team. They are getting it done on the doubles court with a 27-9 overall record, although they have cooled off slightly in recent matches. The fact remains that they can play with anyone in the country and although I often count them out, they are a serious threat to win the SCIAC and the NCAA West regional. I think CMS and Cruz have taken notice, because P-P certainly has my attention. The impressive thing is their consistency. They proved that their Stag-Hen performance was no fluke and they have more quality wins than anyone in the country. I expect the Hens to finish strong and give whoever they play some serious trouble in NCAAs. If they had beaten Kenyon, they would have received an A+.
Grade: A

Key Wins: Chicago, Kalamazoo, Case Western, CMU, Vassar, Whitman, Pomona-Pitzer, CLU
Losses: CMS
Analysis: I'm shocked by how good they are. Look at the underlying story here and you see a team that was ranked 12 lose 4 starters and become #7. If that's not top notch development and coaching, I don't know what is. Kenyon's guys play with so much heart and are motivated every match. They were in slightly over their heads against CMS, but the fact that they have beaten everyone else they've played is impressive, including 2 potential top 10 finishers in Chicago and Pomona-Pitzer. They are the story of the year to me because I thought this team would be decimated. Player To Watch Jeremy Polster is 11-7 playing at the top of the lineup and Coach Thielke is well on his way to a well deserved Coach of the Year award for this. I see Kenyon earning the 5th or 6th overall seed in NCAAs. They could find themselves in their first ever Final 4 with a decent draw.
Grade: A+

Santa Cruz
Key Wins: Trinity (TX) (2), Carnegie Mellon, Swarthmore, Redlands, Trinity (CT), CMS, Williams
Losses: Wash U (2)
Analysis: Although they looked a bit sluggish at Indoors, the young 2011 Slugs are buying into Coach Hansen's motto of growing throughout a season. They've picked up their play significantly and are getting the job done everywhere in the lineup. Brian Pybas hasn't been quite as tough as last year, but I expect him to pick his play up heading to NCAAs. Player To Watch Erich Koenig is 13-6 with most of his losses coming early in the season. I'm impressed with Cruz all around and would not be surprised if they toppled CMS in NCAAs. I think a lot will depend on who gets the homecourt for NCAAs. This is a typical Slugs team that plays great doubles and gets the wins they need in singles. They have a doubles record of 21-9 and I'm most impressed with their 3 through 5 players in singles. Counting out Cruz in any match is a huge mistake and they are proving that this year. I think the losses to Wash U were wakeup calls, but the fact remains they won the biggest match of their regular season against CMS.
Grade: A-

Wash U
Key Wins: NC Wesleyan, Santa Cruz (2), Trinity (TX)
Losses: Emory, CMS, Chicago
Analysis: Wash U is performing about as I expected. I was impressed with their Indoors performance and their other win against Cruz, but other than that they haven't been all that special. Obviously they are 5th in the country which is impressive, but everything seemed to be smooth sailing until that Chicago loss. I can't remember the last time the Bears lost to a team outside the top 10. I thought the top 2 singles spots would be tough for Wash U and they have turned in a record of 7-7 which is pretty good. My overall view is that the Bears are very solid and play at a consistent level. You know what you are going to get from them. To beat Wash U, you either have to bring a ton of energy in doubles or a lights out singles lineup. I think they were overmatched against Emory and CMS and Chicago just played better doubles. I'm interested to see how the Bears respond at the UAA tournament.
Grade: B+

Key Wins: Trinity (TX), Redlands, Cal Lutheran, MIT, Vassar, Skidmore
Losses: CMS
Analysis: The Jeffs literally have 14 guys that are legitimate starters on a top team. It's scary. But what matters are the top 6, and that wasn't enough to beat CMS. Austin Chafetz hasn't seen much playing time early in the season, so I'm assuming injuries may be a factor. If he gets to 100%, they are my pick to win nationals no matter what happens the rest of the season. Luis Rattenhuber has been somewhat of a disappointment after a lot of hype, because at the moment it doesn't look like Herst has someone that can win at 1 or a team that can win at 1 dubs. But the story with Amherst will be the same as the past 2 years. They will raise their game in May when NCAAs come around. They are going to raise their game to another level in a month and the question is if everyone else can keep up. Despite being 4 in the country, I still see them as the best team and no one will convince me otherwise. They got their early season loss out of the way and they are on the same path as the past 2 years, except now they have a much stronger team.
Grade: B

Key Wins: Brandeis, Mary Washington, Swarthmore, Kenyon, Skidmore, Amherst, Trinity (TX), Wash U, Gustavus, Whittier, Cal Lutheran
Losses: Emory, Santa Cruz
Analysis: With wins against 11 quality opponents, it's hard to criticize them, but there have been some chinks in the armor this spring. The Wash U match showed what a difference Robbie Erani can make, because he hasn't seen much action in singles. I believe he makes the singles lineup significantly stronger. The problem I see for CMS is that they are very good everywhere, but they aren't great anywhere. They don't have that automatic win like Emory, and they don't have Brian Pybas to count on for at least a win a match. They have to go out every match and grind, and that wears on you. In the past, I believe fatigue and mental toughness have been issues for them late-season. I was very surprised they lost that Cruz match. CMS always has a good regular season, but I can't really judge them until the season is over. Their NCAA performance will define them, especially since they are playing at home.
Grade: B

Key Wins: Mary Washington, Carnegie Mellon, Wash U, Redlands, Vassar, Pomona-Pitzer, CMS, Hopkins, DePauw, Denison, Chicago
Losses: None
Analysis: Emory is perfect this year and that's the bottom line. They've rebounded very nicely since last year and head into UAAs as a heavy favorite. As usual, the support is coming from the top of the lineup. Player To Watch Colin Egan is 19-1, and Pottish, Goodwin and Egan are a combined 32-0 in singles play. That is just unstoppable. A lot of these stats get thrown out the window in the heat of the moment at NCAAs, but that's impressive and can't be ignored by Emory's opponents. Everyone knows where Emory is vulnerable and that's doubles, but there's a lot of pressure for the Eagles opponents to win in doubles, because they know they are going to lose if Emory gets ahead. It's a nice luxury to have 2 great players, but taking advantage isn't so easy and Emory has done that perfectly. They should head into NCAAs confident and will obviously be a serious threat to win it.
Grade: A+

Key Wins: Redlands, Gustavus, Cal Lutheran, Brandeis
Losses: None
Analysis: The defending national champs haven't been tested yet, and this isn't a mid-season report for them either. They remain at #1 in the country from last season, but they certainly haven't looked impressive so far. It was good for this young team to play some tough matches, but they don't have a top 15 win on their resume yet and that means they are unpredictable going forward. They took care of business against Redlands, but compare that to what Cruz and Emory were able to do against Redlands. I know better than to count them out in NESCAC play especially since they have had Amherst's number in the past. I can see them finishing anywhere between 1st and 4th in NESCAC play, but as I've said, Midd is Midd and they are always a threat. I really can't make a judgment on them yet, but I am looking forward to regular season matches against the other top NESCAC teams.
Grade: B+

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekend Recap and the Next Few Days

Before I get into Saturday's results, today in Baltimore Hopkins beat Carnegie Mellon 9-0. This was most likely a little bit of CMU being terrible and Hopkins being tough. The doubles were not close and clearly set the tone for the match, although there were a few close singles matches. For a real rivalry match, this was disappointing. Concerning Hopkins, they seem to have rebounded nicely after their loss to NCW. The bad news for the Blue Jays is that the NCAA regional top seed isn't coming this year. They don't have any top 20 teams on the remainder of their schedule, so they have to hope for a nice regional. I could see a potential Sweet 16 match between them and Williams, but it's really too early to tell. They aren't in a great spot, but to their benefit, I think they will go into NCAAs somewhat unnoticed and they could sneak up on a top 10 opponent on the right day. Carnegie continues to disappoint. I made a statement in their season preview that they are going to prove that you have to recruit every year or you'll fall off. That is certainly proving true. While they still have opportunities on their schedule that would put them in NCAAs, they have shown nothing post-Indoors to prove that they are a top 20 team, let alone a potential Pool C qualifier. Final 8 to missing the tournament is not good, and this embarrassing loss may have put the icing on the cake for this lost season.

A quick note on a Saturday match, Brandeis finally got a win against a ranked opponent and upset Bates in a 6-3 win. The Judges looked tough in this and I think they could be dangerous against some of the top NESCAC teams as well as in the UAA tournament. Bates needs to rebound, because I still they have a shot to beat Trinity (CT), which would be a big win for them. Really good win for Brandeis and it's good to see them meeting their potential this year. Next up on Saturday, Pomona-Pitzer hung on and beat Redlands in another thriller for the Hens. Both of these teams have played some very close matches this season and this was no exception. The difference is the Hens have had that mental toughness and winning edge, whereas Redlands hasn't. PP has been so tough in close matches all season, you could just sense they were going to pull this out even after a 2-1 deficit in doubles. Another great win for PP; this has to be the first time in a while that they've beaten Redlands. I would expect these 2 to meet again in the SCIAC semifinal in a couple week, but both need to put their attention on the other conference foes in front of them. PP is safely in the tournament and the Bulldogs are certainly on the outside looking in after Chicago's win against Wash U.

Wash U never comes into a match unprepared. I believe this is no exception. Chicago just beat them. Marty Perry, and the rest of the country for that matter, have been waiting for this result for the past 4 years. I don't believe Chicago has ever beaten a team in the top 10, and to do it against Wash U is a fantastic accomplishment. The flip side is that I can't remember the last time Wash U lost to a team outside the top 10. The Maroons had been struggling with doubles all season, and finally they came to life at the right time and jumped on a Wash U team who just wasn't ready for the level that Chicago brought. Their talent finally showed, and they managed to get the 2 singles wins they needed for the win. Looking at Chicago's overall resume, it's actually quite impressive. Their only losses are to Emory and Kenyon, and at the moment, I see them at 8 or 9 in the country, which not only puts them in the tournament, but puts them in line to be a top seed in their NCAA regional. Now, it looks to me like 5 Pool C spots could be filled, leaving only 1 spot for several teams. This win kind of shifts the power away from the NESCAC, as they don't really control their own destiny anymore. I'll be interested to see what the UAA seeding looks like, because there's a massive difference between the 2 and 3 seed. 2 gets an easy match against NYU, whereas 3 most likely has to play a very dangerous Brandeis team, who also happens to be hosting the tournament. Wash U has to be a little shocked, but there's nothing to worry about for them. I don't see their ranking being hurt by this, and everyone still knows they are a great team. This will probably make them hungrier heading into the last third of their season, and I'm really looking forward to a potential UAA semifinal rematch between these 2. Chicago has the opportunity to derail a 6th straight Emory-Wash U UAA final, but I'm sure the Bears have other ideas.

This is a slow week, so Monday and Tuesday I'll be doing mid-season report cards for the top 25 teams. I'll try to knock off 13-25 Monday and 1-12 Tuesday. For Wednesday, I'm going to make an attempt at a first issue of bracketology, and on Thursday, I'll have a preview of the weekend. I've been focusing a lot on big picture stuff and NCAAs the last few weeks, but for these midseason report, I'll try to piece together some interesting statistics and look at where each team is strong and weak.