Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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.