Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breaking Down the Final

A dream final tomorrow between the 2 best teams in the country. They both deserve to be here and something has to give. Amherst has been to 3 consecutive finals, but the past 2 times they were up against a superior team. Now, they are up against an equivalent team and need to grind out a win. Something has to give tomorrow and many will remember the epic quarterfinal these 2 teams played last year. Emory swept doubles and ended up losing, and I'm pretty sure that is the only time in the 5 years of the 9-point system that's happened to Emory.

Chris Goodwin's only D3 singles loss in his 3 year career was to Mark Kahan last year. Those 2 will meet tomorrow. Dillon Pottish's only D3 singles loss in his 2 year career was to Austin Chafetz last year. Pottish, Goodwin and Egan are now a combined 43-0 this year in singles play. If all 3 of them win, that means Amherst needs 5 of the 6 remaining matches, a very tall task against an Emory team with a very formidable 1 and 3 doubles team and a not too shabby bottom of the lineup either. Amherst desperately needs 2 of the doubles matches. The other thing that's interesting to me is that Moritz Koenig isn't starting singles. I think it's a questionable to move to bench your senior captain who pretty much single handedly took you to the final last year with 2 ridiculous wins. He would be up against Noah Simonson tomorrow, the same player he beat last year to clinch the match against Emory. No disrespect to Andrew Jung, I just think it's a shocker Koenig is not in the lineup.

If Amherst gets up 2-1, it's anyone's match. But to beat Emory, you have 2 choices: get up in doubles or beat their top 2. Neither of those is easy, but the first is easier. Emory has done a great job winning close doubles matches this year, see the CMS match and today. You can't count on getting down in dubs and then winning 3 through 6 against the Eagles, so Amherst needs to start well and grab the lead.

I like Herst to win at 1 and 2 doubles, and I think Chafetz steps up tomorrow and gets a win against Egan, couple with wins at 4 and 6 to give Amherst the title in a really close 5-3 or 5-4. It really is anyone's match, but doubles is the key for both teams because of the depth and quality of both singles lineups.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Picks

I'm going to break down each match the next few days but for picks.

Emory d. Middlebury 5-1
Wash U d. Kenyon 5-1
Amherst d. Trinity (TX) 5-1
CMS d. Williams 5-2

Emory d. Wash U 5-2
Amherst d. CMS 5-3

CMS d. Wash U 5-1

Amherst d. Emory 5-4

General Quarterfinal Discussion

In my opinion, four lopsided quarterfinals and three teams who can potentially win it all. A lot of good storylines here, headlined by CMS trying to win the national title on their home court. They have an opener against Williams, which is a team with a very similar make-up to CMS. The Stags just do everything a little bit better than Williams. In the semifinal, potentially awaiting CMS is Amherst, the 2-time defending NCAA runner-up. The Jeffs desperately want that national title and traditionally have played their best tennis in May. In the way for Amherst is Trinity (TX), appearing in their 2nd consecutive Elite 8. They had high expectations entering this season and didn't really meet them, but they find themselves still playing and have a lot of experienced players. On the other half of the bracket, the clear favorite to advance to the championship match is Emory, who enters as the #1 seed and has strung together an undefeated regular season. Their top 3 singles players are undefeated in D3 play and they are very focused on winning their first national title since 2006. They take on defending national champion Middlebury, who only returns 1 starter from last year's team and is very young. They finished 3rd in NESCAC after winning the conference several years in a row. The last quarterfinal pits Wash U against Kenyon, and I don't see either of these teams as a true threat to win the title. Wash U is looking for their 4th consecutive Final 4 appearance and Kenyon is back in the Final 8 after a one-year hiatus.

I think it would be great to see semis between Emory-Wash U and CMS-Amherst. That has the best current rivalry in D3 along with a match between two unbelievable teams. When you look at the top 3, it really is anyone's tournament to win. This will be about who wants it the most and who executes, because talent wise there is not a large difference.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sweet 16 Results and Brief Thoughts

Emory d. NC Wesleyan 5-0
Emory did what they had to do and got through the regional, but at the same time I'm disappointed in NCW's doubles. They were just outclassed in doubles and an interesting stat is the last 5 times they stepped on the court with a top 10 opponent, they are a combined 1-14 in doubles. That's just not going to get it done, no matter how strong your singles play is. They will never get above that 9-12 range playing doubles like this, so their coaches and players have to go back to the drawing board for next season. Obviously they hung with Emory in singles which was a good accomplishment, but no one in the country can come back from a doubles sweep against Emory this year. As a final note, W&L's Will Hall played in the regional semifinal against NCW and won his doubles match, giving W&L it's only point in a 5-1 loss. An unbelievable performance and comeback from Hall. Emory moves on to the Final 8 and is certainly a top 3 favorite, if not the top favorite.

Middlebury d. Bowdoin 5-2
Another case of two even teams and Midd getting the doubles sweep. You can't win after getting swept in doubles and even though Bowdoin played tough in singles, Midd hung on for the win. Certain programs just know how to win no matter who's on their team, and Midd is one of them. Bowdoin has their typical season, as they just can't manage to get over the hump. Steve Sullivan had a fantastic career, but Peters one upped-him in this match and made the score 4-2 instead of 3-3, a very big difference. Coach Barr did a good job with this year's Midd team, although they would need an incredible effort to top Emory. I liked Bowdoin's chances in the round of 16 after they crushed a good MIT team, and I bet the Engineers wish they were put in a different regional. Midd gets the job done to return to their 10th straight Elite 8.

Kenyon d. Mary Wash 5-1
As expected, not too much mystery here. A good win for Mary Wash against Kalamazoo to get them back the the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008, but they just didn't have enough to beat Kenyon. The Lords swept doubles and things were just about over after that. Kevin Ye lost twice for Kenyon which was uncharacteristic, and they can't afford that to happen in the quarterfinal against Wash U. Kenyon was rewarded for their fantastic season with this easy regional and they have a great shot to make their first ever Final 4. On another note, I personally thought Coach Thielke got robbed, as Marty Perry won Central Region Coach of the Year. Thielke did an unbelievable job putting Kenyon as high as #6 this year and I thought he not only deserved regional honors, but also national.

Wash U d. Whitewater 5-1

Wash U was just a little too talented for Whitewater and that showed, although I think the Warhawks should be very proud of what they accomplished in this regional. A win over Whitman and a Sweet 16 appearance was a wonderful accomplishment. They also had to be pleased taking a point from Wash U in doubles. A disappointing end to an interesting season for Whitman, who got their wish to be shipped out of California and didn't take advantage of it. The inability to attract top recruits shows when Whitman plays talented teams, but I feel as though Whitewater is a team they should be beating. I'm not quite sure what happened to them in that match, but I'm sure that had to be a very tough loss. For Wash U to really make a splash in NCAAs, they will need to play great doubles, as their flaws have shown this year. They come in as the 4th seed, but I don't see them as a serious threat to win it all.

Trinity TX d. Chicago 5-2
I criticized the Tigers singles, but this is what got them through to the Final 8, which is exactly where they belong. They had a real war against Gustavus which they were lucky to get through, but that can be expected against a team that fights as hard as the Gusties. I was worried about their singles heading into the Sweet 16 match because they struggled against a Gustavus team that hasn't done much in singles this year. Chicago went down 2-1 in singles against Grinnell, but I attributed that to first time NCAA nerves. They showed their muscles in singles and I liked their chances heading into the regional final after Trinity's grueling match. Seeing Chicago take 2 of 3 doubles against Trinity was a shocker, and I honestly thought they were well on their way to victory after the doubles points. I think Trinity found that will that Chicago didn't have and took it to another level. They were able to use their experience of being there before to propel them to easy wins before Chicago could get on the board. Trinity enters the Final 8 much like last year: with nothing to lose. Chicago has to be happy with their season because this was a step in the right direction.

Amherst d. TCNJ 5-0
Amherst rolls without dropping a point as expected. Not too much else to say. The Jeffs are very focused heading into the Final 8 and have their eyes on the prize. I really like Amherst's chances and I'm sticking with my preseason pick. A great win for TCNJ against Skidmore and it was actually the only 5-4 match all weekend. They got revenge for a loss to Skidmore a couple weeks ago and had to learn a lot after playing Amherst. TCNJ's second Sweet 16 in 4 years and that's a great accomplishment for a program that doesn't get much national attention. Skidmore is up there when it comes to most disappointing teams this season. I thought they had a lot of talent but they were never able to put it all together. They did take back the conference from Vassar, but they have to expect much more from themselves than that.

Williams d. Johns Hopkins 5-0

Hopkins disliked the speed of the indoor courts at Williams, but you have to deal with what's thrown at you and Hopkins couldn't do it in the postseason as usual. Another solid season and poor ending for Hopkins who turns in their usual performance. They didn't just lose in this match, they got crushed. A really good win for Williams to get back to the Final 8. I would like their chances if they weren't playing CMS. The Ephs took care of business and hope to extend their season in a tough environment.

CMS d. Cruz 5-3
Unbelievable stuff from both teams. Cruz took that 2-1 doubles lead as I expected, but CMS used their advantage in talent to come back and win the overall match. Robbie Erani and Alex Johnson were the real heroes today, as they both came back from huge holes to turn the match in the Stags favor. It's the 2nd year in a row when Cruz has blown match points in the regional final. Last year I believe it was a doubles match. The Stags showed a ton of mental toughness and I love their chances at the Final 8 now after this confidence boost. Cruz has to be disappointed with this loss, especially on their home court, now having CMS go to the Final 8 2 years in a row out of the West.

Analysis on the way...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NCAA Updates

Emory d. Grove City 5-0
NCW d. W&L 5-1

Bowdoin d. MIT 5-0
Midd d. Stevens 5-1

Kenyon d. Ohio Northern 5-1
Mary Wash d. Kzoo 5-1

Wash U d. Luther 5-0
Whitewater d. Whitman 5-2

Amherst d. Roger Williams 5-0
TCNJ d. Skidmore 5-4

Chicago d. Grinnell 5-2
Trinity (TX) d. GAC 5-3

CMS d. Cruz 5-3

Williams d. Farmingdale 5-0
Hopkins d. Vassar 5-1

Friday, May 13, 2011

Regional Preview: Cruz

The one thing Cruz cannot do is overlook Pomona-Pitzer. I think they are too well-coached to do that though, so I like the Slugs to take care of business fairly comfortable. An amazing season for the Hens, but as usual I think this is going to be about Cruz and CMS. On CMS’ side of the bracket, Tyler can play as shown by their win against Whitman, but they don’t have the personnel to win more than a match against CMS. The showdown on Saturday should be a great one.

The shocking thing about Cruz’s win against CMS during the regular season was not that they won, but they did so after being down 2-1. I don’t see that happening again, especially with Erani back in the lineup for the Stags. I like 1 to Cruz and 2 to CMS, and that 3 doubles match will be a huge swing point. Singles is just about even with the exception of a CMS edge at 6. These 2 have played some fantastic matches throughout the years and I expect another one, but I can’t remember a time when the Stags won against Cruz on the road. On paper, I think it’s clear that CMS is the better team, but coaching and home court can’t really be measured and my gut tells me that Pybas and Koenig feed off the home court energy and put the team on their backs in this one. I really like their chances of getting 4 points for their team and I don’t normally pick against “the better team,” but I’m going to do it here. Cruz has had a lot of great players, but Pybas has to be up there with the best and I’m sure he wants to go out in style. CMS desperately wants a shot at the national title on their home courts, but knowing these 2 programs, I feel like UCSC just has that ability to dig deeper. They know how to win grinding matches and that’s exactly what this is going to be. I’ll go with Cruz 5-4 in an instant classic.

Regional Preview: Williams

To me, this regional is the one to watch. Vassar had an okay season and I think their result against Hopkins will be similar to when the 2 teams played in early March. Hopkins wins 5-0 and may be tested in one of the doubles matches. Williams will post a similar result in their round of 32 setting up a blockbuster Sweet 16 match.

Both teams have very similar make-ups and that’s why I think this will be so interesting. The story here is about who can get over the hump mentally. Williams has a young coach who has done this as a player, but this is a very different spot compared to where they were last year. Last year, they slipped in the beginning of the season and that cost them an NCAA seeding, so they had to go on the road as an underdog and played Amherst tough before losing. This year they come in as the host and the favorite, but no one on the team has won a match of this magnitude before. They have to draw confidence from the Midd match in the NESCAC semifinal, but the Ephs haven’t exactly been super consistent this year. Again, I think there’s a lot of pressure on Dan Greenberg to produce after falling short last year. Honestly, I question the ability of both coaches to prepare their teams mentally for a match like this. It’s one thing if your team is significantly more talented and just has to go out and win, but these 2 are pretty much dead even. I think Hopkins has an edge in doubles, but Williams may have an edge deep in the singles lineup. Both teams are deep and good, but not incredible, at the top. Hopkins has to get over last year’s debacle as well as the TCNJ loss in 2008 which some of their guys remember very well. That’s not easy to do against a team like Williams on the road. I can’t bring myself to pick in favor of Hopkins in the tournament with their track record, so I’m going with Hopkins up 2-1 after doubles and Williams ends up winning 5-4 in a match that goes deep into the 3rd set. It’s going to be about who is mentally tougher and who wants it more.

Regional Preview: Washington & Lee

I see W&L as a non-entity here. They are the hosts and they made the Sweet 16 last year, but I don’t see them as a serious threat. They lost one of their top players to injury and recently lost 6-3 against an unranked Oglethorpe team. NCW wins 5-0 or 5-1. The regional final should be a good one. Both teams aren’t happy about this match, especially Emory, who put together an undefeated D3 season so they could drive 8 hours and take on one of the toughest regional #2 seeds in the tournament. The good thing for the Eagles is I think they match up well against NCW. If you are going to beat Emory, you’ve got to get up in doubles or crack their top 2, and I don’t know if NCW has the capability to do either of those things. It takes a great 3 doubles team to beat Pottish/Egan and combine that with Emory’s top 2 and you have NCW needing to win 5 of the 6 remaining matches.

There’s a reason Emory’s 1 through 3 singles players are 37-0 this season and they will show that this weekend. NC Wes should come in confident because they are a good and dangerous team who could knock off some of the regional top seeds on a good day, but this is the top team in the country we are talking about. You have so little margin for error against Emory, and in the past when NCW has run into a top tier team, it hasn’t been pretty. One thing the Bishops can draw positives from is a 5-3 Sweet 16 match against Emory in 2009 that was very close. NCW will need to play inspired tennis to win this one and they may have to get a little lucky. I think they can take a doubles match and they are competitive at the 3 through 6 spots, but as I’ve said before, being competitive and winning are very different. I’ve talked about Emory’s focus all season and now is when they take it up a notch. I’m taking Emory 5-2 to advance to the Final 8.

Regional Preview: Middlebury

Midd is looking for their 9th consecutive Elite 8, Bowdoin is looking to avoid the typical Bowdoin performance and MIT is looking for a breakthrough that is within reach. To begin, 2 solid New Jersey teams and an interesting story with MIT’s opponent, Hunter College.

Drew and Stevens face off for the right to play Middlebury and these are 2 teams who consistently win their conference and qualify for the tournament They always seem to be floating around the Northeast regions as 4th or 5th seeds, so a match win for either of them would be a good accomplishment for the programs. I don’t think either could pose any sort of threat to Middlebury. I’m pretty unfamiliar with both of these teams so I won’t make a prediction, but I will say Midd wins 5-0 in the round of 32. The best player in this region most likely plays for the 6th seed, Hunter. I was doing my research and noticed a familiar name in Yevgeny Perepelov as Hunter’s top player. Perepelov was a former top Eastern junior who won several matches at the Kalamazoo nationals and reached a Tennisrecruiting ranking of 27 in his class. I believe he took 3-4 years off and competed on the Futures circuit, and he is currently listed as a sophomore at Hunter. He hasn’t lost a match this year, so I’ll be interested to see how he does against MIT’s top player. Hunter doesn’t have much after him so I’ll go with the Engineers in a 5-0 win.

I’m assuming the committee placed MIT in this region rather than Amherst’s with the thought that they would rather be the 3 seed in the #8 overall team’s region versus the #2 seed in the #3 overall team’s region. Either way, Bowdoin is going to have their hands full with MIT. In the regular season match, the score was tied 4-4 and MIT led 5-1 in the 3rd set at #6 singles before Bowdoin came back to win. Granted, the Polar Bears were playing short handed that day and they are now back to full strength, but this is going to be a really good match. If MIT can get up in doubles, anything can happen, but I think Bowdoin is playing well right now and I like them to win 5-2.

Bowdoin’s typical season is to finish about where they did this year, qualify for the tournament and then lose to their regional top seed in the Sweet 16. Since Bowdoin’s NESCAC title run in 2008, they have not knocked off a top-notch team. They beat people below them and lose to teams above them. They are always dangerous, but they never seem to break through and make a Final 8. This is a great opportunity. Midd is fairly inexperienced, however they did beat Bowdoin in what I consider a comfortable 5-4 win during the season. Midd has done what they were supposed to do this season, but they are susceptible to an upset. Bowdoin has the firepower to take on the Panthers and I’m surprised more people in the poll haven’t picked Bowdoin. Bowdoin has the experience edge here, but I can’t pick them due to the track records of these teams. I’ll take Midd in a 5-3 win that goes down to the wire.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Regional Preview: Wash U

Some interesting matches in this region, but obviously Wash U is the heavy favorite. An interesting note is that 4 of the 6 teams begin with W. Just thought that was a little funny.

I think Whitewater wins their first round easily. The other first round is an interesting match. Earlham ended Transylvania's 8 year streak of conference titles and is a team on the rise. They take on Luther, who won their 5th consecutive conference title and has previous NCAA experience. Luther's coach is in his last year, so they will definitely be playing for him. The Norse had what I consider a disappointing NCAA result last year also in St. Louis, when they lost to Kalamazoo 5-1 in a match that I thought was winnable for them. I'm sure they will have some built up fire after that result and take out Earlham by a 5-1 score.

Luther has the potential to give Wash U a hard time at some spots, but I think the Bears re-focused after getting destroyed by Emory in the UAA Final. They just crushed a very solid DePauw team and are looking to make a 4th consecutive run to the Final 4. Luther will give a great effort and make the Bears work, but I don't see them getting a match. Wash U will win 5-0 and advance to the round of 16. The Whitman-Whitewater contest is interesting. Whitman is up and down. They have a win over Trinity and loss to Tyler this season, and those happened within 5 days of each other. WC has a lot of talent on their team and is always a tough team to play. Whitewater beat Kalamazoo this year and gave Chicago a hard time. Both of those were early in the season and they haven't done a whole lot since. Even though they haven't had great results, Whitewater is a tough team and will make Whitman work for every match. The Whitties should be a little too solid and I see them beating Whitewater 5-3 in a match that features very close doubles matches and a couple 3-setters in singles.

Whitman has the personnel to play with Wash U, but winning matches and being close are 2 very different propositions. Wash U's whole team played NCAAs last year, and they remember their struggles in their round of 16 match against Kalamazoo when they went down 2-1 after doubles. Wash U is not a team that gives away anything, and as I said previously, I think the UAA loss to Emory really motivated them to get better. Whitman will hang, but they won't win. Both teams have solid doubles lineups and 2 of the 3 spots will probably come down to a few points here or there. I like Wash U to win those on their home court though. Whitman has solid players at the top of their lineup and this is also where Wash U is beatable. The Bears depth will pay off though and lead them to a victory. I expect a somewhat similar result to Whitman's match with Kenyon earlier this year. 5-1 Wash U and they advance to the quarterfinals.

Regional Preview: Kenyon

As I discussed briefly yesterday, Kenyon could not have drawn up this bracket better. This is really a gift for them, but I won't say that it's not well deserved after their great season. The Lords are a heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals, but they do have to get through 2 matches first. This bracket is eerily similar to the one Carnegie hosted last year with Mary Wash as a somewhat weak 2 seed and UT-Tyler as the 3 seed after a down year. Coincidentally, CMU was also the #5 overall seed in last year's tournament.

In the round of 32, Kenyon will most likely play Ohio Northern, who is actually a solid team that played a decent match against Denison early this season. I expect Kenyon to come out with a 5-0 win, but make a note that ONU is a team on the rise and could be flirting with the top 30 in a couple years if they keep improving at their current pace. The bottom half of the region is an interesting match between Mary Washington and Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo hasn't had anything resembling an impressive result all season, but all they have to do is beat Mary Washington, who wasn't too impressive themselves this season. The Eagles have shown nothing since the middle of February and ended their season gutting out a close win against a Salisbury team who was very weak this year. Denison was the only ranked team they beat since Indoors, so the story in this match is a battle between 2 teams that had really bad seasons. I think it will be a very close match and I'll take the Eagles in a 5-4 win. Mary Wash was the favorite in their round of 32 match the past 2 years and lost both times, so I wouldn't be too surprised with a Kalamazoo win.

Mary Wash can really make up for the last 3 years by winning this regional. I haven't changed my opinion that the talent is there, it just might be a matter of heart and mental toughness. The problem is that if they make the Sweet 16, they are up against Kenyon on the road, a team with as much heart and mental toughness as anyone. This could be a close match in Fredericksburg, but at Kenyon it's no contest. Mary Wash is losing to teams outside the top 20 and Kenyon is beating teams inside the top 10. On paper these two are close, in reality they are not. Kenyon wins 5-0 with absolutely no problems and advances to the Final 8.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Regional Preview: Gustavus

A very intriguing Sweet 16 match on the horizon, but a lot of work to be done before we arrive there. Chicago's women took priority over the men and were able to host, which clearly shows where the priorities lie at UC. This is Chicago's first NCAA tournament since 2005 and the first time anyone on their current team has played in the tournament. The truth is this remains one of the most talented teams in the country, but they are at this spot because of 1 win this season against Wash U. Other than that 1 day, they've been the same old Chicago, so it depends which teams shows up this weekend. Their first round match should be a nice test as they get the winner of Grinell and UWEC, 2 teams who are solid, but not good enough to beat the Maroons. I see Chicago moving forward to the round of 16 with a 5-0 win.

If you want to talk about disappointing seasons, Trinity (TX) is up there. I had them overrated as a top 5 team in the preseason, but they've spent most of this season on the outskirts of the top 10. I still think this team is very good and can beat anyone on the right day, but to win this regional they will have to do something that they couldn't do this entire season: beat a top 10 team. To start, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is overlooking Gustavus. GAC has to be thrilled to be back in the tournament after a year hiatus and I'm sure they will have a great crowd out for their round of 32 match against Trinity. I think the Gusties will hang with TU, but every time GAC has run into a ranked team this year, they've lost. Trinity is a little better than just a "ranked team" as well. I like TU to advance to the Sweet 16 after a 5-1 win against Gustavus. I think energy could propel GAC to a doubles win, but they won't get very far in singles.

Even though Chicago holds the title of regional top seed, I see Trinity as the favorite in this match. TU is looking to get back to their second consecutive Elite 8 and make something of this year after a sloppy regular season. They have the experience edge and I think their strong doubles play matches up well against Chicago. The Maroons have been very weak in doubles besides the Wash U match. They dropped 2 to Denison, Kenyon, Carnegie and Gustavus, and they dropped all 3 to Emory and DePauw. If Chicago doesn't bring a high level in doubles, they will be down 3-0 before they know what hit them. TU remains as one of the best doubles lineups in the country, although they have been shaky at times this season. This is when they usually step up and I expect them to do it. Chicago's #2 team held them up during UAAs, but they can't count on that against versus TU's #2 team. Chicago needs to put a point on the board because TU is too good and too experienced to squander a 3-0 lead.

I've talked time and time again how TU needs to find wins throughout the singles lineup and this holds true in this match. Chicago probably has a slight edge in singles talent and the Tigers have to find guys who will step up. I expect a very similar match to last year's regional final between Trinity and Kenyon. I think TU will find a way to win, but it will be close. A lot depends upon how Chicago handles the moment, because the nerves get to you in doubles more than singles. I like Trinity to jump out to a 2-1 lead after doubles and hold on for a very close 5-3 win. I think their seniors will step up and their experience will pay off in this. The Tigers know they have potential and I think they will just want it more than Chicago. If the Maroons can somehow manage to get ahead after doubles they become a heavy favorite, but given the results during the season, I think that's an unlikely scenario.

Regional Preview: Amherst

Probably the least mystery of all the regions. Amherst won't really be challenged if they play their full lineup, which I expect during NCAA competition. It seems as though Austin Chafetz is finally healthy and the timing couldn't have been better for the Jeffs. They were absolutely dominant in the NESCAC tournament, and I am still picking them to win the whole thing this year. I would expect them to get out of this region without dropping a point, although Skidmore does have the potential to play some solid doubles. As I said in my initial reaction, I'm quite surprised that Skidmore drew the #2 seed in this region over MIT, and Amherst certainly has to be pleased with this. MIT has some talent and could have given the Jeffs battles at several of the singles spots.

One thing that jumps out to me is the undefeated record of the Little East champion, UMass Dartmouth. This is the 2nd year in a row that the champion of this league is coming into the tournament with an undefeated record. We will see how they do in their first match against Roger Williams, but whoever wins should be thrilled to simply be on the court with Amherst. Skidmore knocked off TCNJ 5-4 a couple weeks ago, and I expect another close match. Since their Sweet 16 run in 2008, I don't think TCNJ has cracked the top 30 or done anything of note. They have no notable wins on their schedule this year and had a bad loss against Stevens. Skidmore came into this year with a lot of potential and high hopes, but I don't really know if they've met that. They started off strong going ahead of Bowdoin 2-1 in doubles back in March, but since then they've been very mediocre. The best win they have is probably Vassar, and this Skidmore squad is talented. They got lucky to have the #2 seed in a region and I think they will take advantage of it and get to the Sweet 16 after a 5-2 win vs. TCNJ.

Not much analysis necessary for the regional final. If Skidmore manages a point in this match, I think they should come away very happy. Amherst is too talented and too deep, and add the fact that they are playing at home, I expect them to drop about 10 games in doubles and very few in singles. Like I said, Skidmore is talented, but the Jeffs beat Skidmore a little over a month ago playing only 3 of their starters in singles. Amherst moves on to the Final 8 with an easy 5-0 victory.

NCAA Previews

Tonight: Amherst & Gustavus
Tomorrow: Wash U & Kenyon
Wednesday: W&L & Middlebury
Thursday: Hopkins & Cruz

subject to change

Brackets Released

Bracket is here!

I'll break down each region as this week goes by, but first some initial impressions. The first thing that popped out was obviously the potential Sweet 16 between Emory and NC Wesleyan. Neither team can be happy about this. I got it right that Emory would travel to W&L, but I can't think they were expecting this. I found out in the middle of the day that TCNJ did not put in a bid to host, and when I heard that I figured NCW may be grouped with Emory. Their only other option was to meet a NESCAC team halfway, and there were a limited number of sites where that could happen. Emory's undefeated season is rewarded by having to play an incredibly dangerous NCW team who is ranked 12 in the country. They look at the bottom half of their bracket and see Kenyon hosting and having a potential Sweet 16 match with 25th ranked Mary Wash. This is an absolute dream draw for Kenyon. They couldn't have made it better themselves. Not only can they waltz through their regional, they also pulled the #5 overall seed and a potential quarterfinal with Wash U who is significantly weaker than the top 3.

In my opinion the 6 through 8 seeds got messed up, but I think the NCAA was trying to avoid conference matches in the quarters. That's the only explanation I have for Chicago jumping both Williams and Middlebury and grabbing the #6 overall seed. It doesn't make much sense, but after all I guess it doesn't matter a ton because I still consider the top 3 overall seeds just about even.

A unique scenario where Cruz is hosting but CMS is the top seed. The Slugs have to be careful not to overlook a dangerous round of 32 with a top 10 team in Pomona-Pitzer. Whitman got their wish and got shipped to St. Louis. They have a tricky round of 32 against Whitewater before a potential Sweet 16 clash with Wash U where I actually think Whitman has a decent shot at a win.

Obviously a Cruz-CMS Sweet 16 is great, but if I could pick, I'd definitely go to Williams for the potential Williams-Hopkins match. There's so much pressure on both of these teams. The host Ephs missed the Final 8 last year for the first time since 1996 under first year head coach Dan Greenberg. The rest of the nation gave Williams some weird looks when one of the most storied programs in D3 hired a 23 year old as head coach. Missing the Final 8 in his first 2 years as coach would not bode well for Greenberg. On the flip side, you have Hopkins who is notorious for their NCAA tournament meltdowns. This has to be in the back of their minds, but at the same time, they could get the monkey off their back with a win here. This will be a wonderful test for Hopkins, going on the road and beating a tough team. 2 of the last 3 years, Hopkins has lost in NCAAs when they were the favorite, so let's see if they can take advantage of the underdog role this year.

Top 3 Winners and Losers from this bracket:

1. Kenyon - a great draw for the Lords
2. Whitman - they avoid California
3. Middlebury - they avoid traveling to play NCW and get Bowdoin at home instead

Losers (excluding California because that's a given at this point)
1. NCW - a match with undefeated Emory to get back to the Final 8
2. Emory - they will have to sweat through regionals rather than taking it easy
3. MIT - a round of 32 against Bowdoin when they easily could have been the 2 seed in Amherst's region

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Final Bracket Plus Explanation

My field:
American Southwest - UT-Tyler
Capital Athletic - Mary Washington
Centennial - Johns Hopkins
CUNY - Hunter
Colonial States - Marywood
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown
Empire 8 - Stevens
Freedom - Wilkes
Heartland - Earlham
Iowa - Luther
Landmark - Drew
Little East - UMass Dartmouth
MIAA - Kalamazoo
Midwest - Grinnell
Minnesota - Gustavus
NESCAC - Amherst
NCAC - Kenyon
Northern Athletics - Concordia Wisconsin
Northwest - Whitman
Ohio - Ohio Northern
ODAC - Washington & Lee
President's Athletic - Grove City
Skyline - Farmingdale State
SCAC - Trinity (TX)
St. Louis - Westminster
Commonwealth Coast - Roger Williams
UAA - Emory
USA South - NC Wesleyan

Pool B
1. Cruz
2. MIT
3. Skidmore
4. Vassar
5. UW Whitewater
6. UW Eau Claire

Pool C
1. Wash U
2. Williams
3. Middlebury
4. Pomona-Pitzer
5. Chicago
6. Bowdoin

1. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*, Elizabethtown, Marywood, Grove City
2. CMS, Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer, UT-Tyler
3. Amherst*, MIT, Skidmore, Hunter, UMass Dartmouth
4. Wash U*, Whitman, UW Whitewater, Grinnell, Westminster
5. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, Kalamazoo, Ohio Northern, Earlham
6. Williams*, Bowdoin, Vassar, Roger Williams, Farmingdale State
7. Middlebury, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*, Stevens, Drew, Wilkes
8. Chicago, Trinity (TX), Gustavus*, Luther, UW Eau Claire, Concordia Wisconsin

The first thing I did is figure out the #1 seeds. I don't know who else could crack the top 8 and I don't see it happening. The top 3 order is obvious. Wash U has two wins over Cruz plus a win against Chicago, Trinity TX and NC Wesleyan. Kenyon has beaten Chicago and PP. Williams and Midd's best wins are each other. That's why I gave Wash U and Kenyon the edge in overall seeding. Williams and Midd could go either way, but it could end up being important who gets that #6 overall if one of them has to travel to face NCW. I'll get to that scenario later. Chicago is the obvious #8 seed overall and I've been told they aren't putting in a bid to host.

The next thing to consider is the 500 mile rule. This means that if a team is more than 500 miles away from their host site, they have to be flown at the NCAAs expense. The NCAA is cheap and doesn't want this, so they try to limit the amount of flights. 3 teams must be flown and those are Trinity (TX), Tyler and Whitman. This is why the 3 top 10 California teams are grouped together. It is cheaper to fly team in versus all of those teams out. The team coming into California will either be Tyler or Whitman. Whitman has gone to Cali the past 3 years, but this year I see Tyler going there because I don't know if I'd say they are ranked high enough to act as a 2 seed in a region. I send the weaker team to California and I think that's Tyler. The California hosting is also weird. CMS is the higher ranked team and I think they will be the top seed in the region, however I like Cruz to host because they beat CMS head to head. I'm really not sure what's going to happen, but hosting is very important. And with Pomona-Pitzer as a dangerous 3 seed, getting that top seed is important also to avoid the Hens in the opening round. I'm very interested to see what the committee will do with this, but my guess is CMS gets the 1 seed and Cruz hosts.

Every year Emory's men and women switch on and off putting in bids to host. This year its the men's turn. However, I see a problem with this. Only 2 teams are within driving distance of Emory. That's Washington & Lee and NC Wesleyan. The thing that puzzles me is 2 years ago Mary Washington was sent to the Emory regional and I'm not sure how they got there. This could happen again, but Google Maps is showing me UMW is 580 miles from Emory. Either way, I see Emory having to travel to W&L with UMW also going there. You then can send some PA teams down to VA to fill the region. I don't think NCW will get sent to Emory since the Bishops are ranked so high and it can be avoided. That would be unfortunate for NCW. Even if they did, someone would have to fly there and it won't be Trinity. That leaves Tyler or Whitman, whoever doesn't go to California. If that happens, there's no legitimate #2 seed in Wash U's region and I think Trinity is ranked high enough to avoid St. Louis. That's why I structured things with Emory traveling.

I think region 3 is pretty clear cut. I see Skidmore taking on MIT for the right to play Amherst. Bowdoin will draw either Midd or Williams since they are ranked higher than MIT. Not much to this.

Kalamazoo was the 2 seed for Wash U last year, but they aren't even top 30 this year and can't be a 2. Chicago is a 1 so they will avoid STL. There are no other candidates in the area to be a 2 seed, so this is where a flying team comes into play. I mentioned how I sent Tyler to Cali because they were weaker than Whitman, so I have Whitman coming to Wash U. This may be wishful thinking, but I definitely see either Whitman or Tyler as the 2 seed in this region. The Bears would luck out if they drew Tyler as a 2, because I think the Pats aren't that strong this year. Whitman on the other hand could give Wash U a run for their money, so if I'm the Bears I'm hoping for Tyler.

Midd beat Williams, but Williams beat Midd more recently. The next best win for both of them is Bowdoin and they have very similar resumes. Due to the fact that Williams beat Midd more recently, I gave them the 6 overall seed. This really could go either way though. Whoever draws #6 will almost definitely host and have Bowdoin come to town. Bowdoin played a 5-4 match with both teams this season so this could be an interesting Sweet 16 encounter. Whoever comes out of this region would be in line to play Amherst in the Elite 8.

The other NESCAC team will definitely draw #7 overall. Since there are no other northeast teams and if NCW doesn't end up getting sent to Emory, I see the NESCAC team traveling south and NCW traveling north for those 2 to meet in New Jersey which is a central location. Two teams in NJ, Drew and TCNJ, have both hosted regionals within the past 5 years. A Midd-NCW match could be an intriguing rematch of last year's NCAA quarterfinal. I believe whoever gets that #6 overall seed has a massive edge getting to play at home against Bowdoin versus traveling to play NCW.

Chicago is the clear #8 overall seed and Trinity is the top #2 regional seed (besides Cali), and given the fact that Trinity is flexible since they have to be flown, I see these two in the same region. Chicago is not putting in a bid to host, so I could see them potentially going to Whitewater or Gustavus. Gustavus is far from a lot of teams, but they have hosted in the past and have great facilities, to I gave them the edge here. Chicago can drive there and Trinity would fly in.

Sorry If I was not clear during this explanation. Brackets to be released late afternoon tomorrow and I'll have analysis this week.

Amherst Takes NESCAC

Amherst wins the NESCAC 5-0 over Williams. The Ephs beat Middlebury on Saturday in a 5-4 nailbiter. In other news, Gustavus took back the MIAC with an 8-1 win over Carleton and Luther beat Coe 5-1 to win the IIAC.

Williams win over Midd shakes things up a bit. This is my guess at the top 3 teams in each region. Brackets released tomorrow evening.

1. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*
2. CMS, Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer
3. Amherst*, MIT, Skidmore
4. Wash U*, Whitman, UW Whitewater
5. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, Kalamazoo
6. Williams*, Bowdoin, Vassar
7. Middlebury, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*
8. Chicago, Trinity (TX), Gustavus*

I will try to create another scenario and fill in the rest of the teams and post it tonight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

NESCAC Preview and Bracketology Update

A couple big matches in the NESCAC tournament this weekend, but most notably a chance for Bowdoin to take all mystery out of Pool C tomorrow. They have the 6th Pool C spot on their rackets tomorrow against Tufts. Win and they're in, lose and they still might be in it but the committee would take a much closer look at things. In the other first round match, Williams plays Trinity (CT) in what should be a routine win for the Ephs. A Trinity (CT) could make things interesting in Pool C, but I don't think it will be much of a match. Amherst and Midd receive byes, and both of them have locked up regional top seeds. They are simply playing for overall seeding. Amherst can't help themselves, the best they can do is the #3 overall seed. Midd stands at #4 overall now, but a loss to Williams in the semifinal could potentially hurt and a victory this weekend could send them up to #3. Williams currently stands as the #8 overall seed according to my projections, so a win against Middlebury in the semis could help their seeding and hurt Midd. We will see how things play out and hopefully I can break things down on Sunday before the brackets are released Monday evening.

My guess as to how things are right now. I haven't been following closely, especially in Pool B, so please correct me if I get one of those teams wrong. Teams marked wit a * have already won their conference, the rest are just projections.

American Southwest - UT-Tyler*
Capital Athletic - Mary Washington*
Centennial - Johns Hopkins*
CUNY - Hunter*
Colonial States - Marywood
Commonwealth - Elizabethtown*
Empire 8 - Stevens
Freedom - Wilkes*
Heartland - Earlham*
Iowa - Coe
Landmark - Drew*
Little East - UMass Dartmouth
MIAA - Kalamazoo*
Midwest - Grinnell
Minnesota - Gustavus
NESCAC - Amherst
NCAC - Kenyon*
Northern Athletics - Concordia Wisconsin
Northwest - Whitman*
Ohio - Ohio Northern
ODAC - Washington & Lee*
President's Athletic - Grove City*
Skyline - Farmingdale State*
SCAC - Trinity (TX)*
St. Louis - Westminster*
Commonwealth Coast - Roger Williams*
UAA - Emory*
USA South - NC Wesleyan*

Pool B
1. Cruz
2. MIT
3. Skidmore
4. Vassar
5. UW Whitewater
6. UW Eau Claire

Pool C
1. Middlebury
2. Wash U
3. Pomona-Pitzer
4. Chicago
5. Williams
6. Bowdoin

1. Emory, Mary Washington, Washington & Lee*, Elizabethtown, Marywood, Grove City
2. CMS, UC Santa Cruz*, Pomona-Pitzer, UT-Tyler
3. Amherst*, MIT, Skidmore, Hunter, UMass Dartmouth
4. Middlebury*, Bowdoin, Vassar, Roger Williams, Farmingdale State
5. Wash U*, Whitman, UW Whitewater, Grinnell, Westminster
6. Kenyon*, Johns Hopkins, Kalamazoo, Ohio Northern, Earlham
7. Chicago, Trinity (TX), Gustavus*, Coe, UW Eau Claire, Concordia Wisconsin
8. Williams, NC Wesleyan, TCNJ*, Stevens, Drew, Wilkes

* denotes host

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Haven't been super active lately but not a ton has happened.

Most of the current action is in the NESCAC right now with the biggest news of the weekend being Amherst's win over Middlebury 6-3. This was a very close match and makes the Jeffs the top seed in next weekend's NESCAC tournament. Williams should be 3 and Bowdoin 4 after the Polar Bears easy 7-2 win against Trinity (CT). Bowdoin looks to be well on their way to gaining the last Pool C bid and could be a dangerous team in the tournament. The 5 and 6 seeds are interesting cases. The NESCAC tournament only allows 6 teams in. Tufts, Trinity (CT) and Bates are competing for those spots. I'm really not sure how the selection will go because they all have wins over each other. Tufts has the best record in the conference, but I'm not sure if that means anything.

Overall seeding in NCAAs now looks like this:
1. Emory
2. CMS/Cruz
3. Amherst
4. Middlebury
5. Wash U
6. Kenyon
7. Chicago
8. Williams

And I really don't see many changes from my bracketology from a few weeks ago but I will update it and post a new one this week.