Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 Pre-Season Rankings

1. Amherst - They may not go undefeated in the regular season but it doesn't matter. They are the best team and have shown they will raise their game in May. The Jeffs will win the national title if they play like they have the past three seasons. This team is loaded top to bottom and has no weaknesses. Anything can happen on any given day, but I just don't see them losing.

2. CMS - The only team who can seriously threaten Amherst in my opinion. They have a reputation for choking in May, but their top 4 is as good as its ever been this year. The Stags are hungry to finally break through and get to the national title match, but they have to be careful not to wear themselves out during the regular season, which I think may play a part in their postseason collapses.

3. Emory - You know what you're going to get from their top 2, but its their freshmen that will determine how good this team is. With the best 2 players in the country its hard to rank them at 3, but they aren't as deep as the top 2. They still have the intimidation factor going in their favor and I'd be surprised if they don't make the Final 4. They would have to get lucky to win it all.

4. Williams - 4 through 10 in these rankings I consider even, but I'm giving the edge to the Ephs for now due to their great postseason and fall season. They have some great players at the top and are deep and last year's young team managed to finish 4th in NCAAs. They, and their coach, are a year older and will use that experience to hopefully find their way back to the Final 4.

5. Wash U - On paper, they probably aren't the 5th best team in the country, but I really like the Bears intangibles. They are a fairly inexperienced team, but no matter what team they put on the court, they always manage a respectable performance. Beating Emory and their 5th straight Final 4 aren't out of reach, but just like last year, I don't think they have enough talent to win it all.

6. Middlebury - Another very young team, and I have the feeling most of the country isn't all that familiar with their roster. I'll be interested to see what kind of impact Hansen's coaching will have on their team because they certainly have a lot of talent. The Peters loss is tough to weigh at the moment. One sure thing is that the ultra-competitive NESCAC will test them and they will come to play in May.

7. UC Santa Cruz - A massive match to begin their season against Trinity (TX), and it will define this year's team. Can they win without Hansen is the question on everyone's mind. Their coaching staff remains excellent and they have a great team despite losing Pybas. I don't see them as a serious threat to CMS this season, but I'd also be very surprised if they dropped out of the top 8 in the country.

8. Kenyon - They overachieved in '11 and underachieved in '10, so if they revert to the mean this is about where they are in '12. They lose their top player, but some good recruits should keep them as a dominant force and a top 10 team. I can see them being as high as 4th, but historically they haven't been able to get past the Final 8 and beat the top teams. A well-rounded team that's still young.

9. Johns Hopkins - They have so much talent, no amount of choking will cause them to lose to a team outside the top 10. Or so we think. They have yet to get past the Sweet 16 and their postseason collapses have turned into a running joke. I think they will have a strong regular season and are a threat against anyone in the country, but no one cares about anything but NCAAs when it comes to JHU.

10. Pomona-Pitzer - Probably overachieved in '11, but this is still a good team who will be a tough out this season. Unfortunately they didn't win their most important matches of the season, but I can see them giving Cruz a run this year. As always they play a loaded schedule that will give them plenty of opportunities against the big boys, but they need to save something for May.

11. NC Wesleyan - As always, kind of a wildcard in all of this. They predicted national titles for themselves, but they haven't moved into the top echelon of teams yet. They have definitely established the program as a perennial top 15 team, but that signature win still eludes them. This season is another opportunity as I believe this strength of this team is overlooked due to their poor doubles in the past.

12. Trinity (TX) - Don't have quite the firepower they did last year, but still a respectable team with top players and depth. It would take a big time effort to get back to the Final 8 for the 3rd year in a row, but if anyone has the heart to do it its these guys. A good mix of youth and experience and if they field a strong doubles lineup like they usually do, anything can happen with the 9-pt system.

13. DePauw - They are switching conferences and I believe they are entering this season with high expectations after a somewhat disappointing last couple seasons. Last year they were better then their ranking while going through a coaching change and I expect them to pick up their level and challenge Kenyon for the conference title. This is a sleeper who could cause an upset if they get to NCAAs.

14. Chicago - A new coach, who is a female I might add, but still the same talent and high expectations. They had their best season in program history last year but still couldn't break through to the Final 8. I don't think they are quite as strong as last year, but they still remain a contender to make NCAAs and could give Wash U and Emory a hard time. Still up in the air on this team, hard to predict what they'll do.

15. Redlands - Probably don't deserve to be 15, but it seems like they always end up around here and they had a deep recruiting class after losing some key players. I see them as a distant 4th best team in California who will once again be on the brink for NCAAs. The difference between the past 2 seasons and all the other ones is they haven't been able to pull out their most important matches recently.

The Rest: Bowdoin, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western, Cal Lutheran, Mary Washington, Trinity (CT), MIT, Rhodes, Bates, Whitewater, Whitman, Gustavus, Tufts, Brandeis, Tyler, Skidmore, Vassar, Washington & Lee