Tuesday, 15 May 2018 17:00

NCAA Women's Sweet 16 Preview

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Vanderbilt Quarter:

[1] Vanderbilt vs. [16] Miami: The top seeded Commodores enter this match riding a 13-match winning streak while the No. 16 seeded Hurricanes have won 9 of their last 10. Vanderbilt didn't have any issues in its opening round matches against Alabama State and Clemson while Miami cruised past LIU Brooklyn 4-0 before winning a close 4-3 match over UCF.  For Miami to have any chance of pulling the upset they must find a way to win the doubles point because Vanderbilt will be favored on just about every court in singles. I'm going to take Vanderbilt in doubles and Rosca, Meyer, and Dvorak in singles to send the Dores back to the quarterfinals for the fourth year in a row. 

Vandy Miami

For the most part Sunday was a pretty ho-hum day, compared to the excitement and drama from the previous two days, but it all changed late in the evening (well past midnight my time) when No. 38 Ole Miss stunned No. 4 Stanford 4-3. Stanford entered the match as a heavy favorite, was undefeated at home, and since the field had been expanded to 64 teams in 1999 there had never been a No. 4 seed that had failed to advance to the Sweet 16 but Ole Miss didn't care about any of that. 

Stanford had won the doubles point in 20 of its 25 matches and after winning 6-3 at No. 2 it looked like they might make it 21 of 26. However Ole Miss's Fabian Fallert and Finn Reynolds would come back from an early break down to win 7-5 at No. 3 and then minutes later Ole Miss's Tim Sandkaulen and Grey Hamilton would consolidate a late break to win 7-5 at No. 1. It was the second day in a row that the Rebels had taken the doubles point and marked the 17th time in 27 matches that they had jumped out to the early 1-0 lead. 

Stanford came back in singles and claimed four opening sets and in fact five of the six matches would finish in straight sets. Ole Miss junior Filip Kraljevic put the Rebels ahead 2-0 with a 7-5, 6-3 win at No. 3 but Stanford would counter with wins from Tom Fawcett at No. 1, Eric Fomba at No. 4, and David Wilczynski at No. 5 to take a 3-2 lead. 

Ole Miss sophomore Tim Sandkaulen knotted the match at 3-3 with a 7-6, 6-3 win over former ITF junior #1 Axel Geller but the Rebels still were still down a set in the remaining match at No. 6. 

Stanford sophomore William Genesen broke Ole Miss freshman Finn Reynolds on the no-ad point to go up 6-2, 6-5 but he'd be unable to serve it out with Reynolds fighting off a match point, on the no-ad point via a double fault, to force a tiebreak. Genesen raced out to a 6-3 lead in the tiebreak, which meant he had three more match points, but Reynolds stayed the course and won the next five points to force a third set. If you want to watch the tiebreak and third set check out this video from J10S (fast forward to 11:30 mark which has Genesen up 6-3 in the TB).

Genesen bounced back in the third set and took an early 2-0 lead however Reynolds would take the next six games to close it out 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 to send the Rebels back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2012.  

We knew it was coming but we just didn't know where and when it'd happen. I'm of course referring to a seeded team going down before the Sweet 16 which after yesterday has now occurred every year on the men's side since the field was expanded in 1999 and in 19 of the last 20 years on the women's side. 

We'll start with the women which wrapped up all 16 regionals on Saturday. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane had been knocking on the door for the last several years but after 11 straight NCAA appearances that ended in the first or second round they busted through to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history with a 4-2 win in Stillwater over No. 8 seed Oklahoma State. 

Tulsa grabbed the early 1-0 lead after winning the doubles point for the 23rd time in 28 matches with a 6-2 win at No. 3 and a 6-4 win at No. 1. The teams split first sets in singles but Tulsa's lead quickly grew to 2-0 after Shura Poppe won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 6 singles which came a day after she won her match against LSU 6-1, 6-0. Oklahoma State won the next two matches to finish at No. 3 and No. 4 but Tulsa regained the lead after Vera Ploner won 6-4, 7-6(5) at No. 5.

Both of the remaining matches went to third sets but it didn't take long for Tulsa sophomore Martina Okalova to pull away from Megan McCray and clinch the match with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 win. 

Friday, 11 May 2018 18:10

Wild Opening Day at the NCAA Tournament

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Friday was a jammed packed day of college tennis with 46 NCAA Tournament matches taking place. The women took center stage with all 16 regionals in action while 7 of the 16 men's regional kicked off as well. All 23 of the seeded teams won 4-0 except for the Oklahoma State women who defeated UMKC 4-1. There were a slew of great women's matches with UCF, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Illinois, Kansas, Baylor, and Winthrop winning by 4-3 scores while Mississippi State, Virginia, Wake Forest, Tulsa, and Oregon won by a 4-2 score. The three teams that won by 4-1 scores were Wichita State, Clemson, and the aforementioned Oklahoma State. The higher ranked team won 28 of 32 women's matches with Clemson, Wichita State, Winthrop, and Kansas State the four lower ranked winners. 

UCF and Winthrop won their first NCAA Tournament matches in school history with UCF defeating FIU 4-3 while Winthrop upset #20 Auburn 4-3. This was UCF's fifth NCAA appearance while Winthrop was making its 16th trip to the dance with all 16 of those appearances coming since the year 2000. 

10 of the 14 men's matches played on Friday ended with a 4-0 score with Kentucky's win over Virginia Tech and Baylor's win over Arizona State the two that most wouldn't have expected to be that lopsided. The other four matches all saw lower ranked teams pull off upset wins over their higher ranked opponents.

The top two teams in the American Athletic Conference were both knocked out with #77 South Alabama winning its first NCAA match in 10 years with a 4-3 win over #21 Memphis while #42 Alabama won its first NCAA match in 9 years with a 4-1 win over No. 23 Tulane. Coincidentally South Alabama's last win came over Alabama. 

California, ranked No. 34, blew past No. 24 NC State 4-1 with the Bears dropping the doubles point but then coming back in singles to win 10 of 11 sets. 

Minnesota, ranked No. 37, ousted last year's semifinalist No. 19 Georgia 4-3. The Gophers dropped the doubles point but won all the close sets in singles with senior Felix Corwin fighting off a match point in the second set to clinch the victory with a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 win over fellow senior Wayne Montgomery. The loss by Georgia marks the first time since 2003 that the Bulldogs failed to make it to at least the Sweet 16. 

The NCAA Tournament is now just 1 day away with all 16 women's sites starting on Friday and finishing on Saturday. All 16 sites will have live scoring and 12 will have streaming video - check my live scoring page for links. The Power 5 conferences accounted for 35 (55%) of the 64 bids with the SEC putting 11 teams in, the ACC with 10, the Big XII with 6, and the Pac-12 and Big Ten with 4 each. The only other conferences to put multiple teams in were the American at 3 and Conference USA at 2. 

UCLA and Stanford will be appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 37th year in a row, which is every year since the team format was started in 1982, while it'll be the 36th year in a row for Florida. There were three significant streaks that came to an end this year with Cal missing the tournament for the first time ever, USC missing for the first time in 26 years, and Notre Dame missing for the first time in 22 years. I have a list down below of all the schools that have made it at least 10 years in a row and while most of the schools are familiar names there are a few that you might not expect. 

Of the 64 teams competing in this year's tournament, LIU Brooklyn and McNeese play the best doubles with both teams winning the doubles point 90.5% of the time while FIU is third at 89.5%. There are 11 schools that made the field with a doubles percentage of 50% or less with the worst being Georgia State at just 26.9% - of course the Panthers only have five healthy players so they've been forfeiting #3 doubles since the midpoint of the year. I have the full list down below. 

The team with the highest UTR Power 6 as of 5/8/18 is Stanford with the Cardinal edging out Pepperdine by .06 (70.21 to 70.15) which is an average of 11.7 per player. Georgia, Duke, and Vanderbilt rounded out the top five at 69.9, 69.6, and 69.3. These numbers will differ some from what you see on UTRs site because I used the actual lineups that the schools submitted whereas UTR has some players listed in the top 6 that won't play due to injury (Georgia State's Arina Taluyenko, Miami's Sofia Sewing, Pepperdine's Jessica Failla) or other/unknown reasons (Florida State's Emmanuelle Salas, Oklahoma State's Lisa-Marie Rioux). Also of note is Morgan State didn't enter a lot of results in the ITA's system so therefore the results also weren't in UTRs. 

As I mentioned on my men's breakdown, for those filling out a bracket over at Slam.Tennis I'd recommend that you plan on having at least one top 16 seed get upset during the first two rounds. Since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999, there has only been one year (2007) where all the top 16 seeds survived the opening weekend. A top 16 seed has never lost in the first round. 

Wednesday, 09 May 2018 14:00

NCAA Men's Regional Previews

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I gave you plenty of numbers to look over yesterday now its time for more with all the first and second round capsules listed below. Six of the 32 first round matches will be rematches from the regular season with North Carolina, Columbia, USC, and Michigan expected to have repeat performances while South Carolina and Texas Tech will have to work hard to repeat their earlier wins. All the regional hosts should win their openers pretty comfortably with TCU and USC the only ones that might yield a point with the emphasis on might. Almost all the early matches should be competitive with plenty of 4-2 and 4-3 scores expected. 

Past history tells us that the chances of all the hosts advancing to the Sweet 16 is pretty slim (hasn't happened yet) so my upset pick this year is Tulane. If I had to guess I'd say the most popular upset pick among the masses will be Georgia but I personally don't see it happening this year. 

Columbia is the only team that is hosting at a site other than its usual home courts since the NCAA requires outdoors courts whereas Columbia just has indoor courts. The three-time defending champion Virginia Cavaliers have ended Columbia's season in two of the last three years but I have a feeling that Columbia is going to get some revenge this year. 

Enjoy the capsules down below - for easier viewing on mobile turn your device sideways and if you click on them they should enlarge. You can also view them all in this google sheet

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