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

Tuesday, 08 May 2018 04:10

NCAA Tournament Men's Facts & Figures

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We are just days away from the start of this year's NCAA Tournament with seven sites firing up on Friday while the other nine begin play on Saturday. 15 of the 16 host sites will have live scoring (USC has video with scores on it but no actual scoring page) and at least 9 will have streaming video - check my live scoring page to see who is doing what. The Power 5 conferences accounted for 36 (56%) of the 64 bids with the SEC putting 10 teams in, the ACC with 9, the Pac-12 with 7, the Big XII with all 6 of its teams, and the Big Ten with 4. The only other conferences to put multiple teams in were the Ivy League at 3 and the American at 2. 

UCLA will be appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 42nd year in a row, which is every year since the team format was started in 1977, while it'll be the 35th year in a row for Georgia. 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. 

There are going to be some 4-3 matches this weekend and more times than not the team that claims the doubles point will win the match. Of the 64 teams competing in this year's tournament, Ohio State plays the best doubles with the Buckeyes winning the doubles point 87.1% of the time while TCU is second at 86.4%. There are three schools that made the field with a doubles percentage less than 50% with the worst being Lamar at just 28.6%. I have the full list down below. 

The team with the highest UTR Power 6 as of 5/8/18 is Texas A&M with the Aggies coming in at 84.7 which is an average of 14.1 per player. The second, third, and fourth highest are only separated by .1 with Wake Forest at 84.6, Ohio State at 84.5, and North Carolina at 84.4. 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 (Oklahoma State's Julian Cash, TCU's Alastair Gray, Virginia's Henrik Wiersholm, Oklahoma's Spencer Papa) or other reasons (Francisco Cerundolo left South Carolina, Santiago Plaza not showing on ETSU's roster). The only team where I made a change was Wake Forest who would have been No. 8 at 83.7 because the roster that Tony Bresky submitted has Eduardo Nava listed at 5 and Alan Gadjiev at 6. They might use that lineup against Navy but from there on out I'd expect to see Christian Seraphim at 5 and Rrezart Cungu at 6 which elevates the team's Power 6 to 84.6.  

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 yet to be a year where all the top 16 seeds survived the opening weekend and in fact in 17 of the 19 years more than one top 16 seed has been defeated. In the past I tracked who advanced to the Sweet 16 by seed within the bracket but since the NCAA changed its procedures this year there won't actually be 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 matchups at each site. Having said that no team has defeated a top 16 seed in the first round and then won another match in the second round to make it the Sweet 16. The closest a team has come was Denver in 2013 when the Pioneers stunned Florida in the first round before falling to Cal in the second round.  

This year the very successful Northwestern University women’s tennis program looked to do little and started the season unranked.  Head coach Claire Pollard and her Wildcats had won Big Ten titles from 1999-2014 without interruption, 16 consecutive seasons, 16 consecutive Big Ten conference or tournament titles.  With three highly-ranked Big Ten rivals this might have been Pollard's first class to leave NU without a conference trophy. Unranked at the start of the season they proceeded to knock off three top seven teams (Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Illinois) in a two-week window and then finished the regular season by winning 16 of their final 17, which also included road wins over Michigan and Ohio State, to win the Big Ten regular season title outright.

The Wildcats came within a whisker of also winning the Big Ten Tournament Championship before falling in a 4-3 heartbreaker to Michigan. The Cats were selected as the No. 14 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and will host a regional with a first-round match against MAC Champion Buffalo. What follows are some questions and answers that head coach Claire Pollard generously provided for College Tennis Today. 

Q:  Claire, first of all congratulations on an outstanding 2018 season.  Your team started this season unranked before beating SEC champions Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, and three ranked Big Ten teams to become outright Big Ten champions. What do you think of polls and how did you engineer your team’s mindset to reach up and get those big wins?

CP:  I'm not concerned with opinion and that's all the rankings are at the start of the year.  It’s an impossible task at the start of the year except for a few no brainer teams.  I've always concerned myself with what we can control which is development and getting the most out of ourselves at all times. If we do that, results and rankings will take care of themselves when it really matters (the end of the season).

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