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).
The NCAA released the singles and doubles selections for the upcoming NCAA Championships and as expected the field was full of players from the Power 5 Conferences. 11 of the 64 men's singles selections came from outside of the Power 5 but only 1 of those came via an at-large with the rest being automatic qualifiers. Out of the 64 women's singles selections there were 15 from outside of the Power 5 with 4 from the West Coast Conference picking up at-large bids. You can see the full list of selections down below plus the NCAA's releases are linked here (men/women).
The men's top singles seed is UCLA's Martin Redlicki while Mississippi State's Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic are the top seed in the doubles draw. Texas's Bianca Turati is the top seed in the women's singles draw while Georgia Tech's Kenya Jones and Paige Hourigan are the top seed in the doubles draw.
The NCAA released the men's and women's team brackets on Tuesday and while many selections and top 16 seeds went as planned there were some adjustments made elsewhere in the bracket that at first seemed quite puzzling. The men's bracket had three teams (Utah, Utah State, and UC Santa Barbara) with rankings strong enough to make them a No. 3 seed but in the end they were placed in the traditional No. 4 spot. There were three teams (North Florida, South Alabama, and VCU) with rankings that would normally have put them as a No. 4 seed but they were bumped up to the No. 3 slot. Plus there were other teams that normally would have been No. 2s (Harvard & Old Dominion) but ended up as No. 3s while there were teams (Virginia & Miami) that would have been No. 3s that ended up as No. 2s.
The women's bracket didn't have any of the same craziness with all the teams ranked No. 17 to 32 ending up in the normal No. 2 slot, the teams ranked No. 33 to No. 48ish ending up as No. 3s, and the rest as No. 4s. The biggest omission from the bracket was Arkansas with the now coachless Razorbacks turned away after the six-match fiasco against Tennessee State (which was challenged) while Kansas State (the challenger) was put in as the last at-large. I have reached out to John Bugner (NCAA Assistant Director, Championships and Alliances) for comment on Arkansas not getting in and will update this post if I get a response. (Quote from the NCAA's Gail Dent: The NCAA Division I Tennis Committee reviewed a protest filed with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association regarding the University of Arkansas’ violation of ITA Rule I.E.4 (lineup changes in back-to-back dual matches) on three separate occasions during competition against Tennessee State University on April 22. The committee determined that the first violation warranted a warning and the two subsequent violations resulted in defaulting those two matches. For selection purposes, those two matches did not count, and Arkansas is 14-16.)
Up until this year the NCAA has filled each of the 16 regionals with a top 16 nationally ranked team, a No. 2 seed that was ranked No. 17-32, a No. 3 seed that was ranked No. 33-48, and a No. 4 seed that was ranked 49-64 (though typically the No. 4 seed was probably closer to 150). However late in 2016 a change was made by the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee, which went into effect this year, that permitted them to place unseeded teams (teams 17-64) geographically in the bracket instead of assigning them in pods (1 v 4; 2 v 3) as had been done in the past. If you look at each of the brackets you'll notice that it just lists a seed by the host team but it does not show a designation for any of the other three, i.e. 17-32, 33-48, 49-64.
I remember reading this when it came out in 2016 but I had since forgotten about it and that's why I was caught off guard as was everybody else. Hat tip to Slam.Tennis for bringing this up earlier today. Also make sure you fill out your bracket on Slam Tennis's May Madness Bracket Challenge.
The brackets down below also have the final ITA rankings as projected by CollegeTennisRanks.
It's NCAA selection time with the committee's choices set to be revealed at 5 p.m. ET (women) and 5:30 p.m. ET (men). The women's selections will be made first at this link and then the men follow 30 minutes later at this link.
If the selection committee goes off ITA rankings as its primary criteria, which they always do, then we pretty much know who is going to make it based off the projections on CollegeTennisRanks. I'll list those teams down below by projected seed.
If you want to get an idea on where each team will be placed you can check out the bracket projections on Slam Tennis (toggle between men/women). Slam Tennis also has a nice feature called You Be The Judge where you look at two resumes without seeing the school and you pick which one you think is more deserving of the higher seed.