This weekend had all the feel of the calm before the storm, with next weekend being the final matches before tourney time. Pretty much every team did exactly as expected this weekend. NC State continues to have a strong April, although they faltered on Sunday to a Virginia team that needed to prove it could win some tough conference matches, especially on the road. The Cavs split the weekend in Carolina, dropping their match against UNC on Friday.
The heavyweights took care of business with Duke beating an up and coming Syracuse team. Wake did enough to remain in the mix taking care of Louisville on Sunday, but its loss on Friday to NC State felt like a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions. Georgia Tech, Miami, and Florida State all had relatively easy weekends without being tested. Louisville, Notre Dame, Va Tech, and Pittsburgh were unable to play the role of spoiler.
Boston College has had a fairly positive spring and was able to get its first-ever win against Notre Dame on Friday.
With all the regular season conference play winding down it's that time of year where teams gear up for conference tournaments (except the Ivy League, those smart guys sit back and watch... wait it's better to play more to have a chance to improve your ranking right? not sure who the smart one's are here). At the same time everyone is gearing up for conference tournaments all the teams that have a legitimate shot at hosting start looking at the rankings trying to figure out if they have a shot of making the top 16 to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. So of course you are wondering, how's it look for my team? Well, ask no more. Below you'll find the outlook for each team and as events occur that change the outlook I'll update the post and put an update date on it. So without further ado...
#16 Southern Cal at Arizona - Arizona has had a seemingly cursed season with several close losses. They won't have to worry about that this weekend as USC should win this match fairly easily. Prediction: USC 4-0
#31 Cal at #4 Stanford - Stanford won the first meeting between these two rivals back in February 4-1. Cal has improved since the last meeting and Stanford's elite aura has been somewhat diminished since February. The Bears will give the Cardinal a closer match this time around. Prediction: Stanford 4-3
Washington at #35 Utah - Utah needs to defend the home court against unranked Washington to keep its march toward the NCAA tournament on the correct route. Washington is desperate for wins to keep its slim tournament hopes alive. This will be a tight match and so far this season, Utah has been clutch in the tight moments while Washington has succumbed in most of the close matches. I expect Utah to get the job done in the end. Prediction: Utah 4-2
#2 UCLA at #33 Arizona State - UCLA has hit its stride and is looking like a legitimate national contender. Arizona State has proved this season that winning in Tempe is not easy and they will certainly have a big crowd on hand to support their Sun Devils. Prediction: UCLA 4-2
Big weekend coming up in the ACC. Today I will preview the Friday matches (Saturday/Sunday preview to come early on Saturday).
There is actually one Thursday match but it is Florida State at Boston College and we all know how the BC ACC matches go.
#1 Wake Forest at #39 Louisville - Louisville got a very much needed win last weekend at Duke. It kept their ranking from sinking below 40 and stopped the string of three straight ACC losses. Wake Forest did not look extremely impressive vs Clemson and Georgia Tech last weekend but they were able to get two wins despite some players missing for Davis Cup. This match will be closer than people may expect with it being at Louisville and Wake hitting a slight lull in form recently. But in the end the Deacs are just too talented to lose this match . Prediction: Wake Forest 5-2
#23 NC State at #49 Virginia - The importance of this match cannot be stressed enough. Virginia absolutely must defend home courts and win this match if they wish to make the NCAA tournament this season. Following the heartbreaking loss to Duke, Virginia has gone on to lose three more in a row after that to complete a four match losing streak. Gianni Ross did not play vs Florida State. UVA will need him in the lineup if they are to upset NC State, who is on a four match win streak of their own. With their backs against the wall, I think Virginia will come together behind their fans and find a way to defeat NC State. Prediction: Virginia 4-3
WOW! What a week! The SEC could not have planned this any better. We are down to the final weekend of the regular season and both the men's and women's titles are up for grabs and the teams involved are playing each other. For the men it's Mississippi State at Texas A&M Friday night in what amounts to a winner-take-all match as it would be a complete shock if either team lost to LSU or Auburn Sunday after winning this match. On the women's side you have Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt in a three-way tie and we get Vanderbilt at South Carolina and Vanderbilt at Florida. Assuming that Florida and South Carolina take care of Kentucky in their other match (they both play Kentucky) the conference title comes down to who doesn't lose in the three-way battle. Vanderbilt gets the tougher path as they have to win two big matches as Florida and South Carolina just have the one (in addition to Kentucky).
This week's focus is all about the SEC regular season titles as well as positioning for the SEC and NCAA Tournament's so the preview will be similarly focused.
Last week I took a look at the men's conference races so now it's time for the women. There will be 30 women's conference tournaments this year with each winner earning an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The only conference that does not have a tournament is the Ivy League which awards its automatic berth to the regular season champion. The only school that won't be able to defend its conference title will be Wichita State which moved from Missouri Valley to the American after winning nine straight MVC titles. There will be 33 at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament with the at-large ranking cutoff expected to be 41 or 42.
Below is a look at the conference races with the contenders listed for all of my projected 1-bid leagues. For the Power 5, AAC, and CUSA I'll list who I think is probably in along with teams that will be on the bubble. Teams in the bigger conferences have enough matches left against ranked teams to make a move while teams in the one-bid leagues will not.