This will be a BIG weekend for the 38th ranked NC State Wolfpack as they play four matches, two of them against very good conference opponents. They host Wake Forest and NC Central on Friday and Virginia and Winthrop on Sunday.
Syracuse is hoping to bounce back from a rough weekend, losing to Florida State and Miami, but it’s a tall order against the Duke Blue Devils. Gabriela Knutson continues to have a fantastic spring for the Orange as she became the first Syracuse player to crack the top 5 in ITA singles rankings.
I know Pitt would love to play spoiler and get that first conference win, unfortunately it is not looking good for them this weekend as they play host to two of the best in the conference, the Ga Tech Yellow Jackets and the Duke Blue Devils.
Miami is up to 16 in the latest polls and Estella Perez-Somarriba continues her phenomenal play, earning player of the week for the fourth time this season. They have a relatively easy week, playing host to the Hokies of Va Tech.
The Virginia Cavaliers have arguable the biggest weekend ahead, as they hit the road for two huge matchups. First, they go to Chapel Hill for a match against the Tar Heels before heading over to Raleigh for a match against the very in form Wolfpack of NC State. I am sure they would be happy to go 1-1, but it is very important to salvage at least one of these 2 matches.
It is also an important weekend for Wake to turn things around after losing back-to-back matches against William and Mary and Georgia Tech. They travel to NC State Friday before hosting Louisville on Sunday. If they could manage to win both of these it would be huge, but it is imperative that they at least win at home on Sunday.
The little bit of separation that was starting to show between the top two teams in the conference, and everyone else, was slammed shut with Georgia Tech stunning the Duke Blue Devils. Florida State notched two impressive wins against two teams that were coming in on a roll (Syracuse and Boston College).
With three to four matches remaining in conference play it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff and get down to it. We will see who belongs in that top tier with UNC and Duke. Clearly, Georgia Tech is right there with them this year and it will be fun to see what they can do in the postseason. Florida State is an intriguing squad that can play with anyone when they are at their best, as can Miami. Virginia does not appear to be quite up to that level this year, but with a matchup looming against #1 UNC next weekend, they can certainly change that perception. North Carolina State is playing very well at the moment. This past weekend they handled Louisville with extreme ease and seem to be moving up in the conference, as is Miami. Wake Forest is still an extremely good team capable of putting a run together. That leaves Virginia Tech, Louisville, Notre Dame, Boston College, and Pitt to play the role of spoiler.
With four to go, anything can still happen and judging from the way conference play has gone so far, it very well might!
The Mississippi State and Texas A&M Men made it through the second to last weekend of SEC regular season play unbeaten to bring us to what will undoubtedly be a winner take all showdown Friday in College Station. The two teams finish the regular season Sunday against the two teams in the cellar that you have to expect them to win. While the Bulldogs and Aggies were taking care of their end of the business one team that was not was Georgia. The reeling Bulldogs went into Tuscaloosa without Emil Reinberg or Walker Duncan, but did manage to have Robert Loeb back in the lineup. Unfortunately it wasn't enough and while it's hard to say it was a stunning loss it was yet another blow to a Georgia squad that now finds themselves in a pickle just trying to qualify for the NCAAs. It was also a good weekend for the last place team in the conference, Auburn, as they picked up their first conference win Sunday over Arkansas and went down to the wire losing 4-3 Friday to Ole Miss.
The big match for the Women this week was Florida at South Carolina in a battle between conference leaders. South Carolina entered unbeaten in the SEC while Florida only had one loss and a chance to pull even with the Gamecocks. The weather wreaked havoc with the match before it ever got started moving the match time up to 8 a.m. Saturday and playing singles first trying to beat the rain. Even with the modified schedule the rain intervened and forced a long delay with the match tied 2-2. When play resumed Florida took 7 of the 8 games played and closed out the two remaining matches to upset the Gamecocks and post a 4-2 win and pull into a tie for the conference lead.
Now that April is here each and every weekend will shape what the postseason will look like and this past weekend was no exception. There were some men's teams that were ranked in the 50s or lower that really stepped it up while there were some teams in the 30s and 40s that really fell flat. With the at-large cutoff into the NCAAs expected to be in the lower 40s that means some teams found hope while others found despair.
Two of the biggest winners on the men's side were Virginia Tech and Indiana.
Virginia Tech entered the weekend with a 12-6 record and a ranking of No. 53 but after upsetting No. 12 Florida State 4-3 and then blowing out No. 43 Miami 7-0 the Hokies are expected to jump all the way up to around No. 40. Virginia Tech has three regular season matches remaining against No. 69 VCU, No. 40 Louisville, and No. 42 Virginia and all three are at home. A sweep of the three would put Virginia Tech into the NCAAs with ease which is something that I didn't foresee prior to this past week.
It's hard to believe but the first conference tournament gets started in two weeks with the bulk then coming the following two weeks after that. There will be 29 men's conference tournaments this year (down from 30 after the Missouri Valley went away) 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 Valparaiso which won the Horizon League last year but is now in the Summit League. There will be 34 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament with the at-large ranking cutoff expected to be 43 or 44.
Below is a look at the conference races with the contenders listed for all of my projected 1-bid leagues - of course that doesn't mean a darkhorse can't rise to the occasion and pull off an upset. For the Power 5, AAC, CUSA, and Ivy League 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. So for those teams from the mid-major to lower-major conferences that are already ranked below 50 it'll be tough for them to make up the ground needed to get higher than the at-large cutoff.
The Big XII conference matches finally get underway this weekend. With only six men’s teams in the conference, it will be a fast and furious finish to the season. All the teams are ranked in the top 30, and we will see several impressive matches this weekend.
The hottest team in the conference remains TCU after their 7-0 win Tuesday against UT Arlington. They were dominant, playing their full lineup, except for resting Alex Rybakov at #1 doubles and at #1 singles. They travel to Austin to take on the Longhorns in the only Big XII match on Saturday (2:00). Last year’s TCU-Texas match was a top-ten match-up to close out the regular season. TCU won 4-1. This year is sure to be another big time showdown.
Texas will look to rebound after its loss to #31 Tulane last Thursday, with a surprising score line of 4-0. Last year, Texas saved match points against Tulane in the second round of the NCAA tournament but this time was unable to win those big points and get on the scoreboard.