Conference tournaments are done and now it's time for the NCAA Tournament. The five schools to win both men's and women's championships were Alabama State (SWAC), Idaho (Big Sky), North Florida (Atlantic Sun), VCU (Atlantic 10), and Texas (Big XII).
There were 29 men's conference tournaments with 18 (62%) won by the No. 1 seed, 7 won by the No. 2 seed, 3 won by the No. 3 seed, and 1 won by a No. 4 seed. There were 30 women's conference tournaments with 17 (56%) won by the No. 1 seed, 10 won by the No. 2 seed, 1 won by a No. 3 seed, and 2 won by a No. 4 seed.
There were three men's schools (Lamar/North Florida/Texas) that won the conference tournament as the host team while there were seven women's schools (Army/Denver/Georgia State/Missouri State/North Florida/Texas/Winthrop) to pull off the same feat.
The 16 women's schools that repeated as conference champions were Alabama State, Buffalo, Denver (5X), Furman, Idaho (5X), LIU Brooklyn, North Carolina (3X), North Florida (4X), Pepperdine (6X), Quinnipiac (5X), Stanford, UMKC, Vanderbilt, William & Mary (4), Winthrop (3X), and Youngstown State (5X). As you can see there were a lot of schools that have won it more than two years in a row with Pepperdine leading the charge with six straight WCC Championships.
The 13 men's schools that repeated as conference champions were Alabama State, Bryant (5X), East Tennessee State (12X), Idaho, Lamar (3X), Monmouth (3X), Ohio State (3X), San Diego (5X), Tennessee Tech (3X), UC Santa Barbara (4X), UNC Wilmington, Utah State, and VCU. East Tennessee State has won 12 straight conference tournament titles with the last four coming in the Southern Conference.
We touched up on the men's bubble watch earlier so now let's discuss the women. I listed all the teams ranked 37 to 50, excluding the conference champions, however both No. 37 Wichita State and No. 38 NC State are probably both going to get in since there is a few point drop off down to No. 40 Clemson. The at-large cutoff is expected to be at 41 with eight conference champions currently ranked inside the top 41 so that means out of the list of teams from 40 to 50 there are only going to be two spots open to fill.
The final week of the regular season is coming to a close and while some teams wrapped up play last week others are playing conference tournaments this week. If you are ranked in the 38 to 50 range that means you're on the bubble so not only do you want to keep winning (if you have matches left) but you also need others around you to fall so they don't pass you. I'll go team-by-team to tell you what each team needs to do to give themselves their best chance of securing an NCAA at-large bid. The at-large cutoff is expected to be at either 42 or 43 with San Diego's outcome at the WCC Tournament determining which number it'll be. A USD title would mean 43 while a USD loss would mean 42.
Twelve automatic bids went out last week on the women's side, eleven conference tournaments and the Ivy League, with the top seed winning seven conference tournaments and the two seed winning the other four. Below are last week's big winners and further below are the teams that were last week's biggest losers.
Vanderbilt - the Commodores won the SEC Championship for the second year in a row, third time in the last four years, with a 4-0 win over the second seed Florida. VU junior Fernanda Contreras clinched the match with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 2. The top seeds defeated Texas A&M 4-1 in the quarterfinals and Ole Miss 4-1 in the semifinals.
Ten automatic bids went out last week on the men's side, nine conference tournaments and the Ivy League, with the top seed winning just four conference tournaments, the two seed winning three, and the three seed winning two. Below are last week's big winners and further below are the teams that were last week's biggest losers.
Tulane - the Green Wave captured its first American Athletic Conference Championship, and first conference championship since 2005, with a 4-3 win over four-time defending champion South Florida. Tulane sophomore Tim Ruetzel clinched the title with a 6-3, 6-7, 7-5 win at No. 6.
Saturday was moving day with some teams moving into conference finals, and/or wrapping up regular season play with a huge win, while others moved off the bubble and into an early offseason after a tough loss. Let's start off with conference tournament action in the American Athletic Conference. A week ago the four-time reigning AAC Champion South Florida Bulls looked like a team that was ready to call it a season after losing six of seven and heading into the regular season finale against UCF with just a 7-15 record. But somehow the Bulls have caught fire and after taking it to UCF in the War on I-4 they've now found themselves in a fifth straight conference final after a pair of 4-3 wins over No. 4 seed Wichita State and No. 1 seed Memphis.
On Friday in the Wichita State match, it was junior Alberto Barroso-Campos that was the hero after he won the final three games to win the decider at No. 1 over Haru Inoue 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Then on Saturday against No. 18 Memphis, the Bulls came back from 3-2 down with senior Grayson Goldin defeating Kai Lemke 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 3 and sophomore Pierre Luquet clinching the match with a 6-4, 7-6 win over Chris Patzanvsky at No. 4. The result was one that took many, including me, by surprise because Memphis had just defeated USF 4-0 a little over two weeks ago in a match that Memphis thoroughly dominated winning doubles matches 6-0 and 6-1 and singles matches 6-2, 6-0; 6-3, 6-2; and 6-0, 6-0. On another note USF is now a perfect 14-0 in AAC conference tournament play.
South Florida (recap) head coach Ashley Fisher on the big win, "A lot of people were surprised by today's result, but no one that has anything to do with USF men's tennis. We have always known that when we leave it out there as a team and embrace big moments, anything is possible. Pierre Luquet grew up in front of my eyes today and we got inspiring performances from Grayson and Kuba. We played the best doubles point of the season and maintained an incredible level of energy and passion throughout the match. I couldn't be any prouder of this group than I am right now".
Third-ranked Vanderbilt, playing without its top player Astra Sharma (rib injury), captured its second straight SEC regular season championship in dramatic fashion on the road in Gainesville. The Commodores fell behind No. 10 Florida 3-1 and were trailing on each of the three remaining courts. Vandy junior Emily Smith trimmed the deficit to 3-2 by coming back from a break down in both the second and third sets to defeat Katie Kubicz 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 6. Vandy sophomore Christina Rosca tied it at 3-3 after coming back from 2-0 down in the third to defeat Josie Kuhlman 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 at No. 2. In the deciding match at No. 5, Vandy junior Summer Dvorak came back from a double-break 4-1 third-set deficit to defeat Peggy Porter 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. The Commodores are the top seed in this week's SEC Tournament in Knoxville.
Texas Tech, ranked No. 13, improved to 16-5 after going on the road and sweeping No. 51 Oklahoma and No. 11 Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders rolled over the higher-ranked OSU Cowgirls 4-1 on Sunday after getting a scare from OU on Friday. Against OU, Tech squeezed out the doubles point by winning tiebreaks at No. 1 and No. 2 and then extended the lead to 3-0 with wins at No. 4 and No. 6. OU swept the top three singles spots to tie it at 3-3 but Tech's Sarah Dvorak held on to win the decider 7-6(4) in the third. Texas Tech, which closes out the regular season with road matches at Iowa State and West Virginia, should all but be a lock to host a regional.
It was a pretty wild weekend of college tennis with several unexpected surprises. Some teams positioned themselves really well to get a NCAA at-large bid while others took some bad losses and may have put themselves on the outside looking in.
We will start with the big winners of the week on the men's side. Dartmouth extended its winning streak to four, and put itself in position to win its first Ivy League title since 1997, after coming back from a 3-0 deficit to stun No. 15 Columbia 4-3. Dartmouth senior Max Fliegner tied the match at 3-3 after coming back from a break down in the third set to defeat Columbia sophomore Adam Ambrozy 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-4. Ambrozy was serving up 3-2 (40/15) in the third set before being overruled on an out call and after being assessed a point-penalty (3rd overrule) he lost the 40/40 point to make it 3-3. After an exchange of holds, Fliegner was serving 4-4 (40/30) when Ambrozy called a serve out. Fliegner appealed the call to the chair and when the overrule was granted that meant it was game, set, and match since it was Ambrozy's fourth overrule which resulted in a game penalty. By this time Dartmouth freshman Dan Martin had opened up a 4-0 lead in the third set at No. 3 and would go on to close out Columbia freshman Jack Lin 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-0.
The win by the Big Green snapped Columbia's seven-year Ivy League home winning streak which dated back to April 23, 2011.
Dartmouth entered the weekend in good shape to get an at-large bid but after beating Columbia and Cornell they don't have to worry about being on the bubble any more. The Big Green can secure the Ivy's automatic bid by defeating Penn and Princeton at home next weekend.
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.