After taking some time to analyze the draws that were released today for the NCAA Division 1 championships, there isn't anything approaching last year's "How Could They Possibly...." although there are a few head scratchers.
The NCAA tennis committee did not send any of the Top Eight seeds on the road for the regionals this year, which is a major improvement over last year, when both the No. 2 Ole Miss men and the No. 6 Baylor men were sent on the road. This year however, the defending NCAA women's champion Duke team, seeded tenth, will not be hosting a regional, and will instead be going to Charlottesville, where fellow ACC member Virginia, ranked 27th, will stage a regional. As it was last year, when the Fresno State women were sent on the road, the 16th spot is a precarious position for the women, and Texas, 16th this year, is also going to a conference opponent, Oklahoma, for a regional. Oklahoma, ranked 42nd, was the last at-large team to make the field. (Correction: Pepperdine, ranked 43rd, was the last at-large team selected).
There were a few minor variations in seedings vs. rankings, with all of them deferring to head-to-head results. Notre Dame's women, sixth in yesterday's rankings, were given the fifth seed, with No. 5 ranked Northwestern dropping to sixth, based on Notre Dame's win over the Wildcats this spring. The same for the switch between No. 13 Georgia Tech and No. 14 Tennessee, with the Volunteers getting the higher seed due to a head-to-head win. Because these are not crucial seedings, unlike 2/3, 4/5 and 8/9, it's rather odd that they even bothered with it.
As for the toughest regionals in the women's, I would say Georgia Tech may find Ole Miss a formidable opponent, Florida State will be challenged by South Carolina, Clemson and Georgia could be a good regional final as would Cal and USC.
Cindy Schmerler, the analyst who spoke to ESPNews on today's announcement show, predicted Stanford would oust top seed Baylor in the quarterfinals. She then picked Florida to win the women's event. I will be part of the annual Tennis Recruiting Network's roundtable next week, so I'll refrain from voicing my opinions until then.
On the men's side, there was only one top 16 seed that didn't get to host a regional, No. 14 Texas Tech. Instead, they will be traveling to Oklahoma, another conference rival, whom they've already beaten three times since March.
The flip-flops in seeding rankings are No. 8 Baylor getting the No. 7 seed, with Stanford, ranked 7th, getting the eighth seed, again based on Baylor's win over Stanford. The same is true with No. 11 Kentucky and No. 12 Georgia exchanging seeds due to the Bulldogs' victory.
I don't imagine any team relished seeing Wake Forest in their region, with the No. 22 Demon Deacons giving so many top teams so much trouble throughout the year, although rarely coming up with the victory. They landed in top seed Virginia's regional, and the Cavaliers also have No. 16 Duke, a team that is peaking right now, in the round of 16. But Duke has No. 19 North Carolina in their region, and the Tar Heels and Blue Devils went down to the wire before Duke won 4-3 last month.
No. 10 Texas A & M has a tough regional, with No. 18 Ole Miss coming to College Station, and No. 9 UCLA has No. 17 Cal to contend with in their regional. I think No. 15 Louisville has a very competitive regional, with No. 38 Vanderbilt and No. 23 Virginia Tech challenging them.
On ESPNews, Schmerler has a lot of faith in the Georgia men due to their home court advantage, but although she didn't pick a men's winner, she seemed to favor Ohio State or Virginia for the national championship.
Please use this post to add your comments and predictions about both the upcoming regionals and the team finals in Athens. For the always entertaining perspective of the Texas College Tennis blog's Granger Huntress, who is understandably steamed about the Texas women and the Texas Tech men being exiled from the Lone Star state, click here.
On Wednesday, the fields for the individual tournament will be announced.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010