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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NCAA Team Champions Start Season at No. 1; Burdette, Frank Top ITA Singles Rankings, Johnson Not Ranked

The ITA's first team rankings since June and the first individual rankings since September were released today, and there were no real surprises in the team rankings, with women's NCAA champion Florida and men's NCAA champion USC voted No. 1. The 2011 NCAA finalists, the Stanford women and Virginia men, are predictably in the No. 2 position. Most of the rankings follow teams' season ending rankings, with Tennessee men the most notable exception. The Volunteers finished fourth in the final 2011 poll, but with the loss of Smith, Williams, Sandgren and Conkic, have been dropped to 13th in the first poll of 2012. The women didn't have any team with that dramatic a drop, although Miami went from No. 7 to No. 11.

Things get a bit more interesting in the individual rankings. Junior Mallory Burdette of Stanford, who played No. 2 last year and did not win either of the fall tournaments, is No. 1 to start the spring season. Indoor Intercollegiate champion Marta Lesniak of SMU, who may have challenged Burdette for the top spot, is not ranked, and I believe she graduated in December and will not use her final semester of eligibility. SMU is still without a head coach, after Lauren Longbotham Meisner left this fall to take the women's head coaching position at Auburn. Allie Will of Florida, who won the All-American title but played mostly professional events this fall, is third, behind 2010 NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia. The reigning NCAA champion, Jana Juricova of Cal, is ranked fifth, and she is the only international player in the Top 10.

With Virginia's Mitchell Frank winning both the All American and the Indoor Intercollegiate you wouldn't think there would be any controversy around the freshman's No. 1 ranking, and there's no question he was the best player in college this fall. The elephant in the room however is NCAA champion Steve Johnson of USC, who is returning for his senior dual match season, but is not ranked. I understand why players who start school in January are not ranked, but this circumstance seems to warrant an exception. The ITA's FAQs on rankings (always worth re-reading this time of year) doesn't address this particular issue, but it does say that for the first ranking of the year, the committee can adjust two players rankings per region if they are significantly out of line. The problem for Johnson is that he doesn't have a regional ranking either. Given that he ended the 2011 season on a 35-match winning streak in college and is currently ranked 372 on the ATP computer, it just doesn't feel right that he isn't ranked to start 2012.

The top spot in men's doubles is held by Ohio State's Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola, who won both the fall majors. Burdette and Nicole Gibbs of Stanford, who won the All-American in October, are at the top of the women's doubles rankings.

See the ITA pages for men's and women's rankings for the complete lists of team and individual rankings.


Overplayed said...

Johnson is a special player but does not deserve special treatment. I don't feel like anything is missing with him (or Domijan who sadly already seems to be "yesterday's news") missing from the top of the rankings. I actually think there's too much attention given to such a nonissue. It'll all be forgotten by the end of the year when he goes undefeated anyway.

wotten wun said...

Didn't see it coming but am delighted Stanford's Mallory Burdette starts 2012 atop NCAA women rankings--may Mal validate it all season. My congrats to her and Nicole Gibbs for reigning in dubs as well.

nonissue said...

agree w/ overplayed. Makes a joke of rankings to put players in who haven't played when some players have played 15-20 college matches already. This happens every year and the good players quickly get results to move them back up the rankings.