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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fields Set for NCAA Division I Team Championships, with Wake Forest Men and Florida Women Top Seeds; USTA Pro Circuit Events Underway in Savannah, Tampa and Charleston

I'm back from Ojai just in time for the NCAA's announcement of the fields for the NCAA Team Championships beginning on May 12th at sites on campuses across the country. The 16 winners will move on to Athens Georgia for the finals, which run from May 18-23.

Bobby Knight at College Tennis Today and Granger Huntress at Texas College Tennis have been tracking the fields and rankings over the past several weeks and providing information on rankings (which the ITA does not release prior to its field announcement) seeding, hosting and who would travel where. There were only two real points of contention for the men, one big and one small.  The big one was the last at-large team in, which turned out to be Washington, with the Huskies beating out Portland, ranked one place higher but the loser in their head-to-head.  Texas A&M moved up one spot, to the 12th seed, with Georgia dropping to 13th, also due to a head-to-head win.  Alabama State, who won the men's SWAC tournament, is ineligible for NCAA postseason play this year due to an NCAA penalty, so Jackson State is in instead.

The last host in is Stanford, getting the No. 16 seed, with Michigan, at 17, the team with the best ranking forced to travel.  It's the first time the Stanford men have hosted since 2012. The 16 men's seeds:

1. Wake Forest
2. Virginia
3. Ohio State
4. Southern California
6. TCU
7. Baylor
8. Cal
9. North Carolina
10. Oklahoma State
11. Texas
12. Texas A&M
13. Georgia
14. Oklahoma
15. Florida
16. Stanford

The men's bracket is here.

While the rankings Bobby and Granger provided for the men were the same, their women's rankings differ and the result has just led to confusion for me.

First, the women's seeds:

1. Florida
2. North Carolina
3. Ohio State
4. Vanderbilt
5. Georgia
6. Texas Tech
7. Stanford
8. Georgia Tech
9. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan
11. Auburn
12. Pepperdine
13. Cal
14. South Carolina
15. Duke
16. Baylor

Kentucky, 17, is the highest ranked team not hosting.  Texas Tech was given the No. 6 seed over Stanford, who was ranked sixth, and there was no head-to-head, but Texas Tech beat Pepperdine and Stanford lost to Pepperdine, so perhaps that was the committee's justification.

Granger had Florida 1, North Carolina 2, Vanderbilt 3 and Ohio State 4. Bobby had projected Florida 1, Ohio State 2, Vanderbilt 3 and North Carolina 4 in the rankings used by the committee (again, these are not published).  Switching 3 and 4 is not a huge deal, but switching 2 and 3 is, although now is probably a good time to point out that Stanford won the title last year as the No. 15 seed and as the No. 12 seed in 2013.  Anyway, the top 16 seeds are the same teams both projected, just in a different order.

The women's bracket is here.

The last team out as an at-large was Florida International, at 42. Several teams high enough in the men's rankings were not invited due to the sub-.500 rule. Those include Texas Tech, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.  Women's teams who were on the bubble but could not be considered for post-season competition were Alabama and Virginia. I dislike that rule and would like to see it eliminated. Either you believe in the validity of the rankings or you don't. So far, there hasn't been much outrage over the rule, but leaving No. 31 Texas Tech out of the tournament may generate more this year.

The individual fields will be announced on Wednesday, via a press release by the NCAA no later than 6 p.m.

You will notice a new banner at the top of the home page promoting the Tennis Recruiting Network's May Madness bracket challenge. Nice prize packages have been assembled for the winners, so check it out.

Qualifying is complete at the $60,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Charleston South Carolina, with former collegiate stars Sabrina Santamaria(USC), Emina Bektas(Michigan), Carol Zhao of Canada(Stanford) and Lauren Embree(Florida) reaching the main draw. Vicky Duval and Caroline Dolehide are the only two players who can catch 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova for the French Open wild card, and they must win this week to do that.  Dolehide plays top seed Madison Brengle, while wild card Duval is scheduled to face No. 2 seed Elista Kostova of Bulgaria. Five of the six first round matches completed today where won by young Americans: wild card Claire Liu, Kayla Day[3], Danielle Collins, Ellie Halbauer and Sonya Kenin[5].

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Savannah, nine Americans have advanced to the second round, including wild card Marcos Giron, who beat top seed Darian King of Barbados 6-4, 6-0.  That sets up another match between recent NCAA singles champions, with former Ohio State star Blaz Rola of Slovenia, who won the NCAAs in 2013 and Giron, who won in 2014. Rola defeated Giron last week en route to the Tallahassee Challenger title.

The men's French Open wild card race is not as clearly defined. Savannah's No. 5 seed, Tennys Sandgren, is in the lead, but Bjorn Fratangelo, in second place after last week, had a big first round win today at the ATP event in Estoril, beating No. 6 seed Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 6-4. This year the USTA is considering points from ATP tournaments as well as Challenger events in the US. Mitchell Krueger is in third place and he has advanced to the second round as the No. 8 seed. The other US players in the second round are wild card Tommy Paul, Stefan Kozlov[6], Dennis Novikov, wild card Christian Harrison and Michael Mmoh.

At the $15,000 Futures tournament in Tampa, wild cards Alexandre Rotsaert, Ulises Blanch and South Florida senior Alexandru Gozun all picked up first round wins.  Canadian Philip Bester, a finalist Sunday at the Men's Open in Ojai, made the cross country trip and is the top seed. He will play Stanford recruit Axel Geller of Argentina, a qualifier.


Confused said...

I still don't understand how Stanford somehow gets the raw end of the deal in terms of seeding/draw placement the past couple of years? They have 2 losses on the season- one of them coming from #1 ranked Florida- won the regular season conference, and also the Pac-12 championship...

fan said...

They don't play NTI. Can only blame themselves. Also Pac 12 is weak this season.

Confused said...

But Florida didn't play the NTI last year and they were seeded 2 going into NCAAs- how do you explain that?

Just sayin' said...

Florida's best 9 wins are considerably better than Stanford's. As you would say in football/basketball, Florida's body of work is much better. Using last weeks ITA rankings, Florida has 6 wins over top 10 teams, plus a 7th win over #11 Pepperdine.
Stanford only has 2 top Ten wins vs #2 Vandy and #9 OK State. Their next best wins are 2 vs #16 Cal. Stanford only has 4 top 20 wins the whole year. Florida has 9 wins over teams in the teens or better.

There's no comparison. As good as Stanford is (yes they are better thank their ranking), they have a weaker (than even normal) schedule this year. The fact that perrenial powers Cal, UCLA and USC are having down seasons hurts them too.

Everyone knows the system. You have to beat good teams to get a good ranking. Stanford has not beaten enough good teams. It's also their own fault that they deem the Indoors not worth their time. They feel tennis is only a warm weather, outdoor sport.

The ITA rankings are objective. Adding subjectivity opens a Pandora's box of problems, including eliminating the need for the rest of the best college teams to schedule quality out of conference matchups.

Resume checker said...

The ranking system is very simple. You need to accumulate 9 strong wins. To debate the merits of ranking teams strictly by a formula is more beneficial however, a formula does give each team a fair characterization of the year they've had so far. We tend to always think of Stanford very highly, which is justifiable since they've been the most successful women's college tennis program, even in years where their play does't deserve that characterization.
The Stanford men have always played the NTI kickoff weekend, so there's no reason why the women can't play as well. In previous years, Stanford's seeding hasn't mattered that much in their NCAA title run. If they're good enough to win the whole thing (which I think they are this year) then they will be in with a chance, which is all you can ask for when competing for a title.

Stanford (2016-2017):
11 Ranked Wins
- 2 Wins against teams #1-10
- 2 Wins against teams #11-20
- 5 Wins against teams #21-30
- 2 Wins against teams #31-40

Florida (2015-2016) ** I used this as my example because you were confused why they were seeded #2.
16 Ranked WIns
- 4 Wins against teams #1-10
- 5 Wins against teams #11-20
- 3 Wins against teams #21-30
- 3 Wins against teams #31-40
- 1 Win against teams #41 or >

Pretty clear who had a stronger resume between these two teams and the seeding reflected that. Strength of resume and performance obviously don't go hand and hand but, you have to value what a team has done this current year and who they've beaten when you try to put a together a fair draw.

Should be an interesting tournament.