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NCAA Championships
NCAA Roundtable: Season Storylines and Super Regionals
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The NCAA Division I men’s and women’s championships begins this weekend with first and second round play at campus locations nationwide.

The brackets were released on Monday (men’s draw, women’s draw), with the TCU men and UNC women earning the No. 1 seeds. Defending men’s champion Florida was the No. 2 seed and defending women’s champion Texas was the No. 4 seed.

Our panel of experts tackled a few questions about the tournament fields before all the action begins. Part II of our Roundtable will appear Friday morning.

What were the best storylines during the regular season?

 

Colette Lewis, Zoo Tennis

Overall, the return to normal schedules after last year's massive Covid disruptions was the best storyline. As far as individual teams go, the Texas A&M women going undefeated in the SEC and having the best season in program history certainly deserves recognition, as does the first regular season Pac-12 title for the Arizona men. And on the bad news side of the ledger are the UCLA men failing to make the tournament for the first time ever and host Illinois not having either of its teams in the fields.

 

Julie Wrege, Tennis Recruiting Network

The Duke women upsetting No. 1 seed North Carolina in the finals of the ACC Championships definitely made a statement. Duke is always a perennial power, and the Blue Devils may have gelled at the perfect time.

The University of Virginia men won its second straight ACC Championship, and brings a 17-match win streak into the NCAAs.

Michigan secured both Big Ten tournament titles. The men upended Ohio State 4-2 in the title match, giving the Michigan men their first-ever Big Ten title.

 

Bobby Knight, College Tennis Today

The emergence of the Oklahoma women has been fascinating to watch. Prior to this season, OU had never won the Big 12. In fact, the Sooners had only finished in the upper half of the conference a handful of times over the last 20 years, so for them to go undefeated in conference play during the regular season was an astonishing accomplishment. OU also advanced to the finals of the National Team Indoors before losing a close match to top-ranked North Carolina. OU head coach Audra Cohen welcomed three newcomers to the roster this season (Florida transfer Layne Sleeth and freshmen Anchisa Chanta and Emma Staker) with the trio going 58-9 in dual-match play. Plus, Alexandra Pisareva won 19 dual matches after sitting out last season following a transfer from Appalachian State.

 

Granger Huntress, Texas College Tennis

On the women's side, I was first thinking of Oklahoma's meteoric rise this season, then that was eclipsed by Texas A&M. The Aggies are on a tear, winning 30 matches, but what I find most astonishing is the fact they do not have a single top-10 victory, despite being in the SEC. How is this possible?

For the men, it's Michigan for me. The Wolverines have been such an afterthought the past few years. When they beat Baylor and TCU it certainly caught my attention. For them to back it up with a Big Ten Conference title and tournament win over Ohio State is incredible.

 

Joey Dillon, The Title IX Newsletter Contributor

I think for the men, how open the top of the game has been is my personal favorite. We've been so used to one or maybe two programs separating themselves from the rest of the field and this season, there are nearly 10 teams that can leave Champaign as champions. Florida, Tennessee, Ohio State and TCU all have been ranked No. 1 this season and those teams and Baylor are probably the ones you should bet on. I was also really impressed with the TCU men breaking through to win the ITA Indoors and the Horned Frogs have used that momentum to clinch the No. 1 seed.

On the women's side, the one story that stands out is the rise of Audra Cohen's Oklahoma program. OU’s ITA Kick-Off win over Duke sent some alarm bells, but its run to the championship match was incredibly inspiring. The Sooners knocked out No. 1 Texas and then won a grueling match over No. 5 Pepperdine before falling to UNC. They've had a strong season following to show they aren't a flash in the pan. It's always easy to be the hunters, but when you're the hunted, pressure mounts. I'll be very interested to see if they can live up to their seeding and make the championship.

What Super Regional match-ups would you like to see?

Lewis: I'm still getting used to this format, with 2019 the only other instance of it, but obviously the most productive road trip would be to Charlottesville, with both the men's and women's teams projected to host. Virginia is the only school with both teams seeded in the top eight; no school had both teams in the top eight in 2019.

Wrege: When the women's draw was released, I immediately saw a "packed" quarter with the No. 4 and 5 seeds.

No. 4 seed Texas has to get by the winner of Michigan (the Big Ten Champion) and Oregon (who has six wins over top-75 teams). Auburn will probably be waiting for the team coming out of this regional.

Also, in this quarter, No. 12 seeded Oklahoma State has a tough draw in the second round with the winner of UCLA and Arkansas. No. 5 seeded Virginia will await this regional winner in the Super Regionals.

In the men's draw, the committee did no favors for No. 16 seed Middle Tennessee State that has six players ranked. Even though seeded 16, Middle Tennessee has to travel for the early rounds to No. 20 NC State.

In the men's draw, should Michigan and Ohio State hold their seeds, they are slated to meet in the quarterfinals in Champaign.

Knight: On the women’s side, the potential Oklahoma/Stanford super regional in Norman would be a fantastic one to watch, because even though Stanford has been a bit off this year, the Cardinal still have a very talented roster and are capable of beating anyone.

On the men’s side, the matches I’d like to see the most would be a potential Michigan/Texas match in Ann Arbor and a Kentucky/Wake Forest match in Lexington. Texas has battled a lot of injuries this season so if everyone is healthy the Longhorns are a dangerous team. Kentucky went out early last year to Arizona but with two new faces in the bottom half of the lineup the Wildcats hope to erase that bad memory.

Granger: Stanford-OU. Isn't Stanford always way too low in the rankings and always way too experienced? It would be interesting to see how the Sooners respond.

Being from Texas, you'd expect me to say Texas vs. Michigan in the Bruce Berque Bowl, but that's too easy. I will go with Kentucky-Wake. That should be a banger.

Dillon: On the men's side, I would love to see Wake Forest at Kentucky. I think that atmosphere would be pretty electric and a super, super close battle between Nos. 8 and 9. For the women, 8 vs. 9 also stands out as a potential fun one between Pepperdine and Miami. But I'll vote Norman, Oklahoma between the No. 2 Sooners and No. 15 Stanford. If there's one team that chronically peaks and shocks in May, it's Stanford.

 
 

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About Rhiannon Potkey

Rhiannon Potkey is a veteran sportswriter with more than two decades of experience in journalism. Potkey has covered many sports at many levels and has a passion for finding great stories. Potkey has covered the U.S. Open, junior sectional and national events, college conference championships and Davis Cup matches. Potkey is currently Content Strategist for Tennis Recruiting. You can reach Rhiannon by email at [email protected].
 
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