IT’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP TIME! [NCAA Draw Analysis and more!]

To answer that question myself, I sure am!! 🙂 Hello to my loyal Bruin faithful out there! Apologize for the delay on posting about the NCAA Championship draw–it has been a crazy week and a half as I went home to visit my family in St. Louis for the first time in over a year and a half, had two midterm papers, and an research conference that I had to prepare for. But from here on out, it is ALL NCAA Championship and UCLA tennis time. I cleared my schedule and starting right now, there is nothing on my mind except NCAA’s, and I could not be any more excited! I promise to blog every day starting tonight and of course, constantly once the matches start. (Hopefully I’ll be blogging for a long time!) It is my last NCAA’s and want to make the best of it! As I begin my final quest for that ever-elusive championship, I thank you for your support and readership–the best is yet to come!

With all that being said, it’s hard to believe the NCAA Championships are finally among us. After a long season and all the matches and just everything, it is finally here. After last year’s Quarterfinal loss to Virginia, I remember thinking that it will be forever until we would have another chance at the NCAAs…well, it is here, folks. THE EXCITEMENT IS HERE! The NCAA Championships are the pinnacle of college tennis and the debut the draw last Tuesday was the first step. So, as I begin the NCAA stretch of blogs, it is only appropriate I address the draw and my initial thoughts. First, you can check out the NCAA bracket HERE. Second, you can view the NCAA Selection Show HERE. (UCLA is mentioned just after the 12 minute mark–it’s a great introduction to the teams in the tourney.) Here is my breakdown of our draw, and the draw in general:

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

  • No doubt #1 ranked Virginia, at 29-0, is the heavy, heavy favorite to win this year; they have absolutely dominated and are as talented as any college team in my four years, so they come into this draw as the overall #1 seed without a surprise. Virginia and Stanford are headed for a collision course in the Quarterfinals if the seeds hold, and that would be an extremely exciting match to watch with the home crowd behind the Cardinal. The pressure is on Virginia to win, who have entered each of the last three seasons undefeated and #1 seed–is this the year they win it all?
  • Other than Virginia, I think this bracket is really wide open–there are a bunch of really good teams who all have chance to make the Final Four, and I think no one region is more loaded than the other. In my four years, this is by far the most “open” tournament ever–again, outside Virginia, I really feel every team in the top 15 or so has the potential to beat the others and so I can bet on some upsets this tournament.
  • Regionals rounds (1st and 2nd rounds): Tougher than normal? Going with my last point, there are some really big/tough regional match-ups for the hosting teams. Texas, despite being ranked in the Top 16,  surprisingly, did NOT host. Instead, they will travel to host Oklahoma which, if they both win their first rounds, will be excited. Same for a potential UNC-Illinois rematch from earlier in the year. A potential Baylor-Texas Tech Big 12 clash could also happen, too. And lastly, of course (which I will discuss) is our potential matchup against Ole Miss. Don’t sleep on these early match-ups!
UCLA DRAW ANALYSIS: 
First, I do not like to go to too much into potential match-ups because hey, we have to win first and it is always premature to starting analyzing potential match-ups. There are too many good teams this year and who knows–it’s one match at a time! We have to work hard to earn our spot and trust me, from experience, anything can happens–and usually does–at NCAA’s! But, of course, it would be impossible to not mention the hypothetical match-ups and I do have confidence in our team. I’ll tread carefully.
  1. 1st Round: We will take on the Binghampton Bearcats, who are 12-13 on the season. Obviously, they won their conference tourney but as long as we come out firing and ready to go, we should pull through rather easily. However, it is important that we don’t “sleepwalk” through this match but use it as a building block for a tough second round match.
  2. 2nd Round: If we beat Binghampton, we will play the winner of UC Irvine-Ole Miss. Now, we played Irvine early in the year and beat them, so we think that we will play Ole Miss. Now, this is a really tough 2nd round regional match–only two years ago at College Station, Texas, we defeated them in the Quarterfinals 4-3, thanks to a Nick Meister third set miracle match that won it for us. Obviously, they are not the same team they were two years ago but goodness, they are a battle tested team and you don’t lose that much talent in two years. They are a top team. Although their record at 12-9 may seem unimpressive, they played in the ultra-competitive SEC Conference–home to four top ten teams in Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. Our match against them was the most memorable of my career so I know how tough the Rebels are.
  3. Round of 16 and on: There is too much at stake to overlook any team and if (and we fully expect) to get through the Regional Rounds, we will take it from there and I’ll analyze each match when it happens. But, I will say, we like are happy about our draw. The higher seed we would potentially play would probably be Baylor, whom we beat early in the year.  Of course, they are a different (IE. much better) team then they were when we beat them but we like to think we are better, too. Still good when you’ve beaten the higher seed you can face. And then, if we can slip past Baylor, we will most likely take on the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes. They are 30-2 and having an amazing season (as usual) but I think they match up well with us and the Big 1o is a bit down in years past. And somehow, if we get past them (and this is looking SO far down the road….), we would most likely play the winner of Virginia-Stanford. And really, at that point folks in the Semifinals, you are just fortunate to be there and we will take our chances against either team.
So that’s that–SO much to think about, analyze, ponder, and just get excited about. This is an exciting time for the sport and of course, for our program so I encourage all of you to stay-up-to-date and get involved this NCAA season. Saying it’s tough to win an NCAA Championship is a massive understatement, so we need all the support we can get!
So come out and cheer us on this weekend and if we can make it to Palo Alto, come up there and cheer us on! But first things first, take care of business this weekend. That’s our focus and it’s all starts in the upcoming day. Brace yourself Bruin fans, the NCAA Championships are here! 🙂
GO BRUINS!!!!
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3 Comments on “IT’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP TIME! [NCAA Draw Analysis and more!]”

  1. Emily W. Says:

    EXCITED! Always looking forward to your updates and thoughts, Barry.

    Good luck this weekend and GO BRUINS!

  2. Jason Sher Says:

    Good work Barry, look forward to reading your blogs

    Jason Sher

  3. Barry Says:

    Hey Emily, as always, thanks for reading! Go Bruins!

    And thanks Jason–really means a lot coming from you! Hope you are well. Always an exciting time once NCAA’s come around and lookg forward to documenting every step of the way. Appreciate the support!


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