2015 @ITATennis Indoor Men’s Indoor National Championships Preview
Jeff McMillan, Tennis Atlantic
The ITA Indoor Men’s Indoor National Championships will take place this weekend in Chicago at the Midtown Athletic Club. 16 teams qualified for this event based on winning their kickoff weekend regional, which was recapped previously here on Tennis Atlantic with a kickoff weekend all-star team. The action will be intense in Chicago all weekend, with each team guaranteed 3 matches (teams that make the final will play 4 matches). The teams will be drawn and matched up based on rankings. The draw comes out Wednesday.
These 16 teams will be competing in Chicago for the right to be called indoor champion and also for a good shot at quality wins for the rankings.
Here are 7 teams in particular to watch that stand out as their designated label:
The Favorite: Virginia
Why the Cavs will win it:
The Virginia Cavaliers enter Chicago as the clear favorite to win the indoor title once again.
- UVA has made winning the indoor championships almost an annual right of passage in recent years. This year’s team looks to be one of the strongest in their history.
- Thai-Son Kwiatkowski who is the new #1 ranked player in the ITA rankings has been unbeatable in his early college career and has shown no signs of slowing down.
- Ryan Shane and Mitchell Frank look to be as formidable as ever.
- The strength of the UVA top 3 forces former Kalamazoo champion Colin Altamirano to play as low as #4 on the team, which speaks to the Cavaliers insane depth. The strength of the team plus the history of being the top dog indoors, makes Virginia the favorite to win it all in Chicago.
Why the Cavs may not win it:
It seems like a pretty safe bet to pick Virginia to win the championship but there are a few reasons why that could potentially not happen.
- Lack of a challenge thus far. Virginia has not played a difficult dual match yet as a team. The best team they have played to this point has been #43 Louisville. Other top teams have already played a few difficult and testing matches. If the Cavaliers find themselves in a tight match it could lead to some extra pressure being placed on the Cavs.
- Mental block vs USC. Even though Virginia is the more talented team this year, Southern Cal still has the big advantage in the mental department vs Virginia based on recent history, as the Trojans have owned the Cavs on the biggest stages in recent years even. If these two teams end up facing off, Virginia could again find themselves once again starring down the barrel vs the Trojans in a desperate situation.
The Top Challenger: Southern Cal
Why the Trojans will win it:
The biggest obstacle to Virginia waltzing away with the title is Southern Cal. Per usual, the Trojans once again have a very good team.
- #7 Yannick Hanfmann and #24 Roberto Quiroz are two of the most talented and pro ready players in college tennis and headline a very string lineup. And the two couple to make the #1 ranked doubles team in the land right now.
- Added to the mix this year is Johnny Wang, who rarely played in the top 6 a year ago but is ranked #20 in the nation early in 2015 and has established himself as a stalwart at #3 for the Trojans.
- The Trojans are battle tested already, having already beaten #4 Georgia 4-0 in Athens and also have beaten #14 Florida.
Why the Trojans will not win it:
Despite the positives there are reasons why to be back the Trojans as your championship pick in Chicago.
- Lack of indoor success. Southern Cal owns 5 of the past 6 national championships, but has had far less success indoors during hat time.
- Depth of the line-up is questionable. 4-6 have a few question marks vs the other top teams
The Other Challengers: Georgia, Baylor and Illinois
Why the Bulldogs could win it:
Georgia has a chance to win the title in Chicago, based on their improved team from a year ago.
- The strength of the top 3. Freshman #21 Wayne Montgomery joins #21 Austin Smith and #17 Nathan Pasha at the top of the UGA line-up provide the Bulldogs with a good chance to get 4 points vs the other top teams.
Why the Bears could win it:
Baylor is another team that has a chance to win the title.
- Strength throughout the lineup. Baylor has no weak spots in their top 6 and can challenge any team 1-6.
- Maxime Tchoutakian’s form. The latest addition to the Bear roster (joined in January) has been on fire recently by qualifying for the Dallas Challenger.
Why the Fighting Illini could win it:
Illinois has an outsider’s chance at winning the title as well
- Host team. Even though they are not at home in Champaign, the Fighting Illini are the host school and will probably have the most fans attending.
- Indoor specialty. Illinois is always a stronger team indoors than outdoors.
- Line-up balance. The Illini have 5 ranked players and have no weak spots anywhere in the line-up.
Why the Bulldogs won’t win it:
- Questions in the lower parts of the line-up, especially at #6 where they are likely to be the underdog in most matches vs other top teams.
- Already have been beaten 4-0 by Southern Cal and that was at home in Athens.
Why the Bears won’t win it:
- Doubles question marks. Baylor has no powerhouse doubles team, like the other top teams do, which could prove costly for the doubles point.
- Lack of results vs other top teams. Baylor has not fared very well vs other top 10 teams recently and that is a big red flag if one is to pick them to win the title.
Why the Fighting Illini won’t win it:
- Lack of top quality firepower that is needed to win 4 straight matches. Illinois can beat one of the other top teams but is not likely to win 4 matches in 4 days, simply not strong enough in the end.
The Pretender: Oklahoma
Why the Sooners will not win the title:
Now this is not to say that Oklahoma is not a top 5-quality team, because they certainly are. This is just simply stating that they will not win this particular championship. They have a much better shot in May to win the national title than they do to win this title in Chicago.
- Top players not yet peaking. #26 Andrew Harris hit his peak level in Australian early in January in preparation for the college season, but since then has not been quite as good. He does have a good win over Noah Rubin but overall Harris has shown his more susceptible side in recent dual matches.
- Spencer Papa not in the best form. On paper seeing Papa at #4 should seem like a slam-dunk win for Oklahoma every match. However it has not played out that way to this point in the season.
- Lack of doubles depth. While OU has a strong team at the top doubles position, they have twice lost the doubles point already this season to lower ranked teams (USF and Northwestern) due to losing at 2 and 3 doubles.
Why the Sooners could prove me wrong:
Despite the negatives, Oklahoma is still a very talented team.
- Talent could turn on at any time. Oklahoma has the ability to turn on the jets vs other top teams.
- Experience of #11 Axel Alvarez-Llamas and #31 Dane Webb. The two veterans could lead the team to rally and get big wins.
The Gatecrasher: TCU
Reasons to watch the Horned Frogs:
TCU is a very talented and improved team that could be dangerous to anyone in Chicago and could turn things upside down
- Form of #18 Cameron Norrie. Norrie has been on fire recently and is already one of the top college players in the nation very early into his freshman season. He can play with any other top player.
- Veteran leadership of #48 Nick Chapell, #85 Facundo Lugones and Arnau Dachs. These 3 Horned Frogs have been around TCU a while and know what it takes to get big dual wins, they are all ready to taste the success that has alluded them thus far in their careers.
- #112 Guillermo Nunez being a rock in the lower line-up. He has yet to lose a dual match and will be a very strong spot for TCU whether they decide to play him at 5 or at 6.
Why the Horned Frogs could not be ready to challenge teams:
There are a lot of positive things to say about the TCU Horned Frogs, but there are still a few questions that could stymie their growth to a national challenger here in Chicago.
- Snake-bitten history in tight matches. Last year TCU lost a ton of close matches, some of which in quite fantastically dramatic ways. If they are pit in a tight match here in Chicago, some of those old memories could seep back into their consciousness, especially for the veterans.
The Mincemeat: Penn State
Why the Nittany Lions are out of their league:
Penn State was a surprise qualifier for the final 16 here in Chicago and garnered a lot of praise nationwide for their surprise qualification. However since then, things have not gone so well.
- Loss to unranked Penn. How did Penn State celebrate their huge Chicago qualification? By losing to unranked and unheralded Ivy League team Penn. It was a shocking loss that set the Nittany Lions back several steps.
- Soundly beaten by #37 Virginia Tech. Penn State also lost to #37 Virginia Tech over the weekend in straightforward fashion. If Penn State is getting beat soundly by the likes of a team ranked outside the top 30, then how will they fare vs teams that are top 15 in the nation?