Pictured, Husky Senior Kyle McMorrow to Face Drake this Saturday.
Courtesy of CTO Correspondent Bobby Knight: The SEC gets into the swing of things with conference play starting on Friday with the feature match being a top 10 battle between Tennessee and Georgia in Athens. The only other top 25 matchup will take place in Winston Salem as Wake Forest hosts Oklahoma. Here is a quick preview of each top 30 team in action this weekend.
#47 Arkansas at #6 Kentucky - 1pm est – Live Scoring - I don’t expect to see Kentucky challenged much in this one unless they sit some starters and even at that they have great depth this year. Prediction: Kentucky 7-0
#8 Tennessee at #9 Georgia – 2:30pm est – UGA Live Blog & UT Live Blog & Live Scoring & Video - These 2 have had some great matches over the last several years and this one should be no exception. Georgia comes into this one a little banged up and will likely be playing without freshmen Nick Wood (ankle) and possibly senior KU Singh (coaches decision). Those absences will force Georgia to look to their bench for some help. Tennessee will be favored at 6 with John Collins more seasoned than Garrett Brasseaux while many of the other matchups are near toss-ups. I’d give the edge at 1 to UT’s Mikelis Libietis regardless of whether he meets Singh or Pasha. If Singh does play I figure he’ll be a little rusty after sitting out for over 4 weeks. A matchup at 2 between Nathan Pasha and Hunter Reese would be a good one and really could go either way. I’d give the slight edge at 3 to UGA’s Ben Wagland over UT’s Brandon Fickey, and a slight edge at 4 to UGA’s Hernus Pieters over UT’s Jarryd Chaplin. The match at 5 between Austin Smith and Ed Jones could go either way. Georgia has played well in doubles so far this year and I think they’ll pull the doubles point out. If KU Singh plays I’ll take Georgia because that would shift everyone down a spot. If KU sits again, I’ll take Tennessee. Prediction: KU plays = Georgia 4-3. KU Sits = Tennessee 4-3 | Georgia Win's 4-1
#10 Mississippi State at #32 Auburn – 3pm est./2pm cst. – Live Scoring - This will be the 2nd meeting between these 2 with Mississippi State winning the 1st meeting on January 27th by a 4-3 score. State’s Romain Bogaerts clinched it with a 7-5 7-6 win at #1 singles over Auburn’s Andreas Mies. Both teams had lackluster performances in the last week with Auburn going down at home to Clemson and Mississippi State just squeaking by Middle Tennessee State 4-3. Auburn has yet to lose the doubles point in 10 matches this year while Mississippi State has won it in 7 of 10 matches. I don’t think this one will be as close as the last matchup. Prediction: Mississippi State 5-2
#15 Texas at #44 Florida State – 3pm est – Live Scoring - Texas will have to knock the dust off its rackets because it hasn’t played a competitive match in almost a month while Florida State is coming off a 5-2 loss to Pepperdine. Florida State tumbled 15 spots in the 1st computer rankings since they don’t have a win against a current top 25 team. I think Florida State will keep this one close but Texas is a little bit stronger at just about every spot. Prediction: Texas 5-2
#39 LSU at #25 Vanderbilt – 3pm est/2pm cst. – Live Scoring - Last year LSU won the regular season meeting 6-1 but Vandy got revenge in the SEC Tournament winning 4-3. Vanderbilt has one of the best 1-2 punches in the league in Ryan Lipman and Gonzales Austin and 2 of its freshmen have been very good thus far with Kris Yee going 11-1 at the 5 and 6 spots and Marc van der Merwe going 9-2 at the 4 and 5 spots. LSU has started off 5-2 but has struggled in a few of its wins and hasn’t quite meshed yet. Stefan Szacinski hasn’t played singles since February 3rd which has led to a shuffling of the lineup and LSU’s #1 Olivier Borsos has struggled this year and has been moved down to #3. Vanderbilt should get the job done and take this one without too much of a struggle. Prediction: Vanderbilt 5-2
#5 Oklahoma at #22 Wake Forest – 4pm est – Live Scoring - The Deacs come into this match with a 9-2 record though they haven’t faced a team that is as talented as Oklahoma. OU comes into this match with an 8-2 record and has already faced 6 teams in the top 20. OU’s Costin Paval is 8-0 at 1 this year and Guillermo Alcorta is 6-1 at the 2 spot. OU’s 5 and 6 spots are just 8-7 on the year so Wake’s best chance will be to try and pick up wins from Adam Lee and Sam Bloom. While I think Wake will hang around in this one they just don’t have the horses in the top 4 spots to pull it out. Prediction: Oklahoma 6-1
#13 Ole Miss at #31 Alabama – 4pm est/3pm cst – Live Scoring - Alabama has started off the year 9-3 but Ole Miss will be the highest ranked team they will have faced. The Tide jumped 24 spots in the most recent rankings due to a couple of wins over teams ranked in the mid-20 range but I have a feeling the Tide’s good fortune will run out and the Rebels will take it to them in this one. Ole Miss is stronger top to bottom and will get the win in Tuscaloosa. Prediction: Ole Miss 6-1
#11 Texas A&M at #43 South Carolina – 5pm est – Live Scoring & Video – Texas A&M has dropped 5 of its last 6 since upsetting Ohio State while South Carolina has won 3 of its last 4 but is coming off a 5-2 loss to VCU. Texas A&M hasn’t won a match at 1 or 2 singles since knocking off Rice back on February 7th but that streak will come to an end as I look for both Junior Ore and Jeremy Efferding to pick up wins. Prediction: Texas A&M 6-1
Iowa at #17 Illinois – 7pm est/6pm cst – Live Scoring - Illinois hasn’t played in 3 weeks since upsetting Kentucky 4-3 while Iowa is riding a 6 match winning streak though it hasn’t faced a team ranked in the top 75. The Illini will make quick work of the visiting Hawkeyes and win easily. Prediction: Illinois 7-0
#27 Drake at #66 Minnesota - 7:30pm est/6:30pm cst – Live Scoring & Video - The Gophers limp into this match with a 3-6 record while Drake comes in riding an 8 match winning streak. Minnesota’s #1 Rok Bonin is the only Gopher with a winning record during the young dual season while Drake’s entire starting 6 has a winning record led by James McKie who is 8-1 on the year at the 2 spot. I think Bonin continues his winning ways with a win at 1 but Drake takes 4 of 6 singles to get the win in a tight one. Prediction: Drake 4-3
Penn State at #7 Ohio State – 12 noon est – Live Scoring – Buckeyes roll in this one and the depth players get to see some action as well. Prediction: Ohio State 7-0
#68 Indiana at #23 Harvard – 12 noon est – The Crimson have already knocked off 5 teams ranked in the top 55 this year and this would make 6 but Indiana tumbled 38 spots in the latest rankings due to not having a win against a ranked team. IU’s biggest problem has been the bottom of its lineup and I think it’ll bite them again against Harvard. Prediction: Harvard 4-3
#27 Drake vs. #14 Washington (Minneapolis) – 3pm est/2pm cst – These 2 will go at it on a neutral court and I like James McKie and Robin Goodman at 2 and 3 for Drake but I think Washington grabs the doubles point and picks up wins from Kyle McMorrow, Viktor Farkas, and Jeff Hawke at 1, 5, and 6. Prediction: Washington 4-2
#15 Texas vs. #75 South Florida (Tallahassee) – 4pm est – A day after facing Florida State in Tallahassee the Horns will stick around to play another one against South Florida and I expect the Horns to take care of business for a 2nd day in a row. Prediction: Texas 6-1
#20 Northwestern at #17 Illinois – 7pm est/6pm cst – Live Scoring - Northwestern brings a 13-3 record into this contest against an Illinois team that it hasn’t defeated since 1997. The Wildcats have already played 6 matches that finished with a 4-3 score, winning 4 of those 6, and I think this one could be headed that way too. Northwestern can take 2 of the top 3 but finding 2 more courts could be tough. If Northwestern can find a way to grab the doubles point I could see them pulling the upset but I think they’ll come up just short yet again. Prediction: Illinois 4-3
Check back tomorrow and I’ll preview the Sunday slate which is highlighted by a top 5 showdown between Virginia and Oklahoma in Charlottesville.