Courtesy of CTO Coreespondent Bobby Knight: Several schools are letting out for spring break so for the next several weeks we’ll see more midweek matchups than normal and there are a few good ones coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday. VCU goes on the road to play Duke and North Carolina while Notre Dame welcomes Illinois to South Bend. Pepperdine plays its 5th Top 25 opponent when Michigan comes to Malibu but it won’t all be fun in the sun for the Wolverines. Follow along at the live scoring links provided.
#28 VCU at #4 Duke – 2pm est – Live Scoring – VCU comes into this one riding a 5 match winning streak though Duke will be the highest ranked team the Rams will have faced this season. VCU’s best chance at getting a court will be at 3 or 4 but Duke is too strong throughout the rest of the lineup to really be threatened. I see at least 4 straight set wins for the Devils. Prediction: Duke 6-1
#17 Illinois at #29 Notre Dame – 6pm est – Live Scoring - Both of these teams have been up and down this year but Illinois seems to have righted the ship by winning 3 straight while Notre Dame has won 3 of its last 5. Illinois and Notre Dame have faced 2 common opponents this year in Kentucky and Northwestern with the Illini winning them both at home and Notre Dame losing them both (at Kentucky and home against NW). This will be the Illini’s first true road match of the year (no offense to Ball St) and Notre Dame is going to be fired up and ready for battle; anything other than a 4-3 score would be surprising. The doubles point will very big and could tip the scales one way or another. Prediction: Illinois 4-3
#21 Michigan vs. #5 Pepperdine – 4pm est/1pm pst – Live Scoring - Michigan comes into this one on a 3 match losing streak while Pepperdine has won 3 straight. The matchup at #1 singles will pit a pair of top 20 players with Michigan’s Evan King taking on Pepperdine’s Sebastian Fanselow. King is a perfect 8-0 in the dual season while Fanselow is 9-1. This is a match King has to win for Michigan to have a real chance to pull the upset. Pepperdine’s weak spots have been at 5 and 6 so Michigan’s Barrett Franks will likely be favored over Mousheg Hovhannisyan or David Sofaer. The Waves will be favored in all other spots with Finn Tearney, Alex Sarkissian, and Francis Alcantara expected to win. Prediction: Pepperdine 5-2
#28 VCU at #37 North Carolina – 3pm est – Live Scoring – VCU follows up its match with Duke by staying in the Triangle to take on a UNC team that is coming off a hard fought 4-1 loss to Ohio State. The Tarheels #1 singles player Esben Hess-Olesen has been out of the lineup for close to a month but Nelson Vick has played well in his absence. Vick is 1 of only 2 players to take a set off Ohio State’s Blaz Rola this year and he led the match 2-1 in the 3rd when play was halted. VCU’s Max Wennakoski has been playing some great tennis and comes into this one with a 12-1 dual match record and Alejandro Argente has won 5 straight for the Rams over some formidable opponents. I think VCU will rebound after losing to Duke and come away from this road trip with a win in Chapel Hill. Prediction: VCU 4-2
Check back on Friday and I’ll preview the following matches: USC/Pepperdine, Georgia/Ole Miss, Vanderbilt/Texas A&M, Baylor/Kentucky, and a few others.