The Pac 12 Title will end up in Los Angeles for a 10th year in a row; the question is which school in LA will grab it. UCLA has won or shared the conference title 6 times in the last 11 years while USC has won or shared it 4 times in that same timeframe. Despite winning the National Title for a 4th year in a row, USC did not win the regular season crown last year – that went to UCLA though USC did win the Inaugural Pac 12 Tournament by avenging its regular season loss to the Bruins.
I’m going to give a slight edge to USC over UCLA this year because the Trojans have a bit more depth, I think Sarmiento will be very good at #1, and it’s yet to be seen if Dennis Novikov is back to 100% after playing sparingly in the fall with an ankle injury. I’m sure both regular season matchups will be fierce. I’m going to give a slight edge to Cal over Stanford for 3rd place because I think Cal’s top 3 is just a tad stronger than Stanford’s and I think Cal will also grab a win somewhere in the bottom 3 too. Note: Pac 12 members Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington State do not field teams.
1. #2 USC – Peter Smith’s Trojans will have to replace one of the great college players ever in Steve Johnson along with one of the most clutch players in Trojans history in Daniel Nguyen. USC returns 4 starters from last year’s National Championship Team so we’ll get to see some new faces contribute this year. The 4 returning are Ray Sarmiento (Jr), Emilio Gomez (Jr), Roberto Quiroz (So), and Yannick Hanfmann (So). Quiroz played at 6 last year but I look for him to play above Hanfmann at 3 after a tremendous fall which saw the Ecuador native go 15-2 with wins over several players that will play at 1 or 2 at the respective schools. Eric Johnson (So) had a great fall as well posting an 11-2 record and will likely play at 5 and the battle for 6 will be between freshmen Max De Vroome and sophomore Jonny Wang. De Vroome went 10-4 in the fall season while Wang posted a 12-3 mark. The Trojans out of conference schedule includes visits to the Marks Tennis Stadium by #7 Pepperdine and #23 Texas along with road trips to #27 San Diego, #16 Illinois, and #30 Notre Dame. USC also plays UCLA, Stanford, and Cal twice though only the second meeting counts as a conference match.
2. #3 UCLA – Billy Martin’s Bruins return 5 starters from last year’s regular season Pac 12 Champions losing just 1 starter in Nick Meister who played at both at 1 & 2. Marcos Giron (So), Dennis Novikov (So), and Clay Thompson (Jr) will fill the top 3 spots with Adrian Puget (Jr) and Dennis Mkrtchian (So) most likely occupying the 4 & 5 slots. The question mark will be who plays at 6 this year. Redshirt freshmen Karue Sell, a former top #35 ITF Jr. from Brazil who joined the team last March, would be a good candidate but he saw limited action in the fall so it is unknown at the moment where he’ll fit in. Senior Maxime Tabatruong appeared in 14 dual matches last year and posted an 11-3 mark so he’ll be right in the mix too. The Bruins out of conference schedule includes visits to the LA Tennis Center by #27 San Diego and #17 Tulsa along with road trips to #15 Baylor and #7 Pepperdine. UCLA also plays USC, Stanford, and Cal twice though only the second meeting counts as a conference match.
3. #14 California – Peter Wright’s Bears return 4 starters from a team that went 4-3 in conference and 12-11 overall in the regular season. The 2 departed Bears, Nick Andrews and Carlos Cueto, held 2 of the top 3 spots though they combined for just a 14-27 record. Ben McLachlan (Jr) who went 15-6 a year ago in the dual season will fill the top spot with Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Sr) likely playing at 2 or 3. A couple of new additions will see playing time in the top 6 in German freshmen Mads Engsted and Georgia transfer Campbell Johnson (Jr). Riki McLachlan (Sr), Greg Bayane (So), and Chase Melton (RSo) will also contribute for the Bears. Cal’s out of conference schedule includes visits to the Hellman Tennis Center by #5 Duke and #7 Pepperdine along with a Texas road trip to face #15 Baylor and an improved but unranked TCU squad. Cal also plays USC, UCLA, and Stanford twice.
4. #10 Stanford – John Whitlinger’s Cardinal return 4 starters from a team that went 5-2 in conference and 17-8 overall in the regular season. The 2 departing are the top 2 from a year ago in Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher. They combined for a 27-14 dual match record so the 4 returning starters and 4 newcomers will have big shoes to fill. John Morrissey (So) went 8-3 in the fall and will be the leading candidate to take the #1 spot. Matt Kandath (Sr), Nolan Paige (Fr), and Robert Stineman (So) will likely fill the 2, 3, and 4 spots. Kandath struggled last year posting an 11-13 dual match record playing at 2 and 3 and didn’t have the best fall season going just 3-5 so him getting the ship righted may determine whether the team wins or loses some 4-3 matches. Paige had a strong fall posting an 11-3 record including a win over Washington’s #1 Kyle McMorrow so it appears the sky is the limit for him. Daniel Ho (Jr), Denis Lin (Sr), and Jamin Ball (Jr) also return from last year and will be pushed for playing time by freshmen Anthony Tsodikov, Trey Strobel, and Maciek Romanowicz. I think Ho and Lin have the inside track to the the 5 and 6 spots. Stanford’s out of conference schedule includes visits to the Taube TC by #38 Boise State and #7 Pepperdine. Stanford also plays USC, UCLA, and Cal twice with the 1st matchup not counting towards the conference standings.
5. #25 Washington – Matt Anger’s Huskies return everyone from a team that went 3-4 in conference and 16-8 overall. Kyle McMorrow (Sr) will play at 1 again this year with Emmett Egger (So), Marton Bots (Sr), Max Manthou (Jr), Viktor Farkas (So), and Nicholas Kamisar (So) returning and in line to play the 2-6 spots. Hudson Barnhart, Rishabh Raman, Nico Lunard, and Wendell Watanabe are the incoming freshmen who will be seeking some action in the coming year along with returning sophomore Jeff Hawke. UW’s out of conference schedule includes visits to Seattle by #7 Pepperdine and #38 Boise State along with a road trip to Tulsa to take on #17 Tulsa and #23 Texas and a trip to Minneapolis to face #35 Minnesota and #45 Drake.
6. Utah - F.D. Robbins’s Utes return 5 starters from a team that went 1-6 in conference and 13-12 overall. The one departure is Benito Suriano who went 7-15 in the 1 spot a year ago. The Utes return Dmytro Mamedov (Sr), Slim Hamza (So), Rafael Davidian (So), Alejandro Medinilla (Jr), and Devin Lane (Jr) and also welcome in Clemson transfer Cedric Willems and freshmen David Papis-Elon. Utah’s out of conference schedule includes a visit by #54 Denver and roads trips to #38 Boise State and #58 BYU.
7. #71 Oregon - Nils Schyllander’s Ducks return 5 starters from a team that went 2-5 in conference and 17-7 overall. Robin Cambier (Jr), Alex Rovello (Jr), Jeff Mullen (Sr), Daniel Sardu (So), and Alex Clissold (Sr) are the returning starters and there are 3 freshmen looking to crack the lineup in Daan Maasland, Brent Chin, and Lova Randriamampandria. Jose Izquierdo, who played at 5, departs along with a part-time starter at 6 in Sho Higuchi. The 2 combined for a 0-9 record in conference duals. Oregon’s out of conference schedule includes no teams in the top 50 though they do welcome #56 Arkansas and #61 New Mexico to Eugene.
8. Arizona – Tad Berkowitz’s Wildcats return 5 starters from a team that went 0-7 in conference and 5-18 overall. Giacomo Miccini (Jr) will be back at the top of the lineup with Andre Vidaller (Jr), Mario Urqudi (Jr), Sumeet Shinde (So), and Carlos Bermudez (So) also returning. Kieren Thompson (Jr) will try to hold off freshmen Matt Dunn for the #6 spot. Arizona’s out of conference schedule includes visits by #8 Oklahoma, #62 Cal-Poly, and #61 New Mexico along with road trips to #27 San Diego, #29 Texas Tech, #54 Denver, and #34 Louisville.
USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Cal will host regionals during the ITA Kick-Off weekend on January 25th -27th in hopes of qualifying for the 2013 National Indoors which get started in Seattle on February 15th. Washington, by virtue of being the host school, does not have to qualify and is automatically entered in the final 16. USC and UCLA will qualify rather easily while Stanford and Cal will both be tested. Stanford will have to beat #26 Texas A&M and either #29 Texas Tech or #27 San Diego while Cal will need to get by #38 Boise State and #20 Michigan. I think Stanford will pull through but Cal will have a tough match against Michigan.
CTO Correspondent, Bobby Knight.
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