by Bobby Knight. Pictured UCLA's Clay Thompson
Howdy from Houston as Texas A&M and the city of Houston plays host to the 2014 National Team Indoor Championship. With the ITA's experimental in effect for this tournament (no ad scoring, tiebreaks at 5-5, doubles play to 6 instead of 8) anything is possible so upsets could be the norm this weekend.
The top seeded Virginia Cavaliers come in as the favorite however they are the only school that has yet to face an opponent inside the top 40 so it’s tough to tell how the team will respond when pushed in a tight match using the shortened scoring system. The Cavs will start Mitchell Frank (Jr), Alex Domijan (Sr), Ryan Shane (So), Justin Shane (Sr), Mac Styslinger (So), and either Thai-Son Kwaitkowski (Fr) or Jordan Daigle (Fr) in singles.
UCLA is the 2 seed though the Bruins haven’t been as dominant as expected to start the year with a few closer than expected encounters. The Bruins have been starting 3 freshmen (McDonald, Brymer, DiGiulio) due in part to some injuries and will likely have all 3 starting again this weekend. The Bruins will start Clay Thompson (Sr), Marcos Giron (Jr), Mackenzie McDonald (Fr), Gage Brymer (Fr), Dennis Mkrtchian (Jr), and Joseph DiGiulio (Fr) in singles.
USC is the 3 seed and could have easily been the 1 seed based off their dominating performance against Georgia and Florida a few weeks in the Pac 12/SEC Challenge. The Trojans will start Ray Sarmiento (Sr), Yannick Hanfmann (Jr), Roberto Quiroz (Jr), Connor Farren (Fr), Jonny Wang (Jr), and Eric Johnson (Jr).
Georgia is the 4 seed and will be out to improve on their shortcomings in Los Angeles two weeks ago when they got roughed up by USC and then came up just short against UCLA. The Bulldogs will start Austin Smith (So), Nathan Pasha (Jr), Ben Wagland (So), Garrett Brasseaux (Sr), Nick Wood (So), and Hernus Pieters (Sr).
Ohio State is the 5 seed and the young Buckeye squad will be coming in with a ton of confidence after winning a pair of tough home matches last weekend against Kentucky and Texas A&M. The Buckeyes will start Peter Kobelt (Sr), Chris Diaz (So), Herkko Pollanen (Fr), Ralf Steinbach (Fr), Kevin Metka (Jr), and Hunter Callahan (Jr).
So that’s a look at the top 5 seeds now let’s take a look at each of the Round of 16 matches along with my predictions. The matches will be split between 2 venues as notated by the abbreviations below. Follow along at the live scoring links and also make sure you check out the Live Blog that Georgia, Tennessee and Baylor will put on for their respective matches.
University of Georiga Live Blog for UGA/Texas match - Link
University of Tennessee Live Blog for the Tennessee/USC match - Link
Baylor University Live Blog for the Baylor/Texas A&M match - Link
Current Tournament Draw
ITA Results Page
#1 Virginia vs. #16 Notre Dame – GTAC 3pm cst – Notre Dame has put in one gutsy performance after another so far with tight, tight wins over Minnesota, Kentucky (twice), and Northwestern but to hang with someone like Virginia will take an enormous effort. Notre Dame’s best hope is to grab the doubles point and to win some 6-5 sets in the 3-6 slots and while I think they’ll keep it closer than many would expect Virginia will ultimately come through. Prediction: Virginia 4-1
#8 California vs. #9 Mississippi State – GTAC 6pm cst – Neither team has found a groove yet in doubles with Cal dropping the point in both of its matches against ranked teams while Mississippi State has dropped it 3 times. While I can see Cal overcoming the loss of the doubles point I don’t think Mississippi State has the depth to come back against a team like Cal. I like Cal in this one by a fairly wide margin and look for Andre Goransson, Greg Bayane, and Campbell Johnson to pick up singles wins. Prediction: Cal 4-0
#4 Georgia vs. #13 Texas – GTAC 12pm cst – Texas is off to a strong 7-1 start but that 1 loss came in their last outing (Illinois) while Georgia comes in at 3-2 and has not looked overly impressive thus far. Texas will definitely have the crowd support playing close to home so Georgia will need to get off to a strong start to keep the noise to a minimum. Texas comes in having won the doubles point in 7 of 8 matches and I think they’ll grab it to take the early lead but I look for Georgia to turn it around in singles. I look for Georgia to take 4 of the top 5 with Austin Smith, Nathan Pasha, Ben Wagland, and Nick Wood all winning at 1 2, 3, and 5. Texas will be up at 4 and will likely grab a win at 6 before the clinch. Prediction: Georgia 4-2
#5 Ohio State vs. #12 Florida – GTAC 9am cst – Ohio State has had to rebuild it’s starting lineup after losing 4 starters (Rola, C. Smith, McCarthy, Christ) from last years squad though Ohio State proved they are still going to be a tough out after knocking off a pair of top 15 teams last weekend (Kentucky/Texas A&M). Florida has started a different lineup in virtually every match this year trying to find that right mix and I guess we won’t know for sure until tomorrow morning whether the Gators #1 Spencer Newman will suit up after rolling his ankle 2 weeks ago against UCLA. If Newman can’t go the Gators will have to slide everyone up a spot and I can’t see them overcoming that against a strong indoor team like Ohio State. Without Newman, I like Ohio State in doubles and Peter Kobelt, Herkko Pollanen, and Hunter Callahan in singles. If Newman plays, I still like Ohio State in doubles along with wins from Kobelt and Ralf Steinbach but the 4th point will be tougher to come by because I’d give the advantage at 2, 3, and 5 to Florida’s Stephane Piro, Diego Hidalgo, and Florent Diep. The matchup at 6 would be between Hunter Callahan and Maxx Lipman and I’d give the slightest edge to Callahan despite Lipman knocking off Callahan in the consolation draw at the ITA All American’s back in September. Prediction: Ohio State 4-1 if Newman sits and Ohio State 4-3 if Newman plays.
#6 Baylor vs. #11 Texas A&M – MET 6pm cst – There should be a huge crowd at the Met for this one as Texas A&M looks to rebound from a pair of losses (Illinois/Ohio State) while Baylor will be facing its first top 20 team of the year. As always the doubles point will set the tone and I like Texas A&M to grab it to jump out to the 1-0 lead. In singles I like Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri for Baylor but I see Texas A&M picking up the 3 singles wins it needs with Harrison Adams, Shane Vinsant, and Jeremy Efferding winning at 1, 2, and 3. Aggies take it in an upset and move on to face USC. Prediction: Texas A&M 4-2
#3 USC vs. #14 Tennessee – MET 3:30pm cst –Tennessee is coming off a pair of impressive wins at home over Duke and Wake Forest while USC has been idle for the last 2 weeks since knocking off Florida and Georgia. Tennessee has yet to drop the doubles point this year in 10 matches and I think they’ll be able to get it again tomorrow but unfortunately for the Vols I don’t see any spots in the singles lineup where they can squeeze out another point. I look for Yannick Hanfmann, Roberto Quiroz, Connor Farren, and Jonny Wang to pick up wins in singles for USC to send the Trojans on to the quarterfinals Prediction: USC 4-1
#7 Oklahoma vs. #10 Illinois – MET 9am cst – Illinois was in position to get the 15th seed but after knocking off Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and Texas last week they jumped up 5 spots. Oklahoma went on the road last week and won easily at both Florida State and Alabama and has yet to lose this year. I look for Oklahoma to come out strong and to grab the doubles point and while I see Illinois with a real chance at the bottom of the lineup Oklahoma will be too strong up top and will pick up singles wins from Axel Alvarez, Andrew Harris, and Dane Webb to get the win. The matchup at 1 between Guillermo Alcorta and Jared HIltzik will likely be early in the 2nd set by the time the Sooners clinch it. Prediction: Oklahoma 4-0
#2 UCLA vs. #15 Pepperdine – MET 1pm cst – Pepperdine got the free pass into this tournament with Duke dropping out but UCLA won’t be giving anything out for free on Friday and I see UCLA making quick work in this one by grabbing the doubles point and picking up singles wins from Mackenzie McDonald, Gage Brymer, and Dennis Mkrtchian. Prediction: UCLA 4-0
Check back on Saturday morning for a preview of the Quarterfinals. CTO will also have updates throughout the day on Twitter