It must be really interesting for Bates to be the #26th ranked team in the nation, but still only be the 6th or 7th best team in the NESCAC. Maybe this is the year they will finally shake things up a little bit. Trinity doesn’t look too strong, Bowdoin might have a hard time recovering from the loss of Sullivan, and Bates returns all of their singles starters from last year’s team. They also brought in a solid recruiting class, so there’s pretty much no way the Bobcats don’t get better this year. The problem for them is that they are in the NESCAC, which means they basically have zero chance of making the NCAA tournament, but look for them to make some serious moves next year. After losing just one doubles player last year, they still only have one senior on their roster, and he only played #4 singles last year. Watch out.
Where They’ll Win
It looks like Bates had a pretty significant drop-off after their top 3 singles players. Against ranked teams not in the top 10, they went 12-6 last year at 1, 2, and 3; whereas, they went 3-15 at 4, 5, and 6. That isn’t necessarily good news for their 4, 5, and 6 singles players, but since they are bring back their top 3, it’s pretty safe to say that they will be strong at those positions this year as well. With another year of experience, maybe they’ll start getting wins against the top 10 also. (they went 1-17 in singles in three matches against top 10 teams last year).
Where They’ll Lose
This is great because I basically don’t have to write anything else. They went 3-24 against ranked teams a 4, 5 and 6 singles last year. That’s not good. The Bobcats better hope that their depth players got significantly better. If not, they have absolutely no chance of fulfilling the prophecy of the anonymous poster on tennisd3 who somehow expected everyone to know that Berg beat half of Bowdoin’s team in a men’s open and predicted that Bates would finish 3rd in the NESCAC.
They start off in five days with a quick California swing against Cruz, Redlands, and Claremont. Those matches seem a little early for a NESCAC school to me, but they should be really good for the Bobcats. They play at Middlebury the following week, and then play their first home match against MIT. Their schedule is absolutely stacked (13 matches against ranked teams), so I’m not going to get into all of it, but I think their most significant matches are the ones against Tufts, Trinity, and Bowdoin, as they will be most indicative of whether or not Bates is ready to move up in the NESCAC.
Bates is better than last year, but not as good as they think they are. I would have said they would get swept in California, but after last weekend, I don’t know anymore. (I still don’t think they will win a match. Redlands has been playing great). I think they will go 2-1 in their round robin against Tufts/MIT/Brandeis, and I think their matches against Trinity and MWU are coin flips. Their best chance to move up in the rankings, however, will be either April 20th on the road against Bowdoin, or (if they can beat Trinity) in the NESCAC tournament. My guess is that they finish this year a little higher than they started last year– in the 18-22 range.