New champs to be crowned at
Arthur Kapetanakis | May 16, 2018
The NCAA Division I tournament brackets always serve up surprises, but heading into the Sweet 16, one prediction can be made with confidence – both the men’s and women’s events will crown a new champion, as the Virginia men and Florida women were bounced in regional play.
Women’s third-round action will begin on Thursday without the Gators, while the men get back underway on Friday. Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., will host all 32 remaining teams – 16 in each draw – with both finals scheduled for Tuesday, May 22.
With three-time defending champs Virginia out of the running, the men’s draw will see a new winner for the first time since 2015.
Winners of four out of five NCAA titles since 2013, UVA was dismissed by No. 16 Columbia University in the second round. For their trouble, Columbia will now face the host and No. ADVERTISEMENT 1-seeded Demon Deacons in round three.
After defeating Navy and South Carolina in the opening rounds, Wake Forest now sits at 27-2 on the year. One of their conquerors, Florida, lurks as a potential semifinal opponent. The No. 13-seeded Gators will play Ole Miss on Friday, after the unseeded Rebels scored the upset of the opening weekend with a 4-3 win over No. 4 Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.
No. 12 Florida State, the other team to defeat the Demon Deacons, and No. 14 Oklahoma were the only other seeds to lose, falling to Alabama and Minnesota, respectively. Both advancing teams will be underdogs again in the Sweet 16, as Alabama takes on No. 5 Texas A&M and Minnesota battles No. 3 Ohio State.
UCLA, the unanimous No. 1 in the latest USTA College Tennis Top 25 poll, is the No. 2 seed in the tournament and will open the weekend against No. 15 Michigan. The Bruins booked their Sweet 16 ticket with a pair of 4-0 wins over Idaho and San Diego.
A No. 1 vs. No. 2 final would be a repeat of the championship match at the National Team Indoor Championships. On that occasion, on Feb. 19 at the University of Washington, Wake Forest prevailed, 4-2.
The opening weekend of the women’s draw produced two major upsets, with both occurring in top-seeded Vanderbilt’s quarter of the draw. The Commodores lived up to their billing in consecutive 4-0 results over Alabama State and Clemson, but both No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 9 Florida squandered home-court advantage as they bowed out to a pair of in-state rivals.
Tulsa scored the upset, 4-2, over Oklahoma State, while Florida State turned back the defending-champion Gators, 4-3. The unseeded upstarts will meet in round three Thursday, with a last-eight matchup with the Vanderbilt-Miami winner on the line.
The remaining seeds are all still alive, setting up some big-name clashes on Thursday. Chief among them is No. 2 North Carolina’s matchup with last year’s finalist, No. 15 Stanford. The Cardinal will be confident despite their underdog status, having won the tournament as a No. 15 seed in 2016.
No. 3 Duke will also make the short trip to Wake Forest for their matchup against No. 14 Northwestern. The Wildcats are one of three teams to defeat Vanderbilt this season, along with Pepperdine and already-eliminated Mississippi State.
Pepperdine, which was recently profiled on USTA.com, will face No. 4 Georgia Tech. Though seeded No. 13, the Waves slotted in at No. 4 in the latest USTA College Tennis Top 25 poll, three spots ahead of the Yellow Jackets.
The women’s final will be played on Tuesday, May 22 at 1 p.m., with the men’s final to follow at 5 p.m.
The individual singles and doubles tournaments will be held at Wake Forest after the team event, from May 23-28.
For more information and to keep up with the tournament action, visit the USTA's College Tennis page.
(Photo courtesy of Wake Forest University)