May 15, 2012
NCAA Men's Bracket
No. 11 Stanford Cardinal (19-8, 5-2 Pac-12)
- vs. -
No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats (28-5, 11-0 SEC)
NCAA Men's Tennis Championships - Round of 16
Friday, May 18, 2012 - 1 p.m. PT
Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, GA
Weather Forecast: 79 degrees, partly cloudy
STANFORD, Calif.- Making its 34th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, Stanford (19-8, 5-2 Pac-12) is into the round of 16 for the fourth consecutive season and 28th overall. Checking in at No. 11 in the latest edition of the national rankings and seeded No. 11 overall in the postseason draw, the Cardinal owns a 102-17 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament.
One of the most successful and tradition-rich programs in the history of men's college tennis, Stanford has captured 18 national team championships (15 NCAA, 3 AIAW). The Cardinal's next victory will translate into four consecutive 20-win seasons.
Now the action heats up this weekend in steamy Athens, Ga., as the nation's top 16 teams remain in the hunt for a national championship. It's been 12 years since Stanford last took home the trophy, but the Cardinal's NCAA quarterfinal finish last year was its best postseason effort since 2006.
With that said, here are a few interesting storylines heading into this weekend's competition:
| An Unfamiliar Position In The Draw
Seeded No. 11 in the postseason draw, Stanford is in a bit of unfamiliar territory. The Cardinal had been seeded either eighth or ninth for three straight seasons, which meant an equally-matched opponent in the round of 16 and then the daunting task of potentially facing the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals. Stanford's longest winning streak this year is a modest four games, although the Cardinal has suffered back-to-back losses only twice (in both cases, against USC and UCLA- two of the nation's best). Stanford's signature victory of the year? That would be a 4-1 upset of then-No. 6 Kentucky at the National Team Indoor Championships back on Feb. 19. And while that possibly means very little three months later, it's expected that Stanford will head into Friday's match against the Wildcats with added confidence.
| What's Up With The Doubles Shuffle?
Six matches ago, head coach John Whitlinger decided to shuffle his doubles lineup in order to create added balance and maximize his talent on all three courts. While it's a small sample size, the Cardinal has won four of six doubles points since that change. The No. 1 spot has been anchored by Denis Lin and Ryan Thacher (3-3), the No. 2 position has been held down by Bradley Klahn and John Morrissey (5-0) and the No. 3 spot has featured a combination of Jamin Ball, Matt Kandath and Robert Stineman. It's hard to measure the results at this point, but two things are certain: (1) Losing the doubles point isn't a deal-breaker, as the Cardinal is 4-5 when that's the case. (2) You haven't seen the last of Klahn and Thacher as a doubles team. The senior duo will try for an eighth career title when the NCAA Doubles Championships get underway next week.
| Lineup Based On Matchups, Feel
Take an even closer look at Stanford's lineup, and it's that much more difficult to dissect where points are going to come from on a consistent basis. That being said, points must be coming from somewhere if you've advanced to the NCAA round of 16 and find yourself on the doorstep of win No. 20. Any of Stanford's eight eligible players could see the court on Friday in either singles or doubles. In fact, the longest stretch this year in which head coach John Whitlinger has stuck with the same lineup in successive matches is four. Establishing a rotation has been difficult, mainly due to injuries and inconsistency. When Stanford faced Kentucky back in February, the singles lineup featured Thacher at No. 1, Kandath at No. 2, Klahn at No. 3, Lin at No. 4, Morrissey at No. 5 and Stineman at No. 6. In doubles, Klahn and Thacher were playing together for only the third time this year. It won't be the same Friday.
| Klahn Is Hitting His Stride
The most recent image of Bradley Klahn inside Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex is one of the championship variety: racket tossed aside, kneeling on the court, both fists clenched after cruising past Louisville's Austen Childs to become Stanford's first NCAA Singles champion since 2000. Sidelined with a back injury for the entire fall season and the early portion of duals, Klahn will be playing in just his 19th match of the year when Friday rolls around. Ranked No. 36 nationally due to the layoff but still respected as one of the nation's elite players nonetheless, Klahn appears locked in and that's bad news for opponents. The three-time All-American is 10-2 over his last 12 matches, with the only losses coming to the nation's top-ranked player in Steve Johnson of USC.
| Back Courts Have Been Solid
Head coach John Whitlinger will monitor courts 4-6 as he normally does, and it's likely that those spots will be pivotal if Stanford has hopes of making a deep postseason run. The Cardinal has posted a winning percentage of .580 or better on the back courts, meaning freshmen John Morrissey and Robert Stineman, along with sophomore Daniel Ho, have answered the call. Morrissey leads the team in both overall (23) and dual match (19) victories, and he has provided the clinching singles point on a team-best five occasions. Ho is 7-3 over his last 10 contests, 6-1 in three-set matches and has won three of the five NCAA Tournament matches in which he has appeared. Stineman's 22 wins rank second overall on the squad and he has provided the clincher in four matches.