Weekly #18: U-M Set to Open NCAA Tournament Play on Saturday

May 8, 2012

Alex Petrone Interview

Saturday, May 12 -- vs. Middle Tennessee State (Oxford, Miss.), 9 a.m. CDT
Sunday, May 13 -- NCAA Second Round (Oxford, Miss.), 1 p.m. CDT
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The No. 21-ranked University of Michigan men's tennis team (17-7) will open NCAA Tournament play this weekend, traveling to Oxford, Miss., to participate in the NCAA Regional hosted by Mississippi at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. U-M will face Middle Tennessee State (19-7) in the first round at 9 a.m. CDT on Saturday (May 12), while host Mississippi (13-8) and Binghamton (15-11) will square off at noon CDT. The winners of the two first-round matches will face off on Sunday (May 13) at 1 p.m., with a berth to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Dual Match Format -- This weekend's dual matches will be contests for the best-of-seven team points. The dual will begin with three doubles matches consisting of eight-game pro sets. The team that wins two of these three matches will enter the singles competition with one of seven points. For postseason competition, once the doubles point has been clinched, the remaining doubles matches will not be completed. After a brief intermission, six singles matches will be played. Each singles match will be the best-of-three tie-break sets and worth one point towards the team competition. The overall dual match will be decided when one team secures four total points. All other matches in progress when the match point is clinched will be abandoned.

A Look at Middle Tennessee State -- The Blue Raiders earned an automatic berth to their 11th NCAA Championships after capturing their second straight Sun Belt Championship title with a 4-1 win over South Alabama on April 21. Middle Tennessee State owns a 19-7 overall record and has won 11 of its last 12 contests. Ben Davis leads the Blue Raiders with a 25-8 singles record, including a 17-4 dual mark from No. 1 position. Michigan and MTSU have met twice previously, with both contests as part of the O'Charley's Invitational in Knoxville, Tenn. The Wolverines earned a 6-1 win in the spring of 1995, while the Blue Raiders claimed a 5-2 victory over Michigan in 1997.

A Look at Mississippi -- The 13th-ranked Rebels are 13-8 on the season and took second place in the SEC Tournament after falling to Kentucky, 4-0, in the championship final on April 21. Mississippi boasts four ranked singles players, most notably No. 14 Nik Scholtz, who is 17-7 and 13-6 from the No. 1 position. Michigan trails in the all-time series against Mississippi, falling, 4-1, in the only meeting at the 1995 NCAA Championships.

A Look at Binghamton -- The Bearcats clinched the America East title and the automatic berth with a 4-1 win over UMBC on April 29. It will be Binghamton's fifth straight appearance at the NCAA Championship and eighth in the last 10 years. BU is 15-11 on the season and carries an eight-match win streak into the NCAA Tournament. Ismael Dinia leads the Bearcats with a 27-13 record, including a 17-9 mark in dual competition, while No. 1 singles player Alexandre Haggai is 19-15 and 13-10 in dual-match play. Michigan has yet to face Binghamton in dual competition.

Where We Rank -- The Wolverines hold the No. 21 position in the latest ITA national rankings, released last Tuesday (April 30). All-American Evan King climbed to the No. 6 singles listing, while U-M's top doubles tandem of King and sophomore Shaun Bernstein checks in at the No. 29 position. [ ITA Rankings ]

Michigan in the NCAA Tourney -- The Wolverines are making their seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 22nd overall since shift to tournament format in 1977. Michigan has won its first-round match in four of the last five years and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2008. Michigan has an all-time record of 10-22 (.313) in NCAA Championships matches but is 5-6 under head coach Bruce Berque.

Big Success for the Big Ten -- Six Big Ten Conference schools earned selection to the 64-team NCAA Championships bracket. It is the most Big Ten representatives in the NCAA Tournament since six also appeared in 2009. Illinois garnered the conference's automatic selection as the tournament winner, while U-M, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State earned at-large selection. Michigan is one of two Big Ten teams to win a national championship, accomplishing the feat in 1957. Illinois is the other (2003).

Playing the Best -- Of Michigan's 24 opponents this season, 12 qualified for the NCAA Championships, including two teams seeded among the tournament's top 10. The Wolverines went 6-8 against NCAA competition, knocking off Western Michigan, LSU, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern. U-M dropped matches to Duke, Texas Tech, Washington, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Ohio State and Illinois.

Individual Effort -- Junior Evan King will represent the Wolverines at the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships, earning the No. 6 seed for the singles competition to guarantee himself ITA All-America status for the second time in his career. King and sophomore Shaun Bernstein are No. 5 on the alternate list for the doubles competition.

Complete Statistics: Through April 28


Wolverine Warriors -- The Wolverines voted on their annual team award recipients last Friday (May 4), presenting MVP honors to junior Evan King, Most Improved Player honors to freshman Alex Petrone and the Leadership Award to sophomore Shaun Bernstein. It is King's second straight team MVP accolade.

King of the Court -- Junior Evan King, the nation's No. 7-ranked singles player, owns a solid 13-6 record against ranked opposition this season, most recently cruising past Ohio State's No. 6 Blaz Rola, 6-3, 6-1.
King is now 2-4 in collegiate meetings against Rola and has won the last two meetings, adding to a 7-5, 7-5 decision against the Buckeye last fall in the second round of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, held Nov. 3-6. King had not faced a ranked opponent for six weeks before knocking off Illinois' No. 4-ranked Dennis Nevolo, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 , to clinch U-M's win at Illinois in the final match on April 6. Among King's six total losses this season, five came against top-15 players, including two against Duke's Henrique Cunha and two against Washington's Kyle McMorrow.

We're Going Streaking -- Junior Evan King picked up a pair of weekend singles victories to extend his win streak to 15 matches in a row. King has won 19 of his last 20 matches and boasts a team-best 20-2 dual record. The Wolverine junior is no stranger to long winning streaks. Last season, he boasted a 14-match run early in the dual season.

Climbing the Charts -- With his win against Ohio State's Blaz Rola on April 22, junior Evan King improved to 32-6 on the season and claimed sole possession of the eighth position among Michigan's all-time single-season wins leaders. He needs two more to reach the seventh spot, currently held by Dan Goldberg (34, 1988). With his 83-28 career record, King is also nearing Michigan's top-10 all-time leaders in the category. He needs just four more wins to reach the 10th spot, currently held by Jon Morris (87, 1985-88).

Big in the Big Ten -- With its 9-2 record in Big Ten play, Michigan registered its most conference wins since also tallying nine in 1999. The Wolverines runner-up performance was the program's best Big Ten finish since placing second in 2007. U-M has finished among the Big Ten's top four teams in each of the last eight seasons.

A Singles Surge -- More than half of Michigan's four returning players in the singles lineup have already matched or surpassed their season win total from a season ago. Junior Evan King leads the Wolverine team with 32 wins, a two-win improvement over his previous best (30), while sophomore Alex Buzzi, with 17 singles wins, has nearly doubled his previous career total (9). Sophomore Barrett Franks picked up his 17th win of the season at the Big Ten Tournament to equal his 2011 win total.

Freshman Phenom -- Freshman Alex Petrone has been of a tear of late, winning seven of his last nine singles matches and 11 of his last 14, including five at the No. 2 position. Petrone is 22-11 on the season and 15-7 in dual-match action. He has also teamed with fellow freshman Michael Zhu to go 15-7 from the No. 3 doubles position; the duo has claimed five of its last six doubles matches.

A Point of Emphasis -- The Wolverines claimed the doubles point in eight of their last 10 dual matches and have been solid in doubles throughout the dual season, claiming the initial point in 16 of 23 dual matches and combining for a solid 39-26 combined doubles record. In the seven contests in which it dropped the doubles point, U-M has rallied from the initial deficit to earn the dual victory on three occasions, including against Wisconsin in Big Ten play. Michigan won just six doubles points through 24 duals last season.

We Thank You for Your Attendance -- Michigan fans rank among the best in college tennis. Despite hosting only two home matches in March, the Wolverines remained among the nation's attendance leaders, listing fifth nationally in total attendance (2,955) and third in average attendance (422) and boasting the fourth-highest-attended match in the nation (684, March 17 vs. Michigan State).

Leader of the Wolverines -- Head coach Bruce Berque is in his eighth year at the helm of the Wolverine program, compiling a 125-80 overall record and 51-20 Big Ten mark over his tenure. Berque has led the Wolverines to six consecutive NCAA Championships berths, including the 2008 Sweet 16, and has finished among the top four of the Big Ten in six of seven seasons. Mark Merklein is in his first season as Michigan's assistant coach after joining the staff this past summer. A former ATP tour professional (1994-2005) and NCAA singles (1994) and doubles (1993) champion while at Florida, Merklein spent the previous six years as a national coach with the USTA Player Development Center in Boca Raton, Fla. [ Merklein Hired as Assistant Coach for Wolverine Program ]

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Thu-Tue., May 17-22 -- at NCAA Championships (Athens, Ga.)
Wed-Mon., May 23-28 -- at NCAA Individual Championships (Athens, Ga.)

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423