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College Basketball: The Five Best Matchups of the ESPN Tip-off Marathon

The start of the college basketball is still a few months away, but schedules and matchup are slowly being released throughout the offseason. Beginning at 11 p.m. on August 11, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan began releasing the matchups for the annual ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. The Tip-Off Marathon begins at 7 p.m. on November 11 and there will be games broadcasted consecutively on the network for more than 24 hours.

To make the marathon work, games will be played across the country and ESPN is using time zone differences to its full advantage.

The Tip-Off Marathon will feature title contenders (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State), some of last season’s Cinderella teams (Florida Gulf Coast, La Salle and Wichita State) and every other type of team in between.

While most fans are unlikely to be up at a the crack of dawn to watch Hawaii host New Mexico State, there are a number of intriguing matchups to be played on November 11 and 12.

The headliners are obviously the two Champions Classic games: Kentucky-Michigan State and Duke-Kansas.

Each of the four teams in the Champions Classic will have played each other in the event after this season, which is the third year of the Classic. With four of the best programs in college basketball competing in the Champions Classic, there are destined to be compelling matchups every year.

The Champions Classic website acknowledges that the 2011 games included Mike Krzyzewski breaking Bob Knight’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball all-time wins record as well as a preview of that year’s championship game with the Kentucky-Kansas matchup.

This year’s Champions Classic games will be filled with compelling story lines, highly touted prospects and very good basketball.

Here are the five best games in the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon based on how the teams performed last season, the players returning and the strength of their 2013 recruiting classes.

5. Western Kentucky at Wichita State

The Shockers are coming off the heels of their run to the Final Four last spring, and it’s time for them to try to build off of last season. Wichita State’s best player, senior forward Cleanthony Early, returned to school in hope of another tournament run. However, Wichita State will have to move on without Carl Hall and Malcolm Armstead, who averaged a combined 23 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.

Creighton has moved to the Big East, which means that Wichita State has a chance to assert its dominance in the Missouri Valley. The Shockers’ game against Western Kentucky will be their first time in the national spotlight since April.

The Hilltoppers are no slouches, even though WKU isn’t known for its basketball. In their opening matchup in last year’s NCAA tournament, they were beating Kansas with 18 minutes left in the game and only lost by seven to the Jayhawks.

Western Kentucky’s leading scorers, T.J. Price and George Fant, will be juniors this season. The duo averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds per game last season. WKU lost only two seniors to graduation from last year’s team that went 20-16, which means that the Hilltoppers could be chosen on selection Sunday next spring.

4. North Carolina State at Cincinnati

Both North Carolina State and Cincinnati had early NCAA tournament exits last season. The two schools each lost by four points in their first matchups.

The Wolfpack lost most of its star players to graduation, the NBA or another school via transfer. Sophomore forward T.J. Warren will lead the new-look North Carolina State team along with the nation’s 13th best recruiting class that Mark Gottfried assembled. Five freshmen will join the Wolfpack this season, and three of them (point guard Anthony Barber, center BeeJay Anya and power forward Kyle Washington) are in ESPN’s top 100 players of the 2013 class.

The Cincinnati Bearcats lost three key players–guard Cashmere Wright, center CheikhMbodj and guard JaQuon Parker–to graduation following last season. However, UCbrings back its leading scorer, Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 17 points per game last season. Senior forwards Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson, as well as junior guard Jeremiah Davis III will have to step up this season for Cincinnati to make it back to the NCAA tournament. The Bearcats have the 24th best 2013 recruiting class, which is led by power forward Jermaine Lawrence.

Cincinnati and North Carolina State lost several starters from last year’s squads. They hope that their top 25 recruiting classes are enough to make it further in the NCAA tournament next year than they did last season.

3. Florida at Wisconsin

The Florida-Wisconsin matchup will be overshadowed because it falls in between the Kentucky-Michigan State and Duke-Kansas games, but it is certainly a treat for college basketball fans. Florida and Wisconsin are two programs that are consistently good.

Florida won the national championship in 2006 and 2007 and the Gators have made the Elite Eight for three consecutive seasons.

Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament every year since 1999.

Florida will be led by senior center Patric Young, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season. The Gators also have two of the top 12 2013 recruits, per ESPN. Point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker are five-star recruits who made Billy Donovan’s two-player freshmen class the 10th best in the country.

Wisconsin returns its leading scorer, Ben Brust, who averaged more than 11 points and five rebounds per game last season. The Badgers also have sophomore Sam Dekker, who could be ready for a breakout season after averaging more than nine points and three rebounds per game in 2012-13.

The Badgers’ top incoming freshman is power forward Nigel Hayes, who was ranked 83rd overall in the country by ESPN. Wisconsin’s five-player freshman class is ranked 32nd in the country.

These schools played in November last season and Florida won at home by 18. Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn to have home-court advantage and try to pick up a key non-conference win.

2. Duke vs. Kansas

The two incoming freshmen with the most hype will get to square off at this year’s Champions Classic. Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils will challenge Andrew Wiggins and the Kansas Jayhawks.

While Parker and Wiggins will get most of the attention, other highly ranked recruitswill get the chance to make a name for themselves on a national stage.

Kansas also has the top center prospect in Joel Embiid (ranked 6th overall by ESPN), small forward Wayne Selden (ranked 14th overall by ESPN), point guard Conner Frankamp (46th nationally) and shooting guard Brannen Greene (47th nationally).

Duke also signed Matt Jones (36th nationally) and Semi Ojeleye (40th nationally).

The Blue Devils also return starting guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, who both averaged more than 11 points per game last season.

Kansas lost all five starters from last season, but the Jayhawks return Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe, who were the team’s best bench players.

Both teams reloaded on talent and they are poised to make deep tournament runs this season.

1. Kentucky vs. Michigan State

After Kentucky’s fourth-place finish in the SEC last season, John Calipari is bringing the best recruiting class in the country for 2013 to Lexington, and it includes six players in the top 25 spots of ESPN’s top 100 players.

The Wildcats also return Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, who were both ranked in the top 40 players of the 2012 class by ESPN.

UK will likely begin the season as the No. 1 team in the country and the Wildcats are ready to turn the page after their season-ending loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

Michigan State doesn’t have a single 2013 recruit ranked in the top 100 players by ESPN, but the Spartans are returning four starters from last year’s team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Michigan State will be led by senior point guard Keith Appling, star shooting guard Gary Harris and senior forward Adreian Payne. Tom Izzo has the roster to make his seventh final four at Michigan State.

This may be the best test of the regular season for both teams, and it comes in November rather than in conference play.

Click here to read this article on BleacherReport.com. 

IU Coach Lin Loring on WGCL 95.9 FM with Joe Smith

On Tuesday evening at 6 p.m., IU Coach Lin Loring was a guest on the Joe Smith Report on WGCL 95.9 FM, live from Yogi’s Grill & Bar in Bloomington.

Loring said that the women are really excited for the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on Thursday in Bloomington. He said that a lot of parents will be in town for the tournament, including senior Leslie Hureau’s parents, who are traveling from France to see their daughter’s final home match(es).

Loring said that hosting the tournament is a huge benefit for the women’s academics.

“They realize what an advantage it is to be here and finals start Monday,” he said. “A couple years ago were in the airport in Minnesota on Sunday night with finals on Monday.”

Loring stressed the importance of academics for the IU women’s tennis team, which can be seen through the team’s 3.63 GPA last fall as well as the team’s dominance in winning the Herbert Cup.

“We started an award after him [former IU President Herbert] and there had never been anything like that before and that really put it out front,” he said. “It has become a tradition on the team and they take a lot of pride winning that each semester.”

He said that the team has had a lot of success athletically in addition to the women’s achievements in the classroom.

“When we’ve had everybody in the lineup, we’re 7-1, including a win against Michigan, so we’ve beaten the No. 1 seed in the conference,” Loring said. “This is probably the first time in 15 years that we’ve beat two top 10 teams. If we have everybody in the lineup, we can beat anybody in the country.”

He said that the goal of the IU women’s tennis team is to be as good as possible and he said that the Hoosiers have accomplished their goal several times this season.

Despite victories against No. 2 Duke and No. 10 Michigan, Loring acknowledged that the season has been a roller coaster ride. He said that injuries and the coaching staff not making the right personnel decisions have been two challenges for the Hoosiers this spring.

“We’ve done what I thought we could do, it took some time to get there,” he said.

Loring said that IU’s singles play has been the team’s strength this season.

“I think except for one team this year, we’ve split the singles or won four or more [singles matches],” he said. “If we win the doubles point, we’re confident that we can win the match.”

When Loring looked ahead to the Big Ten Tournament, he said that in order for matches to be played outdoors, it must be at least 50 degrees and there must be less than 20 mile per hour wind.

“We’ve actually played really well outdoors but unfortunately with the way the spring has been we haven’t had too many opportunities to play outdoors,” he said. “We’re confident that whatever way the weather holds this weekend we can do well.”

Loring said that he can’t think of a more competitive season of Big Ten women’s tennis in his 35 years at the helm of the Hoosiers.

“There was a four-way tie at eighth and the teams are so close that they had trouble breaking the tie at the conference office,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had 3 teams in the top 15 at the end of the season. There is depth at the top and depth at the bottom.”

Loring said that he feels good and the women are really excited knowing that they’re going to be at full strength.

“I think the girls feel really confident going into that first match and they know that they have to take care of business before looking ahead to Northwestern,” he said.

Click here to read this post on the Indiana Daily Student’s Hoosier Hype blog. 

IU Coach Lin Loring previews Illinois, Northwestern, and the postseason

The No. 34 IU women’s tennis team (17-6, 6-3) is in fifth place in the Big Ten and has the potential to earn a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament if the Hoosiers can finish the season as one of the top four teams in the conference. Indiana faces No. 47 Illinois at home on Friday and travels to No. 16 Northwestern on Sunday.

A win against the Wildcats (13-8, 7-2) is critical for IU’s postseason. Northwestern is tied for third place in the conference and the Wildcats are only one win ahead of the Hoosiers.

“Every team is dinged up at this time of the year so a bye is really big and that’s why you normally don’t see teams that don’t get a bye make it to the finals,” Loring said. “It’s the only time of the year when a team would play four matches in four days. Even in the NCAA Tournament there’s a day off in the middle of the tournament so you would in the NCAA Championships play four matches in five days so it’s tough.”

Loring said that if Indiana defeats Northwestern then the Hoosiers will definitely make the NCAA Championships.

“We’ve got a lot of reasons to play well in that match,” he said.

Loring said that IU doesn’t have anything to lose in its match against Northwestern.

“We’re playing on the road against a team ranked way ahead of us so we’ll just go out there and try our best,” he said. “We’ve done it twice before on the road or at a neutral site. We’re not going to be intimidated because we’ve already played Michigan, who beat them (Northwestern) and I believe Duke beat them too.”

“It’s one of those matches where we can just go for it,” Loring said.

He acknowledged that Indiana hasn’t defeated Northwestern in “a while,” and a win against a perennial top 15 team would exemplify how much Indiana has improved since last season.

In 2011-12, the Hoosiers were 4-7 in the Big Ten, finished seventh in the conference, and had freshmen playing in the No. 3 through No. 6 singles positions.

“Everybody has just played a little bit better,” Loring said. “It’s basically the same time minus two of the starters. Kayla (Fujimoto) and Evgeniya (Vertesheva) were both starters last year so it’s pretty amazing when you consider that we don’t have a bunch of new people at the top of the lineup.”

“Basically everybody except for Leslie is playing higher in the lineup than they did last year so it just shows how much we have improved,” he said.

Click here to read this blog post on the Indiana Daily Student’s Hoosier Hype blog.

Sri Lanka native Jayawickrema at home, away from home

For IU senior women’s tennis player Jithmie Jayawickrema, home is Colombo, Sri Lanka, where she first discovered her love for tennis.

“It was pretty much my life,” Jayawickrema said. “I mean, I didn’t have anything else but tennis.”

Jayawickrema started playing when she was 8 years old, and she represented Sri Lanka in the Federation Cup, the world’s largest international women’s tennis team competition, by the time she was 17.

At the junior level for International Tennis Federation play, Jayawickrema compiled 73 total victories. She was a four-time national champion in Sri Lanka from 2005-08, and her ITF junior world ranking peaked at 309.

Jayawickrema attended Bishop’s College in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before committing to Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Tex., in January 2011.

“In high school, that was the thing to do, for you to go to the U.S. and get a scholarship to play tennis,” Jayawickrema said. “In my country, there were a lot of people who did that, but for me it was a big deal to come here.”

Last year, Jayawickrema was a first-team All-Southland Conference selection in doubles play after posting a 20-3 record and being ranked as high as No. 17 nationally.

Despite her successes at SFA, Jayawickrema decided she needed a change.

“I talked to the coaches here (at IU), and I really liked them, so I decided to take a visit to see how it was,” Jayawickrema said. “I really liked it.”

She also considered transferring to Purdue, Virginia, N.C. State and Central Florida but ultimately decided to attend IU, where she found her home away from home in Bloomington.

“I liked it here because the coaches made me feel like I’m more welcome, and I’m more comfortable here,” Jayawickrema said. “When I came to visit, they really made me feel like I’m at home.”

Senior Jithmie Jayawickrema transferred to Indiana University from Stephen F. Austin University. (Image courtesy of iuhoosiers.com)
Senior Jithmie Jayawickrema transferred to Indiana University from Stephen F. Austin University. (Image courtesy of iuhoosiers.com)

She said the coaches helped her transition smoothly to IU.

“Both of them are so helpful to me,” Jayawickrema said. “They’re just so nice. They’re some of the nicest coaches I know personally, so it helps you to get through your matches and in the whole season. They care about you.”

Jayawickrema said the team’s preseason goals were to win the Big Ten, get to the NCAA Championships and be ranked in the top 30.

As the season has progressed, the Sri Lanka native, who aspires to go to graduate school to study physical therapy, has had more opportunities to help the Hoosiers accomplish their lofty goals.

“She’s been our first one off the bench up until now,” IU Coach Lin Loring said. “I think she’s excited to be in the starting lineup, and she just needs matches right now. She’s only been in the lineup for three or four starting matches, so she’s still kind of getting her feet wet.”

Loring said Jayawickrema’s biggest match of the season was defeating the No. 13 player in the nation, Nebraska’s Maike Zeppernick, 6-4, 6-4 in the No. 6 singles match April 7.

“I’m hoping that that match will give her a lot of confidence for the rest of the conference season and the Big Ten Tournament and hopefully the NCAA Tournament,” Loring said.

In a competitive conference with four Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25, Jayawickrema might prove to be the spark the Hoosiers need to accomplish their preseason goals. Not only is her 15-1 record in her past 16 singles matches the best for any IU player, but Jayawickrema is 9-1 in the No. 6 singles spot. IU is 7-5 when any other player competes in the same position.

She said IU’s two wins against top 10 opponents, No. 2 Duke and No. 10 Michigan, brought the team together and that the team’s chemistry is peaking at the right time.

In addition to IU’s team unity, the Hoosiers’ home-court advantage will be one of their biggest assets in the postseason.

Jayawickrema said she thinks IU can do well when the team plays host for the Big Ten Tournament at the IU Tennis Center, where the Hoosiers are 10-2 this season.

It is only fitting that in her senior season the Big Ten Tournament is in Bloomington, on a campus she has grown to love as her second home.

“I think (I) just like the atmosphere itself. It’s not like it’s a big city at all,” Jayawickrema said. “I like it that way, and I love the campus.

“Just being around it, you feel like you’re at home. You don’t feel like you’re out of place.”

Click here to read this article on the Indiana Daily Student website. 

‘A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.’

“To win without risk is to triumph without glory,” Pierre Corneille, a 17th-century French playwright who has been dubbed the “founder of French tragedy,” wrote.

More than 300 years later, Leslie Hureau, a native of France and an IU senior on the IU women’s tennis team, is wrapping up an illustrious career that was only made possible by taking a risk — one giant leap of faith across “the pond” from Annecy-le-Vieux, France to Bloomington.

Hureau started her tennis career at the age of four when she picked up a tennis racket for the first time.

“Both of my parents played so they just brought me with them and since then I’ve been practicing a lot,” she said. “I was doing skiing at some point but after that it was tennis and obviously when I came here, tennis was a big part of my college life.”

Hureau, who was a top-ranked Alpine skier in France at a young age, said she watched some of her older friends who played at her tennis club go to the United States to play in college, and she knew she would like to continue her career at the collegiate level.

“Among tennis players, there are a reasonable amount of people who do that,” she said.

Despite knowing that playing tennis at a Division I university in the U.S. was an option for her future, Hureau said she didn’t know much about the college selection process.

“Honestly, before I came I didn’t really have a clue,” Hureau said. “I know the American girls, they look at all of the rankings and they talk to so many people.”

IU Coach Lin Loring said Hureau used a college search service in France that eventually culminated in Hureau visiting three American universities with her mother.

She said she didn’t know much about the Big Ten Conference or IU but she visited Bloomington for a campus visit. The Lycée Berthollet product talked to Loring and she found she would have a scholarship to play for the Hoosiers.

“She came over with her mom and her mom speaks fluent English so her mom did most of the talking,” Loring said. “Actually, Leslie didn’t speak a lot of English. I think she understood it, but she didn’t talk a lot and she was shy.”

After visiting campus as well as talking to the coaching staff and players, Hureau was ready to embrace the Cream and Crimson.

“I came on a visit and when I came I thought it was really nice, the campus, the coaches and players,” she said.

Hureau said Loring and IU Associate Head Coach Ramiro Azcui are coaches who don’t just care about tennis.

“They care about you as an individual,” Hureau said. “They want to make sure that I’m okay after college. They’re both great coaches, great people.”

Hureau said her French classmates, who did not come from the same tennis background as her and her tennis peers, did not understand her decision to attend college on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. However, those who questioned her college choice did not see first-hand the opportunities that IU had to offer Hureau.

“It was a really easy decision to come to IU,” she said. Hureau’s decision to attend IU was her first step as she embarked on a collegiate tennis career in the U.S. as the Hoosiers’ No. 1 singles player.

IU senior Leslie Hureau has played in the No. 1 singles position for the Hoosiers since her freshman year and she has compiled nearly 200 wins at IU. (Image courtesy of iuhoosiers.com)
IU senior Leslie Hureau has played in the No. 1 singles position for the Hoosiers since her freshman year and she has compiled nearly 200 wins at IU. (Image courtesy of iuhoosiers.com)

From the start of her college career, Hureau defeated nationally ranked opponents and was recognized with prestigious honors. In her freshman campaign, Hureau was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rookie of the Year for the Ohio Valley Region as well as she was awarded with First Team All-Big Ten honors after posting a 25-11 singles record.

Hureau’s most successful season individually was her sophomore year when advanced to the round of 16 in the 2011 NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles Championship tournament. She was also honored as a singles All-American selection. Once again, she was named to the All-Big Ten First Team and finished the season ranked No. 57 in singles.

As a junior, Hureau defeated four ranked Big Ten opponents in singles, finished the season ranked No. 77 nationally, and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors for the third consecutive year.

Hureau is 21-12 in singles this season in the No. 1 position for IU and she has defeated three nationally ranked opponents.

Loring said Hureau’s game has become more defined during her time at IU.

“It’s not like she’s learned a new shot that she didn’t have,” he said. “She’s gotten better at what she does and she’s refined the game that she has.”

Despite her on-court successes this season, Hureau’s importance to the IU women’s tennis team extends beyond registering wins in dual matches.

“She’s been our team captain this year and she’s done a great job because we’re still a really young team,” Loring said. “She’s just done a great job setting an example whether it’s in the classroom or on the court. She’s a great senior leader.”

With two regular season dual matches remaining this year, the senior has compiled a 92-46 singles record and 83-54 doubles record over the course of her career at IU.

Despite all of her individual accomplishments and awards, Hureau, who is currently ranked No. 122 in singles, said the IU women’s tennis team defeating two top ten opponents this season in Duke (2nd) and Michigan (10th) is one of her fondest memories from her time in Bloomington.

“I think what’s big about this team is that even though I lost my match against Michigan and Jithmie (Jayawickrema) didn’t play against Duke, we were so happy,” she said.

Hureau said she cried after she lost her singles match against No. 20 Emina Bektas of Michigan because she thought she had let the team down.

“But after that we won and it was just such a great feeling,” Hureau said. “Especially Duke, it was the end of spring break and we had been together for a week and it was just perfect, the perfect ending. We came back home on the plane and we were going crazy.”

Hureau said even though her teammates have changed over the course of her four years at IU, it will be really hard to graduate this spring because she said her best friends are on IU’s campus and on the women’s tennis team.

“We see each other every day, we go through so much together and we’re really close,” Hureau said. “It’s sounds cheesy and everyone says it but it’s true. We live together and when we don’t play tennis, we hang out together so it’s going to be hard to leave.”

She said she loves the atmosphere of IU and experiencing the success of the IU men’s basketball team this season.

“It was really fun to watch because you really feel like you’re a part of something in the community,” Hureau said. “That was really neat because I didn’t have anything like that before.”

While the marketing major in the Kelley School of Business has many accomplishments on which to reflect, she still has her sights set on the future. No. 34 IU has two remaining dual matches, the team will play host to the Big Ten Tournament at the end of April, and then the Hoosiers hope to advance to the NCAA Championships.

“It has an extra motivation for me since it’s my senior year and it’s at home,” Hureau said. “This year we’ve been playing well so we have a good shot at it and I think now we know that on a given day we can beat anyone in the conference. That’s something that we didn’t really know before and we didn’t believe in it but know we know that.”

If IU being host to the Big Ten Tournament in her final season in Bloomington isn’t enough of storybook ending for Hureau, then having her parents fly from France to attend the tournament should do the trick.

“It’s just a lot of things to look forward to,” she said.

When the season, which she hopes ends at the NCAA Championships in Champaign, Ill., is all said and done, Hureau will prepare for the next stage of her life — attending graduate school for sports management in France.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s kind of bittersweet though because I’m not ready to leave.”

When the Hoosiers’ season ends and Hureau leaves upon graduation, she will have won nearly 200 collegiate tennis matches after taking the risk of going to college over 4,000 miles away from home, in a country where she was forced to immerse herself in the English language.

Hureau made the most of her opportunity and triumphed with glory, winning All-Big Ten First Team, ITA Ohio Valley Region Rookie of the Year, and All-American honors. And the best part for Hureau is that there are a few empty pages for her to add to her final chapter at IU before the book of her college career finally closes.

No. 32 Hoosiers set for away matches

Riding a three-match win streak, which includes a victory against No. 10 Michigan, the No. 32 IU women’s tennis team (14-5, 3-2) will play on the road for the second weekend in a row. The Hoosiers will face Iowa at 4:30 p.m. Friday and No. 13 Nebraska at noon Sunday.

IU has cut back on practice leading up to this weekend’s matches due to the team’s two long road trips in consecutive weeks.

“We got back at about 11 o’clock last Sunday night, and we’ll probably get back around midnight or one o’clock this Sunday night, so it’s just important for us to rest our legs,” IU Coach Lin Loring said. “This is not an easy road trip because of (matches on) Friday and Sunday and driving six hours between the two sites. We just have to make sure that we’re fresh and ready to go.”

Loring said the bad part about IU’s schedule is that the team plays Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue – all of whom are ranked in the top 25 – on the road this season. He said the Hoosiers have to make the most of their opportunities.

IU is in fifth place in the Big Ten after its pair of victories last weekend improved the team’s conference record to 3-2. Senior Leslie Hureau is ranked No. 111 in singles, and her teammate, sophomore Katie Klyczek, is ranked No. 112.

Iowa (8-8, 1-4) is tied for 10th in the conference. While the Hawkeyes have a .500 record through March, all of their losses have been against ranked opponents.

The Hawkeyes’ lone conference win was against No. 37 Illinois. Iowa junior Ruth Seaborne is ranked No. 85 in singles. Seaborne and Morven McCulloch are the No. 34 doubles tandem.

In the past decade, Iowa has a 7-5 advantage in dual matches against IU.

“The only thing that we’re concerned about at Iowa is that we really haven’t played in an outdoor match in strong wind,” Loring said. “It can get pretty windy there.”

Nebraska (16-3, 5-0) is first in the Big Ten. If the weather permits, the match will be played outdoors.

IU is 2-0 in outdoor matches this season. The Hoosiers defeated No. 2 Duke 4-2 and Michigan State 7-0 in those dual matches.

“They do play in a bubble, so if we play indoors we’ll have to get used to the bubble,” Loring said.

Nebraska has bested 10 ranked opponents this season, including wins against five teams ranked in the top 25.

Senior Mary Weatherholt is ranked No. 13 in singles. She will leave Nebraska as the winningest women’s tennis player in school history.

The doubles combination of Weatherholt and Patricia Veresova is No. 11 in the country.

IU and Nebraska have only faced each other once as conference foes. The Cornhuskers won that dual match 5-2 last spring.

“The bad thing for us this year is that we play every top-ranked team in the conference on the road,” he said. “We just have to give it our best shot.”

Click here to read this article on the Indiana Daily Student website.

No. 40 IU women’s tennis wins two matches on road trip to Michigan

The No. 40 Indiana women’s tennis team earned its second and third consecutive Big Ten victories over the weekend during its road trip to the Great Lakes State. The Hoosiers notched their eighth 7-0 victory of the season in East Lansing, Mich. against Michigan State on Saturday and followed it up with a 5-2 win against No. 10 Michigan on Sunday.

“It’s kind of indescribable,” IU Coach Lin Loring said.

IU improved its overall record to 14-5 and the Hoosiers’ 3-2 Big Ten record gives the team sole possession of fifth place in the conference.

The Hoosiers won the doubles point against Michigan State by winning the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches. Sophomore Carolyn Chupa and senior Leslie Hureau defeated Marina Bohrer/Catherine Parenteau 8-1 in the No. 1 match. Sophomores Alecia Kauss and Shannon Murdy topped Nicole Herzog/Michaela Silesova 9-8 in the No. 2 position.

IU swept the singles matches and won five of them in straight sets. No. 111 Hureau bested Bohrer 6-3, 7-5 in the No. 1 match. No. 112 Katie Klyczek , a sophomore who won the Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week earlier in March, defeated Parenteau 6-4, 6-1.

“We still had trouble closing out both singles and doubles matches that we were leading,” IU Coach Loring said. “On the positive side, we got to play an outdoor match and we got a win in a match we had to have.”

Loring said that Indiana got lucky that the match against Michigan State was outdoors because the Spartans’ outdoor courts are slower than their indoor courts.

“It couldn’t have worked out better to play Michigan State outdoors,” he said. “Not only because the court speed helped us get ready for Michigan but we also got in an outdoor match and at this time of the year, you’re never sure if you’re going to get in an outdoor match.”

Katie Klyczek said that it was challenging at first going from inside to outside. She said that it gave the team a good outdoor practice and that it may have helped an IU team that plays better outdoors.

After Indiana’s match at Michigan State, the Hoosiers traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich. for Sunday’s dual match against the No. 10 Michigan Wolverines.

The Wolverines had won eight consecutive matches entering Sunday, including victories against No. 14 Texas, No. 2 Duke, No. 16 Notre Dame, and No. 17 Purdue.

IU ended Michigan’s win streak by winning the doubles point and four of the six singles matches.

“I’m really proud of the way we competed,” IU Coach Loring said. “We just kept running down balls and making them hit one more. We haven’t had two top wins in the same year in quite some time.”

Michigan’s No. 2 doubles tandem of Emina Bektas/Brooke Bolender defeated Hureau/Chupa 8-1 in the No. 1 match. However, Indiana fought back to win the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles matches to earn the doubles point. Garre/Klyczek topped Mimi Nguyen/Kristen Dodge 8-2 in the No. 3 spot and Kauss/Murdy gave IU a 1-0 lead when they bested No. 49 Ronit Yurovsky/Sarah Lee 8-4 in the No. 2 match.

The Wolverines tied the match when No. 20 Bektas defeated No. 111 Hureau 6-1, 6-4 and then took a 2-1 when Amy Zhu bested senior Jithmie Jayawickrema 6-3, 6-2.

IU finished the match strong by winning the final four singles matches, which included three victories in three sets and two defeats of ranked opponents. In the No. 2 match, No. 112 Klyczek bested No. 39 Yurovsky 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. Chupa topped No. 76 Lee 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4) in the No. 3 spot.

“It’s pretty exciting, especially after all of our 4-3 losses, to finally win and see all of our hard work pay off,” Klyczek said.

“What makes it more remarkable is that neither one was at home,” IU Coach Loring said. “When we are firing on all cylinders we tough to beat.”

Loring said that tiebreakers finally went Indiana’s way and that the match against Michigan could not have been closer. He said that everyone will now know that IU’s win over No. 2 Duke was not a fluke after the Hoosiers defeated another top 10 opponent.

“We just kept our confidence and believed in ourselves and fought as hard as we could and good things happened,” Klyczek said. “It definitely helped with our confidence and made us realize that we really can do it once we work hard.”

Indiana will play on the road again next weekend when the team travels to face No. 69 Iowa and No. 12 Nebraska.

Click here to read this article on the Indiana Daily Student’s “Hoosier Hype” sports blog.

Hoosiers trek through Michigan this weekend

Fresh off its first Big Ten win against then-No. 53 Ohio State, the No. 40 IU women’s tennis team will face Michigan State and No. 10 Michigan on the road this weekend. The Hoosiers will travel to East Lansing, Mich., to play against the Spartans on Saturday followed by a dual match in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Sunday against the Wolverines. Both dual matches will start at 11 a.m.

The Hoosiers (12-5, 1-2) are tied for sixth place in the Big Ten. This week, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranked two Hoosiers in the top-125 singles players in the country. Senior Leslie Hureau reappeared in the rankings at No. 111 after cracking the top 50 last fall. Sophomore Katie Klyczek made her Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings debut at No. 112.

While Hureau and junior Sophie Garre did not play together in doubles last weekend, they are the No. 61 tandem in the nation, according to the ITA.

IU Coach Lin Loring said IU changed all of its doubles combinations last season in the week before the Big Ten Tournament, and he said the team wanted to start earlier this year.

“We just felt like we needed to experiment and try some (doubles combinations),” he said. “We just can’t be afraid to experiment with our doubles because our singles has been so much better than our doubles this year. With the exception of Tennessee, we’ve pretty much split singles with everybody.”

Loring said the Hoosiers’ doubles combinations Friday against Penn State may have cost IU the match after a 4-3 defeat, but he said Sunday’s doubles tandems may have won the match against Ohio State.

Michigan State (10-8, 0-3) is tied for 11th in the Big Ten. The DePaul Blue Demons are the only common opponent between the Spartans and the Hoosiers. DePaul defeated Michigan State 6-1 and IU knocked DePaul off 4-3. The Spartans are on a five-match losing streak and have scored only six points over that stretch.

“Michigan State is one of the weaker programs in the conference, but it’s really hard to play there because their courts are lightning fast,” Loring said. “I don’t think they’ve resurfaced them in 15 years. It’s like playing on a gym floor. Assuming that we’re playing indoors up there, that’s what we have to adjust to is the speed of the courts.”

Michigan (12-3, 3-0) is tied atop the conference. The Wolverines have defeated No. 23 Tennessee, No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 19 Vanderbilt, No. 24 Texas and No. 7 Duke this season. Michigan has three singles players ranked in the top-80 spots of the ITA rankings. No. 29 Emina Bektas, No. 39 Ronit Yurovsky and No. 76 Sarah Lee lead the Wolverines.

Bektas and Brooke Bolender are the No. 2 doubles combination in the country. The duo of Lee and Yurovsky is ranked No. 49.

Michigan has collected four Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week honors. Yurovsky has been recognized twice with her teammates Bektas and Lee each earning the award once.

“Their courts are very slow, which is fine,” Loring said. “It’s like playing outdoors, and we obviously played well outdoors in Vegas so the speed of the Michigan courts should not be an issue.”

“The issue will be playing on Saturday on very fast courts and then making a quick adjustment to the slow courts.”

Click here to read this article on the Indiana Daily Student website.

Takeaways and observations from the opening weekend of March Madness

The madness is under way and it is as awesome as ever. Nine lower seeded teams won in the first (technically the second) round. Four more upsets occurred en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some takeaways, observations, facts, and figures about the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • A No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 seasons and in 22 of the past 24 years. 2013 was no exception; in fact, it was even more extreme than normal. Three No. 12 seeds (Oregon, California, and Ole Miss) pulled off an upset against a No. 5 seed (Oklahoma State, UNLV, and Wisconsin).
  • For the first time ever, a No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seed in the same region lost in the round of 64. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin were defeated in the West Region.
  • The Mountain West, which was the toughest conference in the country in the regular season according to RPI, has been completely eliminated from the tournament after a 2-5 showing for its five teams that made the tourney.
  • The Pac-12 may have been under-seeded and is getting hot at the right time. Two Pac-12 teams with No. 12 seeds (California and Oregon) defeated No. 5 seeds and the conference put two teams (Arizona and Oregon) in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona defeated No. 11 seed Belmont by 17 points and No. 14 seed Harvard by 23. Oregon topped No. 5 seed Oklahoma State by 13 points and No. 4 seed Saint Louis by 17.
  • Teams from the state of Florida are 6-0 and all three (No. 2 seed Miami, No. 3 seed Florida, and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast) are in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will face each other on Friday.
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that did not win a game in the tournament. The conference is 10-3 and has a team in the Sweet Sixteen in each region.
  • For the third year in a row, there was a matchup between a No. 12 seed and No. 13 seed in the round of 32. No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle faced off in the West Region. Last year it was No. 12 South Florida and No. 13 Ohio that matched up in the Midwest Region and two years ago No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Morehead State played in the Southwest Region.
  • No. 13 seed La Salle is doing its best to model itself after 2011 Virginia Commonwealth, who was a No. 11 seed. The Rams played in the First Four before making a Final Four run, where they lost to No. 8 seed Butler. The La Salle Explorers finished tied for third in the A-10, then defeated No. 13 seed Boise State, No. 4 seed Kansas State, and No. 12 seed Ole Miss to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday.
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth's footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com)
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth’s footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)
  • Only two of the four Naismith Award finalists remain in the tournament–Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not make it out of the first weekend.
  • The main color of the past nine NCAA Champions was blue. Eight (Duke, La Salle, Arizona, Marquette, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, Michigan, and Kansas) of the remaining schools have blue as their main color.

IU falls against Penn State, beats Ohio State at home

Coming off the heels of its win against No. 2 Duke, the No. 38 IU women’s tennis team continued Big Ten action by playing host to No. 37 Penn State and No. 53 Ohio State during the weekend.

The Hoosiers lost to the Nittany Lions by a 4-3 margin on Friday, but defeated the Buckeyes 5-2 on Sunday.

In Friday evening’s match against Penn State, IU tested three new doubles tandems, and it paid off in the No. 3 doubles match. Sophomores Shannon Murdy and Carolyn Chupa defeated Sarah Henderson and Jacqueline Zuhse 8-1.

“We’ve been losing the doubles point for the last few matches, so I think the coaches wanted to switch up the teams to see if we could get ahead and get the doubles point,” Chupa said. “We switched it on Friday and then we switched it again today because it didn’t really work out on Friday.”

In the No. 1 match, No. 57 Petra Januskova and Chelsea Utting topped IU seniors Leslie Hureau and Jithmie Jayawickrema 8-4.

Penn State took a 1-0 lead by winning the No. 2 doubles match.

The Hoosiers tied the match when sophomore Alecia Kauss bested Devan McCluskey 6-0, 6-2 in the No. 4 singles match.

Penn State responded in the No. 2 spot when Utting topped sophomore Katie Klyczek 6-4, 6-4.

IU won the No. 3 and No. 5 singles matches in consecutive sets to take a 3-2 advantage.

Penn State’s Marie-Frederique Bedard took the No. 6 singles match from Murdy with a 7-6, 6-2 victory.

With the dual match tied at three points apiece, the No. 1 singles match was the deciding factor to break the tie. Hureau won the first set 7-6 but No. 41 Januskova came from behind to win the next two 6-4 and 7-6 (7-5) in a tiebreaker.

It was IU’s fourth 4-3 loss of the season.

“It’s the doubles point (that is the key to winning 4-3 matches) because basically all of the matches that we lost 4-3, we lost the doubles point,” junior Sophie Garre said.

IU jumped out to a 1-0 lead against Ohio State by winning the doubles point.

“Today it really helped because we’re up 4-0 but all of the matches that are still going on are really close,” Garre said after the Hoosiers had secured the win by winning the first four points of the match. “We are really happy that we won the doubles point.”

In the No. 1 match, Hureau and Chupa defeated Kelsey Dieters and Grâinne O’Neill 8-4 when O’Neill couldn’t handle Chupa’s return in the final point.

Minutes later, Kauss and Murdy topped Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley 8-4 after Malley double faulted in the final game.

In the No. 3 doubles match, Fidan Manashirova and Gabby Steele bested Garre and Klyczek 9-8 (6-4), but it was too little, too late for the Buckeyes as the Hoosiers were in control of the match from the start.

Chupa kept IU rolling by quickly defeating Cecil 6-0, 6-2 in the No. 3 singles match.

“I think after winning the doubles point we had a lot of energy going into singles, so that definitely carried us through the first sets of the match,” she said.

Garre gave IU a 3-0 lead when her serve proved too much for O’Neill in a straight-sets win at the No. 5 position.

Klyczek and Jayawickrema won the No. 2 and No. 6 singles matches, respectively, to increase IU’s lead to five points.

Ohio State won the No. 1 and No. 4 singles matches in consecutive sets to bring IU’s final margin of victory to 5-2. It was IU’s first win in the Big Ten and the Hoosiers’ third victory against a ranked opponent.

“It feels pretty good,” Garre said.

“We feel a little relieved,” Chupa said.

IU is now 12-5 (1-2) and the Hoosiers are tied for sixth in the Big Ten.

“We were confident in the way we were playing in the past few matches and when we beat Duke,” Garre said. “We’ve been playing well in singles so we feel pretty confident in the way that we’re playing right now.”

Click here to read this article on the Indiana Daily Student website.