Coach Brad Dancer's squad will open the NCAA tournament in C-U. Staff writer Jeff Huth takes a closer look.
It’s as predictable as Fox News and MSNBC disagreeing on the Affordable Care Act. We’re speaking of the Illini men’s tennis team making it into the NCAA tournament.
On Tuesday, Brad Dancer’s guys received word — as if there was any question — that they’d been invited to the 64-team event. That makes 19 years in a row. Every year since 1996.
To put it another way, the last time Illinois wasn’t in the NCAA tournament, Illini sophomore standout Jared Hiltzik was still a couple months away from his first birthday.
There wasn’t much suspense, either, about whether the Illini would get to host.
Expecting a top 16 seed — and the opportunity to be home for first- and second-round matches — Illinois wasn’t disappointed.
The 12th-seeded Illini will welcome Ball State, Memphis and Drake to the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana on May 9-10. Illinois opens against a Ball State crew it swept 4-0 in March at Indianapolis.
Bonus points to Illini fans who remember that Memphis played last spring at Khan in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Whether at Khan or indoors at the Atkins Tennis Center, Illinois has been unbeatable at home this season, going 11-0. By all appearances, the Illini also are playing their best tennis right now, having won nine of their last 10 — the exception coming last Sunday against second-ranked Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament final.
So all signs point to an Illini trip to Athens, Ga., in mid-May, where the remainder of the tournament will play out.
That’s when it does get unpredictable.