Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 NCAA and ACRA Championships Picks and Predictions

The NCAA Rowing Championships and ACRA National Championships are now just hours away, and it wouldn't be right if we didn't throw some picks and predictions out there. We released some season-long predictions in January, and we are sticking to our guns, though things have certainly heated up in both fields (not to mention the IRA field that will take to the water in just under a week). Now, let's get started.

NCAA Rowing Championships:

We picked Virginia to win the Division I team title last Winter, and Kevin Sauer's Cavaliers are looking on pace to do just that, despite their No. 2 ranking behind Pac-12 power California. The RR readers' poll agrees with that assessment at this point, with 29% of the vote currently going to Virginia, versus 24% to Cal. The Golden Bears will enter NCAAs this year on a tremendous high, having swept the Pac-12 Championships for the first time a little less than two weeks ago–Cal is certainly not to be taken lightly, nor would it be a surprise if they upset our top seed, given the Bears' depth this year (and, after all, they are the No. 1 team according to the official rankings). However, Virginia is also coming off a sweep of its own, and is arguably the deepest team in the country–look for the Cavaliers to take top honors in team points this year, though they will have tough competition in the varsity eight.

Further contenders for the team title, as our readers' survey indicates, are (in no particular order) Washington, Princeton, Michigan, UCLA, Harvard (Radcliffe), and The Ohio State University. Washington has received the third-most votes thus far in our poll, with 20% of the vote. Somehow, too, it feels wrong to leave Brown off this list–it's hard to argue with seven titles in 15 tries, and last year Bruno came out of (virtually) nowhere to win it all in Sacramento. It will be a very interesting weekend in West Windsor, to be sure.

In Division II, we are expecting the Western Washington Vikings to continue their roll with yet another NCAA title this year. The Humboldt State Jacks upset the Vikings at the Northwestern Conference Rowing Championships last month, but WWU responded at WIRAs, winning the varsity and second varsity eight events. Mercyhurst, coming off a Dad Vail victory, will be another team to watch, along with Nova Southeastern.

The Division III field looks to belong to Williams once again under new head coach and RR interviewee Kate Maloney (click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of her interview). The Ephs are looking to make it seven straight titles, and are on their way to doing just that after a solid win in the varsity eight at ECACs. Look for Bates, Trinity, William Smith and Wellesley to be in the mix for the podium.

ACRA National Championships:

Again, we picked the Michigan men to win it all in January, and we are sticking with our early take, as Michigan recently defended its title in the men's varsity eight at the 2012 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, winning the second varsity eight event as well over rivals Grand Valley State and Virginia, in that order. We are looking for another strong performance from the UVa men, as their fourth place finish at Dad Vails likely reflected their trip to the Windermere Cup Regatta in Seattle just four days before the racing in Philly (not to mention that UVa took fourth at Dad Vails in 2011, only to come back and win the men's varsity eight at ACRAs over Michigan). The Grand Valley State men will be another team to watch, as the Lakers have had a strong season, beginning with an early season victory in the Cal Cup at San Diego Crew Classic, and then again at the Lubbers Cup Regatta, where GVSU defeated the Michigan varsity eight. The Wolverines have since defeated GVSU on two separate occasions, however, with wins at the MACRA Regatta and Dad Vails (where GVSU placed seventh overall). Other teams to watch on the men's side will be Notre Dame (last year's bronze medalists in the varsity and second varsity eights), and Purdue, coming off a strong performance in Philadelphia, as well as Orange Coast College. Michigan State also had a strong performance at MACRAs, placing a close fifth behind fourth-place Purdue.

On the women's side, we are looking for Grand Valley to bounce back from a tough Aberdeen Dad Vail to win ACRAs in the varsity eight this year ahead of Purdue. Other teams to watch will be New Hampshire and UC Santa Barbara.

All right! That's out two cents–now it's time to see how it all plays out on Lake Mercer and Lake Lanier this weekend. Best of luck to all crews!

-RR

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