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March madness moves from the basketball court to the tennis court

Michigan Villanova

ORLANDO, Fla. -- March may be over, but that doesn’t mean the madness has to stop. But remember: at the Tennis On Campus National Championships, ‘nothing but net’ isn’t a good thing.

Villanova defeated Michigan to win the 2018 NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship, but they’ll have to keep an eye on their Big Blue rivals on a different kind of court this week at the USTA National Campus. 

The two schools that contested the NCAA hoops title game a little more than a week ago will play each other in the first match on Day 1 of the TOC Nationals. 

The Wildcats and the defending club tennis champion Wolverines are two of 18 schools competing at the Tennis On Campus National Championship that were also represented in this year’s 64-team basketball tournament. 

“I’m sure they’re looking to take a little bit of revenge for what happened,” Villanova club tennis captain Brendan Austin joked. “I think it will be really fun, regardless of the outcome, but I’m sure there will be some trash talking about what happened last week on the basketball court.” 

Many of Villanova’s tennis players are basketball fans, and the team enjoyed taking in the victory parade in Philadelphia’s Center City last Thursday. Shannon O’Rouke had earlier traveled to Boston and San Antonio to cheer the Wildcats to victory, and club vice president Jaclyn Albers and her sister Hailey, Andrew Puglisi and Cristina Ciminello all attended the Final Four and National Championship games. 

“Being in Villanova with the whole national championship, it’s been a pretty happy campus,” Austin said. “There’s a lot of energy here, it’s pretty incredible. As a freshman, Villanova was maybe seen as a regional school, but now we’ve made the transition to the national level, not just in the sports world, but also in academics, with Bloomberg ranking our undergraduate business school No. 1 across the country. 

“Some people might have known us in the northeast, but now when you say Villanova, there are few people that don’t know we’re in Philadelphia. The national sports media has helped put us on the map, and the big V symbol is out there. Between academics and basketball, it’s a fun time to be here.” 

But the Wildcats won’t be the only school looking to craft their own Cinderella story this week in Florida. 

Duke, which made a run to the Elite Eight last month, qualified for TOC Nationals, as did the University of Maryland Baltimore County, which made college basketball history by becoming the first No. 16 seed in history to defeat a No. 1 seed.The team they upset? Virginia, which also has a coed club tennis squad at Nationals. 

Virginia is in Pool A, while UMBC is in Pool K, meaning they would not play each other this week unless they finished in the same place in their respective four-team pools. Even then, the earliest they could meet in the knockout stage of the competition is in the semifinals.

Texas A&M made the Round of 16 at the college basketball championships, while Ohio State, North Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Rhode Island all made the second round. Texas A&M beat UNC, 86-65, in the second round of the basketball championship.

As with Virginia and UMBC, it’s theoretically possible they could meet in the semifinals of the Tennis On Campus National Championship bracket, but with the Aggies favored to win Pool L, UNC would also have to top its pool, which includes Middle States sectional champion Penn State. 

Similarly, Duke and Rhode Island could repeat their basketball matchup on the tennis court. Neither are necessarily favorites to win their round-robin group since they are in the same pools as two sectional champions and the Fall Invitational winner, making it a possibility they could meet in the Elite Eight of the silver, bronze or copper bracket. 

Arizona, Texas, San Diego State, Virginia Tech, University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State and Texas Christian University all lost in the opening round during March Madness, but each are represented at the USTA National Campus, where they’ll go in search of their own one shining moment.