The No. 43-ranked IU men’s tennis team will be the No. 5 seed this weekend in the Big Ten Tournament in what could be the seniors’ last set of matches wearing cream and crimson.
The team will head out to Iowa City, Iowa where they will face the No.12-seeded Michigan State Spartans in the first round. The winner of that matchup will go on to play No. 4 seed and No. 37-ranked Minnesota in the second round.
The conference tournament could potentially have a large effect on IU’s NCAA tournament hopes, as the Hoosiers are currently on the cusp of getting a bid. An early loss, though, could knock the Hoosiers out of consideration, ending the IU careers of seniors Raheel Manji and Keivon Tabrizi.
“It’s everything," Manji said. "It’s every reason to leave it all out there. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about giving as much as I can to my coaches and my teammates and this program.”
It took everything they had to beat Michigan State in their last matchup, coming away with a 4-3 victory over the Spartans, but the two teams have gone in different directions ever since.
In the month of April, the Hoosiers went 6-1, defeating three ranked teams along the way. Meanwhile, the Spartans finished the year with six straight losses and a conference record of 1-10.
If IU advances to the second round of play Friday, they will rematch Minnesota, the team the Hoosiers beat 4-3 for their first ranked win of the season. A win over Minnesota would likely set up a matchup with the top seed in the tournament, No. 3-ranked Ohio State, who is looking to make secure a spot in the finals for the 15th consecutive year.
Despite IU’s wins over Michigan State and Minnesota this season, IU Coach Jeremy Wurtzman is not taking anything for granted.
“Big Ten’s, when it’s the tournament, it’s a little bit different feeling,” Wurtzman said. “We’ve got to get there and get our focus right from the start and be ready to play from the first point to the last.”
If IU advances and then loses to Minnesota in the second round, it would be the second year in a row that the Golden Gophers knock the Hoosiers out of the tournament.
First-round play will begin Thursday morning, and the championship match will be at noon Sunday.
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