No Bruche? No problem for Iowa men's tennis doubles rankings

BY TOM CLOS | APRIL 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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When a team finishes the season with a record of 1-21, one wouldn't necessarily expect it to feature any ranked players.

But that's not the case with the Iowa men's tennis team.

The doubles pairing of seniors Marc Bruche and Will Vasos is ranked No. 67 nationally, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings published on Tuesday.

This sounds like good news, but there's a problem. Bruche graduated early and left the program in December to tend to his ailing father in Germany.

So why is he still included in the national tennis rankings?

"The rankings are kind of an all-year type of thing," Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. "[Bruche and Vasos] accumulated enough points in the fall that they just have stayed in there."

Nick Snow, the communications manager for the tennis association, said national rankings are based more on quality of opponents than quantity of matches.

"Our ranking system rewards victories more, rather than punishes for defeats," Snow said. "[Bruche and Vasos] had a win, most notably, over Baylor in the fall; that's what has been keeping them in the rankings."

Bruche and Vasos defeated the Bears en route to reaching the finals of the Baylor-HEB Invitational on Sept. 23.

Vasos said he was aware of the ranking, and he noted that some schools use this unusual system to their advantage during the season.

"A lot of teams will get a doubles team with a high ranking, and then split it up," he said. "That way the team gets to keep that high ranking."

The quirkiest element of Bruche and Vasos' ranking is that their position has fluctuated substantially from week to week.

The two opened the spring season on Jan. 3 ranked No. 59 and rose to No. 39 on Feb. 16 before dropping out of the rankings altogether on Feb. 28. The duo then re-entered the rankings by checking in at No. 37 on March 13 — this after not being considered one of the country's top 90 teams at all two weeks earlier — before jumping to No. 78 on March 27, No. 76 on April 10, and then No. 69 last week.

Snow said the spring performances of the teams Bruche and Vasos played last fall has caused the Hawkeyes' stock to rise and fall each week.

"Your wins and losses will fluctuate throughout the season," Snow said. "Even though they haven't played any matches, the teams they beat and lost to have gone up and down in the rankings. Therefore, their ranking has changed along with their opponents'."

Snow said that through this ranking system, victories that looked good at one time may be worth very little at year's end.

"Let's say you beat the No. 7 team in the country; they would get a ton of points for beating a top-ranked team," Snow said. "But if you beat a top-10 team at the beginning of the season, and then they tank, by the end of the season you won't get any extra points for that win."

Only one week of rankings are left to be released, so what happens if Bruche and Vasos are still ranked next week?

"They would finish the year ranked, just, obviously, they wouldn't be eligible for the NCAA Tournament," Snow said.

If Bruche and Vasos do end the year included in the poll, Houghton said it will be a nice gift to recognize their autumn accomplishments.

"They'll probably end up being ranked," he said. "If so, they will end up getting a lot of credit for what they did in the fall."

Follow DI men's tennis reporter Tom Clos on Twitter.

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