The BCS Professional Tennis Rankings

Pictured: Mark Richt has lost control of John Isner's break point. - Julian Finney

Offering a methadone prescription for withdrawal from your college football habit.

Every year, we all run into an unavoidable and terrible reality: the offseason sucks. There are only so many times you can read spring practice reports and check Fulmer Cup standings before the itch starts getting to be too much. The offseason sports don't offer a whole lot of relief: hockey and basketball end in June, there are only so many World Cup qualifiers, and basebHAHAHAHAHA NOPE. While nothing will fully sate your bloodlust, it's not too much to ask for just a taste of the message-board tribalism to get you through the summer. We here at Advanced Baseline understand your plight, and have come up with a way to make the offseason suck a little less: tricking your brain just enough to make professional tennis vaguely resemble college football.

Once you get past the high-end corporate sponsorship and the foofy country-club silence between points, there's actually plenty about tennis that's similar enough to college football: massive wealth inequality! Off-court legal trouble! Reckless athletic endangerment! So why do your antibodies still reject tennis every time you haphazardly turn on Wimbledon during the Fourth of July weekend?

There are plenty of good reasons why tennis isn't a thing in the United States, but one of the biggest pieces that's missing for college football fans is what really keeps you captivated during football season: socially acceptable hate. When you spend the fall months stereotyping your conference's fan bases and doing your part to keep the bad name-based pun economy afloat, it has to be the weirdest thing to turn on the TV in the summer and seeing a crowd applaud every single point (or at the very least, not hear a single boo). An entire stadium subscribing to the NCAA's "Golly gee, both teams play so hard!" school of fandom probably makes for a healthier viewing experience, but why would you willingly sign up to eat sports broccoli? This is AMERICA, dammit, and if there's one thing we will not do, it is eat our vegetables. At least, not unless those vegetables are deep-fried, smothered in ranch dressing and Velveeta, and frosted with an insulin glaze for good measure. Let's see if we can't deep-fry tennis to make it a little more palatable.

The first thing we'll need to do is figure out who to root for. Rooting interests should resemble natural football allegiances as closely as possible, so you can tap into that limitless lava pool of emotion. Also, in order to keep the rooting interests relatively engaging, they should include a reasonable level of competitiveness from the players. If you want to get into soccer, for example, it's just not as fun if you pick a team from a fourth-tier league to watch. The right compromise for tennis is a group of 10 players -- five men, five women -- who will be representatives of your football conference in the professional tennis leagues. There aren't enough tennis players to assign at a team level, and finding a basis for those assignments is tough to do in a way that doesn't seem forced (go ahead, try and explain how that aggressive baseliner really does remind you of your favorite Air Raid variation).

This also means we will be using bowl rules for rooting interests; hold your nose and root for the conference when you're up against outsiders. Remember, this doesn't have to be perfect, only good enough to get you to Labor Day weekend.

To assign players to conferences, I went through the list of active players and first picked out all of the active professional players who either played in college or had a scholarship offer. After that, I went through the list of all active American players and assigned them an honorary college of where they would have played, based on either their hometown or active residence. From there, each player got assigned to their school's conference. If they played at a non-BCS school, they were funneled upwards according to the layout as determined by Relegation Week. (This layout also means the Big East is absorbed by the ACC entirely. It's only a matter of time before this actually happens.) Also, for competitive balance purposes, Rutgers is moved back to the Big East/ACC and Texas A&M goes back to the Big 12. Finally, the Williams sisters are excluded from this process, because that implies it could be acceptable to root against them in a conference matchup game. This is never acceptable; you should always be rooting for the Williams sisters, because they transcend regionalism and are everything that is awesome about America.

The conference teams are the top 5 active men's and women's players for each conference as determined by their Advanced Baseline rank. Behold, here are your pre-packaged teams:

Men's teams:

Conference

Player

School

Assignment Method

AB Rating

ACC

James Blake

Harvard

Alumni

0.849

ACC

Michael Russell

Miami

Alumni

0.792

ACC

Wayne Odesnik

Florida State

Hometown (Miami, FL)

0.788

ACC

Robby Ginepri

Georgia Tech

Hometown (Atlanta, GA)

0.772

ACC

Somdev Devvarman

Virginia

Alumni

0.751

Big 12

Benjamin Becker

Baylor

Alumni

0.795

Big 12

Ryan Harrison

Texas

Residence (Austin, TX)

0.792

Big 12

Arnau Brugues-Davi

Tulsa

Alumni

0.698

Big 12

Austin Krajicek

Texas A&M

Alumni

0.673

Big 12

Jeff Dadamo

Texas A&M

Alumni

0.631

B1G

Kevin Anderson

Illinois

Alumni

0.954

B1G

Mardy Fish

Minnesota

Hometown (Edina, MN)

0.940

B1G

Tim Smyczek

Wisconsin

Hometown (Milwaukee, WI)

0.772

B1G

Jack Sock

Nebraska

Scholarship offer

0.765

B1G

Donald Young

Northwestern

Hometown (Chicago, IL)

0.752

Pac-12

Sam Querrey

USC

Scholarship offer

0.940

Pac-12

Steve Johnson

USC

Alumni

0.782

Pac-12

Bradley Klahn

Stanford

Alumni

0.762

Pac-12

Robert Farah

USC

Alumni

0.708

Pac-12

Daniel Kosakowski

UCLA

Alumni

0.661

SEC

John Isner

Georgia

Alumni

0.929

SEC

Jesse Levine

Florida

Alumni

0.813

SEC

Bobby Reynolds

Vanderbilt

Alumni

0.766

SEC

Rhyne Williams

Tennessee

Alumni

0.756

SEC

Ryan Sweeting

Florida

Alumni

0.747

Women's teams:

Conference

Player

School

Assignment Method

AB Rating

ACC

Sloane Stephens

Miami

Hometown (Miami, FL)

1.080

ACC

Christina McHale

Rutgers

Hometown (Englewood Cliffs, NJ)

1.014

ACC

Coco Vandeweghe

Connecticut

Hometown (New York City)

0.843

ACC

Grace Min

Georgia Tech

Hometown (Atlanta, GA)

0.827

ACC

Irina Falconi

Georgia Tech

Alumni

0.765

Big 12

Madison Keys

Iowa State

Hometown (Rock Island, IL)

1.077

Big 12

Ashley Weinhold

Houston

Hometown (Tyler, TX)

0.606

Big 12

Katerina Vankova

SMU

Alumni

0.603

Big 12

Csilla Borsanyi

Baylor

Alumni

0.492

Big 12

Macall Harkins

TCU

Alumni

0.421

B1G

Varvara Lepchenko

Penn State

Hometown (Allentown, PA)

1.016

B1G

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Minnesota

Hometown (Rochester, MN)

0.983

B1G

Lauren Davis

Ohio State

Hometown (Cleveland, OH)

0.940

B1G

Jessica Pegula

Buffalo

Hometown (Buffalo, NY)

0.793

B1G

Taylor Townsend

Northwestern

Hometown (Chicago, IL)

0.689

Pac-12

Mallory Burdette

Stanford

Alumni

1.052

Pac-12

Vania King

Stanford

Scholarship offer

0.974

Pac-12

Alexa Glatch

UCLA

Scholarship offer

0.868

Pac-12

Nicole Gibbs

Stanford

Alumni

0.851

Pac-12

Maria Sanchez

USC

Alumni

0.849

SEC

Jamie Hampton

Auburn

Hometown (Auburn, AL)

1.090

SEC

Melanie Oudin

Georgia

Hometown (Marietta, GA)

0.819

SEC

Alison Riske

Vanderbilt

Scholarship offer

0.810

SEC

Shelby Rogers

Georgia

Scholarship offer

0.767

SEC

Julia Cohen

Florida

Alumni

0.682

First, let's be clear up front: no one on your team will win any of the Grand Slams or even a Masters/Premier tournament. Tennis is a very top-heavy sport, and unless you are a top 10 player, you will not win these tournaments. That's okay, because professional tennis is structured in a way that you can still have your cake and eat it too. Your team will be insurgent underdogs in the major events looking to make a deep run, and when they're on the regular season grind, they'll be in contention to win whatever 250-level or Challenger tournament they're playing. This is a novelty you won't find in college football- it's like watching Illinois play in the Big Ten and the MAC in the same season, because they kind of belong in both at the same time. Now, some observations on the teams themselves:

  • The men's side works out pretty well as far as balance: Each conference gets a solid contender for the high-level tournaments, a couple mid-major players who could win a Challenger or two, and a couple prospects.
  • The women's side is similarly balanced, with the exception of the Big 12. I found just one women's player born in the Mountain Time Zone in the top 500; the rest are foreign players who did a brief college stop. Seriously, get your shit together, Big 12. Until you get with the times and encourage your daughters to pursue their athletic dreams, you will never be competitive in this fictitious league I just invented.
  • Speaking of the Big 12, they also received a little competitive discretion in assigning Ryan Harrison to Texas (lives in Austin) over LSU (born in Shreveport), as well as Madison Keys to Iowa State over Iowa. I guess it's not unreasonable for such a football-centric conference to not produce a lot of tennis players, but COME ON, you're really not making this easy.
  • Similarly, while Wayne Odesnik lives in Miami and would probably be a more natural fit there, if an HGH suspension isn't grounds for an auto-switch to Florida State, I don't know what is. This also makes him the honorary Florida Man of professional tennis.

But wait, there's more! First, let's normalize the women's AB ranks so they're on the same scale as the men's. Then, we can add up the ranks of all the players in each conference to put all of this in a vaguely familiar and easily digestible form. Here are your BCS Professional Tennis Rankings:

Men's

Women's

Total

B1G

4.182

2.763

6.945

ACC

3.951

2.830

6.782

Pac-12

3.855

2.871

6.725

SEC

4.011

2.605

6.616

Big 12

3.589

2.000

5.589

Here is your offseason comfort food: a number-based system, derived from athletic performances, for arguing conference superiority (hopefully with a little less "LOL the computer rankings are terrible"). It gives you permission to root both for and against players, because my number needs to be higher than your number therefore GO TO HELL. It also makes conference matchups that much more compelling when they happen in tennis, because those will swing the BCS rankings the most. John Isner playing Ryan Harrison in the first round of the clay tournament in Houston? With a little imagination, you can see a Georgia/Texas Sugar Bowl. Madison Keys against Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round of Charleston? That's a Minnesota/Iowa State Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, full of Midwestern heartiness transplanted to South Carolina.

Your viewing commitment to the cause is pretty flexible. You can fire up a pirate stream when your conference players are in the quarterfinals of a Challenger tournament, or you can finally watch the early rounds of the French Open with a little more investment. The last Grand Slam, the U.S. Open, runs during the first week of college football, so your only mandatory viewing coincides perfectly with your return to football. And if you actually decide to pony up the $10 to go see a match live, at least you'll have a good story about how the Tallahassee Department of Parks and Recreation was ill-equipped to accommodate your enthusiasm. Genius is never recognized in its own time, but eventually the crowd will learn to love your "S-E-C" chants in the middle of Steve Johnson's serve.

No, it's still not football. But it doesn't mean there aren't a couple storylines and characters to be found while you patiently wait out the summer months. If anything, tennis is the niche sport that not only fits your hooliganism, but probably needs it too. Nowhere is there a bigger mismatch between the insanity of the athletes who play a sport and the civility of the fans who watch it than tennis. There are two solutions to restore equilibrium: either make the athletes more civil (because that's worked so well every other time it's been tried), or make the fans more uncivil. And who is better equipped to fulfill that need than you? You have found your offseason calling. Now go forth, put on your gameday shirt, and get your hate on. The French Open starts in a month.

/roll tide

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