The season is in full swing and boy does it feel fantastic! The first regional championship is only a week away and I've been counting down the days until Turtle Cup. I have one more weekend where most of the information on here is second hand knowledge, observations from World Cup VI and opinions. A loaded schedule this weekend has teams from every United States region in action and will provide the first looks at major programs USC and UCLA, as well as the official season debuts of Texas, A&M and Lone Star. Hyped beater Peter Lee debuts for the Lost Boys as they look to reclaim their #2 spot in the Coaches Poll. Teams from the South are traveling out of region to test themselves, hoping for results that boost them out of the cellar in the quidditch community's regional rankings. With four of the Midwest's top teams competing at Phoenix Cup, teams will be looking to gain confidence, but avoid costly injuries. A very interesting interregional matchup looms between Kansas and Arkansas at Kansas Cup. Smaller tournaments, taking place up the Eastern coast, are mainly wide open and without a top 20 team. Could a new team breakout with a dominant tournament victory like UNC did at Minerva Cup about a month ago? We even get to see Middlebury. It's a great weekend everyone. Have an awesome time playing and a surprise is coming your way from me on Monday.
SCQC Fall Tournament
The preseason SCQC favorite, the Lost Boys QC (#3), should head into their first real test confident. Over the past week, I've been thinking a lot about the Lost Boys and whether they are built for a title. Previously, I thought no. It's not quite been an epiphany, but I now think that the Lost Boys could definitely be the best team in quidditch when the dust clears in Myrtle Beach. All of the Lost Boys' stars are great at multiple positions. Utility players are what makes the Lost Boys great. With the addition of Peter Lee, their beating corps is very elite. Amanda Nagy and Vanessa Goh, two of quidditch's best female chasers also double as top notch beaters. DiCarlo and Lin are experienced and respected seekers and chasers and I think we'll see Rodriguez develop as a good seeker this season too. Chris Seto, while a game changing beater, showed at THE Fantasy that can be a great chaser if he has to be too. The only weaknesses I see currently are male chaser depth and the lack of a great backup for Rodriguez. Jake Tieman or Vanessa Goh could become that great second option at keeper, but that would hurt their chasing depth even more. To focus on this weekend, the Lost Boys play crosstown competition UCLA in pool play and will surely get another top team (USC/Skrewts) in bracket play.
Best Case: Vanessa Goh repeats her Lumberjack Invitational MVP performance scoring like 30 PPG. Tony Rodriguez and Peter Lee play outstanding defense and the Lost Boys go undefeated, not even needing a DiCarlo/Lin snatch to beat the other top teams.
Worst Case: The Lost Boys struggle to find answers for Zach Luce and August Lührs. Upset in the finals, questions emerge about the SoCal community team and my epiphany looks stupid.
USC (#11) has a major plus this weekend and a major minus. Beater Spencer Gold will be playing with the team. Gold has always been a standout in the West, arguably the best Western beater that doesn't wear blue and yellow. Assisted by Nicky Guangorena and Nick Metzler, Gold will be crucial in leading the Trojans against the Lost Boys beaters if they meet in the finals. The major minus is that Harrison James, USC's best offensive player in my opinion, will not be playing. I tend to believe August Lührs and Ryan Parsons are better as offensive weapons than as the point player because Lührs lacks control and great ball handling and Parsons lacks freakish strength. Admittedly, I haven't seen David Demarest play in a long time. With what I am constantly hearing about him, Demarest could easily make up for the loss of James plus 10. If USC can win this tournament, they are going to really scary this season.
Best Case: USC wins the SCQC Fall Tournament. Gold is voted MVP and Demarest and Lührs each get a game-winning snatch against an elite team.
Worst Case: Showing no change from the end of last year, USC performs well but loses by a decent margin in the semifinals. Always without a key player, it's the loss of James this weekend that dooms the Trojans.
Losing all of their veterans and many of their first string players to graduation, UCLA (#11) will look to start anew this weekend. Zach Luce and Adam Richardson can carry this team into the top ten alone if they have to. Overwhelming ok teams on both ends of the pitch, Luce is basically the quidditch reincarnation of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Hopefully Dan Hanson keeps stats again this year, because Luce is poised to have an amazing scoring season. I'm talking like an average of 55 points per game. I know I've said this a thousand times, but he dropped 70 points on Baylor! Richardson delivers physicality at the front, forcing turnovers and disrupting the opposition's rhythm. With good support chasers like Corey Osto, Michael Binger and Katelynn Kazane, UCLA really needs to hope that their new players can develop if they want to have a shot at taking another trip to the finals. Also, Sarah Simko, who was thrown into the spotlight at World Cup due to injuries to other Bruin beaters, and Ryan Donohue need to become a feared beating duo. I don't expect them to be able to compete with the Lost Boys' beaters now, but they need to show improvement and maturation over the course of the season.
Best Case: UCLA upsets the Lost Boys in the final (after losing to them in pool play) on the back of 70 points from Zach Luce and a Michael Mahben snitch catch.
Worst Case: UCLA walks away looking like the third best California team. Questions float around the Bruin beating corps and the new recruits clearly aren't championship caliber recruits.
While at their full potential, the Silicon Valley Skrewts can compete with any of the teams above. However, they will be missing Kevin Oelze and Greg Weber this weekend. Offensive production has to be a huge question mark. While Willis Miles and Kyrie Timbrook will duel with the other beating corps, they don't have any offense to support. Expect low scoring, defensive struggles from the Skrewts this weekend.
Best Case: Realizing that a really tough defense and a snitch grab is their best formula for a winning record this weekend, the Skrewts beat the teams they should beat, but don't defeat the LA 3.
Worst Case: Dropping a game to Riverside or Santa Barbara, the Skrewts lose in the quarterfinals.
Semifinals Lost Boys QC def. Silicon Valley Skrewts, UCLA def. USC
Finals Lost Boys QC def. UCLA
Wolf Pack Classic
Coming off a quiet exit at Breakfast Taco, Texas (#1) will begin their official defense of their title this weekend at the Wolf Pack Classic. UT will be tested early in the day against a full strength--or at least much closer to full strength--LSU. For Texas to be successful, Freddy Salinas can't be bothered by physical, opposing beaters like LSQC's Reed Duncan. Salinas has size and arm strength and when another beater is coming at him, he needs to shake the opposing player off and stay focused. If Texas is going to win this weekend, Chilton, Ghoddossy and Wright need to be putting up at least 20 PPG each, maybe higher. Also, watch to see how teams deal with young chaser Hector Peralez, who drew attention at Breakfast Taco.
Best Case: Two weeks of practice since Breakfast Taco and UT has already improved insanely. The Longhorns win Wolf Pack, beating both Lone Star and A&M along the way.
Worst Case: Texas is just not as good as their opponents in the finals (either A&M or Lone Star) and the Longhorns lose in the finals 130*-70.
Texas A&M (#4) really didn't play badly at Breakfast Taco. Their seekers just didn't come through. The Aggies will be without Dirk Hryekewicz and Luke Wigley this weekend, in addition to a couple of freshman. Look for who steps up to take the yellow headband this weekend. If new faces are going after the snitch and doing well, that's a good sign, because with the loss of Colin Tseng, Texas A&M needs a third head to their seeking hydra anyways.
Best Case: Texas A&M wins Wolf Pack convincingly and takes the top spot in the Coaches Poll and Eighth Man Rankings afterwards.
Worst Case: Falling victim to inconsistent seeking, Texas A&M is eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals despite being up 20 points at the time.
I think the Lone Star QC (#2) hypetrain's going to crash this weekend. The community all-stars kind of got lucky last weekend. Their chasing corps looked like a fantasy team. I get that the players haven't played together much, but these are really terrific players and they should look better than a fantasy team. I hold them to a higher standard. A bright spot was the beating of Lensing, Duncan and Machala. If I am wrong and the Lone Star hypetrain chugs right through Louisiana, it will be because of those three.
Best Case: Lone Star eeks out another tournament victory, but still can't grab the number one spot in my Coaches Poll. They win on a snitch catch and don't convince voters.
Worst Case: AQ and the Mercenaries both give Lone Star close games in pool play and they lose badly in the semifinals to UT or A&M.
The South is weak. Or is it? We will likely receive some clues about that this weekend as 4 South teams and a bunch of Southern mercenaries take the trip to New Orleans to play the best of the Southwest. Florida is not just Dre Clements anymore, although he is as good as ever. Clements and chaser Jimmy Singer create a good one-two punch and as long as they don't make sloppy mistakes, UF should be kept in games against all except UT, A&M and Lone Star. Florida State lost many of their top players to Florida's Finest, but at Titan's Fury three weeks ago, held Florida's Finest to a 90-50 lead at the time of the snatch. At the same tournament, the Seminoles were also leading USF by 20 at the time of the snatch. If they can have better seeking results, Florida State could pull a big upset this weekend. The Noels are geauxing Tiger Hunting. The Mercs are lead by Sean Pagoada, the star of the season so far in the South. Depending on who else is there with him, the Mercs could be both a danger to upset teams and able to prove that the South isn't weak.
Best Case: Southern teams or teams composed of mostly Southern players (Mercenaries) defeat LSU, AQ, Loyola and Tulane, going for the full sweep of non-elite Texas Wolf Pack teams. UF stays within 50 of Texas A&M in pool play. Southwestern players marvel at the performacnes of Clements/Singer and Pagoada.
Worst Case: Southern teams cannot beat LSU or AQ, and do not stand a chance against UT, A&M or Lone Star. The Florida teams manage wins over Tulane and Loyola.
Finals Texas A&M def. Texas
Semifinals Texas A&M def. Lone Star QC, Texas def. UF
Visiting from the South, Tennessee Tech will look to crash the oh-my-god-regionals-are-in-a-week party by winning Phoenix Cup. If you look at their newly updated Facebook page cover photo, you'll see a giant team that looks full of athletes in great uniforms. An early win over Central Michigan, a team that has players that will match TTU's physicality, would be a good step towards making up for the 60*-50 loss to Southern Illinois a few weeks ago.
Best Case: Tennessee Tech wins Phoenix Cup with key wins over Ball State and Ohio State. With lots of new, athletic players, I will scrambling tomorrow to find the names of these players as I watch on Rogue Sports TV (gonna buy my subscription tomorrow!).
Worst Case: A loss to Central Michigan in pool play and an exit of bracket play before the finals have people wondering about the South's runner up last season.
Central Michigan is ready to make the step into the top class in the Midwest, and maybe while a BGSU-esque run to the finals at Midwest Regionals would be more fun to hear about, I expect them to give a good shot this weekend too. David Prueter and David Wilbur, two powerful quaffle players with increasingly good control and ball handling, combine with top-tier beater Ashley Calhoun to create a steller trio. CMU's a contender!
Best Case: Central Michigan gives an established Midwest power an incredibly close match, but the other team ends up winning in the finals
Worst Case: Losing to TTU in pool play, Central Michigan gets a tough road to the finals that includes playing a team like Ohio State in the quarterfinals.
Ball State, BGSU (#13) and Ohio State will all cruise through pool play and end up the semifinals barring a matchup with either of two teams above. For Ball State, their newer players are starting to fit right in with the team style and returning players like Devon McCoy. Beaters John Lenderts and Trevor Campbell could easily be the best pair in the Midwest right now after what happened to BGSU's beaters. Speaking of the Falcons, it's a new year for BGSU and every week, the fact that they were a final four team at World Cup VI means less and less. Just ask the Coaches Poll. BGSU was leading a much less experienced Ball State team at Tournament of the Stars when the tournament was stopped, but now, Ball State is arguably a completely different team. Can Dan Daugherty keep putting up the points and distributing the quaffle so BGSU stays atop the Midwest? Anything short of a finals appearance wouldn't be good at all for last year's Cinderella. A team that has gradually improved over a long period of time, Ohio State now finds themselves in the very top tier in the Midwest. The Buckeyes, now even have a B team, the Mighty Bucks (fantastic name). For Ohio State, a team that has always seemed one step away from the best, a tournament victory would signal a new era of Ohio State quidditch in my opinion.
Semifinals Ball State def. BGSU, Central Michigan def. Ohio State
Finals Ball State def. Central Michigan
With tournaments going on around the country, the most interesting results come from the heartland this weekend at Kansas Cup. In addition to Kansas, Arkansas, and Northern Colorado could compete for the title this weekend. Arkansas, led by the high scoring tandem of Joey and Peter Reynebeau, are ready to break out this year. Northern Colorado won the Rocky Mountain Championship a few weeks ago with outstanding play from keeper DeVaughn Gamlin. When you mix in Kansas' exciting chasing corps of Colby Soden, Grant Daigle, Wil Kenney and Jordan Callison, I see a very fun and unpredictable tournament to watch.
Semifinals Arkansas def. Northern Colorado, Kansas def. Illinois State
Finals Arkansas def. Kansas
Poison Apple Invitational
The NYDC Capitalists (#15) will probably win this tournament but the order of BAQC teams after that is way up in the air. NYU, Hofstra and Macaulay each lost key players, (many to NYDC!) but also have received good recruiting classes full of excited underclassmen. While Hofstra's playing at home, I'll give the edge to Macaulay because of their outstanding seeking. Also watch out for Rutgers. Star player Chisa Egbelu turned heads at THE Fantasy and those Southwestern heads don't turn easily. When they, meaning the Southwest, are impressed by a player, I believe the hype.
Semifinals NYDC Capitalists def. Rutgers, Macaulay def. Hofstra
Finals NYDC def. Macaulay
Brotherly Love Cup IV
It'll be kind of weird not being at Brotherly Love Cup this year after attending the past two years, but the slate of teams was very disappointing. I can't blame teams for not attending though as the tournament didn't live up to expectations last year. The field size was too small. Penn State will run the table at this tournament winning every game by 100+.
Finals Penn State def. Chestnut Hill
Gold Rush Cup
I really don't know much about quidditch in the Carolinas besides watching UNC and the Tar Heels aren't even playing at Gold Rush Cup. I remember seeing a very phsycial Duke team playing in D2 of World Cup V, and after a bit of research I saw that they did ok last year in the CQC. I wonder if they have any of the same players I saw at WCV. Appalachian State, who had the same 5-1 CQC record last year as Duke, could also be a contender. My pick is Virginia Tech, though. The Hokies should've qualified for World Cup VI but didn't and kind of fell off the radar after that. Leading up to their big tournament, Kitty Cup, I think Virignia Tech can get the win this weekend.
Finals Virginia Tech def. Duke