Thursday, December 5, 2013

Grades for the Top 15

1. Texas A&M University
For the second year in a row, Texas A&M ends the fall season at the top of all rankings. Texas A&M isn't at the level of Texas during their World Cup VI Championship run. No, A&M still has a lot of work to do, but unlike last season, it seems as if they know their work is incomplete. Overall, I've loved what the Aggies have done this fall season. Their game film is the most enjoyable film to watch and seeing so much potential in their new recruits is exciting for the future of quidditch everywhere. Texas A&M is very determined and should enter the spring season as deserving favorites. Grade: A

2. Lost Boys QC
Everything's just been too easy for the Lost Boys out west. After completing sweeps at the Lumberjack Invitational and SCQC, the Lost Boys returned to the state of Arizona for the fifth Western Cup. Becoming the first community team to win an American regional, the Lost Boys have used the fall season to establish regional dominance unlike any team this season. They average a league best 181 points per game and boast a record of 20-0. We really can't blame the absence of top-tier competition on the Lost Boys. The SoCal community team has overcome a lot of hype and done everything we could ask.  Grade: A-

3. Lone Star QC
Lone Star's been a little disappointing, I think. Great individual performances from Mollie Lensing, Steven Bell and Chris Morris have been the highlight for the Texan community team, rather than great team effort. Still, there are players like Beto Natera, Connor Drake and Keri Callegari who have stepped up and are embracing prominent roles in a star studded lineup. I was kind of expecting UT 2.0, and maybe I was stupid for thinking that some of their players lower on the depth chart could play the fast UT style, but two finals appearances at Wolf Pack and Lone Star Cup show that LSQC is still a very good team. Lone Star's on field gameplay has underwhelmed me because I had high expectations, but their scores and tournament placing support's their number three ranking.

I stand by what I said about Lone Star at the beginning of the season: Simon Arends is the make or break piece in the LSQC puzzle. With an injury cutting short Arends' day at Lone Star Cup, I think it's fair to say that we haven't seen LSQC at their full potential yet. Grade: A-

4. University of Texas-Austin
The reigning champs haven't really played a ton this year, competing in four games at Wolf Pack and five games at Lone Star Cup. In each tournament, UT has won their pool, and then been eliminated by LSQC in the semifinals. Texas narrowed their margin of defeat significantly in the second matchup with LSQC, showing how much a month's worth of Texas Quidditch practices/workouts can improve a team. Despite not facing Baylor or Texas A&M yet this season, Texas has defeated LSU twice and UTSA once, so the Longhorns do have respectable wins. At the rate this team is improving, Texas could very well be hoisting that World Cup VII trophy in four months. Grade: B+

5. Baylor University
The early pick to win World Cup VII, Baylor's fall season can be characterized by trying to overcome injuries and the loss of Paul Williard. Considering how much Williard meant to this Baylor team, the Bears have done a pretty good job staying dominant over second tier Southwest teams. A 150*-10 pounding of Oklahoma State in the finals of Cowboy Cup was bested a week later when Baylor pulled a 70*-40 pool play upset on Lone Star QC. However an out of snitch range loss to Texas A&M in the Lone Star Cup semifinals keeps Baylor at number 5. Grade: B+

6. Boston University
BU continues to look like the only East Coast team that could really give a challenge to and possibly beat a Southwest powerhouse. BU is two for two in big tournaments this fall including defending their regional championship title. Beater Max Havlin's summer success has translated well to the fall, and the reunion of chaser/keepers Brendan Stack and Michael Powell has produced 134 points per game. However, all of BU's big wins are over Emerson. Maybe they just matchup well with their crosstown rivals. It's a shame that we didn't get to see BU's highly regarded transition offense in College Park for Turtle Cup. Grade: B

7. Emerson College
Emerson is a difficult team to grade. The highlight of the fall has to be a shorthanded tournament victory at Turtle Cup. Playing relatively even with a future regional champion in Maryland, shellacking regional runners-up Villanova, and then blowing out Tufts to seal the deal, Emerson looked very good. But, along with an early Turtle Cup loss to NYDC, two tournament finals losses to BU remain blemishes on the Lions' résumé. Emerson's going to have to wait out the long, cold Boston winter until they get another good shot at BU. Until Emerson can beat BU on the big stage, their work is incomplete. Grade: B-

8. Bowling Green State University
The notion that the Midwest is weak this year is simply not true. The Midwest is just as strong (or weak if you would like to think of it that way) as the Northeast, Mid Atlantic, South and even the West if you take away the Lost Boys. So, I'm going to give BGSU some credit here before I take some of it away. They are 16-1 in a region that is just as difficult as any other region besides the Southwest. That is not to say that BGSU's season has been perfect either. All three times BGSU has played a team ranked in the top five of the Midwest Coaches Poll, they have been down in quaffle points when the snitch is caught. Two out of three of those times, including in the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals, their terrific snitch on pitch game has bailed them out with a snatch. In conclusion, as long as BGSU's quaffle game can keep pace with their opponents, their seeking game is very dangerous. Grade: B-

9. University of Maryland
Maryland's performance this fall season has been spotless. With a record of 17-1, the lone loss was to Emerson when the Terrapins were up 20 in quaffle points. Strength of schedule is questionable as Maryland is still yet to play strong regional foe the NYDC Capitalists, but two out of snitch range defeats of Penn State (Nittany Lion Cup finals, MARC semifinals) and the regional championship finals victory over Villanova are solid wins. Good team play and leadership point to success this spring if Maryland can only play with a little more energy. Grade: B

10. University of Texas-San Antonio
UTSA began their season with a memorable run to the finals of the unofficial Breakfast Taco Tournament. Despite a disappointing drop from the Wolf Pack Classic, the Roadrunners were back at the Lone Star Cup. UTSA still sits at number ten behind teams from the Northeast, Midwest and Mid Atlantic in part due to their inability to defeat one of the "big four" in the Southwest in an official game yet. A close loss to UT in pool play was followed by a 100 point loss to Texas A&M in bracket play the next day. Lone Star Cup was the Roadrunners' only official tournament of the fall season, but with more matches against the "big four" coming up in the spring, one big upset is very likely. With that upset, UTSA could vault into the top five. Grade: B+

11. Arizona State University
Arizona State has zero losses this year to teams not named the Lost Boys. With a surprise run to the Western Cup V finals, the Sun Devils pushed the eventual regional champion Lost Boys. Scoring 70 points on a great beater defense, Arizona State has bunch of offensive weapons that can cause teams serious problems. Not a lot was expected out of this Arizona State team heading into the season, but the Sun Devils have taken advantage of a down year for UCLA and USC. Grade: C+

12. University of Kansas
The first thirteen or so of Kansas' games do not look the best on paper. Ranging from a respectable loss to Arkansas in the Kansas Cup finals, to snitch range games against second tier Midwest teams Missouri and Marquette, to a loss to Wichita State. Then finally, in the semifinals and finals of the Midwest Regional Championship, we saw what I believe is the real Kansas. With a win over Michigan State and only a snitch range loss BGSU, Kansas made the case that they should still be considered for national rankings. Grade: C

13. University of Miami
After realizing Miami's early season loss to UF was a fluke and seeing them defeat Florida's Finest at the Dunk City Invitational, Miami will head into the spring season as favorites in the South. With chaser Sean Beloff healthy, Miami is in a good position to beat up on the Southern competition and set up a regional finals showdown with Florida's Finest. All in all, this team does not seem too different from the team that earned the number three seed (in the pool of death) at World Cup VI. And they might be better. Grade: B

14. NYDC Capitalists
Even as the Capitalists fall in the rankings due to a MARC semifinals loss to Villanova, they have had a very successful season. Beginning with a tournament victory at Trial by Fire in Canada, the Capitalists then marched past a stronger-than-we-thought BAQC and then defeated No. 7 Emerson and played even with Tufts at Turtle Cup. At MARC, NYDC continued to play well, earning the number one seed out of a tough pool before losing a tight game to Villanova in the semifinals. The fact that Mid Atlantic voters still have NYDC tied with Maryland for first place in the region should be noted. The 17-2 Capitalists are a well-oiled, disciplined machine with a scary seeking rotation. Grade: B

15. Ball State University
A classic "other receiving votes" team, Ball State snuck into the final Coaches Poll partly due to the perceived dropoffs of UCLA and USC after Western Cup. On paper, Ball State's performance this fall (18-5) has been pretty mediocre compared to the teams above, with the highlight being a snitch catch loss to BGSU in the Midwest Regional semifinals. A big plus is the fact that John Lenderts and Trevor Campbell are turning into the most dominant beater pair in the Midwest. Grade: C-  

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