GM Jacob Adlis
Gray will certainly have dependable scoring and a physical defense. Both LSU's Brad Armentor and Texas State's Eric Reyes are big, hard-to-stop, proven scorers. Power chasers like Armentor and Reyes, tend to excel in moments of defensive beater confusion, and in a fantasy tournament, there are guaranteed to be miscommunications between beating pairs that have never practiced together. Without beaters placed strategically, power chasers can truck through defenders and score relatively easily.
Gray's beating core is small, but anchored by Texas beater Hope Machala. Machala is surrounded by Texas State's Ryan Peavler and RRQ's Jacob Wilson. I believe a lot of Gray's success depends on whether or not these three can have a "suffocating" effect defensively (crashing on driving players and beating players hanging out close to the hoops). It's going to be hot, and the physicality of Armentor and Reyes might become less effective as the day goes on. Gray's beaters will need to step up then.
Watch Out For... Texas Quidditch's, Ryan Davis and Austin Quidditch's Daniel Rice can completely change the pace and style of play on the pitch for Gray. Likely switching to a more up-tempo, fastbreak oriented attack when Davis and Rice enter the game, the change in pace could disrupt defensive rhythm and strategy.
Teammates at the Summer Games, Brad Armentor will think that he has played with Sarah Holub all season. Armentor's LSU teammate Melissa White, has a very similar skills set as Holub, and plays a very efficient 1-2, both receiving passes and distributing, with Armentor. Expect the duo of the Honey Bradger and Holub to be Gray's go-to combination when the snitch is on the field and the score is close.
Will Eric Reyes and Brad Armentor play together or at different times? If the two power chasers are on the pitch at the same time, will Gray use a double point guard system?
Will Hope Machala bring UT's style and strategy of beating to her partner, or will she be playing in a completely foreign system? If forced to play less conservatively, can she continue to have a suffocating effect on defense? Will having only three true beaters be a problem?
Daniel Rice is Gray's only seeker. Simply, will he get hot? Rice isn't known as a top seeker, but he has the athletic ability to make a great seeker. Can he out seek more well known players and make a name for himself?
GM Evan Bell
Pink's starting lineup looks stacked beyond belief. GM Evan Bell probably spent a majority of his money to get Texas stars Stephen Bell, Kody Marshall and Colin Capello and the majority of what was left to get LSU beater Sarah Kneiling and Lost Boys chaser Amanda Nagy. Despite leading his team to a World Championship and being a consensus All-American as a beater, Capello will be handling the quaffle at THE Fantasy Tournament. I imagine chasing will come naturally to the hard hitting Longhorn, especially since he is surrounded by two of his teammates. The three UT players will be running rampant, running up the score and passing better than any other trio at the tournament.
Watch Out For... Pink's beating core--especially Jordan Key with Sarah Kneiling. Kneiling is known to be one of the top beaters and competitors in the sport and her aggressive strategy will translate well to THE Fantasy quidditch pitches. Key, a tall Arkansas beater, is not known as well, but he has outstanding field awareness. Kneiling can run around on the perimeter, stalling the play and sending other players back to the hoop before the action really starts. Key will play further back, but will surely not be shy to unleash a lazer beat at a driving player.
Does Pink have a lack of depth? Considering to amount of money GM Bell probably had to pay to get five players, he probably had less to work with for his later round picks. Pink needs these players to overachieve.
Can Marshall, Bell, Capello and Nagy carry the team offensively? Are the UT players still in World Cup-winning shape? Can they seemingly sprint for hours in the intense heat without getting tired?
How will Colin Capello do in his big-stage debut at chaser/keeper? Will he play beater at all? When the snitch is on the field, and the game is in snitch range, will he stay wearing the white headband? A combo of Kneiling and Capello is compelling.
GM Alan Black
Without any superstars, GM Alan Black drafted a team with many good role players and no obvious weaknesses. The chasing core is good and made up of players who haven't nessecarily seen the spotlight on their own teams. Black clearly didn't splurge on any players and I wonder whether lack of stars will hurt the Lime Green. Several players can play both chaser and beater, which is vital in case of injury. With no depth problems anywhere, as far as I can tell, Lime Green was smartly assembled keeping in mind past fantasy trends. Black drafted phenomenal beaters and a top notch seeker in Duncan Ferguson (LSU).
In a My Quidditch Life feature on LSU's Daniel DePaula, Black wrote, "Daniel is, simply put, a complete, well-rounded beater."
Complete and well rounded describes the type of beaters Black drafted perfectly. Texas A&M grad Savannah Allison, USC grad Julia Thomas, DePaula himself, and Dakota Briggs are very experienced players who commonly maintain bludger control for their teams.
Watch Out For... The performances of Katelynn Kazane and Jordan Callison. Both players played behind great players in 2012-13 and were rarely expected to carry the team. At THE Fantasy and during the 2013-14 season, Callison will likely bring the quaffle up the pitch more than he's ever done before and Kazane will play more minutes and be counted on in crucial moments of the game. Yes, it is a fantasy tournament, but seeing Kazane and Callison in more important roles could offer a glimpse into how UCLA and Kansas will perform this season.
Will Hank Dugie share point guard duties with Jordan Callison or will he play more as a wing chaser? I think it would be interested to see what Dugie can do with the ball in his hand every possession. He doesn't get as many touches as he probably deserves for UT and I think he could be a star player.
Can any two of Lime Green's beaters get hot and be THE beating that leads Lime Green to victory? Who will they be?
GM Alex Clark
White has a lot of players who are known to be good throughout the Southwest, but haven't really proven themselves on a national stage. White is going to be a fast, explosive, uptempo offensive team with players like Jordan Parisher (Texas State), Sam Keegan Adlis (Silver Phoenixes), and Sean Fry (A&M). If the three can get into a rhythm, and the offense stays in control, that trio can be dangerous.
White's beating, led by Chris Rhodes and Ryann Padilla, I expect will be conservative on Day One, but will have to be more aggressive on Day Two to compensate for the loss of Ronnell Sharp. Rhodes needs to watch his accuracy, because losing bludger control can matter immensely on Day Two. Mollie Lensing's dropout due to injury might hurt White the most then. Parisher and Fry are also solid beaters and it will be interesting to see how much they are used at that position.
Watch Out For... Ronell Sharp. Sharp's presence will especially be felt on defense, where he can provide an extra dose of physicality. His tackling's technique is phenomenal and he should be playing as White's point defender. Sharp leaves after Day One, though.
Who will step into leadership roles on the pitch for White? Which players will mark the other team's stars on defense?
Will the departure of Sharp throw off White's rhythm? Sharp's role will certainly be a big one on Day One. Can White handle the loss?
Is Alex Clark, despite the statistics, going to roll out a two male beater set? Can Parisher and Fry work well with Rhodes? Keri Callegari and Marissa Hunt will definitely have to step up then.
GM Zach D'Amico
Despite being made up a majority of non-Southwesterners, Purple is an early favorite to win THE Fantasy tournament. With 3 Eighth Man All-Americans, Purple has large variety of playing styles and certainly geographic diversity. GM D'Amico was sure to draft a top seeker in Maryland's Harry Greenhouse. If Greenhouse gets hot, Purple could plow through bracket play. The UMD player is also a terrific chaser. I can imagine a hot Greenhouse was D'Amico's worst fear in the weeks leading up to MARC, and now he will be hoping that Greenhouse is on fire!
A trio from the West, Alex Makk, Vanessa Goh and Harrison James will be doing most of Purple's scoring along with Baylor's Mark Williard. Purple's offense should be able to really spread the pitch and create lots of space for driving. Marking will have to be really tight if a team plays man-to-man defense. My only concern for Purple is that their chasers might start playing too much like an NBA All Star team. If their passes start to lose precision and ball handling becomes a little sloppy, Purple is in trouble. Harry Greenhouse isn't going to be able to bail them out game after game.
Watch Out For... Doug Whiston's beater strategy. Whiston is one of the best strategic minds in the game right now, especially with beaters. Opposing teams are going to know that when the snitch gets back, a beater needs to be holding back Greenhouse. Whiston and Purple's beaters needs to find a way to clear a path for their seekers without getting pulled into the snitch-beater game, a la Lost Boys vs. BGSU.
Beater Duston Mazzellla played an important role in Red's victory at Firemercs. Can he have a similar performance and win the two biggest fantasy titles?
Alex Makk left injured from Firemercs. I don't know how serious the injury was, but is he 100%?
Will Purple's offense stay precise, crisp and efficient or will they end up looking like a careless All Star team? There's a lot to play for here at THE Fantasy!
Is Harry Greenhouse really that good? He had a so-so season. Will that continue at THE Fantasy?
GM David Guitierrez
On the pitch, Teal will be led by UT chaser Chris Morris and Baylor keeper Jacob Bruner. Bruner is a dangerous point guard because he is such a good passer. For Baylor, he commonly lobs it up behind the hoops, through a tight window, for Paul Williard. It would be really interesting to see Chris Morris playing behind and to the sides of the hoop like Williard. Morris' strength is driving, but I'd like to see him drive from the wings and behind more because it can cause a defensive breakdown. Morris would draw the keeper out of position and dish off to a teammate like dribble penetration in basketball.
I'm really skeptical of Teal, though, because they only have six male chasers, some with limited experience. Unless they're planning to play a two male beater set, they don't have enough depth at male chaser to make it through a long, hot day.
Watch Out For... Texas A&M seeker Dirk Hryekewicz. Quietly one of the best seekers in the game, Hyrekewicz is massive and can overpower and out-grapple most snitches. His defensive play is even better. A brick wall, it often seems harder for opposing seekers to get by Hyrekewicz than for them to catch the snitch.
Will the pairing of Bruner and Morris work well together? What roles will each of them play for the team?
Will Hyrekewicz be put in situations where Teal needs the snatch for the win or will he be playing more defense than offense? How will he play outside of A&M's tight rotation?
I'm not that impressed with the rest of this team. Which player or players will step up and prove me wrong? Will it be the beating core led by Austin Potts? Will it be chasers like Sarah Sherman and Morgan O'Neil?
GM Caroline Villa
Drafted with the intention of bringing together Texas A&M's biggest stars for THE Fantasy Tournament, Burgandy had chasers Drew Wasikowski and Kifer Gregorie, both All-Americans in my book. Gregorie is out for the tournament with mono, though, so Wasikowski should be carrying his team on both ends of the pitch. Offensively, the tall Aggie will be at the point, watching the play develop, then passing or driving. Defensively, he will either be defending the point or guarding the hoops as a keeper. Either way, Wasikowski is the most important player on the pitch and all aspects of Burgandy's strategy should revolve around him.
Villa drafted more beaters than most, including Chandler Smith and Seth Segura. Burgandy's beaters will need to work closely with Wasikowski if Burgandy wants to score as many points as teams with 2 or 3 star chasers.
Watch Out For... Kansas' Grant Daigle. Daigle has already had fantasy success this summer playing for Colby Soden's Midwest Fantasy Championship-winning Orange team. Daigle is the closest thing Burgandy has to replacing Kifer Gregorie. He is fast, surprisingly a strong tackler considering his size, and I believe he will be fantastic as a wing option for Wasikowski.
Can Drew Wasikowski carry the team? Will he have to? He was the leading scorer at the Southwest Regional despite being surrounded by many amazing scorers. Will he top that performance?
How good is Burgandy's beating core? The Burgandy beaters are good, but I doubt they'll be able to out-play some other teams? Is being badly out-played in the bludger game a death knell for the entire team?
Burgandy has two solid female chasers in Nicole Galle and Brandi Cannon? Can the team (and Wasikowski) figure out a way to involve them in the offense?
GM Curtis Taylor
Orange, drafted by Curtis Taylor, has an impressive headlining trio of chasers that are fast, physical and incredibly athletic. All-American Simon Arends, Olympian Kedzie Teller and top 10 Southwest Regional scorer Craig Garrison will come together to form a fearsome starting line. The styles of play of these three chasers should easily mesh and create high scoring games. Orange's chaser defense is sure to be stout in every aspect: tackling, marking, blocking and intercepting. Arends especially is world class defender, with perfect technique and strength. If Orange can get into the fastbreak, onlookers will feel like they are watching the burnt orange, not just regular orange.
Watch Out For... Ringling beater Bryan Bae. Despite being better known for his snitch talents, Bae is a fantastic beater. Bae is used very frequently on offense, creating space and driving lanes for his point guard. Often able to ward off opposing beaters simultaneously, his effect can allow chasers room to pass and drive. Capable of having an MVP caliber tournament, (similar to Peter Lee at Firemercs) Bae needs to be used to his fullest potential for Orange to win the tournament.
How far can the trio of Arends, Teller, and Garrison carry Orange? Will having only 14 players be a tough disadvantage?
How will Rosemary Ross (A&M) and Jason Winn (LSU) perform with Bryan Bae? Bae needs a partner that will be able to work with him to regain bludger control because if he's playing offensively, there's a much greater chance for the opposing team to recover his beats.
Was not drafting a true seeker a mistake? Who will fill the seeker rotation?
GM Samy Mousa
GM Samy Mousa snatched one of the most coveted players in the region in Augie Monroe and surrounded him with a few of Kansas' stars. Monroe will be sharing the field with graduating Jayhawks, Connor Drake and Hai Nguyen. Drake likes to play in a dual point guard system. Once his Midwestern Fantasy team switched to the system, they went on a run and advanced to the finals. Drake and Slipstream would be dynamite in that system. On fast breaks, Slipstream will likely be working with the speedy Nguyen
One of Green's biggest strengths will be movement. I expect a lot of give and goes between Monroe and Drake in the half court offense and I believe that neither will settle for many long shots. If one drives to the hoops, the other will be in a position for a pass, so the driver can execute perfect penetration.
Will Forest Green play a dual point guard system? I'm convinced that if they do, they'll be a lot more successful. Drake and Nguyen would feel more comfortable and Monroe would fit right in.
How will Forest Green's beating core play? Mousa previously said he wanted utility players as beaters, but he does have several true beaters in Melissa DeVarney, Haley Shaw and Tyler Dukes.
GM Becky Schmader
Like Alex Clark's White team, Becky Schmader's Red team features a chaser line without a single star player. Unlike White, chemistry between these chasers will probably not be a concern. Texas Quidditch chasers Kenny Chilton, Aryan Ghoddosay and Cody Tadlock were assembled by Schmader, also a Longhorn. Chilton is crafty and quick and doubles as a seeker who happens to have a World Cup finals snatch under his belt. Ghoddosay is the Southwest equivalent of Jake Tieman, a tank with good ball handling skills and surprisingly decent speed. Tadlock, a physical wing chaser, is a defensive specialist who can point defend as well as any of his 2012-13 Longhorn teammates.
Watch Out For... The beating pair of Lost Boys' beater Michael Mohlman and Kansas beater Nicole Denney. Mohlman, relatively new to beating, and Denney, who has greatly improved, both helped their teams make a run to the Elite Eight at World Cup. Both beaters shone on defense and shut down hot seekers. Neither beater is flashy or will make extraordinary beats, but both have good field awareness and play smart.
How deep will Red be? In other words, what percentage of their 14 players are going to be putting in quality minutes?
Are Chilton, Ghoddosay and Tadlock as good as I think or does playing alongside some of the greatest players in the game make them look better?
GM Ethan Sturm
Drafted by Eighth Man EIC and founder Ethan Sturm, Black will be going with a two male beater lineup featuring the likes of Reed Duncan, Matthieu Gregorie (practically two generations of great A&M male beaters) and Kyle Pink-Haired-Snitch Carpenter. The role of the beating core will be drastically different depending on which keeper is in for Black.
When Silicon Valley Skrewts' keeper Kevin Oelze is in, Black will slow play the ball up the pitch and a beater will need to be accompanying him. Beaters need to be on top of their game and be willing to step outside their comfort zone to assist the offense. Black will be most successful if Oezle is passing and shooting accurately and he can't do that with defenders in his face.
When Loyola keeper Etefia Umana is in, Black will be playing more loosely. Plays will develop faster and possession times will be shorter. Umana is incredibly athletic and fast. He's constantly surveying the pitch, looking for a teammate, but is able to carve up the defense, spinning, juking and dodging bludgers.
Male quaffle players are certainly a strength for Black as they also have Santa Barbara Blacktips keeper Chris Lock and two double digits Southwest Regional scorers in Hunter Turner (RRQ, 19 goals) and Richard Kemp (Texas State, 11 goals). Black is going to need two female quaffle players on the pitch at all times if they go with a two male beater set. Several of the female chasers are very inexperienced, having played less than a year. The five are going to have to share many minutes with the two more experienced ones likely playing most.
Watch Out For... After a solid, yet, under the radar season, former Texas A&M star seeker Isaac Salazar is ready to burst back onto the scene. Salazar's moves are like the crack a whip, clean, crisp and very quick. He is tenacious and relentless in his fight for the snitch. Black is lucky to have him as a game closer.
Quidditch strategy and gameplay has come an extremely long way in one year. Will Reed Duncan be as good as we remember or will the increasingly complex strategy be overwhelming?
Will the female chasers' lack of experience coupled with Sturm's desire to play a two male beater set hurt Black? If it's not going well, will Black switch back to the more common, 1 male, 1 female beater set?
GM Monty Turner-Little
Blue's strengths seem to be many others' weaknesses. Blue has two of the best female chasers at THE Fantasy Tournament in Beissy Sandoval and Becca DuPont. Sandoval and DuPont are outstanding ball handlers and incredibly scrappy and tough. They can drive and shoot from distance, often sneaking the quaffle through a tight gap with great accuracy. If Blue wanted, they could play a two male beater set without worrying about sacrificing offensive power. A two male beater set would be an absurd waste of consensus All-American Brittany Ripperger, though.
I'm excited to see Ripperger play with beater strategy mastermind, Mitch Cavender, the conductor of UCLA and USC's revolutionary strategies that led to two Western Cup wins and a World Cup finals experience. I also want to see Baylor beater David Gilbert play with Cavender. While Ripperger's role in Baylor's beating strategy is clear, her male counterpart's is not always as clear and he (whether it's Gilbert or Chris Rhodes) could learn from Cavender about point pressuring on offense and defense.
Watch Out For... The duo of Trent Miller and Beissy Sandoval. The Baylor teammates are used to slamming home each others' assists for 10 points. Alley-oops will be contagious for Blue if Miller and Sandoval are in a groove. Players like LSU's Beto Natera and UCLA's Michael Binger will find themselves dunking more than ever and lobbing up passes on the run. Baylor's style of play is naturally fun and it works well, which makes it perfect for an event like THE Fantasy.
Monty Turner-Little will be the only GM playing due to the fact that so many of his players dropped out. How will he do at seeker? He's used to a rotation. Will Blue use a rotation?
Will Blue play the signature Baylor defense (guarding each hoop with a quaffle player)? How will the non-Bears adjust?
How many of his beating strategy secrets will Mitch Cavender share with Ripperger and Gilbert? Baylor is going to be right back in the final four next year and Cavender certainly believes he'll be back too.