Monday, March 31, 2014

Midwest's WCVII Expectations

"The Midwest's reputation is probably the worst it has ever been right now. We are known for having the most teams and being a cluster of second tier teams. The Midwest gets this reputation because of how we look to everyone else on film. Also, having a poor showing against middle tier teams from other regions really lowers the general perception of us as a whole. I really don't understand though why we don't get more respect since we had quite a few successful teams at WC last year. The Midwest can only do one thing to disprove its critics, win."--Dan Daugherty, BGSU

"The Midwest just has not totally proven itself on the biggest stage. We've had final four teams each of the last two years, but both of those were considered Cinderella stories and not a true gauge of the region...The MW needs a strong pool play showing, rather than a strong bracket showing, since pool play is where the most inter-regional play is happening."--Luke Changet, Michigan State
Photo by Kat Ignatova
Must Win Games
Michigan vs. AQ or Santa Barbara: Even in the pool of death, Michigan, a top tier Midwest team, must not get completely shut out of bracket play. Michigan taking fourth in this pool would confirm the reputation the Midwest has gotten this season.

BGSU vs. Florida: In a match between the Cinderellas of World Cups V & VI (and a star showdown between Dan Daugherty and Dre Clements), the Midwest champs will need to secure first place in their pool and avoid falling to the Gators.

Minnesota vs. McGill: In what sounds like a matchup from World Cup V, Minnesota will need to beat a Canadian team that failed to reach its regional championship finals. Not much is expected out of McGill, a team with depth but little star power, and Minnesota's beaters should be completely in control.

Ohio State vs. Rochester: Just two weeks before "brooms up" in North Myrtle Beach, Rochester wreaked havoc on the Midwest's reputation at the Glass City Invitational, defeating Michigan State and BGSU. It will be up to Ohio State to prove that Rochester's victories were a fluke by soundly beating the squad from the Northeast.

Central Michigan vs. Florida's Finest: I believe that, to gain respect, the Midwest must have at least two teams win their pools. While BGSU is expected to win the pool, Minnesota faces a tough game against the Skrewts for pool supremacy. Central Michigan, a team which has yet to lose a tournament this spring, has a fantastic opportunity to steal a pool victory in their match against Florida's Finest. Central Michigan seeker Jeff Fisher will have to out-duel Florida's Finest's newest addition Tyler Macy, though.
Photo by Monica Wheeler
Dangerous Games
Midwest teams are favored to win but a surprise loss in any of these games could seriously damage the image of the region.
BGSU vs. Hofstra: BGSU lost to Rochester in a marathon game at the Glass City Invitational. While there are so many variables, Rochester was crushed by Hofstra way back at Turtle Cup in the Round of 16. Beaters Chad Brown and Joe Pavlik will be tested by one of the best beating corps of the Northeast, led by Alex Leitch.

Central Michigan vs. UNC: Above I talked about how Central Michigan must defeat Florida's Finest to win their pool, but the Midwest squad will have to get by another dangerously hot team in UNC (a merc team version of UNC called NOTUNC beat Maryland at Capitol Cup and UNC placed second at the Carolinas Quidditch Conference championship).

Kansas vs. Richmond: I've talked before about how Richmond is a completely different team that's they were at World Cup VI. With Kansas' major roster adjustments, keeper Jeremy Day and senior chaser Paco Darcey could cause trouble for the Jayhawk defense.

Honorable Mention: Ohio State vs. The Silver Phoenix and Michigan State vs. Long Beach Funky Quaffles

Huge Opportunity Games
Midwest teams are not favored to win but a win or even a snitch range loss in any of these games could vastly improve the region's reputation.
Missouri vs. LSU: With the addition of chaser Alex Scheer, Missouri might be closer to a top tier Midwest team rather than a second tier Midwest team. In addition, LSU can be very inconsistent (20 point loss to Lost Boys following a 150 point loss against UT at Diamond Cup). For Missouri, who exited the Midwest Regional Championship in the quarterfinals, defeating LSU would be shocking.

Ball State vs. Emerson or NAU: Facing tough pool play matchups against Emerson and NAU, Ball State could take third in their pool and it wouldn't hurt the reputation of the Midwest at all. However, if Ball State could outperform Emerson or NAU in the transition, it would be a very solid win for the Midwest.

Ohio State vs. Lost Boys and Kansas vs. Texas A&M: As unlikely as it seems, Kansas defeated the Southwest Regional Champions in pool play last year and Ohio State has a passing game that could rival the Lost Boys' attack. Even staying within 60 points of the nation's two best teams would be a big accomplishment. Playing against the best is always a huge opportunity and history remembers those who seize the opportunity.
Photo by Monica Wheeler
Cinderella Odds
Every World Cup produces a signature Cinderella story and several other prominent Davids that slay Goliaths. What are the odds that Cinderella will be from the Midwest?
With Minnesota fighting their way into Icahn Stadium at World Cup V and BGSU knocking off Miami, Maryland and the Lost Boys en route to the Final Four, the Cinderella team of the past two World Cups have called the Midwest home. While Minnesota was somewhat overshadowed by Florida, the Midwest has had two teams shockingly advance to the Final Four two World Cups in a row. In my opinion, the Midwest has 7 or 8 top tier teams, but none of them are elite enough to be predicted to make the Final Four. So statistically, the Midwest has a very good chance to produce the Cinderella team of World Cup VII. However, I believe the clock has struck midnight on the Midwest.

Odds: 4-1

Any sane bookmaker would never give 4-1 odds (or a 20% chance) that World Cup VII's Cinderella will come from the Midwest, but I see problems that will prevent Midwest teams from stealing the quidditch community's hearts a third time though. Teams are going to be ready for BGSU and seeker Sam Roitblat this year. Even if Kansas shows up with star seeker Keir Rudolph, the main pillars of their quaffle game this season, Colby Soden and Jordan Callison, will be absent. Yellow and red cards have plagued Central Michigan. Michigan State is too dependent on Jacob Heppe to knock off several elite teams in a row. Ohio State's seeking has been too inconsistent. I could go on for Ball State, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri. Case in point, a team from another region will take the spotlight as a Cinderella at World Cup VII.

World Cup Title Odds
What are the odds that a Midwest team will hoist the World Cup VII trophy?

Odds: 99-1

While in the past, Midwest teams have been well suited for exciting Cinderella runs, they have been unable to hang with truly elite quidditch squads (besides Kansas' win over Baylor). I believe winning the seventh edition of the IQA World Cup is very unlikely for any Midwest team.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Play-In Round: A Recipe for Madness

As we all know, the tournament format of World Cup VII will be significantly different from the format of World Cup VI. The tournament field has expanded to 80 teams, separated into 16 pools. The 20 team increase to the World Cup field has been a hot topic all season and has especially generated fiery discussion recently due to World Cup bids being deferred and claimed by weaker teams. However, when teams take the field on the morning of April 5th, spectators and players will barely notice that there are 20 extra teams.

I'm here to talk about the other major change to the World Cup VII tournament format. To accomodate the 4 additional pools, the number of teams that advance to bracket play is increasing from 36 to 48. At World Cup VI, the play-in round was a series of matchups between teams ranked 28-36 in order to narrow the field down to a nice, even, 32. In North Myrtle Beach, the "play-in" round will feature all teams ranked 17-48. That's 32 team playing in 16 games across 9 fields during only two timeslots! 
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Day One of the World Cup is normally pretty predictable. The three teams projected to advance to bracket play from each pool usually get by Pot 4 and 5 teams with ease. If there are huge upsets like Kansas defeating Baylor, the community has a few hours to recover before another David slays another Goliath. And even so, the Goliath typically advances to bracket play despite losing to David. The top five teams efforts to destroy lower pot teams for high point differentials can be the most exciting storylines to follow. Last year, I left a Austin-Tindall Park yearning for more big surprises after pool play.

In North Myrtle Beach, thanks to the play-in round, we're going to get that craziness very quickly on Sunday. The first two time slots on the morning of Sunday, April 6th are going to shake up everything we thought we knew about quidditch. While some of the games will probably be blowouts (17 vs. 48), the majority (20s vs. 30s) are going to be matchups of teams separated by a few points in average point differential.  Some teams will be relegated to a "lower" seed due to a tough pool, creating the potential for many upsets. There will be games that sound more like Sweet Sixteen matchups rather than games in the play-in round.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
The addition of a larger play-in round also increases the importance of going 4-0 on Saturday and winning the pool. Pot One teams are going to want to avoid the madness of the play-in round at all costs. For a favored, cocky team that unexpectedly drops a game on Saturday, facing the play-in round might push the team over the edge. For the teams ranked 17-48 after pool play, the play-in round will be a true test of character and skill.

Last season, three out of the four play-in games were decided by a snitch catch. Tufts fell to VCU, Villanova, the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Regional Champion, lost to Arizona State and BGSU barely escaped Tennessee Tech. 

I'm prepared to guess that again, 75% of games in the play-in round will be decided by a snitch catch. 12 out of the 16 games will be so even, that the result of the game will be up to seekers, seeker beating and the skill of the snitch. I predict that 4 out of the 12 snitch range games will go into overtime. Teams with big aspirations are going to be bounced from bracket play before it even starts, according the misleading name, the "play-in" round. 
As a fact of any sport, some teams will leave North Myrtle Beach upset and feeling unfulfilled. The IQA will understandably want the play-in round to move quickly so that games can stay on schedule and the championship game doesn't get delayed multiple hours. Marathon games will be prevented by snitch handicaps. The reffing corps will be stretched thin. Last year, the Round of 32 had several reffing/snitching controversies. Hopefully, the play-in round can be free of controversy, but in a young sport like quidditch, I highly doubt it will be.

Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
The point I'm trying to make is that the play-in round is a part of bracket play and a lot of unexpected things are going to happen. It's going to be chaotic, mind-blowing madness. If the World Cup format sticks for the next several years, the play-in round will become a defining part of the World Cup much like the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. 

And then, after the play-in round, we get to do it all again with 32 teams playing 16 games across 9 fields during two timeslots. Get excited folks. World Cup is in six days!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Departing Players Database 2014

Eastern Canada
Gee-Gees Quidditch
Rebecca Alley - coach
Alex Bassa - beater

Christopher Newport University
Anthony Rieger - beater

Pennsylvania State University
Eliott Bryson - chaser
Alyson Brooks - chaser (graduating in Fall 2014)

Jason Rosenberg - chaser (graduating in Fall 2014)
Randy Slosburg  - chaser/seeker 
Nick Romano - chaser (graduating in Fall 2014) 
Clifford Moll - chaser 

University of Maryland
Samantha Medney - chaser

University of Richmond
Paco Darcey - chaser

Virginia Tech University
Ian Walker - chaser
Jack Harver - chaser

Ball State University
Sara Makey - chaser
Erin Kelly - chaser

Danielle Anderson - beater
Devon McCoy - chaser
Zach Rupp - chaser

Bowling Green State University
Katie Milligan - chaser 
Ashley Seman - chaser 
Cara Leach - beater

Central Michigan University
Andrew Derry - beate
Tom O'Neil - beater
Jeff Fisher - seeker
Amanda Shepard - chaser

Ashley Calhoun - beater

Eastern Michigan University
Kern Stanley - chaser
Nathaniel Gibson - chaser

Miami University
Kate Rapnicki - chaser
Brendan Kelly - keeper/seeker
Jeremy Ferlic - beater

Nathan Graber - chaser

University of Michigan
Evan Batzer - chaser/keeper
Andrew Axtell - chaser

Dai Phuc Do - chaser
Michelle Busch - chaser
Danielle DuBois - chaser
Andrea Byl - chaser
Lucas Mitchell - beater
Natalie Friess - beater
Robert Morgan - seeker

Michigan State University
Jack Norgen - seeker
Ben Ackland - keeper
Danielle White - beater
Luke Changet - coach

Purdue University
Alex Chelminski - keeper
Ariana Filippini - beater

University of Minnesota
Leah Vogel - chaser
Zach Meier - chaser

Conor Johnson - beater
Cody Narveson - keeper
Jacob Drewa - seeker
Jared Sipe - chaser
Tyler Zastrow - beater

Boston University
Max Havlin - beater
Katrina Bossotti - beater
Brendan Stack - keeper
Michael Powell - chaser
Brett Engwall - chaser/seeker
Nick O'Connor - chaser
Tom Ford - seeker
Chris Schretzenmayer - beater
Alice Crowe - beater

Emerson College
Jackson Maher - chaser
CJ Junior - beater
Aaron Wohl - beater
Wes Weiss - keeper/chaser
Cassie Samuels - beater
Maddy Smeaton - chaser

Hofstra University
Alex Leitch - beater 
Brittany Bissonnette - beater

Emma Hauer - chaser 
Alyssa Michnevitz - beater (graduating Fall 2014)

Macaulay Honors College
Jenna Jankowski - beater
Catherine Dinh-Le - chaser

Cesar Andrade - chaser

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Erin McAllister - beater/captain
Tom Thayer - keeper

Rochester Institute of Technology
Jeff Sherman - keeper
Shane Hurlbert - chaser
Josh Kramer - beater

Kyle Leslie - beater

Kenny Radzyminski - chaser/seeker
Sarah Smacher - beater

SUNY Geneseo
Kyle Hoyng - keeper 
Christian Perfas - chaser 
Rob Terreri - chaser/beater 
Adam Zaczek - chaser

Stony Brook University
Konstantinos Plakas - chaser
Seamus Peterson - chaser
Hannah Gzemski - chaser
Thomas Potter - seeker
David Narain - chaser
Edward Li - chaser

Tufts University
BJ Mestnik - chaser/seeker
Michael Sanders - beater

University of Rochester
Patrick Callanan - keeper/chaser/beater
Chris Demme - chaser
Kyle Sanson - seeker
Sam Rovner - keeper/chaser

Tennessee Technological University
Kellie Davis - chaser
Hilary Barker - chaser
Kaila Raulston - chaser  
Gabe Greene - chaser 
Jonathan Bass - chaser 
Michael Ferowich - chaser 
Logan Hartman - chaser 
Joe Stephenson - beater
Elisa Tanksley - beater
Landon Smith - keeper

University of Miami
Stephen Ralph - keeper
Sean Beloff - chaser
David Moyer - seeker

Louisiana State University
Brad Armentor - chaser
Jason Winn - beater/seeker
Daniel DePaula - beater

Melissa White - beater/chaser
Sarah Kneiling - beater
Panya Kroun - president/chaser (ACL tear)

Texas A&M University
Becca DuPont - chaser
Drew Wasikowski - chaser
Joe Wright - chaser
Casey Faulhaber - beater
Luke Wigley - keeper/chaser/seeker

Texas Tech University
Philip O'Brien - chaser

University of Arkansas
Jim Curry - keeper
Ethan McCormick - beater

Paul Shoemaker - chaser

Vincent Berrios - chaser
Peter Reynebeau - chaser

Arizona State University
Duston Mazella - beater/chaser 
Wes Rose - keeper/chaser/seeker
Ashley Bleicher - beater/chaser

Lost Boys Quidditch Club
Tony Rodriguez - keeper
Steve DiCarlo - seeker/chaser
(confirmed by DiCarlo)

Northern Arizona University
Cooper Davis - chaser 
Justin Regan - chaser/beater 
April Gonzales - beater 
Greg Leninger - keeper

Santa Barbara Blacktips
Evan Bell - captain/beater
Ren Bettendorf - chaser/keeper
Chris Lock - keeper/seeker
Lauren Mosley - beater
Lee Weinsoff - beater
Kayla Martyn - chaser
Tayler Lightle - chaser
Trace Martin - chaser/seeker

University of Southern California

August Lührs - chaser/seeker
Harrison James - keeper 
Nick Metzler - beater
Nicté Sobrino - chaser/beater
Tony Likovich - keeper/chaser

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Public Roster Observations

Today was a historic step in the right direction for quidditch. The team rosters of all attending teams were made public beneath the IQA logo on an IQA website. Featured at the bottom of the snazzy new World Cup VII teams pages, the posted rosters both answer and raise questions. 

In the past, I've always gone through captains to obtain roster news. However, I've learned that trying to put together a sophisticated breaking news article on roster news is often spoiled by a leak on social media. In addition, information that's leaked on blogs like The QuidKid before it is officially approved can unfortunately impact official decisions. 

Now, I hope, my readers can understand 1 ) why  I am so happy that the shroud of secrecy around roster news has been lifted and 2) why I didn't contact captains to confirm any of the information discussed. I am assuming (perhaps incorrectly...and please tell me if my assumptions are incorrect) that the rosters made public on are somewhat accurate.

So let's get started! Here are seven observations I had from browsing through teams' rosters.

1. Florida's Finest has replaced Brendan Frisella with former Ball State and Team USA seeker Tyler Macy. Leaked to The QuidKid as a member of Florida's Finest back in September, Macy has not appeared for the Flamingoes yet this season and will be making his Florida's Finest debut at World Cup VII. Frisella, a former Southern Miss utility star, was added to the Florida's Finest roster during the winter. Playing spectacularly at Swamp Cup, Frisella missed key snatches against USF in regulation and overtime in the quarterfinals of the Southern Regional Championship. While we can't be sure that Florida's Finest's seeker situation has improved or worsened before seeing Macy in action, having a second, reliable seeker to the rotation behind Austin Clooney ensures that utility player Sean Pagoada can focus his attention on beating with the snitch on the pitch.

2. NAU, one of the teams hit with suspensions due to violations of the IQA's Fair Play Policy, only has 16 players listed on its roster. While captain Cooper Davis is notably missing, many of NAU's major pieces look ready to go in North Myrtle Beach including seeker Porter Marsh, beater April Gonzales and many familiar names in the chasing game. NAU faces a tough pool play schedule with matches against Emerson, Ball State, SHSU and QC Pittsburgh. However, NAU will not be the only undermanned West team expected to be in contention for a bracket play spot...

3. The Santa Barbara Blacktips have a 16 player roster registered with matches against NYDC, Austin Quidditch, Michigan and the Badassilisks looming. The Blacktips are known for being carried by their first string players, but for a team with such high hopes and a tough schedule, a 16 player depth chart could be difficult to overcome. In addition, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles have 15 players scheduled for their World Cup debut, 16 names are listed for the Utah Crimson Fliers and Stanford will be bringing a team of 17 players.

4. A move already known to many in the Midwest, Alex Scheer, formerly the captain of Toledo, will be playing for Missouri. Scheer will be an important offensive weapon and playmaker alongside Josh Ebbemeyer and Dan Shapiro for Missouri as they look to notch a victory over either the Gee-Gees, Tufts or LSU to advance to bracket play. 

5. Penn State chaser Jason Rosenberg, who broke his foot in October, has been left off Penn State's World Cup VII roster. Sources have informed me that Rosenberg had surgery on his foot, which has kept the physical chaser off the field at Turtle Cup, MARC, Cocoa Cup and now, World Cup VII. As a result, Penn State is much more reliant on beater Scott Axel defensively and its offense is less physical.

6. The rosters of the NYDC Capitalists and Lone Star QC, which have fluctuated over the course of the season, look pretty much as I expected them to. NYDC keeper John Gaffigan is scheduled to return to the Capitalists' roster after missing the Beantown Brawl and Capitol Cup. All four of LSQC's winter transfers, Craig Garrison, Mathieu Gregorie, Chris Scholtz and Jacob Wilson are listed on the 21 man roster, as well as captain Mollie Lensing, who has spent the majority of the spring quidditch season in Scotland.

7.  Saving the greatest amount of roster shuffling for the end, out of the three Kansas stars that the IQA Editorial Team reported would miss World Cup VII (Colby Soden, Jordan Callison and Keir Rudolph), Soden and Callison are not on the roster but the most lethal weapon for the Jayhawks, seeker Keir Rudolph, is. Rudolph confirmed with the IQA (me) that he would miss World Cup VII, and although I can only speculate, it was very strange to see Rudolph's name on the list. Veterans from World Cup VI's Elite Eight Kansas squad, Hai Nguyen and Doug Whiston will be taking spots on the team.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Selection Monday Preview

Selection Monday is definitely pretty cool and exciting, but a preview?? What's there to preview, Jack? It's a random drawing of World Cup VII pools from pots organized by teams' performances this season. 

The answer is that there is A LOT to preview and discuss! Which teams from lower pots are the most dangerous? Which pot one teams can't afford the pool of death and which pot one teams should want the pool of death?

Lower Pot Pool Busters
The following teams have the ability to beat at least two pool play opponents that come from higher pots and are not easy draws.
Pot 5: Popping off the page from a pot with low expectations are the Long Beach Funky Quaffles. In their first year as an official team, LBFQ has played against the best of West all season long, receiving very few cupcake games. LBFQ's offense is multi-dimensional, spearheaded by the difficult-to-contain Alex Richardson and Anthony Hawkins. The beating corps, led by Michael Aguilera, has been tested by several elite beating corps and has proven that they can handle high levels of pressure and aggression. From the title favorites to teams hopeful to advance to Sunday, no one will want to draw LBFQ.

Pot 4: Austin Quidditch and the Silicon Valley Skrewts are the obvious choices from pot four, as well as a dangerous UNC team led by star hero-baller Max Miceli, but I'm going to go with Tennessee Tech. For many, the surprise of USF defeating Florida's Finest overshadowed the fact that Tennessee Tech stayed within snitch range of Florida twice during the Southern Regional Championship, and actually held a 110-100 lead when the Gators caught the snitch in the semifinals. Apart from the impressive results against an underestimated Florida team, Tennessee Tech has a reputation of being deep and phsycial, which could be a recipe for diaster for an unsuspecting team.

Adventures in Pot Two
The powerhouses in Pot 2 will create some of the most anticipated matchups leading up to Saturday, April 5th, but as we've seen in the past, some of these matchups will live up to expectations and some will fall flat. 
Out of the Midwest, Central Michigan has been rising quickly during the early portion of the spring season and according to Eighth Man analyst Dan Daugherty, has the best chance to defeat a team from the Southwest. While the Southwest will likely end up winning World Cup VII, I don't expect the region to run through North Myrtle Beach unscathed. Having a team from the Midwest, a region that has been put down all season long, do the damage to the Southwest's stellar reputation would be too perfect. Last season, Kansas defeated Baylor in a fantastic pool play game and Central Michigan might have the same ability this season. On the back of beating from Ashley Calhoun, a strong Team USA candidate, keeper David Prueter, and several reliable role players, Central Michigan could be the surprise team drawn from Pot 2 depending on their Pot 1 matchup.

A pair of teams that barely snuck into Pot 2, Texas State and UCLA will each hopefully face a Pot 1 foe from the East Coast. Both solid teams from regions considered to be superior, if Texas State and UCLA play top East Coast teams, it will be a good Day One indicator of regional strength, as well as Texas State and UCLA's chances in bracket play.

Pool of Death
Nothing scares teams more than the words "pool of death" on Selection Monday. Here are the pot one teams that should be scared and the teams that should be more scared of the words "cupcake pool."
Arkansas, who rode a 12-2 record to placement in pot one, should be pretty scared of the pool of death. With the additions of chasers Justin Peters and Zane Adams, Arkansas should especially want an easy pool play schedule to fully integrate the new pieces into their system. At the Southwest Regional Championship, Arkansas dropped two games to Oklahoma State. If you look at some of the teams that could be drawn from pots 2-4 (Tufts, NAU, the Skrewts), Arkansas would be in danger of falling to a low seed and losing in the Round of 32. 

In my opinion, the World Cup VII title has become a four horse race between Texas A&M, Lone Star, the Lost Boys and Baylor. These four teams will desperately want to secure the 1-4 seeds on day two, so if they have to play each other, it will be on the Final Four field. A&M, LSQC and the Lost Boys have explosive, high scoring, overwhelming offenses and should be in a good position to take one of the top four seeds no matter who their opponents are. Baylor, however, might need a cupcake pool to stay close to the sky high point differentials A&M, LSQC and the Lost Boys are expected to post. Baylor's half court offense certainly isn't bad, but it doesn't have the same firepower as the other four title contenders. Give Baylor a couple of weaker teams that struggle with tackling and keeper Jacob Bruner will plow through the defense and run up the score.

Two bitter Beantown rivals, Emerson and BU, could each benefit from being drawn into the pool of death. 

Emerson, has historically played their best when faced with challenges in pool play. At World Cup VI, Emerson played three tough Saturday games against USC, Minnesota and USF, and went on to defeat Texas State in the Round of 32 and play terrifically in a loss to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. At Turtle Cup, Emerson's only tournament victory this season, their first game of the day was a hard fought, overtime thriller against the NYDC Capitalists. 

In my opinion, BU has the most realistic chance of any non-Southwest (or Lost Boys) team to win the seventh IQA World Cup. If the Northeast Regional Champs are going to contend with elite Southwest teams on Sunday, they must face a second or third pot Southwest team on Saturday. After receiving an easy World Cup VI pool play schedule of Villanova, Central Michigan and AQ, BU was blown out in the Sweet Sixteen by Baylor. BU will be better prepared for the challenge of facing a team like A&M or Baylor in bracket play if they draw a team like Texas State or LSU into their pool.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Less Obvious Team USA Candidates

The Team USA application deadline is today. With players across the country trying to decide whether to throw their name in the pool and the selection committee beginning serious discussion soon, I wanted to list a couple of less-obvious Team USA candidates. First, you'll quickly notice that all of the players I listed are male chasers or keepers. That's because I believe there is a (somewhat) clear hierarchy at every other position in terms of Global Games selections. Second, while World Cup VII performances will undoubtedly influence the selection committee immensely, the following players deserve consideration regardless of their World Cup performance because of the specific skills they can bring to the table.

Dre Clements (UF)
Known best for leading a heroic comeback against Middlebury in the World Cup V final, Dre Clements' game has gone far past the hero-balling that got all of Icahn Stadium chanting his name this season. More than any team I've seen, UF has stressed passing, sometimes appearing as if they have been instructed to complete five passes before shooting like a elementary school basketball team. Other middle-tier teams that pass that frequently often fall apart, a victim of poor execution. However, UF makes it work, stringing together successful possession after successful possession due to the linchpin that is Dre Clements. 

If, as selection committee member Ethan Sturm alluded to in his podcast The Seeker Floor, the selection committee is looking for a chaser who can fit seamlessly into a fluid offense, with lots of passing, Clements is an amazing choice from the South. 

Beto Natera (Lone Star QC)
Through all of Lone Star QC's roster inconsistencies, Beto Natera has been a rock in the chaser game, providing support for LSQC's point players around midfield. I strongly believe that Natera's presence in the "backcourt" with Stephen Bell, Chris Morris and Connor Drake has enhanced their confidence and allowed them to achieve their full potential at the point. Like a star background singer (think of the Academy Award winning documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom) or a top advisor to the President, Natera doesn't get the credit for how he influences the final product--in this case, LSQC's on field performance--but the role he plays cannot be understated. 
Photo by Lauren Carter
While composed of many talented players, Team USA will not have perfect chemistry at first. I'd like to think that the international countries, specifically Canada, the UK and Australia, will be able to force more defensive pressure at the 2014 Global Games through better point defense or more aggressive beating, and in that case, the USA's keepers must have support in the backcourt. Natera provides backcourt support for some of the best keepers in the game and is an adequate driver too. 

If the "maximum two player per team" prevents Natera from directly earning a spot on Team USA, he should at least be considered for the reserve squad.

Eric Reyes (Texas State)
Although he has led one of the most active social media campaigns, Texas State tank Eric Reyes still doesn't feel like an obvious selection to me because of 1) the amount of good players on good teams in the Southwest and 2) the requirement to have at least two players from regions not called the Southwest. Reyes is also competing with LSU power chaser Brad Armentor, who seems more likely to earn his second selection to Team USA with each passing day. 

However, Reyes deserves to be on Team USA because his driving is unstoppable. Texas State might be moving towards a more complex offense with developing weapons like Richard Kemp, Justin Lopez and Tyrell Williams, but watching Reyes take over and drive is a thing of beauty. While passing must be stressed in the selection of a Team USA, the selection committee must not create a team that is  content to pass around the perimeter and chuck up alley oops. If the opposing defense gets into any rhythm, Reyes has the ability to completely blow it up with earthshaking tackle-breaking and expert bludger-blocking. 

Zach Luce (UCLA) 
Photo by Kat Ignatova
In a field of many talented keepers, UCLA's Zach Luce has almost been forgotten this season due to a quiet Western Regional Championship performance from his team. Luce is one quidditch's most prolific scorers, floating mid-range shots through the hoops past baffled keepers. Many of the favorites to receive keeper spots on Team USA (Tony Rodriguez, Stephen Bell, Augustine Monroe) are keepers who love to play on the fastbreak, dazzling their opponents with speed, vision and pinpoint accurate passing. With Luce at the helm, Team USA would play at a drastically different pace from the fastbreak attack perfected by the other keepers. There will probably be chasers and beaters on Team USA who are more comfortable and experienced with a slow-paced, half court game. Those players could be paired on a line with Luce.

If the Team USA selection committee wants to show the international teams that different strategies and styles have flourished in the United States, while ensuring that players who prefer a slow-paced game are happy, Luce should be included.

If you guys liked this article and would like me to write about more less obvious Team USA candidates (even for other positions), let me know! You never could be the next player featured!

Friday, March 7, 2014

10 Things To Learn Before WCVII

World Cup VII is only four weeks away, but there are still storylines to follow, especially in the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic. Serving as my preview for the Big Ten vs. MAC Challenge, Capitol Cup, Knights Cup and the Glass City Classic, here are 10 Things To Learn Before World Cup.

1. Maryland vs. NYDC 
Thanks to drops from Johns Hopkins and Geneseo, Capitol Cup will have one giant pool of all seven attending teams followed by bracket play, but tomorrow's headlining event at George Mason University is clearly the guaranteed match and possible rematch between Maryland and NYDC. After many long months where the two teams came tantalizingly close to playing, the Mid Atlantic's most hyped rivalry will begin on the field this weekend and there are plenty of reasons to be excited and interested.

Combined, Maryland and NYDC have only four losses and a .911 winning percentage--Maryland is 17-1 and NYDC is 24-3. Neither team has suffered an embarassing loss out of snitch range and has easily beaten down on the East Coast's middle tier. 

With World Cup VII less than a month away, it's also interesting to consider what each team represents. Maryland began the season with a few, talented, experienced leaders and a horde of athletic, inexperienced new recruits that quickly filled the holes left by graduates. NYDC's rosters is composed entirely of experienced players and leaders, many of whom know the ins and outs of quidditch. If there are decisive results from the Maryland and NYDC game(s), does that give us a hint about whether college teams that had large, successful recruiting classes like Texas A&M or Miami will perform better than other community teams? A series of two matches against the same team also creates the possibility that Maryland and NYDC will split the games. 

2. Can Richmond Hang with the Top Tier? 
I'm going to be honest. What I remember of Richmond at World Cup VI is seeing UT blow them out of Austin-Tindall Park during pool play, and at that moment, deciding that UT was going to win World Cup. Anyone who shared my experience at that UT-Richmond game or anyone who saw Richmond at World Cup VI should know that Richmond is a completely different team this year. The Spiders are equipped with more athletic weapons than last year on the wings, and these players have developed under the watchful eye of keeper and point player Jeremy Day. Chaser Paco Darcey has starred, plus, to quote IQA Mid Atlantic Correspondent Erin Mallory, Richmond beating "cornerstone" and Northeast Fantasy 2013 standout Julia Baer is "backkkkk!" 

At Capitol Cup, due to the altered format, Richmond will likely get three chances to play NYDC and Maryland (once against each team in pool play and once in the semifinals). That's three chances to stay within snitch range of a regional powerhouse and in doing so, make a huge statement. Way back at Turtle Cup, Richmond defeated Villanova, a team that beat NYDC and gave Maryland a scare at MARC. While the circumstances between Turtle Cup, MARC and Capitol Cup are certainly different, I believe an upset is possible.

3. Best of the Big Apple? 
At Rutgers' Knight Cup, the best of the Big Apple heading into World Cup VII will be decided! 
With a tournament field mostly composed of non-World Cup qualifiers and the absence of the dominant NYDC Capitalists, Hofstra, Macaulay and NYU will duke it out for a tournament title. Beater Alex Leitch will return for Hofstra after suffering a broken leg at the Northeast Regional Championship. Flanked by Theresa Buchta and Mike Iadevaia, Hofstra should have the strongest beating at the tournament. Keeper Zack Gindes looks to be the best all-around offensive player at Knights Cup. Gindes has athleticism comparable Brendan Stack and unselfish play that allows a potent NYU offense to flourish. Macaulay's strength is seeking, but if star seeker Andrew Zagelbaum is going to be in position to make a tournament winning snatch, Macaulay has to improve on the quaffle points goose egg they laid against Syracuse in their World Cup qualification match (which astonishingly was a 60*^-40 win). 

Of the non-World Cup qualifiers, Lock Haven, the New York Badassilisks and Rutgers could be considered the dark horses. Likely, one of those three teams will land the fourth semifinal spot. A solid performance at Knights Cup could be a springboard to any of these three teams, as they look to compete in 2015's addition of the Quidditch World Cup.

4. Can Michigan State Win Tournaments? 
The message I've been getting from the Midwest, through threads in my Quidditch Coaches Poll facebook group and articles written like this one, is that MSU are the real kings of the corn. But, until they get on the throne, I'm not convinced at all. The Spartans have a lackluster 8-2 record, with no particularly notable results. 

In preparing to write this article, I watched a bit of Michigan State's games against Michigan and Miami at the Midwest Regional Championship on Rogue Sports TV. Truthfully, I wasn't impressed with either game. Jacob Heppe not conserving energy is definitely not Michigan State's "one and only problem," as labeled by Eighth Man writer Luke Changet. MSU struggles to put together a sophisticated offensive possession in the half court, even with beaters coming up to help. With short possessions, Michigan State has to rely on long shots or defensive blunders for goals. Tackling is a concern too, as Michigan State lacks a heavy hitter and a reliable tackler.

However, a tournament victory at either the Big Ten vs. MAC Challenge or the Glass City Classic, with video for proof, would cause me to rethink my assessment of Michigan State pretty quickly. As of right now, I don't think they are a top 20 team and are on the outside looking in at a return trip to the Sweet Sixteen. 

5. Is BGSU the Best the Midwest has to Offer?
With Kansas losing two important players, Ball State's defeat to Central Michigan and Michigan State's flaws, I think that BGSU has the chance to rise above the jumbled first tier in the Midwest. If BGSU is going to separate themselves from the pack in the Midwest, I'm looking for a clean sweep of Big Ten vs. MAC Challenge and the Glass City Classic. An incredibly weak pool play schedule at the Big Ten vs. MAC Challenge makes up for BGSU's various absent players. My expectation is still that BGSU's wins. At full strength, as I presume they'll be at Glass City, BGSU truly has all the pieces in place, especially with the addition of beater Joe Pavlik.

6. The Real Ohio State: pre-regionals or regionals?
Prior to the start of the season, I thought OSU could end up as the class of the Midwest by the end of the season. With a 7-0 performance at Phoenix Cup that included 60+ point defeats of Ball State and BGSU, it appeared Ohio State might be on the way to a regional championship and national relevance. The Midwest Regional Championship was a flop for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes fell to Michigan State, Minnesota and BGSU. 

What I see from Rogue Sports TV film, is that Ohio State runs complex offensive possessions, with hard cutting and accurate passing around the perimeter. It's the best offense I've seen in the Midwest. The danger for the Buckeyes is that the opposing defense forces turnovers on the perimeter or their offense becomes complaisant and stops penetrating. If that can be remedied, I think Ohio State has a shot at returning to their pre-regionals form, winning tournaments, advancing far in bracket play and cracking the top ten in rankings by the end of the season. 

7. Glimpse of Northeast vs. Midwest
There has not been nearly enough interregional play this year, but two Northeast teams, Rochester and SUNY Geneseo will travel to Toledo for the Glass City Classic two weeks before brooms up at World Cup VII. Of the top tier scheuled to play at Glass City, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and BGSU, no team has played a team from the Northeast yet this season. I'm thinking that Rochester will be just barely outside of that top four, especially considering their 50*-20 loss to Syracuse at a Snow Belt meet last weekend, but making the semifinals or finals would be a great omen for the Northeast. 

Geneseo's games against teams like Toledo, Eastern Michigan and Ohio will give us a sense of the depth of each region.

8. Canada's fifth qualifier
Regionals are done right? No! Surprise! There's actually one more qualifying match in Eastern Canada between Valhalla and Guelph. It will be a rematch of a 120^-70* overtime win for Guelph back in the fall. Both teams narrowly missed qualification at the Eastern Canadian Regional Championship, but now get a second chance to qualify.

9. More drops from WCVII?
If you haven't been following closely, the IQA has awarded extra World Cup bids due to international and American drops from World Cup. Syracuse, the Wizards of Westwood, Virginia, California, San Jose State, South Carolina, Cougar Quidditch and the winner of the Canadian qualification match have all been invited to North Myrtle Beach. With Johns Hopkins failing to complete game requirements, the next Mid Atlantic qualifier, Duke, should also receive a bid shortly.

10. Who Will Win the Video Challenge??
The most pressing question here! What are the video challenge standings???
Alex Wilson/Arkansas 32
Matt Ziff/Miami 32
Daniel Shapiro/Missouri 20
Drew Wasikowski/Texas A&M 18
Evan Bell/Blacktips 7
Peter Lee/Lost Boys 6