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.

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