Friday, April 4, 2014

West's WCVII Expectations

"The West has almost nothing to gain and everything to lose at the World Cup this year. While currently considered one of the stronger regions in the IQA, many of the teams attending the World Cup this year are entering with multiple question marks surrounding their ability to perform well in their bracket. If the West can't get as many teams into the Sweet 16 as it did last year, it will be a major hit to the region's number of bids for WCVIII (considering how few the region currently gets due to number of teams). Many West teams have the parts necessary to accomplish deep runs; it's just a matter of getting the job done when it counts." --Evan Bell

Must Win Games
Santa Barbara Blacktips vs. NYDC Capitalists: Because of all the recent hype around the Blacktips and pool of death-mates Austin Quidditch, it's beginning to feel like a loss to NYDC, from the lowly Mid-Atlantic, would be worse than losing to the mighty Southwest's darlings for the up-and-coming Blacktips. I don't agree or disagree with this, but it sets up a must win game for the Blacktips against the Capitol Cup champs.

Silicon Valley Skrewts vs. Minnesota: Since winning the Big Ten-MAC Challenge, Minnesota's strategy, which involves putting a quaffle defender in front of all three hoops, has been labeled as everything from outdated to genius to too reliant on poor weather conditions. The Skrewts, who have traditionally used a slow playing strategy headed by Kevin Oezle and are extremely dependent on the success of its beaters, will now have another dimension to get by the Minnesota zone in Alex Makk.  

Lost Boys QC vs. Ohio State: Many Midwesterners and analysts (including myself) have suggested that Ohio State's passing game could be the Midwest equivalent of the Lost Boys' aerial attack. In their much anticipated match against Ohio State, the Lost Boys need to completely destroy this belief, demonstrate the superiority of their passing game and secure a top spot in bracket play.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
Dangerous Games

West teams are favored to win but a surprise loss in any of these games could seriously damage the image of the region.
Santa Barbara Blacktips vs. Michigan: Michigan might not have the flair or technique that earns the respect of Western teams, but make no mistake, Andrew Axtell and Evan Batzer, who have both returned to Michigan's World Cup roster, have chemistry that rivals BU's Brendan Stack and Michael Powell. Bettendorf, Chris Lock and Ben Harding will need to show that their defensive ability is as good as their offense to beat Michigan and move onto bracket play.

Cal-Berkely vs. Virginia: Not much is known about Cal-Berkely or Virginia and neither team receives much national attention. However, World Cup VII will be Cal's third World Cup and Virginia's first. Because of their experience at the sport's highest stage and their region, Cal is favored in this game, but Virginia is coming off two tournament victories this spring.

Huge Opportunity Games

West 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.
Long Beach Funky Quaffles vs. Arkansas: In their first World Cup, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles will be representing the top of the West's third tier. Only two months ago, Arkansas lost twice to a third tier Southwest team in Oklahoma State. LBFQ definitely has the opportunity to pass around a mediocre Arkansas defense, but players like Anthony Hopkins, Alex Richardson and Caleb White need to execute well and make plays around the hoops. Throwing some smash-mouth physicality at Arkansas will be vital for LBFQ also.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
Arizona State vs. Maryland: The two pillars of Arizona State's offense, Ethan Kapke and Wes Rose, will be playing in North Myrtle Beach. The two pillars of Maryland's offense, Harry Greenhouse and Matt Angelico, will not. While Maryland's depth is clearly superior, offensive starpower can carry teams a long way at World Cup and Kapke and Rose have already led their squad to a regional championship finals.

Wizards of Westwood vs. Pool 8: I'll preface this by saying sometimes, I make very uninformed predictions...

I know I've joked about the whimsically named Wizards of Westwood, but upon seeing pictures of the UCLA B team, WoW could definitely have the athletes to make a couple of these games somewhat interesting. Even a win against Texas Tech, who snagged a deferred bid to World Cup VII at the last moment, would be telling of the West's depth and also the strength of UCLA's program. Either way, I doubt the pool's top three teams (UNC, Florida's Finest and CMU) will get the blowout they are expecting against the Wizards.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
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 West?

The West's chances to produce a major Cinderella team is one of things I've been thinking about a lot. In my opinion, several Western teams have "red flags" that have prevented me from considering them as a Final Four/Cinderella possibility. NAU's suspensions and small roster could hamper their success and the Skrewts' slow style of play could be easily turned into fastbreak attempts by good defensive teams. Instead, I like UCLA, Arizona State and the Blacktips as possible Cinderellas. All three teams have a keeper/main ball handle who can take over games using speed and vision (Zach Luce, Wes Rose, Ren Bettendorf), all three teams have solid weapons on the wings and all three teams have beaters that are very trustworthy with the snitch on pitch. With my Cinderella choices from the West, I know I'm going against conventional wisdom. Santa Barbara doesn't have depth or reliable seeking! NAU has Porter Marsh! I could be completely wrong. But in my World Cup VII bracket, (depending on matchups of course) I'll have UCLA, Arizona State and the Blacktips going further than other West teams not called the Lost Boys.

Odds: 3-1

World Cup Title Odds
What are the odds that a West team will hoist World Cup VII trophy?
The West's best (and maybe only) chance at winning the IQA World Cup rests on the shoulders of the Lost Boys. To win World Cup VII, the Lost Boys will probably need to go through two or three of the top tier Southwest teams. And the end of Sunday, it will come down to whether all of the Lost Boys' major contributors at every position exceed expectations.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
Odds: 3-1

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