Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Snitch: NYU's Rise to the Top

By Andy Marmer

Forgive me, readers, for I have let you down. This is my third season doing analysis in some form, and I’m not turning in a good performance. Hopefully none of you have me on your fantasy team or in any other quidditch writer prediction/analysis venture. We at The Quidditch Post do not condone gambling and/or making drinking games out of any honest attempts at quidditch journalism, though we’ll let our readers decide if that impacts their behavior. Anyway, back to my shortcomings. Already this year I’ve taken a week off, spent a week almost completely ignoring gameplay, and watched considerably less film than I have in past years, despite the fact that it’s more available than ever. I’ve also ignored and written off (mostly internally since as I said, I haven’t actually talked about gameplay much) some trends that are impossible to ignore.

Rising from the Mid-Tier
New York University (NYU) Nundu has seemingly existed at the periphery of quidditch relevance for years. After attending its first ever tournament at World Cup IV in its home city, NYU has played in all subsequent World Cups and advanced to bracket play for the last two, and it advanced to the semifinals at last year’s regional championship, though even that surprised many. Basically, NYU has been a good Northeast team for a while, existing on a tier below many of the top teams but providing solid depth for the region. However, in the past few weeks something has clearly changed.

The first warning sign of NYU’s emergence can be traced to the Oktoberfest Invitational two weeks ago. Although the team only went 2-3, one of those losses was to tournament champions Tufts University on a snitch catch (more on that later), and another to the University of Maryland with NYU leading at the time of the snitch catch. NYU also beat the Rutgers Nearly Headless Knights and Pennsylvania State University at Oktoberfest. Still, it was easy to write that tournament off. NYU defeated the teams it was supposed to beat and would have beaten in the past, and lost to the better teams. The only truly anomalous result—the win over Maryland—was easy enough to write off as one good game.

Fast forward one week and NYU made it to the finals of Keystone Cup. A last-minute replacement for Michigan State University, NYU advanced to the finals over more highly regarded teams such as the Warriors, Bowling Green State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). NYU eventually fell to Ball State University in the finals 110*-80. This performance, though initially impressive, was also easy to write off. Although NYU advanced to the finals, its victories were over Villanova Community Quidditch 110*-70, University of Richmond 150-60*, and UNC 100*-70 and 270*-150, whereas its losses were to Ball State (110*-80) and the Warriors (180*-80). A great performance in aggregate no doubt, but the tournament did not see NYU defeat any truly impressive foes.

After this week’s tournament title at the Northeast Classic, it’s impossible to ignore NYU any longer. NYU turned in an exceptional performance, going 9-0 on the weekend. NYU beat Emerson College 110*-70 in its first pool play game, dominated Boston University (BU) 160*-40 in the quarterfinals of the winners bracket, defeated Tufts 130*-100 and twice vanquished Q.C. Boston: The Massacre (QCB) 100*-70 and 130*-100. What is especially notable about NYU’s tournament is its 4-0 SWIM performance led by seeker Austin Sweeney. NYU has to be one of the favorites going into the Regional Championship, along with QCB, Tufts, the Warriors, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and perhaps even Emerson.

Another team that has seemingly emerged from the Northeast’s mid-tier is Tufts University. Although the Tufflepuffs advanced to the finals at World Cup IV, they never won a tournament until two weekends ago at Oktoberfest. This weekend at Northeast Classic, Tufts reinforced its position as a rising team. Although the team finished third, it posted wins outside of snitch range over Emerson, Hofstra, and BU twice, with a snitch range win over RIT. Tufts’ only defeats were to QCB and NYU, both of whom have shown themselves to be solid teams.

The Northeast may be one of the murkiest regions out there, and it certainly doesn’t seem as though there is a clear favorite with the regional championship just a few weeks away

A New Big 4
It might have been its World Cup VII finals appearance, it might have been when Texas A&M University lost a number of key players (including keeper Tyler Sessions, beater Sean Fry, and chaser/seeker Kifer Gregoire) to Lone Star Quidditch Club, it might have been when it advanced to the finals at the 3rd Annual Diamond Cup two weeks ago, but at this point, it’s impossible to deny that Texas State University is one of the top four teams in the Southwest. Texas A&M, the University of Texas (UT), and Baylor University sat atop the region for years, with teams like Texas State lurking in the second tier. Last year’s creation of Lone Star enlarged the Big Three to a Big Four, and now Texas State has displaced Texas A&M atop the region’s Rushmore.

Texas State put an exclamation point on its arrival in the top four with a 210*-60 quarterfinal victory over Texas A&M at the Wolfpack Classic. While Texas State has a bevy of talented quaffle players, its beaters stole the show, holding bludger control for 80 percent of the matchup against Texas A&M, holding A&M to just six goals. Texas State’s early season results have proven that its run to the finals of World Cup VII were no fluke.

As for the rest of the tournament, Lone Star defeated UT by a snitch catch in the finals, 130*-70. UT knocked out Baylor in the semifinals 120*-60, and Lone Star knocked out Texas State in the semifinals 120-50*. So basically, the Southwest story remains unchanged from last year: four really good teams advance to the semifinals of whatever tournament they’re at and then knock each other out in close games. The only difference is that Texas State is the fourth team rather than Texas A&M. Of course, it’s still early in the season; time will tell if this Big Four is really a Big Two of UT and Lone Star, or even a Big One with one team outclassing all foes.

A Brief MARC Preview
With the first regional championship coming up next month, I’m going to take a few minutes to make some completely uninformed (I might be selling myself a bit short) predictions. Admittedly, I’ve seen only a few of these teams in person or on film. We hope to have more detailed coverage of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship throughout the coming weeks, so you need not rely solely on my predictions. If you’re interested in reporting on this tournament or others, see below.

University of Richmond Spiders
Appalachian Apparators
Johns Hopkins Hallows
Lock Haven University
Grove City College

I don’t know if the University of Richmond is a good team, but I do know it’s a level above anybody it’ll face in Pool A. I think Pool A is probably the weakest of the four, and that should massively help Richmond. Out of these five teams, Richmond is the most talented and tested group here, having played 16 official games, the same number as its four opponents combined. This experience should serve the team well, and I don’t suspect Richmond to have any trouble within its pool. 

Led by keeper Trey Pressley, the Appalachian Apparators should finish second in the pool. The Apparators took down Lock Haven University 140*-70 at Turtle Cup IV and impressed in September by advancing to the finals at Minerva Cup. After qualifying for World Cup VII, I expect to see an impressive showing from the Apparators here.

The race for third will likely go to the Hopkins Hallows. Although they’ve only played one tournament so far (Mini Cup), they lost twice to Capital Madness and beat George Mason University. This is more impressive than Lock Haven University, who went 0-4 at Turtle Cup with all four losses coming outside of snitch range. I’m not buying into either of these teams, but I’ll take Hopkins over Lock Haven for now.

Grove City, a first year team with just a few games under its belt, makes up the last team of Pool A. I’d be surprised to see it earn a single victory or even keep a game in snitch range against more experienced squads.

Villanova Community Quidditch
University of Virginia (UVA)
George Mason University
Carnegie Mellon University
Duke University 

Top to bottom, Pool B is probably the second weakest pool, but that shouldn’t stop it from producing a series of good games. The pool champion will be the winner of the Villanova Community Quidditch vs. University of Virginia match, while George Mason will look to crash that party. Duke and Carnegie Mellon will round out the pool, competing for fourth.

Villanova and UVA met at Turtle Cup, with Villanova eeking out a 60*-30 victory. I don’t expect their MARC meeting to be much different. Both teams have struggled offensively this year, which suggests a snitch range game might be likely. At that point I’d give the advantage to Villanova and its seeker Dan Takaki.

George Mason will look to upset both teams, and it may just have a shot. It’s already played Villanova at Turtle Cup IV and UVA at Mini Cup, falling by a snitch catch to both. However, I still think George Mason will finish third in this pool. It should be able to easily take out Duke University and a Carnegie Mellon squad that it’s beaten 110*-10 and 90-30* earlier in the year. A strong seeking day could lead GMU to new heights, but for now I’m going to take the years of experience that both Villanova and UVA possess over GMU.

Carnegie Mellon and Duke will round out the pool. I don’t think either can hope for more than one pool play victory, and I’ll take Carnegie Mellon over Duke in a tossup. I don’t know much about either team though, so this is more of a guess than anything.

University of Maryland (UMD)
Capital Madness
Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions
West Virginia University
Horn Tailed Horcruxes

Pool C is the University of Maryland’s for the taking, and it shouldn’t have any problems in this pool. Maryland is one of the top teams in the world, and there isn’t a team in the Mid-Atlantic that can hold a torch to UMD on either talent or depth. A few weeks ago, I predicted UMD might go undefeated until World Cup, and while that is no longer possible, it’s still likely that UMD will win every game within its region.

Second place will be between Penn State and Capital Madness, and I can see it going either way. I think that Penn State might have the better team, but I’ll take Capital Madness in an upset. I honestly don’t have a particularly good read on either team, nor do I have a great reason for picking this upset; I’m just making a gut call on this one. Capital Madness has a veteran roster and I think that experience—even if it is a new team—will be crucial here.

I’ll take the Horn Tailed Horcruxes over West Virginia in this pool. Although the Horcruxes have struggled in past years and are 0-4 so far this season, I think experience and the benefits of having faced strong competition will be enough for them to overcome West Virginia.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Rutgers University Nearly Headless Knights
Wizengamot Quidditch of VCU
Philadelphia Honey Badgers
Q.C. Pittsburgh

The matchup between North Carolina and Rutgers University will likely determine this pool, and it could be the most exciting game of the first day. North Carolina has scored points in bunches this year behind Max Miceli and Andrew McGregor, and while Rutgers’ Chisa Egbelu is incredibly talented, I don’t think Rutgers has the firepower to match UNC. Both teams should easily defeat their remaining pool play foes though.

To me, this pool is the strongest because all five teams have at least an outside shot at World Cup qualification. The Honey Badgers took UVA to overtime and held Appalachian within snitch range at Turtle Cup, but they don’t have a signature win to hang their hat on. Q.C. Pittsburgh is 0-7 on the season with just one snitch range loss, but with trips to the Keystone Cup and Nittany Lion Invitational, it has faced a brutal schedule. VCU beat Syracuse University and George Mason at Turtle Cup and has also had some strong performances. I’ll take VCU to finish third in this pool, Pitt fourth, and the Honey Badgers fifth, but I could see those three teams coming out in any order.

Since I’ve already admitted my own flaws, let me take a shot at how I think the bracket will play out. Teams seeded 13-20 will play a play-in game to reach the Round of 16. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and qualify for World Cup VII. The eight losers fall into a consolation bracket, with the final two teams advancing to World Cup. 

Predictions that are sure to go wrong (number indicates seed, star [*] indicates World Cup qualifier):
1. UMD 
2. Richmond 
3. UNC 
4. Villanova 
5. Appalachian 
6. Virginia 
7. Capital Madness 
8. Rutgers 
9. Penn State 
10. GMU 
11. VCU 
12. Hopkins 
13. Pitt 
14. CMU 
15. Lock Haven 
16. Horn Tailed Horcruxes 
17. PHB 
18. Duke 
19. West Virginia 
20. Grove City
Play in Round Winners: Pitt def. Grove City, West Virginia def. CMU, Duke def. Lock Haven, PHB def. Horn Tailed Horcruxes
Round of 16: UMD* def. PHB, Richmond* def. Duke, UNC* def. West Virginia, Villanova* def. Pitt, Appalachian* def. Hopkins, VCU* def. UVA, Madness* def. GMU, Rutgers* def. Penn State
Quarterfinals: UMD def. Rutgers, Richmond def. Madness, UNC def. VCU, Villanova def. Appalachian
Semifinals: UMD def. Villanova, UNC def. Richmond
Finals: UMD def. UNC
Consolation Quarterfinals: UVA def. West Virginia, Penn State def. Duke, GMU def. PHB, Pitt def. Hopkins
Consolation Semifinals: UVA* def. Pitt, Penn State* def. GMU
Consolation Finals: Penn State def. UVA
Consolation Semifinals: GMU def. Pitt

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