Tuesday, March 17, 2015

West Coach's Poll: Post Regional's Championship

The West voters were asked to pick their top 10 teams after the Regional Championship. Ten voters participated in the poll. Points were allocated in the following manner: 10 points for a first place vote, nine points for a second place vote, eight points for a third place vote, etc. The votes have been tabulated and listed below in order of total votes. The number in parentheses indicates how many first place votes a team received. A “+” or “-” indicates a change from the last poll, with a plus indicating if a team is more highly ranked and a minus indicating if a team is lower ranked. An “x” indicates a team’s standing from the last poll is unchanged.

West Coaches Poll Results
1. Los Angeles Gambits – (6) 96 (+1)
2. The Lost Boys – (4) 94 (-1)
3. Crimson Elite – 74 (+4)
4. Arizona Quidditch Club (AZQC) – 60 (+1)
5. University of California Los Angeles  –  53 (-2)
6. Santa Barbara Blacktips – 52 (-2)
7. Silicon Valley Skrewts  – 46 (-1)
8. Arizona State University (ASU) – 42 (-1)
9. NAU Narwhals – 16 (X)
10. Long Beach Funky Quaffles (LBFQ)   13 (+3)

Also receiving votes: California Dobbys – 3, Wizards of Westwood – 2

Voters Explain Their Decisions
You can't not rank the Gambits first. Their last-minute additions and the key injuries on the Lost Boys roster give me no choice. Elite exceeded my expectations; it doesn’t have superstars the way that the top two teams do, but it has a solid roster from top to bottom. If I did have to pick a standout player, it would be seeker Dan Howland, who went 6/7 on snitch grabs. This is also my first week not ranking San Jose State University because it came to the regional championship with huge holes in its roster.”

“Ranking 3-8 is a fools errand.

The regional championship has delivered an exciting showdown between West teams that gives us a great deal of new insight. Here's what we can see so far:

1. Gambits.
2. Lost Boys: Despite the cards in the Gambits-Lost Boys final, it's clear that the Lost Boys have remained just as strong as before, while the Gambits have just kept on strengthening, and the score when the dust settled showed it. That said, the snitch game was fairly short at just two minutes, and with the Lost Boys' edge in the snitch-on-pitch game, they could have pulled ahead of the Gambits with more snitch time. However, for now, based on their play in the finals, the Gambits have the edge.
3. UCLA: There are three tiers of teams in the West, and UCLA rounds out the first tier. Despite a surprising UCLA loss to ASU in the Round of 16 at the regional championship, with keeper Zach Luce back from injury and a little more game experience, this team should beat any other team ranked below it a comfortable four out of five times.
4. Blacktips.
5. Crimson Elite: The Blacktips and Crimson Elite are next, with the Blacktips having a slight edge. I would put the Blacktips ahead if only because they have the opportunity to play more games against the top teams and accumulate experience faster than the Utah team. That said, Crimson Elite's depth and experience showed at the regional championship. Despite losing its captain a week before the regional championship, Crimson made a semifinals run, beating other experienced teams like AZQC in the process.
6. ASU: ASU has come a tremendous way since Lumberjack Invitational, adding some key players and demonstrating a tenacious physicality that shows this team's coaching pedigree. ASU pounced on UCLA's injury-weakened keeper line to win a surprising victory in the Round of 16, which it followed up with another surprising victory against the Blacktips. It was down in both games but converted with clutch catches and a snitch-on-pitch poise that shows its beating experience.
7. AZQC: AZQC is almost like a fantasy team; it is geographically spread out and has no team practices. However, you couldn't buy a team of this caliber at a fantasy tournament unless you were in the Southwest. Many of the players have played with or against each other before, and a few goals into their first game at the regional championship is all it took for the chaser line to click. The team didn't lose another game until Crimson Elite caught the snitch against it in a tied quarterfinal match. Though this team will be hindered by its lack of team practices, its unquestioned skill and experience means it is a worthy contender.
8. Skrewts: On paper, this is a strong team. However, the Skrewts struggle to convert that into results against top teams. While theoretically they should be stronger than a team like AZQC, they are hindered by high roster turnover and being based in the weaker Northern California region. Additionally, some of their top chasers don't get to practice with the team due to distance. However, the team has no problem confidently beating opponents ranked below it on this list. In addition, it has a really strong seeking game, and if it manages to keep a top opponent in snitch range, frequently converts.
9. NAU.
10. Funky Quaffles: The third tier of the West begins with NAU and LBFQ. Wins against the teams above them would be an upset, maybe one out of five times, but they are the strongest of the remaining West teams and both deserving World Cup contenders. NAU had one of the easiest qualification paths in the tournament and posted snitch-range games against opponents such as Utah State Quidditch Club. But if I had to pick, I would still rank this team at ninth. Its game is more physical than skillful, but if the opponents can't match that physicality, that can be a successful strategy. A strong seeking game and some experienced beaters are additional assets. LBFQ has improved its passing discipline tremendously, while admirably making up for losses of players to the Gambits. Those players thrive better under Gambits coaches, but LBFQ is slowly shedding its rookie status and is beginning to show the maturity of an established team. I am really looking forward to seeing how this team fares at World Cup.”
Despite the Los Angeles Gambits Regional Championship, West voters were still split close to evenly as to who they thought was the region’s top team. Crimson Elite was named in the top four on 9 out of 10 ballots (and was fifth on the other), easily taking third. AZQC appears to be the most polarizing team, taking four third place votes and four seventh place votes. Judges likely were stuck between AZQC’s on-field performance compared to its elimination in the quarterfinals. UCLA, the Blacktips, and Skrewts all received the majority of their votes in the 4-8 spots with UCLA also picking up a third place vote. While UCLA’s votes were evenly distributed between those six spots, a majority of Blacktips’ votes were in the fifth or sixth spot, and a majority of Skrewts’ votes in the seventh or eighth spot, accounting for their totals. Arizona State received five sixth place votes but was omitted from a single ballot and thus placed eighth. NAU and LBFQ were popular choices at ninth and 10th, each receiving seven votes in those spots respectively. Despite failing to qualify for World Cup, the California Dobbys were placed eighth by a voter who cited their poor turnout. Only one voter ranked World Cup qualifiers the Wizards of Westwood.

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