Friday, May 29, 2015

NorCal Hella Fantasy Preview

By Lockness Monster and Janos Barbero

The Plastics: Team Pink - Joren Adams

The Plastics look to be one of the finalist contenders, especially after Red Hot Quidditch Peppers lost its starting beater, Josh Vinson. The Pink team will be anchored by third year standout Tye Rush, a chaser/seeker who has single handedly made Riverside Quidditch relevant. Rush combines agility, strength, and hustle to make himself a viable threat on both sides of the pitch and is frequently mentioned during MVP conversations at tournaments that boast a higher talent pool than NorCal Hella Fantasy. The point is this: it is ridiculous that Rush fell to Adams at the fifth pick. The only acceptable reason for not drafting Rush as soon as possible in this tournament is arguably picking Boise State Abraxans’ Stew Driflot instead, or recognizing that the female talent pool was significantly smaller and grabbing one of those players. However, more than one GM was already under scrutiny in the first round after passing on Rush.

Rush will be reunited with his Snow Cup teammate, Long Beach Funky Quaffles (LBFQ) veteran Alex Pisaño. Pisaño brings two large assets to her team: top-tier chasing talent and utility beating. Pisaño is relentless when she receives the quaffle within close or mid range of the hoops and won’t be stopped until she puts the quaffle through the hoops or is tackled to the ground by a defender, more often the former. Her ability to play multiple positions will help Pink be flexible with its lineups. The two demonstrated great chemistry at Salt Lake City, both earning Quidditch Post All-Tournament selections on a (coincidentally also pink) team that suffered from a severe lack of depth.

One thing the Plastics will not suffer from at this tournament is depth. A huge portion of the players that Adams drafted are expected to make vital contributions on the field, but standing out among his other draftees are rookie keeper Daniel Marovich from the San Jose State University Spartans, who has impressed many with his intimidating size and ability to drive through hordes of defenders; Santa Barbara Blacktip chaser/seeker Justin Fernandez, who shines in pass-based offenses; and Jarrod Bailey, an Arizona State University chaser/seeker who specializes in physical tackles.

Pink also benefited from several dropped-player replacements, most notably starting Stanford Quidditch beater David Saltzman. However, Saltzman replaced players of his former position: chaser. So, Saltzman either won’t be playing his regular season position or he’ll add his talent to an already crowded beater line. Yet, a player of Saltzman’s caliber will significantly strengthen the team wherever he plays.

Pink may have the best starting corps, and with a question mark looming over Red’s beating situation, its only real opposition appears to be Dan Hanson’s Orange team. Hanson’s Orange team does appear to be a bit deeper on paper, but Pink’s plethora of seekers may be able to snatch victory away from Orange in a close match. Pink’s only glaring weakness is that its members obviously did not heed the traditional writing mentality to ignore one’s first two thoughts and finally settle on a third thought, as it chose the Plastics as its team name: something every Pink team in the history of fantasy has considered and several have done. Despite Pink’s lack of creativity to construct a quality name, like “Legends of the Shirley Temple” or “And the Brain”, the Plastics should be a threat on Saturday.

The Waterbenders: Team Blue - Dalia Nahol

Nahol’s first pick, LBFQ chaser/keeper Anthony Hawkins, should be thoroughly motivated to lead his team to an impressive performance on Saturday. Hawkins has shown remarkable improvement in the 2014-15 season, and it has been noticed as evidenced by the fact that he has been a first round pick in each fantasy tournament he has participated in during the season. However, Hawkins’ first two fantasy teams have a combined 1-8 record, despite his own strong performances in those prior tournaments. There’s nothing as fun as winning, so opponents should expect Hawkins to be dedicating all of his effort toward progressing from a first round pick player to a player who leads teams to victory.

Hawkins will be supported by the Skrewts’ chaser/seeker, Forrest Stone, who plays a similar level of physicality. Nahol wisely picked up an out of region beater, Oklahoma State University’s Brett Seggerman, who started for a modestly successful World Cup team. Andrew Burger (LBFQ) and Sarah Staatz (Skrewts) should also provide reliable beater support. However, while the team will boast a dependable beating rotation, Blue doesn’t seem to have much in the way of aggressive play-making beaters that some other teams may have.

Christopher Manghane (Silicon Valley Skyfighters), Lauren Mundell (San Jose Spartans), and Roman Khromenko (Mission Blues Quiddich) are all valuable chasers who Nahol picked up in later rounds. Manghane adds physical size, leadership, and a strong court-vision. Mundell contributes the unteachable and valuable quality of height as well as soft hands at the chaser position. Khromenko brings athleticism and aggressive defense to the Waterbenders. Many draft onlookers thought Blue would not be in contention for the title during the early stages of the draft, but Nahol may have succeeded in ultimately creating a very well rounded squad with her later picks. Blue’s success is up in the air: it isn’t the team many will pick to win the tournament, but it is not out of Blue’s power to contend for the title if it devises the correct strategy. Ultimately, the Waterbenders’ success will depend largely on whether card-prone Hawkins can keep his defense legal enough to stay out of the penalty box.

Blue should benefit from having a plethora of underrated players, but its downside is that aside from Hawkins, it doesn’t have many well-known threats to carry its offense.

The New Black: Team Orange - Dan Hanson

Orange is a strong team and a favorite to win it all, which is no surprise given that Dan Hanson is an experienced GM and tends to place near the top in fantasy tournaments he GMs. The team is built around Stew Driflot of Boise, who is a dedicated, extremely skilled veteran with multiple fantasy MVPs to his name. Driflot is a formidable driver, clutch seeker, and fearsome beater. His backup, Kyle Pickett from the Skrewts, is a solid, tall driver who is another excellent choice. Bryan Bixler (Boise), Chewy Shaw (Skrewts), and Salvador Sanchez (California Dobbys) and late replacement Ricardo Rangel (Skrewts) are also excellent drivers and can serve as either dangerous wing chasers or experienced ball carriers, depending on what the team needs.

This team’s chasing talent is the strongest at the tournament. At the same time, Kyle Campbell of the San Jose Spartans, is an athletic, disciplined, and aggressive beater who was undervalued in this draft as seventh-round pick. To round out the beating core is his teammate Marina Martinez, another skilled and aggressive beater. The duo will know how to work with each other from the start. The 10th round pick, Austin Wallace from the University of British Columbia Quidditch, is another steal, a skillful and aggressive seeker who is also a capable chaser.

This team’s difficulty will be what to do once this starting line gets tired. The step down from Martinez is large, with Jessica Ward (LBFQ) a possible replacement but inexperienced at beater. While Driflot can sub for Campbell, that takes away the most valuable chaser/keeper in the tournament. Additionally, while Orange has phenomenal value in the first half of the draft, the latter half features a lot of weaker or inexperienced players and is poorer value than several other teams’ second lines. However, fantasy tournaments are often decided by the best players on a team, and this team has everything it needs to win.

Red Hot Quidditch Peppers: Team Red - Tyler Barton

Red was picked by Bay Area veteran Tyler Barton, and it shows—the lineup consists almost exclusively of Bay Area players Barton has personal experience with. The team was significantly weakened by the late drop of Josh Vinson, of Mission Blues Quidditch, who was injured at last weekend’s Beachside Brawl fantasy tournament in Santa Barbara, California. Vinson’s possible replacements are Mikel Wu (California Dobbys), a veteran though far less skillful than Vinson, or Cody Gradone of the San Jose Spartans, who is very talented but primarily plays chaser. Hailey Clonts from Stanford Quidditch is a solid, experienced beater, but again, her replacements are inexperienced or questionable.

The news on the chaser front is much better. Sean Booker (Cal Quidditch) and Chris Lock (Skrewts) are experienced, tall drivers, with Booker in particular combining speed and size with excellent game sense and passing. Lock is less speedy, but is much better at intercepting passes or shots and is an excellent ball carrier with a great passing sense. If he can avoid getting carded for arguing with the refs, Red will not need to put in any keeper other than those two. Andrew Covel, also from the Skrewts, is one of the best receivers in the entire draft. If he goes anywhere near the hoops he is a lethal finisher, even in situations most beaters think they have covered. Before Lock joined the team, I thought that Covel might have to play keeper, which he makes many more mistakes playing, but now he will be able to play a pure receiver and be a constant threat. If Gradone can play chaser, he is another excellent catcher and finisher, while Dylan Liu (Stanford Quidditch) is also good at that role, as well as at seeking. Rounding out the chaser core is Arianna Jordan (San Jose Spartans), probably the best Bay Area female chaser in the draft.

This team has reasonable value down the line, and it remains to be seen whether restricting himself largely to the Bay Area will be an overall strength or weakness. On the one hand, Barton definitely could have gotten better picks in the late rounds. On the other hand, these are all players that have played with or against each other, even the inexperienced ones, and they will probably be the most rested players at the tournament.

The Plague: Team Black - Harrison Baucom

Like many GMs, Baucom preferred players he is personally familiar with for his first few rounds. His teammates from Boise, Joel Johnson, Lang Truong, and Amy Carney were his first, fourth, and fifth round picks. Truong is a good beater and the pick makes sense, but Johnson could have waited another round. No knock on his skill, but his first round pick is hard to justify in light of Tye Rush still in the draft. Willis Miles, of the Skrewts, is a solid keeper/chaser, but a risky choice for a fantasy team considering his regular-season role as beater. However, both Johnson and Miles are good utilities, able to play either beater or keeper with equal verve.

The rest of the line starts looking weaker quickly. Craig Kaplan from the Skrewts is a great wing chaser, but not very physical and used to playing on teams with much more support. However, he is an excellent seeker who has caught the snitch to send his team to ISR victories countless times. Jake Stanton, the Cal captain, is a great late replacement at chaser, but many of the other chasers, such as Martin Pyne (Skrewts), Joe Tran (Stanford), Sam Le Beau (Skrewts), and Shaye Lander (Arizona Quidditch Club), are all undersized players who won’t intimidate the other teams. To find another physical chaser after Miles we have to go down all the way to Richard Sprague (Mission Blues Quidditch). On paper, this is not a very strong chaser line at all, which means that if my last fantasy tournament predictions are anything to go by, they have a 50-50 chance of winning the whole tournament...

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