Monday, May 4, 2015

World Cup Regional Wrap Ups

By Andy Marmer

With World Cup 8 in the books, and the season (at least unofficially) over, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on everything that has happened. While World Cup is obviously on everyone’s mind, now that we have the benefit of hindsight, let’s not look at just one tournament, where quirks, be they scheduling or otherwise could have a huge impact on our collective thoughts, but instead let’s consider the whole season. Ultimately though, I have one question for each region.

Great Lakes:

Let’s start with a region that doesn’t even exist yet. You all had a rough tournament. I give you a ton of credit for your depth. Although three of your top four teams from before World Cup failed to make bracket play (I’m looking at you Ohio State Quidditch, Bowling Green State University and Ball State Cardinals) you still managed to put three teams: Blue Mountain Quidditch Club (BMQC), Michigan Quidditch Team, and Michigan State University Spartan Quidditch into bracket play. Here’s the problem though—you all have only put one team into the Final Four ever and that was a Bowling Green State University team that entered the World Cup VI bracket as the No. 31 seed before stringing together an impressive run.

With three teams advancing to the Round of 16 and another three (Ohio State, Bowling Green, and Ball State) narrowly missing bracket play, no one is doubting your depth, even as you leave the Western half of the Midwest behind. The question is: Who will carry the torch and establish the Great Lakes as a dominant region? That role was supposed to fall to Ohio State this year. The regional champions were pretty clearly your region’s top team coming out of the regional championship and did nothing to lose that mantle in the spring. Yet when it mattered most, the results were disappointing. It’s not like Ohio State was a victim of Swiss Style. Besides an out-of-snitch-range win over Lock Haven University Quidditch, we’re talking about a snitch-loss to the Silicon Valley Skrewts, an overtime, double snitch win over SHSU Quidditch, a snitch range loss to the University of Arkansas Quidditch Club, and a snitch win over the University of British Columbia Quidditch (UBC). No offense to any of those teams, but a dominant team needs to win four of those games and not leave its chances to fate. Ohio State went 3-2 and that strength of schedule was not good enough.

Your region’s best hope for the future might be BMQC. I have, for years, been predicting the ascendancy of community teams and once again it seems that a team that can draw from all of the most experienced players in the region should only be on the rise. The Great Lakes is one of the densest regions and if Blue Mountain continues to attract the lion’s share of experienced graduates in the region, it has potential to be very good.

Great Lakes, the top of your region disappointed and while BMQC’s quarterfinal run won you some forgiveness, your top teams need to rebound and someone needs to grab the torch and lead your region to a top position.


You all impressed me at this tournament. I knew Maryland Quidditch (UMD) was good, but I didn’t expect it to make the Final Four. I thought the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) could play with anyone, but I didn’t expect it to make the quarterfinal. I thought the region had some competent other teams, but I didn’t expect Virginia Quidditch Club (UVA) to make the Round of 16. A bunch of your teams defied my expectations.

Before I get to my question, I want to talk about each of these three teams a bit more. Maryland has grown every year as a program and was deserving of its Final Four spot. Harry Greenhouse has proven himself as one of the top players in the game and players like Eric King, Brenden Hutton, and Jeremy Dehn have shown that they have tremendous potential. UNC showed a commitment to bettering itself as a program and certainly deserves a spot as one of the most improved programs of the year. Virginia proved that strategy and execution can take a team far at World Cup. I’m not quite sure what led that team to outperform its season results so extremely at World Cup—maybe a fluke, or maybe good strategy and execution—but it deserves to be commended regardless.

But here’s my question: Where do you go from here? You have schools with a lot of quidditch experience at places like Q.C. Pittsburgh, Penn State University Nittany Lions, Villanova Community Quidditch, and UMD, not to mention large schools like UVA, UNC, North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech, George Washington University, and West Virginia University, why can’t you manage a single official “B” team in your region? Is it really a coincidence that the Southwest is on top when they have so many skilled B-teams to encourage player development? The West, Northeast, and Midwest aren’t on the same level, but both the West and Midwest had B-teams qualify for World Cup and the Northeast has B-teams despite most of its colleges being substantially smaller and its cities having more established community teams.

This leads to the second half of the coin: where are all the community teams? Capital Madness is the only community team not drawing substantially from a school that qualified for World Cup (I know a lot of you have difficult relationships with your universities) and Philadelphia and a pair of New Jersey teams are the only other official community teams not drawing substantially from a college, so where are all of your players going to go? Richmond, you’re working on a community team, right? What’s going on in North Carolina, QC Carolinas are you guys making a comeback? Can’t Charlotte or the Research Triangle support a team? Where are you Baltimore? You guys had a strong showing at World Cup and are continuing to improve but if you want your region to make the next step you need and should have more teams.


Your turn, Midwest, but who are you? You had a couple of teams advance to bracket play in the University of Missouri and Minnesota Quidditch, and really Kansas Quidditch was probably your best team most of the year, but outside of those three teams and some consistent lesser teams such as Illinois State University Firebirds, Crimson Warhawks, and TC Frost, what are you bringing to the table? 

Can anyone challenge Kansas for regional supremacy? Missouri has managed to consistently achieve this year while earning absolutely no credit—I mean the team did make bracket play at World Cup and the semifinals at the regional championship, but can that program challenge Kansas? What about you Minnesota, TC Frost or Illinois State? Finally, what is going on in Chicago? Why does one of the biggest cities in the country have almost no quidditch footprint? Last year the Northwest was constantly challenged to justify its existence and while I know a lot of the former-Midwest teams will be relieved at having a smaller region, Midwest you’re going to have to prove yourself next year. Many of your top teams are leaving to start their own region so with your new identity, who are you?


Hey Northeast, what happened? You guys used to be great. For the first four World Cups it was a pair of your teams in the finals. At World Cup V, you won another championship. World Cup VI went a little less smoothly with just two Round of 16 teams—Boston University (BU) and Emerson College Quidditch (ECQ), but we thought you were back last year when Emerson made the Final Four and BU the quarterfinals, but now, I’m worried about you. Three Round of 16 teams isn’t bad, and theres no reason to think the Warriors will be any worse. New York University Nundu and the University of Rochester Thestrals were your other standard-bearers and while a lot of the top Rochester players will make up Rochester United next year, let’s be honest, it wasn’t really New York that had been carrying the region in the past.

For the first time since World Cup I, a Boston team failed to advance to the Round of 16. I know you guys had awful weather and one of the worst winters of all time, but I’d be more willing to give you a pass if there weren’t glaring flaws. Emerson has historically been the cream of the crop in Boston, but setting aside a poor tournament that saw an overtime elimination from Michigan State University in the Round of 24 and two snitch range wins over non-bracket teams (including an overtime win over the Southern Storm), the team was down most of the year. Likewise, BU was ravaged by graduation and hopefully will improve upon its 2-3 showing. However the most concerning teams were likely Tufts University, the defending regional champions who were bumped by Virginia by a snitch catch in the Round of 24, and Q.C. Boston: the Massacre who went 3-2 on the weekend, losing its only two snitch range games to drop its SWIM record to 2-9. How is it possible that one of the most talented teams can go 27-0 in games not decided by the snitch and 2-9 in games decided by snitch catch?

So here’s my question: are you guys done? As the sport continues to leave the Northeast have you shown us all you have or will your three main cities: Boston, New York, and Rochester all rally around their community teams forming three great teams? Will Major League Quidditch (MLQ) in those cities help to establish strong community teams? Will Emerson and BU return to greatness?

I suspect I know the answer to this one. If Harry Greenhouse is really returning to Boston (he’s co-captaining the MLQ team there after all), it seems there could be no better match of a team and player. You disappointed me this year, Northeast, but I have a hunch that next year between Rochester’s surprise Round of 16 run that undoubtedly was bolstered by the RIT Dark Marks transfers that will help make up Rochester United, the Warriors strong debut season, and Q.C. Boston’s expansion of an already talented squad that this year was just a casualty of bad timing and bad weather. I think you’ll be back and stronger than ever (well maybe not stronger than the Middlebury College era).


This isn’t a question, though I do have one for you. I’m proud of you. You took our abuse and our criticism and I know you didn’t like it, and I know it hurt, and I know you felt like we were out to get you, and what did you do? You shut us up with your play. You came out without your regional champion and likely best team, and you played your hearts out and you showed us that we were wrong.

UBC, you went 2-3 at World Cup with an overtime win over a second-tier Southwest team in the University of Texas at San Antonio Club Quidditch and an overtime loss against another second-tier Southwest team in Arkansas. You also took Ohio State, a pre-season top 10 team within snitch range. I’m impressed and there’s no other way to say it. Western Washington Wyverns, 1-4 at World Cup in your first season is nothing to sneeze at. With three snitch range games, there easily could have been a second win. I know a few members of your team and I’m confident that you’ll grow from the experience, and I really wish that we could have seen what the Boise State Abraxans had to offer.

You got seven teams in your first year, which is great, but now that a lot of the hard work is done what will happen? There is room for some serious growth in the region and I hope you can pull it off. The University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Oregon, and Oregon State University have 125,000 students between them, are all within two hours of an established team, and none of those schools have an official team. British Columbia had three teams compete at Canadian Nationals and with that tournament likely going to the East Coast, will those teams choose to stay with Quidditch Canada, join USQ or both? There’s a lot of room for growth and while you all have done a great job establishing the region, there’s more to do. You have a platform, let’s see you build on it.


What’s your problem? This is pretty embarrassing. No teams advancing to bracket play is just not what should be happening at this point. In fact here’s a complete list of teams from the South that have advanced to bracket play since the University of Florida Quidditch’s finals run at World Cup V. World Cup 8: 0, World Cup VII: Florida’s Finest (Round of 16), University of Miami, University of Florida, Tennessee Tech Quidditch (Round of 32), World Cup VI: Miami (Round of 32), Tennessee Tech, University of South Florida Quidditch (Round of 36).

So, what’s the deal? Why the mediocrity? How did you only have 15 teams play official games this year, with no teams from Georgia or Alabama, and the only team in Mississippi going winless? I’m willing to give Florida’s Finest a bit of a break—losses to Baylor University and Emerson aren’t a complete embarrassment—and I know Miami was going through a rebuilding year, but the state of quidditch in the South is poor. Tennessee Tech and the College of Charleston Quidditch each won three games, which is a solid showing, but by and large the South’s performance was very poor. Frankly you need more teams and you need your teams to improve. If I had to pick a team to go undefeated next year until World Cup, Florida’s Finest might be near the top of my list, since I don’t think your region can come up with a team to challenge it, but I hope that’s not true because Florida’s Finest needs to travel next year to challenge itself with Mid-Atlantic or Southwest opponents.

Two years ago Tyler Goss suggested that the South had firmly established itself as the weakest region and suggested steps to improve the region. Two years later I recommend y’all take this advice to heart. Your region is the weakest of the old guard and you need to take steps to get better.


I know the narrative to which I, as an analyst, am supposed to stick. The University of Texas at Austin (UT) is great, oh my god isn’t the Southwest amazing, I’m supposed to sit here and fawn over the work ethic of UT and the talent of Lone Star Quidditch Club, the strategy of Baylor University and the aggression of Texas State University - San Marcos (and of course the skill of all of those teams), so let’s make a deal, how about we just acknowledge up front that the Southwest is the best region right now and for the last three years. Let’s skip talking about UT, Lone Star, Baylor, Texas State and the aggression. Let’s skip the fawning. If you want a testament to the Southwest’s dominance go to the film or the results—that tells you all you need to know. 

How much longer can the Southwest dominance last though? We’re already beginning to see the warning signs. Texas A&M Quidditch and Louisiana State University (LSU), two of the region’s oldest, most successful programs had their worst seasons, pretty much ever. Texas A&M wasn’t a threat at the regional championship, nor was it much of a threat to make bracket play at World Cup despite a 3-2 record. LSU, a year removed from a Round of 16 appearance failed to qualify for World Cup? Let’s set aside Lone Star for a minute—the more players graduate from other programs the better Lone Star (and potentially other community teams in Texas) will be. The warning signs are here, Southwest, and there seem to be two problems: atrophy at the top and less depth than ever.

At World Cup VII, the Southwest had the two finalists, three of the Final Four, six of the quarterfinalists, and eight of the Round of 16 teams. This year, just three Southwest teams advanced to the Round of 16 and while none of those squads were eliminated by a non-Southwest foe (Texas State by Lone Star in the quarterfinals and Lone Star by champions Texas in the finals), that only three teams made it that far is a concern. At the top, Baylor had arguably its worst ever World Cup with elimination in the Round of 24 and a 3-2 record in Swiss Play. Beyond those four teams, it’s tough to even argue who the next best team is. Arkansas was the fifth bracket team with a 4-1 record but it fell handily to NYU 150*-40 in the Round of 24. Texas A&M, SHSU, Austin Quidditch, Clone Star Quidditch Club, and Osos de Muerte all went 3-2, yet Clone Star, Austin, and Osos all struggled during the regular season (albeit against tough competition) while SHSU nearly missed out on World Cup after a dismal regional championship performance. A number of other teams went 2-3 at World Cup, which is perfectly adequate, but not what we’ve come to expect from the Southwest. Part of what has kept the Southwest at the top, is that every year a new team comes out of the woodwork to challenge the top dogs. This year Texas State emerged onto the big stage after a somewhat surprising World Cup finals run. The year prior Lone Star’s dominance announced that program’s arrival. Two years ago believe it or not Baylor and UT were relative newcomers. The most likely candidate to fill that role will be a new community team given all of the top players graduating, but what sort of descent will accompany that team’s ascendancy?

One reason the top Southwest teams have stayed on top so long is the skills of their B-teams. This years group of the big four college B-teams: Silver Phoenix (A&M), Austin Quidditch (UT), Osos de Muerte (Baylor), and San Marcos Sharkandos (Texas State) might be the weakest collective units. None of the teams advanced to bracket play, which isn’t too surprising given the Swiss Style format, and the first three all qualified for World Cup, itself a promising sign; however, overall this group feels weaker than in years past. None of the teams received serious consideration in our coaches poll, showing a lack of respect within the region, and the season’s results mostly back this up. Austin Quidditch followed up a 16-14 season with a 3-16 year; the Silver Phoenix went from 14-17 to 11-16, while A&M weakened considerably. The Osos had the best year of the bunch with an 11-16 record, up from last year’s 2-14 performance, though Baylor’s three-win performance (albeit with losses to good Maryland, Rochester and Los Angeles Gambits teams) itself is concerning, while the Sharknados “improved” from 4-21 to 4-15. Strong B-teams can sustain a program, and while I fully concede that these teams results may not be indicative of their talent in a difficult region, the combination of a weakened and honestly disappointing mid-tier with declining B-teams begs the question: how long can the Southwest remain dominant, when other regions are getting more and more competitive?


I have just one question West: do you prefer pancakes or waffles? What are your thoughts on bacon? Eggs? Oh yeah and which do you think is the best coast? 

Ok, so that was more than one question, but I do have a more serious one for you. Where are all of your college teams? 

The best team in the West? Well the Lost Boys made the Final Four and went 23-2 during the regular season and the Gambits won the regional championship and only lost four times before World Cup. Both teams were knocked out by the eventual champions. I’m not going to try to solve this inter-city rivalry—though I will continue to enjoy it, but let’s call this one a wash. 

Second best team? Well whichever one of Lost Boys-Gambits we didn’t pick before?

Third best team? Seems like it’s probably Arizona Quidditch Club (AZQC). A quarterfinal appearance at World Cup with just a 13 person roster. 

Fourth best team? I think we have to go Santa Barbara Blacktips based on them making the Round of 16, though I’d be sympathetic to a Crimson Elite argument since it made bracket play and the semifinals of the regional championship. 

What do all five of these teams have in common? They’re community teams (though we must acknowledge that the Blacktips and Crimson Elite both draw heavily from local schools). 

We haven’t even mentioned the Skrewts who are perennially a top team in the region. Let’s just ignore the fact that many West teams choose to be community teams for reasons that make sense in their circumstances. The undisputed top three teams in the West are all community teams.

The Lost Boys, Gambits, and AZQC have all taken slightly different approaches to roster building and the results are fascinating in and of itself, but the key to all of these teams future success will be at least in part dependent on the establishment/revitalization of college teams. Arizona State has put together a nice group of young players and UCLA always has a lot of talent, but beyond those two and the pseudo-college community teams lining the California coast, the talent of the West’s college teams appears to be in decline. This year’s University of California Los Angeles squad was a far cry from the team of World Cup VI fame—although they have a number of talented players in the UCLA/Wizard of Westwood program—and the NAU Narwhals have seen a similar decline since their own quarterfinal appearance two years ago. If West Coast quidditch is going to thrive, these college teams need to be revitalized.

All of that said, I’m not fearing for the West quite yet. Both Los Angeles community teams—the Gambits and Lost Boys—have to be considered contenders next year depending on roster movement. Frankly the experience and talent is too much to consider either team much of an underdog. In fact, it probably is worth discussing each team in a little more detail. 

I’ve been amazed by the Lost Boys all year, they lost a lot of talented players off of last year’s squad and never missed a beat. The Lost Boys restocked with veterans of the game from a variety of experiences and just kept chugging along—of course when you have all-world players like Peter Lee, Chris Seto, Alex Browne, and Missy Sponagle, to name a few, that helps. Still, making the Final Four with a 16-person roster (and one that had to face injuries as well) is seriously impressive.

The Gambits are a similar good story. A new team founded around a pair of veterans that constantly brought in new pieces, fit them to the team and won a lot of games with a lot of really good players, such as Andrew Murray, Alex Richardson, and Edgar Pavlovsky, who hadn’t previously received the attention they deserved.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss AZQC some more as well. A team that is probably best described by the word “ragtag” made up of 13 players who almost never practiced together. While discipline is clearly not the team’s strong suit, as evidenced by the number of cards it got, a quarterfinals appearance at World Cup cannot be scoffed at. This team should be able to bolster its ranks as more players graduate and look to keep playing and it’ll be very interesting to see what it can do with a larger roster.


I’m saving you for last USQ because honestly I have so many questions. I could ask you about your new leadership or your strategic planning, but those are both so abstract that at this time you couldn’t begin to answer me, so instead I’m going to stick to something simpler; something that has been on my mind a lot and should be on yours. With World Cup shrinking to 60 next year, what will you do to keep all of the teams that fail to qualify interested in quidditch? 

The 80-team World Cup was largely a historical accident (and/or mistake, pick your own word). World Cup VI featured 80 teams total, with 20 competing in the now defunct Division II and when that was deemed a failure, the decision was made to have all 80 teams compete in Division I beginning at World Cup VII and continuing onward due to promises made to bidding cities. The first USQ Nationals (or whatever the tournament is being called, I mean honestly how many people added the “USQ” before World Cup or made “8” an Arabic numeral rather than a Roman numeral, but I digress) next year will feature 60 teams and I can’t help but think it’s time that you think about hosting another premier tournament on top of Nationals. 

Many of you know that Division II (the original) was my idea, brought about to allow new and less-competitive programs the chance to compete nationally for a championship—the original Bottom of the Bracket in many ways. However, D2 fizzled out in World Cup VI due to logistical problems. Teams were selected via lottery just weeks before the tournament and thus the lions share of attendees were those that either thought they would qualify for World Cup or were close enough by that fundraising didn’t raise a major hurdle. Fortunately with sufficient planning these hurdles can be overcome.

The most obvious solution would be to have teams register for Division II prior to the start of regional championships (Oct. 1 would seem a reasonable date), pay a deposit, and forfeit any Nationals bid they might earn. This would ensure that only teams that are at a Division II level would register since no competitive team would willingly forfeit a World Cup bid; however, I’m quite confident that there are teams committed enough, but not competitive enough that they would opt for this opportunity. The deposit and early selection of teams would also overcome any potential drops, while giving teams an opportunity to book travel far in advance and lock in cheaper travel—and also fundraise for the trip. The tournament would obviously have to be smaller than World Cup, but sufficiently large to make travel worthwhile (20 teams seems feasible) and selection could be done with an eye toward regional disparity or otherwise by a lottery and be announced prior to November so that teams have the option to book. The tournament would need to be far enough away from World Cup so as not to harm planning—I would hope an early to mid-March date might be feasible. I’m sure there are flaws with my plan, but I hope that this at least starts a conversation.

Of course there’s also the possibility of a more traditional Division II, an “NIT” of sorts with the however many next-best teams competing in a separate tournament to determine the best of the rest. This would have a further benefit of keeping teams playing for something, but as an analyst and fan of the game this doesn’t excite me. I’d also be worried about logistics of a team getting “called up” to Nationals when the inevitable team drops happen and of course the challenges of planning a sufficiently large tournament where a number of the teams aren’t known until the last minute and that would, because it must wait on regional championships, necessarily have to run at a time-frame close to World Cup.

Of course my ideal world combines both of these, and I’m going to cite a model that as far as I know has never been referenced in a quidditch conversation. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me explain to you how college squash crowns a national champion. The method is really rather simple. At the end of the season the top eight teams compete in a single elimination bracket (with consolation matches) for the Potter Cup (I promise I didn’t make this name up), awarded to the “A” division champion. The next eight teams compete for the Summers Cup for the “B” division championship and so on. Presently there are eight different cups (I mean let’s not pretend college squash is anywhere near as popular as quidditch). I would love to live in a world where every quidditch team was invited to a postseason tournament (for financial reasons these could be somewhat regional, but would have at least two regions at each tournament) based at least in part on ability. My ideal quidditch world would give every team the chance to play meaningful postseason games and maybe win something regardless of skill. I’m not suggesting that every team get a participation ribbon, but let’s be honest, if we want the sport to grow the best way is to give each team a reasonable goal they can achieve and I’m sure it would help recruitment if teams could boast about winning something. 

I’m an idealist, but these are things that should be talked about and while the last 80 team tournament and the last World Cup seem to be regarded mostly as a success, there is still more to do to keep the sport growing. You have to build on what you’ve just done USQ and the best way is to ensure that as many teams as possible can stay involved as long as possible each year.

1 comment:

  1. Can confirm QC Carolinas is on the road to a comeback next year.