With South By Southwest going on in Austin, getting to Centex was an adventure. After sleeping in the San Antonio airport, and almost abandoning a sleeping Zack Smith on the morning train, we finally arrived in the middle of the first round. Thankfully we arrived to witness the upsets taking place as most of the early rankings can be tossed out the window.
Upsets Upsets and more Upsets
There’s one tournament every year where the rankings and predictions can be thrown out the window, and Centex proved to be it. Georgia Tech took down Dartmouth after Spencer Diamond made a quick return from Spain, flying in after being sick for a week with a stomach bug. Facing Georgia Tech early in the day is tough for any team because Nick Lance and Jay Clark haven’t had the fatigue set in from playing the majority of points. With Dartmouth receiving on double game point, Lance came through when his team needed him most by getting a hand block on an around back hand attempt. Clark scooped up the deflection, and Tech worked it up for the win.
Dartmouth definitely didn’t have their best tournament, and as you can read here, will be on the chopping block for a strength bid after their performance. From the small sample I got to watch, Diamond looked like he added spark, but will need some time to develop chemistry. They have ample opportunity to make up for it in the rankings with Easterns and New England Open left. Georgia Tech on the other hand is a hard squad to read. No one should want to face them as Lance and Clark can take over a game, but their staying power throughout a tournament will be challenged. Seeding at Regionals will be incredibly important for them, as an easier road to the games to go will save their legs. Winning sectionals would get them into position as a third seed, instead of a fourth with a tougher schedule. They have proven to have the ability to beat Florida, been up on UCF late in games, and will face off against Georgia. The South East regional is going to be fun to watch, and I plan on being there.
After terrible results from Mardi Gras, I dismissed Texas as an after thought. After this weekend? I was incredibly impressed. They took down California with ease, and couldn’t hang on late to win the pool against Wisconsin. They’ll have to find a way to get over the hump, but at the same time attack games with confidence. The vertical stack system under Coach Calvin Lin is working consistently. All of main offensive weapons are looking to break around or to the inside and that makes marking, which is a bit of a lost art, incredibly important. Will Driscoll is the standout player, but doesn’t take over a game, not because of lack of ability but because the team works well together. Danny Broburg was consistent as a handler, getting open in critical situations, and the experience showed in Aditya Yerrapragada who led all players with 4 time out call on Sunday. My only knock on Texas is that they don’t seem to have the talent to go deep at Nationals.
How sweet it isn’t
Whitman was the disappointment on the weekend and may have played their way out of a strength bid. Only playing two sanctioned tournaments puts a lot of emphasis on the results that they have. With that they’re going to end up with a 4 and 7 record and predicted rating this week that puts them just inside of the top 20. This team draws parallels to Florida in 2011, a squad that cannot afford to come out flat. Playing savage means that all of that emphasis is put on the performance of your top guns, and any games where you have to fight back to win means extra energy is wasted. It doesn’t mean they are done, it just means NW regionals might only get two bids.
Pool A decided that things were just not going to go to seed. Luther spoiled everyone’s day except for Oregon, with Eric Johnson running around like a madman. Michigan State beat Oregon in a shocker where they were up 8-1 and then won eventually 13-10. Yes, Oregon was playing their starters. Turnovers were the story as Ego made simple mistakes that Michigan State capitalized on. Washington was unable to beat Colorado for a second time this season and was relegated to the lower brackets.
Grey Duck flies
Minnesota decided that it was time to surprise everyone and marched their way through pool C. After trouncing Carleton, they survived Dartmouth and Georgia Tech. This is definitely a team to be wary of, as they are starting to click after a subpar Stanford Invite. Greg Arenson is almost always the first look, and despite having his troubles during NexGen, fulfills his role on Minnesota very well. He’s a very classic, in cutter with the ability to hit others deep. Danny Miesen has established a role of dependability as Sam Tucker and Jason Tschida. The word on Reese Hornness is out. He doesn’t have the size normally seen for a deep cutter, but certainly has the speed to burn defenders.
Minnesota made it into the finals by coming back to beat Wisconsin on universe. They showed a lot of resolve in that game, something they’ll most likely need at Regionals. Conference results will play a big role as Minnesota is going to have to go through Carleton to make sure their one of the top two seeds.
Tufts weathers the storm
This was the first time we were able to see Tufts at a big time tournament, and they didn’t disappoint. They were challenged by Iowa to a universe point win, but confidently took the downwind point after receiving. However, Texas was able to put Tufts on the ropes. Texas had an opportunity to break to make the game a 10-6 score, but failed to convert. With time running out, Tuft’s defense rose to the occasion. Jack Hatchett (Tufts) and Will Driscoll (Texas) were matched up throughout, with Driscoll striking deep early and Hatchett coming back with a playmaker shorts worthy play. Driscoll appeared to be open cutting to the left sideline, when Hatchett accelerated and bid around the back, gaining the block. Texas had an opportunity to win at 11-10, but the receiver misread the disc in the end zone. Tufts would score, and then break on universe to advance to semis.
With Eric Johnson back, Luther was a completely different team. We received flack in our latest rankings about even having them ranked. Luther did us a favor, getting second in the pool and then winning over Illinois on universe after giving up a lead. After a few turnovers, Johnson finally streaked deep making a falling backwards grab for the win. The squad was also missing two of their top defenders, one of whom is apparently missing four teeth.
Skyd’s Zack Smith caught up with Eric Johnson after Luther’s 15-14 victory over Illinois:
Carleton does not play well at Centex
As others have brought up, Carleton has not finished well at Centex in the past. In 2010 they finished 13th, and went on to the title game at nationals. They are not the powerhouse that we saw last year, that’s for certain, but there’s two months until nationals. Their biggest issue seemed to be not being in sync, lack of chemistry, bad turnovers, and putting it deep too much. Grant Lindsley was such a weapon that he made it easy for CUT to earn the underneath gains, and now they are going to have to adjust to a team strategy. I’m certain they’ll be better than this come the series, but they aren’t magically excluded from missing out if they play badly at regionals.
Oregon is still number one, repeat of 2010?
Oregon won Centex and Stanford in 2010, earned the number one seed at nationals, and then didn’t make it past the pre-quarters. Can we draw similarities? Yes, both teams play a fast exciting style that leads to quick goals and big runs. However, the biggest difference in these squads is youth. The 2010 Oregon squad was filled with senior experience, and this one is filled with young play makers in Dylan Freechild (who was a beast not only won our Spin Ultimate MVP red jersey along with a pair of sick shades from Waveborn but also a pair of Breakmark Playmaker shorts for a big layout d on day 1), Aaron Honn, and Ian Campbell. Campbell went down with an injury in the semi finals, and Honn was missing at a junior worlds tryout. Nonetheless Oregon won with two consecutive universe point victories over Tufts and Minnesota.
The reasons these games were so close seem more due to Oregon’s mistakes rather than the other team forcing errors. Tufts played zone most of the way against them, waiting for a shot deep that led to more turnovers. Often, the defense would save the day, allowing for multiple chances to score. Tufts looked flustered and out of sync vs. Oregon, forcing Alex Cooper to send it deep. Against Minneosta, Oregon built a 14-11 lead and let Grey Duck climb their way back into it towards the end. Oregon is certainly deserving of the number one seed at nationals should they not falter before hand, but the question remains, can this style win?
Oregon has the talent, youthful enthusiasm, with senior leaders to complement things. What they don’t appear to have is a stringent system and structure that minimizes mistakes. Wisconsin and Carleton have shown at nationals a style of play that results in a high conversion rate. Oregon loves to go on runs, good and bad, where they connect on everything and sometimes nothing at all. I think they have to be better than they have played to win the whole thing. Will they be? I don’t know, it’s hard to bet against a team like Wisconsin who’s reached high into a tournament and has a history of peaking when it counts. Either way, it’s shaping up to be an awesome series with story lines abound.
Breakmark Playmaker Shorts Winners
- Tyler Chan -Tufts
- Jack Hatchett – Tufts
- Colin Smith – Oregon
- Dylan Freechild – Oregon
Spin Ultimate Tournament MVP Red Jersey
- Dylan Freechild – Oregon