Fall Easterns is full of Atlantic Coast rivalries and should set the stage of who the contenders are to take the bid to nationals, but those aren’t the only regions that we will learn more about. The Ohio Valley, while missing the favorite Pittsburgh, features teams that will be playing deep into Sunday at Regionals. Penn State, Ohio, Ohio State, and even up and comer Carnegie Mellon. The other team outside of the AC is Connecticut who might just be the odds on favorite to take the Metro East regional crown from Cornell.
The Metro East is ripe for the picking, and Connecticut has only lost two seniors from their 2011 semifinal run. Play makers Kamil Skwarek and Brian Varis will play a big role on a team that is known for their deep game. A tall and deep team, they definitely can draw comparisons to the way that Virginia Tech plays. Fast and loose, Connecticut can dispatch lower teams very quickly. They successfully took the Big East from rivals Cornell and Rutgers in recent weeks, and are looking to get better by playing top competition from Fall Easterns.
There are some teams looking to build on a set unit, and others looking to develop. Captain Ben Weyers told me that they are looking to win while bring a roster of 22 and several rookies. Like most teams trying to make the leap from good to great, Connecticut has acquired the tools. Athletic players, skilled throwers, but they still need to put them to good use. With a new coach, Weyers says the team has developed multiple looks to throw at opponents. They’ve come to the right place to be tested, as there will be teams capable of matching up athletically, forcing Connecticut to grind out games and be multi dimensional.
The quick look at the Metro East suggests that is even more up for grabs than last year. NYU lost their gigantic play maker in Hussayn Carnegie, Cornell has lost a lot of their veterans, while other teams like Rutgers and Columbia are waiting in the wings. The top 8 teams will be reshuffled, but I do not expect too many teams to challenge from below. For any team that made quarterfinals, there should be no lack of motivation for a possible nationals bid. Cornell will peak, NYU has a solid program, but Connecticut might just be the team to watch.
Ohio was one of the surprise teams last year, earning the bid out of eastern qualifier to Easterns. At this point, they were in contention for earning a strength bid. However as the season progressed, all was for naught, and bid fell out of reach. This is a team that had undergone a culture change, and they were able to play with national teams for a half as opposed to getting blown out.
The story of this year’s team is to see whether or not they continue the progress Ohio began several years ago at Nationals in Columbus. Team leaders were inspired to take their team to the next level, and began making changes to the way they practiced, prepared, and it was for the better. After being tired out by their in state rival Ohio State in the quarter finals, Ohio fell to Penn State in the semis.
Ohio brings back a large class of returning players, especially Mitch Cihon and Danny Clark who had have played for Madcow. Against the teams in this competition, expect to see a lot of trust between players. They had good team chemistry last year, and were getting contributions from everyone. It may be a bit antiquated, but they used to throw a nasty 1-3-2-1 zone that would be useful in the winds of Wilmington.
Ohio faltered not because they didn’t have the right scheme, or the right philosophy. Their talent level may be deep when comparing the other teams in this tournament, but it did not stock up well against other national contenders. Ohio should already have confidence against these teams, and thus use this as a chance to develop their talent pool going into the spring.
Ohio State is another team that had high hopes last year, but couldn’t hold on to the extra bids. Their offense relied mainly on Phil Cherosky to spread the disc. This year at their home tournament in Columbus, Fall Brawl, OSU split into three different squads to get their less seasoned players more time on the field. This is the direction Ohio State must go in to develop a complete team to battle through the top of the Ohio Valley.
Ohio State was once a nationals team as far recent as 07, but has fallen a bit from grace. Their interstate rivalry with Ohio heated up in the quarterfinals of Regoinals last year, which was due to a pool play loss. At one time they held onto one of the four bids available for the region, but like all others could not hang on. Expect OSU to be playing on Sunday in Fall Easterns and at Regionals.
If there was one team that might have regret of their 2011 spring tournament choices, it may be Penn State. After losing to Michigan on universe point at Queen City Tune Up, Penn State thrashed through tournament after tournament of easy opponents. With Ohio garnering all of the attention, Penn State went relatively unnoticed by most until they made the Regional finals against Pittsburgh. While they were able to give the eventual champions a game, they had shot themselves in the foot by not playing tougher competition during the regular season.
Playing good competition starts here for SPANK, a squad that lost too notable play makers in Brian Nevison and Rob Baker. However, those seem to be their only losses as they bring back a veteran squad capable of giving any team a game. The last I saw of Penn State, it was a team looking to break the mark and let their playmakers do what they do best. I do remember noting that they had fresh legs in every game that I saw them, with defenders hustling down to cover the pull. This is a sign of a team with fight, and hopefully they will carry that into the spring.
Last but not least, Carnegie Mellon is a team looking to break through to contend. While they did not make noise deep into Sunday, Yuck definitely impacted Regionals. In their prequarters match up, they gave Ohio State an incredible game early, forcing them into exhausting their roster. This is a young team that should still be focusing on developing as much as possible, and peaking when the time is right in the late spring.
Some quick notes about the tournament overall.
- UNC brings back a talented squad that narrowly missed Regionals last year. Thomas Sayre Mccord, Christian Johnson, Tristan Green, will all be integral parts for the squad. They made cuts back in August, so this squad is built to win now. With other top squads taking time to develop younger players, UNC has to prove they can win now, or how else are you going to beat Virginia when they are peaking?
- UNCW has several studs that I can’t wait to find out about, and they look one of the teams ready to take down rival Virginia should the time come.
- Virginia, lots of turnover, need to keep developing new guys and have veterans step up in absence of play makers like Matt King. A victory this weekend will definitely cement them as the favorite for the spring.
- There are plenty of other squads in this tournament that I have seen before, but I’m not sure how well they are going to do. JMU has made progress by taking down Georgia last year at CCC, but has been a team waiting to take the next step for a while. I will report back on any of the teams after the tournament.
Definitely tweet at me with questions at No_Look_Scoober or any names I should be aware of at the tournament. I will be streaming live audio from this link, and here is the preliminary schedule. In the championship bracket look for me to cover teams I have not done so before on the live stream.