Before I get into reflections on the day, here’s how Sunday went down:
- As I said before, I watched the South Carolina- UConn quarterfinal so I don’t have many details from the other games. I had half an eye on Ohio-Wilmington, where I believe that Ohio led by a couple of breaks throughout the game and Wilmington mounted a late comeback that fell short. From what I saw, the Seamen spent the weekend running guys on both offense and defense with the purpose of improving their offensive spacing and set plays and their man D (they didn’t go zone or junk at all when playing South Carolina on Saturday). They also ran their rookies a lot. I expect Wilmington to be among the class of the Atlantic Coast in the spring.
- Carnegie Mellon was another big surprise this weekend. My last impressions of Mr. Yuk were at High Tide in Spring 2010 and Skylander in Fall 2009, at at each tournament, they just didn’t look very skilled. I saw a different kind of team this weekend, where there was a clear system in place and a number of capable playmakers on the field. A 13-15 loss to North Carolina is a strong result, and I’d put money on them placing well above last year’s 11th-place finish in the Ohio Valley.
- Before the tournament, I talked to North Carolina State captain Brandon Jones about last year’s poor results (9th at Atlantic Coast Regionals, which is bad for a program that won Nationals in 1999 and has continually fed players to Ring of Fire). NC State 2011 lost 10 starters from 2010, and even the ’10 team struggled at Regionals. But this year’s team returns virtually all of its contributors last year, which Jones says allows NC State to “start the season with a more heightened focus on our team goals and essential core values, and also a greater fundamental base.” The improvement over last year is already apparent, as the Wolfpack ran off a gutsy comeback from down 7-12 to winning 13-12 to beat Penn State in the Saturday 2v3 crossover. I didn’t get to see any of the NC State-Delaware quarterfinal.
Bryan and I chose to watch and comment on the North Carolina-Delaware game. My thought was that South Carolina would run out of legs and Ohio would win convincingly. I was wrong– while Ohio did win, it took a comeback (can anyone give us the score progression) to eventually advance, 16-14. Oops.
- It felt like the this one was supposed to be a big win for North Carolina. Carolina subbed deeply while Delaware came out running very similar lines for both O and D for the first three or four points, they spaced the field and isolated cutters while Delaware relied on quick dish passes in traffic, and their trapping zone looked like the more polished of the two. But while it wasn’t pretty, Delaware’s strategy kept them in control late into the game. Delaware led as late as 10-9, and Carolina didn’t take a lead until 12-11. From there, they pulled away for the 15-12 win. That breaking point where a game goes from being close well into the second half to one team cruising to a win is interesting to me.
- With only 11 players returning and, by captain Nate Hess’s count, six major playmakers gone, I expected 2012 to be a rebuilding year for Delaware. But in talking more with fellow Sideshow captain Matt Jerry, I learned that this year’s team has renewed its commitment to elements of professionalism like showing up to practice on time and taking each of its games seriously. It shows, as Delaware sustained its intensity throughout the weekend. Sideshow is definitely going to be a force this spring.
Finals to come…