Queen City Tune Up
This weekend I stumble over to Charlotte, North Carolina to cover Queen City Tune Up. A tournament that was once known for being the premier early season East Coast event has started to return to its former strength. With representation from 7 regions, including plenty of national hopefuls, this tournament will play a huge role in setting up the initial rankings that will cascade through the regular season. Every pool has some story line worth mentioning, so I return to an old style of preview.
Pool A – Tufts, UNC-Wilmington, Virginia, Penn State, and Cincinnati
Tufts shouldn’t answer too many questions in pool play about where they stand within the top 20, but I do expect them to handle competition quietly and quickly. The big story here lies in seeds 2 through 5, where any combination of outcome could be possible. One of the big match-ups is Virginia vs. UNC-W which will be a battle for who’s number 2 in the Atlantic Coast (Along with USC). Penn State and Cincinatti are no slouches either, and I’m looking forward to see how the State College squad has improved from their Fall Easterns performance. Jeff Kiel, Tom Bassett, Tom Allen and others looked great at times, but dismal in trying to close out games. Cincinnati is a powerful 5th seed and will put up a fight against the higher seeds.
Tufts may come out a little rusty at the start of their first game, as they have not yet played outside (being from the great white north), but I expect a recovery into the second halves of their matches.
Pool B – North Carolina, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, and NYU
North Carolina vs. Dartmouth is the game to watch in this pool. Thomas Sayre-Mccord and Christian Johnson vs. Spencer Diamond and Ian Engler, are sets of studs on both squads that will make this a great game to watch. Chances are it will come down to both team’s depth. North Carolina has already shown that they are capable of being at the top of the Atlantic Coast, but Dartmouth may have the potential to bring a second bid to the New England region. Their performance here could be a good step forward.
It’s not that I’m not giving teams 3-5 a shot at an upset, I just think the competition between these teams is for third place. Cornell and NYU can test the Metro East waters with each other as a rematch from last year’s regional final, but both teams should look to develop as I don’t think a strength bid is possible. Can Carnegie Mellon continue with the momentum they built from Fall Easterns? They could give some teams at the top tough games, but they better make sure they take care of business in the bottom of the pool.
Pool C- Ohio, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Middlebury, East Carolina
Like pool B, expect Ohio and Michigan State to be battling for the number one seed by the end of the day. Ohio had the edge over Michigan State at Michigan Indoor, but when the game goes to the outside the outcome can be completely different. I like Ohio in this match-up, but I’m not going to be in awe if Michigan State can pull out the upset. One thing is for sure, Ohio has to bring it at every regular season tournament, because they aren’t taking down Pittsburgh in a regional final. All of the teams they face in pool play are out of Region, so the strength bid is for the taking.
For seeds 3 through 5, your guess is as good as mine. “Never give up, Never surrender” should be the motto of North Carolina State as they draw comparisons to this story. I don’t know what you’re going to get with squad, except for scrappy play. Looking forward to see how Middlebury fits into the New England mix, and the word is that Joey Cretella with his beautiful backhand returning for East Carolina. East Carolina’s first tournament of the season means we could see them at the bottom or grabbing that 3rd seed.
Pool D – Ohio State, Michigan, Connecticut, App. State and Carleton College- GOP
The Pool of Death, where it’s likely that the top seeds will be threatened by third seed Connecticut and others. Michigan and Ohio State are still the favorites to take this pool, in a rematch from Michigan Indoor. Both teams have potential strength bids on the line and a world class football rivalry to continue. Besides that, Connecticut is the team I’m most interested in. These guys are my initial pick for the Metro East, but like everyone else has to prove it. Can they raise their game to take down the pool favorites, or are they are going to suffer losses to GOP and App. State?
I like App. State to be competitive in pool play, and maybe find their way into an upset. They’ve got talent, but not the depth to back it up. Should they qualify for the championship bracket, I’ll predict an early exit based on the quality of competition, and that their top players will have played too many points over the weekend. GOP is the wild card, a team that nearly qualified for nationals several years ago, but not too much information has come our way on what to expect.
North Carolina and Tufts
I have high opinions of these teams, thinking they belong around the top 10 in the nation. Top 10 teams don’t struggle with lower opponents and mid-tiered regional squads. Tufts and North Carolina are my picks to make it to the final, and hopefully should prove convincingly that they have a shot at the championship bracket at Nationals.
Strength Bid Battle Royale
Dartmouth, UNC-W, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio, Ohio State, are among the lists of teams hoping for a strength bid to pop in their lap. Michigan and Michigan State might not be in dire need, but Illinois is looking as formidable as ever and has taken the region three years running. It’s a tough balance for these squads, developing depth while peaking at tournaments like this where the results count directly towards your chances towards bid.
Here’s a hint for those teams. There’s no difference between a 15-7 win vs. a 15-0 win, or losses for that matter either. The rankings consider doubling the score as the biggest blow out, and those extra points will not hurt or help you in anyway. Beating a team 14-3? Put your rookies in for 3 points for experience and close it out 15-7. I hope to have more information on the rankings and the impact it can have on.