Centex 2012: Open Preview

by | March 15, 2012, 12:38pm 0

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The second of the three majors is upon us as the crew travels to Austin, TX this weekend for perhaps the most comprehensive nationals preview event.  With representation from 7 of the 10 regions, this tournament will help shape the bid allocations at the end of the regular season. Here are the questions I’ll be wondering about going into the weekend:

Can Oregon dominate with a target on their back?

With readily available video of Oregon dominating the Stanford Invite, we have now ascended into the video age of Ultimate. What impact will it have? Can teams develop a strategy to contain Aaron Honn? Even on the last point vs. Pittsburgh we saw John Bloch cut in, and like the Buzz Bullets, turn and huck without looking. Will college opponents start to catch onto this stuff, or are we looking at teams worrying about only themselves until nationals? Don’t think scouting matters? Iowa told me that they pored over Pittsburgh’s film before 2011 Nationals for hours on end, and it seemed to work out.

Dylan Freechild became the most dangerous around the goal line at Stanford, but seemed to be a powerful piece to the puzzle instead of the putting the team on his back type. His quickness and agility are two attributes that most valuable around the “red zone”, where he can work with his handlers, draw attention from poaches, and eventually open up enough space for himself or someone else to score.  Will he continue that role, or will we see Oregon get into some trouble at a point where Freechild takes over a game?

Will Carleton or Wisconsin lay claim to the number one spot when the dust settles?

These two teams have the strongest chances in the latest version of the “King of the Hill” to see a new number one. Both teams have gotten back players, but for different reasons. Jonah Herscu returned for Carleton from varsity basketball, and appeared to make a big difference for the handling line. At Warm Up during big moments, Simon Montague and Justin Norden were forced to play a lot of points. Herscu really takes the pressure off those players, and allows Carleton to return to their typical methodical philosophy.

Dave Wiseman  returned from injury at Stanford Invite and looks to be an important play maker for Wisconsin. However, due to the nature of the injury, his level of conditioning is not where it needs to be quite yet. The Hodags are going out to win all games, but there’s still so much Ultimate to be played that I expect them to continue to develop. This is squad with what seems like a lot of specialized players. Alex Simmons is a cutter turned handler that distributes the disc well, Colin Camp is the deep receiver, but they don’t rely on one main cutter or thrower to get the job done.

It’s really hard to say what to expect from these three teams at the top. Centex is a tournament of high winds, which makes games go down to the wire. For a lot of these top squads, the time isn’t now. The bulls-eyes are drawn, and I for one hope that we’re going to see some upsets.

Tufts or Whitman?

If there is one game I’m really excited about watching, its this one. These guys will meet in the last game of pool D and will feature a team we know can bring it against top competition, a team I think can. Both are bringing back large senior classes from the previous year nationals run. The biggest match up is Tufts’ stud defender Jack Hatchett vs. Jeremy Norden or Jacob Janin. Hatchett will most likely take one or the other, as he was given the tough task of marking Stubbs last year. Whitman vs. Carleton at Stanford only featured three breaks in the game, and that results in a lot of Whitman not putting their top players on the defensive line. I expect more turnovers and a slight advantage for Tufts that runs equally powered lines.

Calling Eric Johnson…

We were given a lot of flack this weekend for having Luther ranked despite their poor performance at Free State Classic. Eric Johnson lit up squads on day one of nationals last year, and continued to play well for NexGen and Subzero. Luther cannot afford to have a bad tournament if they want to get a strength bid. Tufts barely recovered after having a relatively poor Stanford Invite,  but there’s still an outside shot.  They’ll have to average at least an 1800 rating, or roughly a top 10 performance the rest of the way to sneak in.  Shake off the rust Johnson, because you cannot afford to come in not playing like a top 5 Callahan nominee (unless you plan on doing well at Regionals… wait).

The Bid Watch: Who’s trying to stay in?

Dartmouth, Iowa, Texas, Colorado, Washington are all trying to distance themselves from the teams trying to break into the top 20. A good performance by any of these teams means they are likely cementing themselves in place for a bid. Bad performance? The pressure shifts to do well at a last second tournament, which some of these teams aren’t planning on. Dartmouth has some wiggle room with Easterns coming up. This may be Colorado’s, Washington’s and Texas’ last tournament before the series. Washington is the 16th team, and a bad performance could push them out and make Northwest regionals a lot more exciting.  Colorado and Texas can get another bid for the South Central with big wins here, but I doubt Colorado is feeling any heat over making sure there is an extra slot available. Iowa has crushed on teams ranked in the mid level which is great for rankings, but this tournament is going to weighted higher than their early wins. Play close in every game and you’ll survive, but a few bad losses aren’t advisable.

The Bid Watch: Who’s trying to get in? (Besides everyone…)

Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Illinois, and Michigan State are the four squads that are looking for a big performance to leap into that top 20. Minnesota might be in if it were not for a 15-6 loss to North Carolina at Stanford, and if Reese Hornnes can play like he did against Pittsburgh throughout the weekend, this may be a team that surprises people. Michigan State, Illinois, and Georgia Tech are capable of some big wins, but might not have the consistency to get what is needed against top competition. Either way, those clubs have nothing to lose as they learn a lot and get ready for regionals.

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