In 2011, the North Central was certainly the most powerful region in all of college ultimate, amassing a slew of tournament victories on their way to earning four bids to Nationals in Boulder, Colorado. Not stopping there, three out of the four qualifiers made semifinals, while the odd man out (Luther) took the defending National Champs out of contention. With Carleton and Wisconsin facing off in one of the most anticipated (and unfortunate) finals in recent history, the North Central set itself up to be a powerhouse for years to come. At the beginning of the season, Bryan and I toyed with the idea that since there was no max limit on bids to Nationals for a region; the North Central could theoretically have one bid for each of its five powerhouses. 4 months later, we are only a few days away from seeing how things unfold in Northfield, Minnesota and how much of a domino effect is created from their results.
Location: Northfield, MN
# of Bids: 5
The North Central Regionals tournament really boils down to 2 different storylines: Will the five bids go to Carleton, Iowa, Luther, Minnesota and Wisconsin? Or will someone else steal a ride to Boulder?
In the first and more likely of the scenarios, we’ll see five of the strongest teams in the nation battle it out for higher seed at Nationals. I give you now, the Tale of the Tape, as CUT, IHUC, LUFDA, Grey Duck and the Hodags prepare for war:
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*Did not count forfeits.
**As pools have not been released, this is my prediction.
The Wisconsin Hodags have been one of the most consistent elite teams in the country, finishing 3rd (or tied for 3rd) in all of the majors attended. These results, along with a 26-6 record, have been absolutely stellar considering how the Hodags have been using 2012 to develop their depth. Even against some of the best teams in the nation, the young bloods of Wisco were on the field getting on-the-job training. The highly conditioned cutter-turned-center-handler Alex Simmons still runs the show, acting as the main distributor of the Hodags. The mid and late season returns of Wiseman and Donovan have boosted the strength of the Wisconsin defensive line, which was already armed to the teeth with players like Dayu Liu and the tall Zach Alter. Wisconsin has been improving throughout the year and is still waiting to peak, which is a terrifying prospect for their North Central rivals considering how the late season strength of the 2011 Hodags.
Don’t let Carleton College’s results fool you…an 11th place finish in Centex looks bad on paper, but a universe point loss to California in pre-quarters forced CUT in a battle for 9th place at the highest. It’s hard not to compare 2012’s results with Carleton’s incredible 2011, where they finished 1st at Warm-Up and the Stanford Invite, as well as third at College Easterns and eventually winning the National Title. CUT has reorganized and refueled just in time for the College Series, taking down Minnesota Grey Duck in the finals of Northwoods CC’s. With Jonah Herscu and Justin Norden looking for upfield targets like Julian Childs-Walker and Nick Stuart, it’s hard to stop the mechanical offense of Carleton. If Mike Clark is healthy for Regionals, don’t look past him or David Long either. On the defensive side of the disc, Sam Keller and the flashy Simon Montague have been looking incredibly solid throughout the whole season. One more name to remember is Clay Dewey-Valentine who is a solid defender despite his smaller stature.
Minnesota Grey Duck has certainly had a breakout season. Watching them at Stanford, you couldn’t help but be concerned for the would-be North Central powerhouse, as they were constantly in striking distance of a win, but just couldn’t close things out. After a 6-15 loss against North Carolina, things started to look like the North Central would only have 3 bids to Nationals (Luther also underperformed at the Free State Classic without EJ). Centex was a turning point for the boys from Minneapolis, as victories over three out of four regional opponents (Carleton, Luther and Wisconsin) lead to a finals appearance against Oregon. Though Grey Duck fell short of a Centex title, despite a late game surge, this Minnesota team seemed to be the polar opposite of its Stanford Invite predecessor. Greg Arenson, Rein Boyd, David Eddy, Reese Hornnes and Jason Tschida are only a few of the names on this squad who runs a consistent vertical stack that isn’t afraid to flex its muscles deep.
Iowa IHUC is the newest of the North Central superpowers, but has quickly made a name for itself. Returning to Nationals in 2010 after a couple year hiatus, Iowa has proven themselves a worthy contender, finishing 9th in 2010 and 3rd in 2011. This year was certainly a rebuilding year, losing talent like Garrett Brander, Sean “Shark” Parker, Tyler Glenn and Jake Short, but IHUC has not missed a beat. 2012 Iowa has three tournament victories under their belt and though their finish at Centex was less than stellar, wins over Illinois and Whitman as well as close losses to Tufts and Colorado were instrumental in the development of this young squad. Iowa doesn’t talk about their stars, but keep an eye out for Nick Sanchez, Jake Oakley and Sergei McNulty.
Luther LUFDA was the team that threatened the 5 bid season early, losing four games on the way to an eighth place finish at the Free State Classic. Just like Minnesota, Luther’s season turned around in mid-March in Austin, Texas. The return of NexGen superstar Eric Johnson helped LUFDA gel, leading to wins over Washington, Michigan State and Colorado in pool play. EJ had a Callahan moment in the game against Mamabird (which I’m so pissed we didn’t record!) as a sky d lead to a layout grab passed Jimmy Mickle for a break. Knocking the wind out of himself with the grab, Johnson sat up to scream “Get on my level Jimmy”! After close wins over Illinois and California, Luther finished their season strong taking out lower level regional competition and playing Wisconsin close at the Someday Ultimate Tournament. Though EJ plays a massive role for this team, they rest do not slouch as guys like Josh Johnson, Ben Kofoed and Grayson Pangburn know how to get things done when the game truly matters. The odds are certainly stacked against Luther finishing higher than 5th, but LUFDA was also the team that stunned the nation and took out Florida last year in Boulder.
As pools have not been released, the below is my take on what the seeding should look like. Having attended all four majors (Warm-Up, Stanford Invite, Centex and Easterns) I decided to ignore the USAU rankings for the top five and I used the following for seeds 6-16: 2012 USAU North Central D-1 College Open Regionals Seeding Chart.
- Northern Iowa*
- Iowa State*
- Winona State
- Wisconsin Steven’s Point
- Minnesota State-Mankato
*Northern Iowa finished higher than Iowa State at CC’s.
As there only appears to be 15 teams in attendance for the tournament, I consulted the USAU Tournament Format Manual for a 15 team format with 5 teams advancing:
“Divide the teams up in four pools, according to Table 15.1.4
After pool play, use Bracket 16.6 to determine advancement. The games against A4 in the last round of the first day, and in consolation play during the second day, are simply replaced with a bye round.”
This would create the following pools:
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Minnesota clearly draws the short straw, having to play Luther in the last round of pool play. This is a rematch of the game to go last year (12-9 Luther), where Eric Johnson emerged as one of the top talents in college ultimate. However, looking at the championship bracket, the Luther (C2) will have to play against Iowa (D1) on the last round of Saturday play (quarterfinals). Since 2004, IHUC is 11-5 against LUFDA (not counting Fall season results). Assuming seeds hold, Luther would fall to the Lb spot in the 2nd place bracket and would eventually face the loser of Minnesota vs. Carleton College. Losing this game puts LUFDA in play in game to Nationals to face off against Wisconsin-Milwaukee (should seeds hold).
One caveat to this happening is the weather forecast for this weekend. According to Intellicast, the weather report for Northfield Minnesota is much milder than last year’s Regionals. With wind speeds predicted to only reach the mid-teens, a team like Iowa that thrives on adverse conditions may run into some trouble against the speed and athleticism of Luther.
With 4 bids, as in 2011, it was impossible to imagine someone outside of the top 5 teams getting out of the NC. But with one bid for each of the powerhouses, the window is wide open for those teams that have been on the edge for years. Let’s take a look at the teams ranked 6-9 in the North Central to see how they stack up against one another, as well as the top 5.
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In my opinion, the one team that has a chance to surprise the nation and steal a bid is Black Cat of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Though they are winless over the season against teams in the top 5 of the region, Black Cat is clearly the strongest out of the rest of the field. With a tight loss against Wisconsin (9-10) in Lake Superior Conference finals, Wisconsin-Milwaukee has to feel confident entering regionals. Kevin Brown, David Wenzel and Benjy Keren will have to have energy to play their best ultimate when the 5th place game comes along.
Nothing can out-do this analysis: http://skydmagazine.com/2012/04/gentlemens-guide-to-north-central-regionals-2012/