This preview and the 2012 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate
Pool D is the pool that most teams wish to avoid. Last year it featured Carleton, Harvard and British Columbia. This year, we have perennial power Wisconsin, upstart Central Florida, and California. With the 4,5,9, seeds, we’re assured that there’s going to be a big battle for the top spot. Michigan State has some upset experience, handing Oregon their only loss this season, while Minnesota Duluth doesn’t have anything to lose as the nation’s 20th seed.
There are not many programs as storied as Wisconsin. After winning back to back finals in 07’ and 08’, the Hodags made it back to the finals, but fell short to regional rival Carleton. Like last year, the Hodags have continued to develop throughout the season, utilizing early season opportunities to grow. The season started way back in early February, attending Warm Up and losing in the semi-finals. The pattern continued as they would fall to Oregon, Minnesota, and Carleton in the semi-finals of Stanford, Centex, and Regionals. Last year the Hodags won regionals convincingly, but can this squad find a way to put itself over the top?
There is a reason for hope, and that’s the return of Callahan nominee Dave Wiseman. Wiseman, a tall lanky cutter, as well as a standout defender, was injured for much of the season with a back injury. At times he was reduced to only jogging while his teammates practiced in the early season, but he was able to see the field at Stanford, take his licks at Centex and regain form going into the series. There’s no question that his return will help the Hodags immensely this weekend, as the team has been searching for a star amongst their depths.
It’s not as if the Hodags lack other standout players. Alex Simmons is a Breakmark All-American for a good reason. The offensive flow starts and stops with Simmons, navigating the defense. Dayu Liu and Dan Park continue to launch flick bombs. Zack Alter, Brian Hart, James Smart and Tanner Marshall are only a few of the other names that make up this deep squad. We can’t forget about the performance that Colin Camp had last year during the semi-finals either. I dare say, even with all of his NexGen notoriety, that teams could be focusing their match-ups elsewhere. Regardless, the depth of this Hodags team is a testament to their development in the cold winters of Madison, Wisconsin.
Hodag’s Road to the Championship
Despite being the higher ranked seed, the Hodags can expect to be in a tight one against Central Florida. Both teams are significantly revamped since their meeting at Warm-Up where Central Florida took revenge after an earlier pool play victory for Wisconsin. California will certainly be no easy task, Wisconsin is 2-0 on the season, with two narrow two point victories. While they can expect to have an easier game against Minnesota Duluth, we’ll likely know on Saturday if the Hodags have another championship run in them.
Central Florida Dogs of War
If you asked me in February if the Dogs of War were for real, I would have told you they were a sham. A team with the talent, but that they would waste it and not even make the big dance. Boy was I wrong. Andrew Roca won our Coach of the Year award based on the transformation we saw from Warm-Up to Easterns and then finally culminating with a South East Regional title. With 6’8’’ Mischa Freystaetter available for deep shots, who wouldn’t want to make him the focus of their offense? Roca was able to successfully balance the lines, giving the offense a consistent identity. No longer was the focus to give the disc to their big man, but to allow John Best and others distribute the disc. Quint Wharton, Alex Bullock, and Jeremy Langdon have filled roles that allow Central Florida to maximize their roster and their talent. Don’t worry, Freystaetter will see time on both sides of the disc this weekend, as he’s still an incredibly tough threat. However, Central Florida brings a much more balanced attack in more than one way.
Their offense at Warm-Up could be described as simple, elementary, but effective. Move it up the sidelines until Freystaetter was open deep. This would only carry them so far. At Easterns and Regionals we saw a team willing to utilize the dump swing, spread the field, and hit the break side. Now that the offense was much more balanced, we can turn to Freystaetter’s effect on the defensive side of the disc. By selecting his match-up, Freystaetter was more likely to end up with a mismatch off the turn. While the top teams at nationals have tall men available to contain the gentle giant, most can not stop the fast break off of a turn.
Michael Hickson is the leader of the defensive line, and for good reason. His imposing 6’5’’ frame gives him an advantage of defending the deeps, and the reach to put the disc deep to you know who. Mike Ogren may be one of the more unknown, underrated players coming into this weekend, but he’s known around the South East. At regionals he found a way to get the best of Georgia Tech’s Jay Clark, and has demonstrated closing speed on team’s top cutters. Keep your eyes glued to the stat sheet, because Ogren could quite possibly be one of the leaders in D’s after this weekend.
Dogs of War road to the Championship
Like Wisconsin, we’ll know on Saturday whether or not this team can expect to contend for a championship. Going through pre-quarters may yield a familiar opponent (by my predictions), but that extra game can make all the difference. No team made semis last year after going through the pre-quarters round, and that the potential road through a rested Carleton would be unwanted. It’s important that Central Florida not lock in on Wisconsin, or else they could see California or Michigan State give them a run for their money.
After missing nationals last year by losing in the backdoor semis, California solidified itself in the middle of the top 20 by Stanford Invite. The bad losses were narrowly to Dartmouth, big to Whitman, and narrowly to regional rival Stanford, while the others came against national contenders and the wins started to build. Their biggest win was over Carleton at Centex, although they were quickly dispatched by Oregon soon after.
California features three major playmakers that you should keep your eye on this weekend. James Pollard can dominate with his 6’4’’ frame, but also lead the offense with his throws. Andrew Hagen has a knack for big bids on the defense, while Carson Shultz can contain the opponent’s best player. Sanjay Srivatsan will also be making plays while Andrew McLaughlin will keep the offense flowing. In terms of big name coaches, the name doesn’t get much better with Dr. Bart Watson at the helm. At the 9 seed, UMGO might just be ripe enough for the upset special.
California’s Road to the Championship
The outlook doesn’t look pretty, but I don’t expect UGMO to be fazed. Three tough games await, and California hasn’t shown the consistency this year yet to be predicted as a pool winner. Regardless, taking the two spot wouldn’t be that farfetched. Should they finish with the two seed that would place them in the pre-quarters possibly against Georgia Tech, a certainly winnable game. Holding seed could mean Minnesota, but regardless it’s going to become a tough road once they get to quarters.
Michigan State Burning Couch
Another year, another 21st finish in the end of the regular season ranking, another win at Conferences, and another disappointing finals loss for Michigan State. However, the back door game proved to be one for the ages, one that Spartans Burning Couchian’s will remember for all time. Down 10-5, the team rallied to a 14-13 victory, with Dave “Show Stopper” Hochhalter sealing the deal with a 75 yard huck on universe point. To get a great first hand account of who to look for this weekend, check out Jesse Krummer’s article on Michigan State’s Road to Boulder.
Burning Couch’s Road to the Championship
After storming through the consolation bracket at Centex, Burning Couch comes in with a load of confidence and nothing to lose. Should any team take them lightly, we’ll see the stout defense jump out to a big lead. Regardless, I’m not sure the road could be much tougher. We’ll just have to hope that they can turn out another performance like the one vs. Oregon at Centex.
Minnesota Duluth Northern Lights
The team no one saw, coming, not even themselves, Minnesota Duluth navigated the bracket skillfully, like Johnny Depp asking for parlay in Pirates of the Caribbean. Either way the 20th seed finds themselves at the show with an opportunity to shock any opponents. Unfortunately with their only signature wins are vs. Wisconsin Milwaukee, and that doesn’t point towards success at nationals. Jay Drescher and company’s story through regionals can be found here.
Northern Lights Road to Breaking Seed
Let it all hang loose, because there are a hundred teams right now wishing they were in your spot.
Feature Photo by Kyle McBard (UltiPhotos.com)