Tuesday Morning Standler: Wildcards

by | August 21, 2012, 11:55am 0

Welcome back to Tuesday Morning Standler. This week we’ll cover how Chesapeake Invite and Chicago Heavyweights– what I’m calling Wildcard Weekend– will impact the Open bid situation, talk a bit about Sockeye’s Zone Blitz and look at the current state of Revolver.

Wildcard Weekend

While Labor Day gives us more to look forward to after this weekend, Chesapeake Invite and Chicago Heavyweights are make or break events for a lot of teams. Seeds four through eight contain spots 13 through 16 in the USA Ultimate ranking. Sub Zero (#16), PoNY (#14), GOAT (#16) and Truck Stop (#13) are all in the position where one loss, or one point could be the difference between being in or out of the top 16. Southpaw is seeded 5th, but has not yet played a sanctioned tournament. While the Condors and Boost Mobile  are higher in the rankings, a bad weekend could throw either of them out.

Halfway across the country, Madison Club is looking to start their season on a good note at Heavyweights. Voodoo is hoping to show that their winless Emerald City Classic isn’t indicative of where they are going to end up by the time the regular season ends. Even Prarie Fire and Sprawl are in position where one good weekend is just a flight away.

So the real story is not just about this weekend, but who ends up with a strength bid come next Wednesday.

Boost Mobile – USAU Rank 9th – 5-0

Is the glass half empty of half full? In pool play, Boost is playing #15 Sub Zero, unranked Southpaw, and #33 Florida United. Often times, playing lower ranked teams and winning convincingly is great for a team’s ranking. However, playing lower ranked teams on the rise can be a disaster waiting to happen.   Sub Zero had issues at ECC with chemistry on offense but could be more threatening in their second weekend together. A large margin of defeat to Sub Zero would be devastating to their ranking, as Sub Zero is already on the fringe of the top 16 themselves. Losing large to a highly ranked team? Not bad, but losing to a lower ranked team that might be as strong as those higher ranked teams? Yikes.

The game against Southpaw could be a wash in the end, depending on how both parties perform. Southpaw is likely to at least be in the top 20 by the end of the season so a win would be beneficial, but a loss would ugly. Lastly, against Florida United, there is only one way this game benefits Boost Mobile: a 15-7 victory or better. With a team rating of approximately 900 points, a 15-7 win would give Boost a game rating of around 1500 points (see explanation of the rankings here). Pulling up the handy dandy USAU ranking chart, that win would put them in the exact same spot in the ranking. These games can be great if your team has confidence that you’re going to win big, but they can really only hurt you if you come out slow.

Verdict: No strength bid for now, but Labor Day awaits.

Condors – USAU Rank 11th – 4-1 

Unlike Southwest regional rival Boost Mobile, Saturday is all about opportunity for the Condors. Santa Barbara will face off against Chain Lightning, a game that cannot ruin their ranking. The advantage of playing higher level teams is that if you come out flat and lose 15-0, their high ranking minimizes the impact. The Condors are also playing PoNY a team that will hold their spot relatively steady in the rankings. New York will be more or less the same team that we saw at ECC. However, as we previously said, Boost Mobile will take on a lower ranked Sub Zero that is expected to outperform its past results.  Why is this important in the end? Sub Zero has a good chance to learn their lessons from Seattle and crush competition while New York will likely play a closer game vs. the Condors. A close victory over PoNY would be great, while a large defeat to Sub Zero would hurt the Condors in the rankings.

Why is Cash Crop a better a opponent than Florida United? Cash Crop, while ranked #22, had a rating of 1202, 300 more points than Florida United. If the Condors can pull off a large victory, they have much to gain, while a big win over Florida for Boost wouldn’t change their ranking much.  Again, a 15-7 victory for Boost over Florida results in a rating of ~1500, while a 15-7 victory for the Condors results in a ~1800 rating which would be good enough for #3.

Verdict: Going on schedule, I have the Condors staying in the top 16 for a strength bid.

Truck StopUSAU Rank 13th – 9-9 

Truck Stop is in a great position going into the weekend, and it’s helped by the fact that they are playing locally. A loss to Ironside would barely lower their ranking  (remember, big losses to higher ranked teams don’t hurt that badly). Tanasi and Madcow are two easily winnable games. Truck Stop has also played 18 sanctioned games already, meaning their rating won’t move too much by one good or one bad game. They have room for error, but a good day on Saturday would easily keep them in the top 16.

Verdict: Top 16, but no strength bid unless Oakland or Southpaw gets their act together.

PoNYUSAU Rank 14th – 4-7

Like they did at ECC, PoNY has to continue to survive. They don’t have a large margin for error. A convincing win over Cash Crop will do the body good, while close games with the Condors and Chain Lightning will keep them in position. As long as they don’t lose to teams below them they should hold their spot.

Verdict: Strength Bid

Sub Zero USAU Rank 15th-4-3

Sub Zero has too many individual talents not be ranked higher. On Saturday at ECC, their offense was bunched up and sloppy.  Handlers held the disc for too long, looking for low percentage huck opportunities.  Chemistry should come from simply playing together more, and this weekend should be a better story. Their results showed disarray against the top teams and close calls vs. opponents ranked  8th through 16th. With more playing time together and hopefully some clearing up of the offensive strategy, expect the gap to widen between Sub Zero and lower elite teams. Also expect the gap to close a little bit when they play Chain Lightning or Ring of Fire. Instead of a 15-8 loss to Sockeye, Sub Zero should play top teams more closely at Chesapeake.

Verdict: They’ll stay in the top 16

GOAT USAU Rank  16th – 1-6

GOAT has no margin for error, especially with 17th-ranked Streetgang breathing down its neck in Pool B.  However, their low ranking is a result of a skeleton crew surviving the onslaught of tough competition that is ECC. In different circumstances, you have to like the experience a full GOAT squad would bring. Even if they are missing John Hassell, GOAT should do what’s necessary to hold a spot in the top 16.

Verdict: Strength Bid

StreetgangUSAU Rank 17th – 5-5 

Only points away from the top 16, Streetgang could get in with a good weekend in Poolesville.  I’m not sure what to make out of the results so far, as it’s been two poor performances at SoCal and Colorado Cup. If they’re going to be the team that lost to Inception and Prarie Fire, they are not getting a bid. The good news is that three Southwest teams are in the hunt going into the weekend. We laughed that we would not see a second team from California at Nationals when we saw the regional restructure, but now it’s probable that there will be two bids. If there are multiple tickets to Sarasota, the Southwest may be the most exciting regional in the Series.

Verdict: No Bid

Madison Club: NR: 2-2 

Madison Club has to dominate this weekend in order to get in, but doing so is well within reach.  I’ve had them out of the picture but beating up on mid-level teams is an easy way to get back in.  I’ve got cold feet on this one, so lets sit back and watch while I cop out.

Verdict: College Nationals returns to Madison in 2013

Southpaw- NR – 0-0

Southpaw has to be ready to play their best ultimate  or else a strength bid might not be in the cards. I’m doubting their ability to get in on this weekend alone. If we see 2011 Nationals Southpaw, it’s probably enough. If we see 2011 Labor Day Southpaw, I have zero confidence.

Verdict: Too much in play with Labor Day remaining

Barring a dramatic collapse, Ring of Fire, Chain Lightning, Machine, and Ironside are all going to hold their spots in the top 16. To everyone else, sorry, but it’s time to focus on getting ready to steal that bid from regionals.

Sockeye’s Zone Blitz 

For those who aren’t aware, the Zone Blitz is an NFL strategy that allows defenses to disguise those rushing the quaterbacks. It’s popular with the Pittsburgh Steelers, which often utilizes a 3-4 defense and multipurpose linebackers to either drop back in coverage or move in quickly.

When defenses use the zone blitz, offenses doesn’t know how many defenders are coming toward it at anyone time. At the snap, the entire 3 down linemen could drop back into coverage, sending four linebackers speeding toward the backfield. It allows for versatility, and most importantly, it makes reading the defense confusing.

That’s where the relationship is between the way Sockeye runs their zone defenses and junk schemes. If you’ve studied zone play, you’ll see variations of three-man cup, four-man, 2-3-2, and many others. They can all be very valuable in windy situations, but also have the issue of being systematic and readable. Against those zones, the offensive battle is versus wind and space rather than chaos. Club players beat these zones regularly.

Sockeye’s zones don’t just offer different looks from the standard zone; they follow a different philosophy. They’re not systematic, but rather are built on athleticism and intelligence, which makes it hard to beat them with standard zone offense. What do I mean by systematic? Most cup zones are defined to the point that the defense knows how to move based on any outcome. In a 3 man cup, the middle middle (or short deep) knows where the holes are going to be after a swing or a dump. Vice versa, the handlers also know where those holes are going to be, and after a few passes around, most can figure out the predictable behavior. Rather than show a three man cup with the same three guys in the same formation, Sockeye will employ rotational elements where a wing will join the cup along the sideline, or a man will drop off to guard a handler. Nothing is as it seems, and the defensive studs like Sam Harkness, BJ Sefton, and Reid Koss are given a longer leash to take a risk for the block. In the same way that you don’t know what’s coming in a zone blitz, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to see against a Sockeye zone.

What does that mean for opposing offenses? Decisions take longer to make. Handlers have to be more cautious because they know that Koss might just do something different this time: they’re forced to hold the disc longer, free resets aren’t available, and the pressure is larger. Cutters who are used to sitting back and finding the space now have to work more, and there’s more of a need to coordinate that work with teammates. Offenses who do well against these zones usually have handlers who can relax and scan to find the open man while cutters flood an area with one defender to get open. Doublewide’s cutters do a good job against the Sockeye junk zone on the opening possession of their game at ECC below.

Thanks to Ultiworld for the video.

We can see from the video that Doublewide makes things look easy. This is something that Sockeye is well prepared for. Their goal is to get one good bid or shot at getting the block. In this case, there was no real opportunity, but sometimes the zone is going to be beaten quickly and confidently by the opposing squad. But that can wreak havoc late in a game when Sockeye transitions to man defense. When that happens, the offense is suddenly out of rhythm and  Sockeye can get the break they need.

Out of Sync: Revolver

Talk about a double standard! While Revolver went 7-1 at ECC, their one loss coming against Ironside, all anybody could talk about was how bad they looked. In San Francisco’s game against NexGen, the youngsters won decisively, 15-10, leaving us asking more questions. There’s no doubt the absence of Mac Taylor, Tom James, Sam Kanner, Adam Simon, and Nick Schlag made a difference in that game, but at some point injuries and absences become a crutch.

The question at the beginning of the year was “who you got winning the whole thing, Revolver or the field?” Right now, Revolver looks even with Ironside and has Chain Lightning, Doublewide and Johnny Bravo nipping at its heels.  There are only two weeks until Labor Day, but those long two months between then and Nationals will be when Revolver makes up ground. Last year it was easy to look at their regular season results and call San Francisco clear favorite, but this year the games just don’t look the same: slow starts haven’t turned into convincing wins like they have in the past.

Counting Revolver out? Are you crazy!? But I’ll say this: the longer they don’t look like themselves, the more excited I can be about this years final.

Check out next week’s issue for the analysis on Chesapeake Invite, more Wildcard talk, and rebuilding in the club game!

You can reach Bryan Jones, author of Tuesday Morning Standler at NoLookScoober@skydmagazine.com for questions, comments, and topic suggestions.

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Feature photo by Ben Beehner

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