It’s that time of the year again, folks. Time for the defending National champions to shake off the snow and migrate south for their first tournament of the regular season. Time for Wisconsin to show it doesn’t matter who they lost– you still shouldn’t count them out. Time for this year’s lesser known name to start showing off (à la UCF in 2012). Time for me to pretend I’m the Bill Simmons of ultimate and tweet witty thoughts (@Skyd_AlexCooper) along with score updates. But most of all, it’s time for some of the best teams in the nation to show each other who is boss: the last three Warm Up champions went on to win Nationals.
Pitt: Rinse, lather, repeat?
After falling just short in quarters, semis, and quarters again, Pittsburgh finally showed us all what they are capable of and took last year’s title. On the backs of their stars, they made a very impressive comeback in semis en route to a finals victory over Warm Up’s two seed, Wisconsin.
There is not much to say about Pitt’s upcoming season that hasn’t been said already. En Sabah Nur is losing some talented players, but who they’re keeping around is more impressive for those scouting. Their big names are feared, even the smaller names are well-known, and with a strong coaching and captaining corps, look for them to keep other teams backpedaling all weekend in an effort to keep up.
Wisconsin: Always the bridesmaid…
Most teams in the country would be thrilled to play in the National Championship game, much less twice in two years. Wisconsin, however, is not most teams. After the domination experienced by the country in 2007 and 2008, Wisconsin graduated, rebuilt, and set off on what appeared to be another series of titles; they were stopped in their tracks though, by Carleton and Pittsburgh respectively, and another talented class of seniors departed.
Losing the class of 2012 certainly seems tough for Wisconsin, but it feels like they always have an abundance of outstanding players, and this year is no exception. Captains Dayu Liu and Colin Camp lead the Hodags’ impressive lineup, which includes standouts Brian Hart and Jordan O’Neil, as well as transfer Andrew Meshnik, a 3 year Madison Club veteran.
Look for Wisconsin to show off their depth early and often this season, especially with head coach Hector Valdivia at the helm, as they get a feel for their season. This writer is a bit upset that he’s missing the Pitt-Wisco matchup on Friday at 6:30, is excited to watch them all weekend.
Why play in the regular season?
For most teams, the regular season is a time to earn those valuable bids for your region, play top level competition, and get the feel for your team. Others, though, focus just on that last part, making sure that come the series, they’re ready to dominate the competition. For the past few years, Carleton has done just that: play a regular season that doesn’t come close to showing their true potential, in order to make sure that the team is ready to peak at Nationals.
While CUT is certainly on track to do that once again, don’t look past Texas or Central Florida pulling the same move to shoot for a National Championship. Each one is host to a bevy of talent, and though they might not be going solely for results, no team can afford to sleep on them. Carleton has likely the strongest class of 2013 west of the Mississippi, with Julian Childs-Walker, Simon Montague, Norden, and Nick Stuart; Texas is returning Callahan front-runner, one of the best players in the country, all-around hoss Will Driscoll; Central Florida, fresh off a T-Town win, has both the talent (Freystatter, Ogren, and company) and the coach (Andrew Roca) to get to their 2nd straight Warm Up finals.
Best of the rest
Keep an eye out for Dartmouth out of New England to make some noise in their first tournament of the year, returning a strong crew in Ian Engler, Spencer Diamond, and countless others. If you’re looking for the playmaker of the tournament, look no further than Jay Clark of Georgia Tech, fresh off a season with the Chain O-line. And if it’s the deep ball that’s your forté, keep an eye on Georgia; last year Jojah beat CUT in bracket play here, and Elliott Erickson and Wright Dickerson are now a year older and better.
Players to wach:
Alex Thorne (Pitt) – First regular season tournament after being abroad in the Fall
Brian Hart (Wisconsin) – A veteran playmaker and relentless workhorse
Julian Childs-Walker (Carleton) – Some of the best cuts in the country
Will Driscoll (Texas) – A club championship under his belt certainly doesn’t hurt
Mischa Freystatter (UCF) – You can’t miss him. Literally.
Elliott Erickson (Georgia) – http://goo.gl/GGW8c (look at those ups)
Jay Clark (Georgia Tech) – He’s done complementing Lance, let’s see what he can really do
Games to watch:
- Friday – Pitt vs. CUT (1 p.m.), Wisconsin vs. Texas (1:20 p.m.), UCF vs. Georgia (1:20 p.m.)
- Saturday – Pitt vs. UCF (1:20 p.m.), Wisconsin vs. Florida (3:30 p.m.), Wisconsin vs. CUT (6 p.m.)
- Pitt, Wisco, CUT, UCF win pools, Texas and Dartmouth also advance
- UCF over Dartmouth, Texas over CUT
- Pitt over Texas, UCF over Wisco
- Pitt over UCF for the 2nd year in a row
There will be a Spin Ultimate MVP Red Jersey, live tweeting (@Skyd_AlexCooper), and a tournament recap in the days after it all goes down.