1. Format Thoughts Continued
After a plethora of discussion about the new USAU format (the schedule was released; the anonymous piece on UltiWorld about how it devalues pool play plus the results went out; Lou Burruss’ thoughts), I went out and asked a few different people around the game what they thought should be done considering the new format. First up was Bryan Jones, who told me more or less the same thing as Lou: “[it’s] going to likely make some teams who need a little help to worry about which games to play their starters in.” Going on to drive home the same points about open lines for the top teams, and the lower teams looking to win something to give them a favorable prequarters matchup. Something interesting Bryan said though was that you have to be wary of the new strategy now, especially if that strategy is tanking. “There could be a few exceptions, but teams who will tank have to believe as a whole that it’s the right decision. Some people won’t be comfortable with that.”
2. More on the Format
Talking with Tushar Singh of I Am Ultimate, he gave the overall perspective of a spectator, as well as what he would be thinking as a coach under the new format. He first told me that he doesn’t expect this to change what happens at Nationals as people may be expecting it to be. “No team follows a single strategy,” and thus they should be able to adapt to the new format fairly easily he said. But where Tushar saw a potential issue was in on how day two is now viewed.“The problem that’s encountered on day two is that every game is a sudden death situation.” This would lead to more upsets among the mid and lower level teams, taking away their “safety net”. Upsets are now what Tushar, the hypothetical coach of a lower level team, would be pushing for. If the role reversed, and Tushar was coaching a higher level team, the focus would solely revolve around focus – focusing on the game at hand, restoring focus after a game, and focusing under pressure once bracket play begins.
Lastly, I talked with Kyle Weisbrod about the new format. Instead of trying to summarize him, and break it into quotes, here’s all of what he said to me – including some very interesting thoughts on how the strategy is most clear in the women’s game:
“As for how to approach the new format, I think any time there are games that don’t eliminate you and, particularly where you don’t get full recovery before your next team (i.e. every tournament ever) you have to make decisions that balance winning the game you are in with being able to win in future games. Obviously, reducing the costs of losing in pool play (since every team advances to the round of 16) we might see some interesting cases. But, I think the decisions around how to approach each game in terms of effort and subbing will be particular to each division and team. For the women’s division, the decision seems the most clear. The top four teams clearly seem to be a cut above the rest of the division. Since making quarters brings big benefits, I don’t expect any team to just flop on Thursday and draw Fury, Riot, Scandal, or Nemesis on Friday morning. If I were a bottom seeded team in my pool, I’d probably save all of my guns for the 3 vs 4 game. If I were a third seed in my pool, I’d be wary about going all out to beat the 2 or the 1 (assuming those games are first) because I’d be concerned about not being fresh for the 3 vs 4 game. Even if I beat the 2 or the 1, if I couldn’t close out the 4 seed it would result in a three way tie that I could lose. Generally in all divisions, what I’d expect to see in the early rounds, is big underdogs saving legs (so big blowouts). Closely matched teams will probably see teams feeling each other out and, if the game gets even a little out of hand, teams will cut losses (so moderate to big blowouts). If two closely matched teams are trading points, we’ll see some interesting decisions. If teams feel a whole division is equally matched (i.e. there’s no real benefit to finishing 1st or 4th in a pool), we may see some very interesting gaming. And if one good team makes a decision not to try on Thursday, then it forces some very difficult decisions from other teams (particularly ones in the crossover pools from the team not trying). But, the take home is that it really depends on the team and the division.”
3. Even More on Format
Does anyone have any other thoughts on the format? What would you do if USAU wanted to move away from power pools, and increase the stakes of games sooner? What are our options, really?
A few ideas I have start with increasing the number of teams in attendance, maybe even by 16. Two brackets of 16, with the winner of each bracket meeting in the finals. Seeding an issue? Have 6 pools of four on Thursday to get seeding out of the way – giving the top teams from the regular season a bye to the bracket round. Regionals may lose a little bit of its meaning with so many bids up for grabs. Just an idea. What do you think?
4. DIII Warmup Returning for 2014
It was announced the other day that DIII Warmup, the highest level DIII competition in the nation, would be returning for another year. That’s good news for any all DIII teams that can make the trek out to sunny California, as five of last year’s eleven teams in attendance made Nationals – so it’s certainly the best competition many teams can get before the championship fight happens. They’re looking for expansion, and a women’s division too, both only good news. Be sure to submit a bid if you think your team can make it out. Having a clear picture of the DIII scene makes it not only a lot easier on the writing end, but makes the entire competition level a hell of a lot better.
5. Some History
So this is an old link, that I found on r/ultimate again, but here is a post from way back in 2010 on the ‘Top 10 Plays of the Decade’. This is something I’m going to revisit in a few weeks before Nationals, but a lot of interesting plays here. I was a history major in undergraduate, so any reading of the past is interesting to me in one way or another, but ultimate especially. I’m new to the game relatively, and was in 3rd grade when the #10 play took place and there isn’t even a play that took place while I was in undergrad. Very cool to get the oral histories of events, especially if the videos aren’t available or just aren’t high quality compared to the stuff we’re getting now.
6. U.S. Open Games on YouTube
The three division finals from this past year’s U.S. Open are now up on YouTube, courtesy of ESPN and USAUltimate. In case you missed it live, it really is worth watching again just for the sheer quality of the production. There have been the fair share of complaints about the USAU/ESPN deal around the internet, but with games that look as beautiful as these do, it’s hard to argue. Click on for Open, Mixed and Women’s games.
7. Kiss of Death
After last week’s article, none of the teams I mentioned were able to qualify for Nationals. Here’s hoping that I didn’t kill their chances by deciding to write about them, and that at least one of them is able to make the big show. That included both Madcow making it in from the Great Lakes over High Five, and Furious George making it in from the Northwest over Rhino and Voodoo. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this weekend; if more upsets take place, seeding is going to get very interesting.
Photo by Jeff Bell – Ultiphotos.com