With Nationals on everyone’s mind, I am taking a short break from Q&A to bring you my predictions.
There are more unknowns going into this Nationals than any in recent memory. For over a decade, Sarasota has provided a consistent backdrop. Sure, there was the coin flip on super hot or super windy, but you knew one of those was coming. Teams had their routines, their hotels, their breakfasts, their dinners all sorted, defined and planned. You can chuck all that out the window. Everything is new and teams will struggle with the uncertainty – the only certainty is that someone will get screwed by botching their prep. The change in format only adds another wrinkle. Every angle, every circumstance, every situation was plotted and defined under the old power pool format. 4-0 versus 4-0 going into the last round? You knew what to do. Dropping into the crossover game? You knew how to handle it. Now, all situations are new. 2-0 meets 2-0 at the end of the day? How much to you play for the 1-seed? No one is really sure – no one has walked down these paths before.
Throw into all this the most unsettled season in recent memory and more parity than you can imagine. Sure Revolver is the one-seed again, but have they ever looked more vulnerable? Perennial contender Ironside is in free fall and Goat is your overall 2-seed! Fury lost three games and Nemesis is back. The gap between the top two and the second tier is smaller than ever.
I played in the last Nationals held in Texas and the weather sucked far worse than it ever did in Florida. Not only was it as windy as it ever got in Sarasota, but it was 40 degrees and raining. Good weather for clean offense. The forecast is pretty lovely, but even that could play a role. Teams like Doublewide and Riot are much better positioned to take advantage of bad weather. More possession minded teams like Revolver, GOAT or Fury will benefit from the clean play that comes with good weather.
The pool winners are at a huge advantage. They get the gravy match up in the pre-quarters (all the 4-seeds will lose all their games) and then a fatigued 2 or 3 seed in the quarters. Win your pool and you will go to semis. Pool A: Revolver. Duh. Pool B: Sockeye. Sure, I’m biased, but even so I’m not drinking the GOAT Kool-aid. A deeper, healthy Sockeye takes this pool as both teams go all out to win the coveted pre-quarters matchup with the young-and-foolish-enough-to-date Miley Cyrus Condors. Pool C: Doublewide. The Texans have too much muscle for Ironside or Ring to handle. This was a really bad draw for Ironside – they’d have had a shot in pool B or D – but they don’t have one here. They’re already looking ahead to their match ups with Sub Zero and Johnny Bravo. Speaking of Bravo, they will win Pool D. Although they are a bit inconsistent (Buzz Bullets, anyone?) the seedings did them a huge favor with a relatively inexperienced Machine and a struggling Chain.
That’ll give us a semifinals of Revolver-Bravo and Sockeye-Doublewide. (I know I skipped over the quarters, but only the Bravo-Ironside game will be interesting. Bravo will edge Ironside as loser’s fatigue sets in.) The Revolver-Bravo game, also known as the Vanilla Bowl, will feature two teams too conservative to try a defense as innovative as force backhand, instead running the same space clearing offense versus the same force forehand defense. Does anyone see Revolver losing this game? I don’t either. The Sockeye-Doublewide game will be the exact opposite as both teams vie to play the weirdest zone they can think of. In the end, Doublewide’s size and championship experience will edge out the small ball of the Fish.
So it’ll be a Finals rematch. The weather will be nice this time, no one will be able to cover Beau, Jordan Jeffery will be a match-up nightmare and Revolver will win a game with less than 10 total turnovers.
Champion Prediction: Bay Area Revolver
Women’s is trickier for me to pick – there are ex-Oregon players on five different teams, so I am going to make someone mad no matter what I say. Oh well, Elliot Trotter made me do it.
The talent drop off at the bottom is similar to the men’s division and the pool winners will have a huge advantage in their pre-quarters match-ups as all four 4-seeds will struggle to win a game. At the top, is any going to pick against Fury or Riot? Scandal will win Pool C. They are playing with such quality right now and have been in the finals of every tournament they’ve played this season. They’ll be challenged, but win. Pool D is a tough, tough pick. The schedule doesn’t do Nemesis any favors. They get a shallow Showdown (is any team more dependent on a single player?) in Round 1 and a deep Traffic in Round 3. Ugh. They’ll get past Showdown only to fall to Traffic to end the day, leaving the pool in the hands of the Canadians.
Fury and Riot will roll into the Semifinals. Scandal will handle a short-handed and tired Nemesis in quarters. Traffic will overcome their recent history of underperforming and take down surprise quarterfinalist Molly Brown. In the Fury-Traffic semifinal the weight of system will overcome the greater speed of the Canadians and Fury will advance to the finals 15-11. The Scandal-Riot game will be a defensive struggle. There will be more turnovers in the first half of this game than in the entire Fury-Traffic game. Scandal must overcome their we’ve-never-been-there history and Riot must overcome their propensity to drop this game to the unexpected challenger. I think their loss to Scandal early in the year is enough of a wakeup call and Seattle takes another trip into the Haven’t-We-Done-This-Before finals.
The winner will be the weather. If it is nice, Fury will win on the back of possession. If it is nasty, Riot will win on the back of relentless defense. Unfortunately for those of you hoping for a new champion, the weather looks nice. Fury wins the 20-peat.
Champion Prediction: San Francisco Fury
Other Random Predictions
- Surly will win Masters.
- Someone will win Mixed.
- Tom Crawford will give an interview. He will say ‘awesome’ and ‘rad’.
- Ultiworld will publish a post-tournament editorial about how USAU screwed up.
- The comment thread will be highjacked by the pro-ref crowd.
- Then re-highjacked by the pro-pro crowd.
- A single ESPN cameraman will be older than the combined age of Sub Zero.
- Someone will call me out for picking the chalk.
- They will be right.
- And so will I.
I’m still taking questions for future weeks. firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com)