The 2014 College Tour is presented by:
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#1 North Carolina (AC)
After missing the College Championships in 2011, UNC has done nothing but improve significantly each year. 13th in 2012, and 5th last year, if the trend continues Darkside will find themselves in the semis with a very solid chance of making it back to the final. As the most complete team on this list top to bottom, and with a currently up-swinging trend in national results, it’s no wonder why UNC was the judges’ unanimous #1 in the preseason rankings. This team is athletic, very skilled, and incredibly deep.
#2 Colorado (SC)
Johnny Bravo featured Jimmy Mickle in their offense and had their best finish in the Club Championships in 5 years. If Mamabird does the same, and uses their depth of experience at other key positions effectively on defense (read: Morrissy, Sneider, et. al.), they could very well be in the final come May.
#3 Central Florida (SE)
Last year’s finals appearance was somewhat unexpected to everyone but the Dogs of War themselves. That feeling is completely reversed in 2014, and they now have a very large target on their very tall backs. By the looks of this highlight video, they are well on their way to another stellar season, but anything less than a second finals appearance will be a step backwards. They’ll have chances to take that final step forward, but will need to be as opportunistic as last year in order to get themselves in position for another run at the title.
#4 Oregon (NW)
Any time the reigning Callahan winner comes back to your college team for another year, you should be considered an early-season favorite. No exception here. Dylan Freechild’s return will continue to give Oregon a solid chance at big wins, despite losing a few cogs in the offensive machine, namely Aaron Honn. Nationals appearances in each of the past three years running, and improvements in results each year, means Oregon has the experience competing at the top level from top to bottom.
#5 Wisconsin (NC)
The Hodags are in the mix for competing for a national championship year-in, year-out, high player turnover or not. Regular season meetings between Wisco and fellow North Central regional rival Carleton will be exciting…and very telling as to where the Hodags are as a team in 2014. No matter the result Wisco should once again lock up a bid to Nationals from their region.
#6 Carleton College (NC)
CUT begins the 2014 campaign with a simple formula. A proven program + a solid core + a work out program with the legendary Tim Morrill = success. A sound plan in theory, but like 5th grade math class, CUT will need to “show their work”. Will this be the year Carleton breaks back into the final after two years of early exits?
#7 Texas (SC)
The South Central Region will be determined by the battle of Texas. Last year it was Tuff and Colorado Mamabird taking the two bids to nationals. In 2014 this could very well happen again, but don’t be so sure. UT’s rival, Texas A&M, are nipping quite viciously at their Austin neighbors’ heels. Tuff should have the firepower, with returning the likes of Driscoll and others, to top the Aggies once again. If the South Central region fails to secure a third bid, things will get very interesting come Regionals.
#8 Minnesota (NC)
A team that should be on a mission in 2014. After reaching the #1 ranking in Skyd’s Top 16 in 2013 only to crash out at the Regional tournament, Grey Duck should be playing with quite a large chip on their collective shoulder. GD has the returning core to produce results in any of the regular season events they attend. Motivation abound, but the results must be better in the big games throughout the season, and especially in CC’s and Regionals.
#9 Pittsburgh (OV)
No Tyler Degirolamo. No Alex Thorne. Could be no problem. Trent Dillon is a rising superstar on Callahan watch in 2014, and Max Thorne will bring professional experience to En Sabah Nur by the time the Sectional/Regional weekends come around. A twice proven system that will recruit more talent this year than ever before means Pitt is a pick other teams should not sleep on. Can they really make another run and 3-peat?
#10 Harvard (NE)
Harvard was able to finish 9th last season at the College Championships, after getting ousted by the UNC squad we now have atop the rankings. A strong roster top to bottom should have Coach Michael MacKenzie ready to continue last season’s strong spring results. Last season, they started with a strong showing against out of region opponents. How they can handle in-region opponents come regionals may be the true indicator of this season’s results.
#11 Texas A&M (SC)
There’s a general feeling in College Station that this very well may be A&M’s year to finally crack into the national tournament. Securing a third bid for the South Central region would be a huge step in the direction of doing just that. A strong returning contingent of many upperclassmen – especially visionary thrower Matt Bennett – could very well be the key to the Aggie’s success. A&M must continue to build and improve with each point, half, game, and tournament in order to be ready to take on rivals Tuff and Mickle’s Mamabird late in the season. Even if they do not do this, they will earn quality wins throughout the regular campaign.
#12 Florida State (SE)
The Southeast Region, nay, the Florida Section is quite possibly the most stacked in the country in terms of solid national contenders. With three teams in the Preseason Top 16, it will be a barnburner of a season…again. FSU took out rivals UF in the game to go to nationals in 2013, and they’ll have to greatly improve to get that chance again. Because of the depth of talent coming from the region, regular season results may be up-and-down, but that shouldn’t be a worry for DUF. If they continue to focus on improving with each (highly contested) game, they will share a Top 16 spot with their UCF and UF brethren come season’s end. If they secure a third nationals bid like so many teams around the country are looking to do, they could very well be sharing the field with fellow Floridians in Cinci, as well.
#13 Stanford (SW)
It will be a Bloodthirsty-Dog fight all year long in the Southwest Region between Stanford and the team ranked immediately below them, UC-Davis. Early season tests at Santa Barbara Invite and their home tourney Stanford Invite will determine if Bloodthirsty is ready for a run at Nationals. If they can get through those two tournaments with good results, the sky is the limit in a region that would be Andrew Luck-y to earn a strength bid. Bloodthirsty will play great defense all season, and if they can raise their offensive game to match they should be headed back to the College Championships after a two-year hiatus.
#14 UC-Davis (SW)
Arguably the strongest team in a rebuilding region, Davis returns U23 Mixed star Eli Kerns (Polar Bears) and handler Nathan White (Revolver). The Dogs will need to maintain the utmost focus in order to not slip up during the regular season and lose to teams they shouldn’t early as well as late in the season in order to make it back to Nationals for a second straight year. If they can accomplish this, the lack of quality in the region could be an advantage by allowing the Dogs to be less beat up than other teams in more competitive regions. Or it could come back to bite them by not seeing enough top-quality competition to be truly ready for the National tournament.
#15 Florida (SE)
After a gut-wrenching one-point loss to Florida State in the Southeast Regional tournament game-to-go last year (after beating FSU by the same margin only 2 rounds previous), Florida will be revved up from day one. This will be the year Florida finally gets over the hump and ousts a Georgia team that has given them fits in recent memory. They may find themselves in the game-to-go again this year, but should have a better result with the memory of last year still squarely ingrained in their minds.
#16 UNC-Wilmington (AC)
With a solid core of returning players, there is nothing to suggest UNC-W doesn’t snag a second bid for the Atlantic Coast region again in 2014. It’s a long regular season, and UNC-W will have their share of bad losses, but also of quality wins. There’s something to be said about players who have been there before, and know what it takes to get back there again.
Vote Getters That Just Missed the Cut – Washington(NW), Ohio (OV), Tufts (NE), Cal (SW)
If we were a betting bunch (which we totally are) the judges would be willing to bet these teams will make appearances in the Top 16 sometime in 2014. With a few quality wins, they may even find themselves as permanent fixtures after the first bout of early-season tournaments are completed.
Feature photo of Christian Johnson (UNC) by Daniel Tijoe – Ultiphotos.com
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