A recap of Centex, a look forward towards Easterns and a few other tournaments, thoughts on the ESPN/USAUltimate partnership and other thoughts on weather, March Madness and other things as well.
Hello, this is a feature about ultimate frisbee that will run on a weekly basis. In it, I’ll recap the week that was, what’s coming up, and anything else that’s going on in only an amazing seven thoughts. Pretty incredible.
1. Centex Recap
What an interesting weekend down in Texas, as Texas wins the tournament 13-10 over Harvard. The two biggest surprises from Saturday play is that both Iowa and Eastern Michigan didn’t win a single game – Iowa being a nationals favorite from the North Central, even if we didn’t get to see much of them so far this year, and Eastern Michigan was the leader from the Great Lakes region going into the weekend but now that looks like Illinois will take that title. Iowa finishing in fourth in pool C still had Harvard finishing as the top dog after point differential due to a three way tie with Georgia Tech and Illinois. Iowa would end with a very disappointing weekend, with only one win, all but assuring the fact that they won’t be finishing with an extra bid for the North Central region – same for Eastern Michigan and the Great Lakes I’m guessing. Eastern Michigan finishing without a win aided Georgetown’s first place finish in pool D, over Texas A&M and Wisconsin-Milwaukee – though Georgetown would go on to get crushed in the crossover against Texas on Saturday and then lose to Illinois in the championship bracket. For the rest of the championship bracket, the biggest upsets were Arizona falling to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in quarters, and their subsequent shelling at the hands of Texas in semi-finals, and the close game between Illinois and Harvard. The game ended on a double-game-point victory for Redline, but Illinois shouldn’t be ashamed to finish tied for third on a very strong weekend. Overall, we learned Texas is still very dangerous even without a few players (Dream Cup), Texas A&M suffered a bit not having Dalton Smith (Dream Cup), and the New England region better finish with two bids to Nationals because both Harvard and Tufts look like two great Nationals contenders.
2. Easterns Preview
Not much has been released so far on score reporter for Easterns this weekend for schedule, but we know there’s going to be two showcase games (the second of Dartmouth vs Colorado seems a little… weird), that Pittsburgh is the defending champion looking to rebound from a close Stanford Invite, and what pools are like when taking into account season rematches. No team is going to have an easy Saturday, and teams looking for extra bids (Brown, Dartmouth, UNC-W) better hope to go home with at least one win, as no wins would be costly to their chances. For teams like Tufts, Ohio, Florida State/Florida (which team is better?), UCF, and Minnesota it’s all about keeping the status quo, so far they’ve been good enough to earn a strength bid for their region, but any falter – especially to one of Brown/Dartmouth/UNC-W – could hurt them and their strength bid chances a lot. Assuming a championship bracket similar to last years, with pre-quarters first thing Sunday morning, winning your pool is as important as ever – if you don’t, you face a long road through the day. I think both pools A & B will go according to seed, though both of the second round matchups of Florida/Minnesota and Tufts/Central Florida will be huge games going into the final round, as it could determine who they draw in pre-quarters. As for pools C & D, I think the only constant is Pittsburgh winning pool C; the three other teams that sit in pool C could finish in anyway depending on which version of that team decides to show up. I think Florida State looks ripe for the picking for both Colorado and UNC-W, especially with UNC-W getting them first thing Saturday morning; and the two of Mambird/Seamen playing each other at the end of pool play round means their game will be just as important as Oregon/Florida or CUT/Tufts in terms of seeding for pre-quarters. Pool D is an absolute toss-up, with no team’s spot in the championship bracket safe. Wisconsin finished Stanford Invite with two losses, and apparently looking very beatable. North Carolina barely lost to Pittsburgh, and was dispatched fairly quickly to Colorado in pre-quarters at Stanford – but that was their first weekend of truly Nationals level competition, I except this weekend’s performance to be much better. Stanford, while losing to Wisconsin, could come in with a better game plan this weekend and surprise teams like they almost did Pittsburgh at the Invite. And lastly Dartmouth, who while only being seen at Warm Up thus far, is very dangerous as the last team in this pool. My quarters matchups would be Oregon/Tufts, North Carolina/Colorado, Pittsburgh/Wisconsin, and lastly CUT/Florida; leading to a finals matchup of Oregon and CUT for the third time this season.
3. Chicago, Terminus and Southerns
With so many other things to talk about, here’s a quick rundown of what to look for in the three other tournaments of the weekend. First is the Chicago Invite, and Eastern Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, and Northern Iowa should be the teams to look out for – every team needs to do well in order to help their region’s bid chances, and with a lot of in-region play throughout the weekend they’ll need strong performances. While College Terminus has yet to be seeded, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Delaware, and Alabama should be on your radar if you’re following the action. Odds are at least two of the teams will see each other in pool play, and with the way the championship bracket is setup, winning your pool doesn’t guarantee quarterfinals. Lastly is Southerns, who at last check hasn’t posted a schedule. The 40 team field though seems fairly deep, without much separating the top 15 teams or so. With D3 teams thrown into the mix, we’ll get another good look at how they stack up compared to the teams on the cusp of a D1 strength bid.
4. USAUltimate & ESPN
This was just announced this morning, as USAUltimate and ESPN announced a multi-year agreement that would bring live coverage of the College Championships and the inaugural Triple Crown Tour to ESPN3. For the college games, they would also be shown on tape-delay on the ESPNU network, which is a separate channel dedicated to coverage of college athletics. The Triple Crown Tour coverage includes the U.S. Open from Raleigh, North Carolina and the National Championships from Frisco, Texas. Bringing these games to ESPN3, live no-less is a big deal. As the release states, this not only gives fans the option of watching the games via a computer, but also through tablets, smartphones and other devices – over 83 million households according to ESPN and USAU. Perhaps the only downside is that it is only available to those who subscribe to an affiliated internet or video subscriber; I know I can watch through my parents Time Warner Cable subscription, and assume many others can do the same. No word if any games will be given ‘for free’ as USAU has done in the past with the two different championship events. But this is access like no other, with on-demand content being a large part of this deal. Three things I’m wondering: 1) Who’s going to do the commentary and other programming? Hopefully they nab former players, people with at least some knowledge of the game. And hopefully their current entertainment talents do not touch it – aka, Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, etc. I think someone like Scott Van Pelt or Ryen Russillo would do the show justice I think, they seem a little bit more in tune to sports outside of the major ones. 2) I wonder if there was a bidding war including one of CBS/Fox/NBC, as all have been very vocal on their sports network expansion – with all looking to take a bigger slice of the pie away from ESPN. NBC recently launched ‘Versus’ as NBC Sports Network, with improved sports programming, CBS is doing the same, and Fox is in the process of doing such a thing. And if ultimate is a growing sport, especially among the youth demographics, it would make sense that the other networks would want to get their foot in the door of a growing sport in order to help their future success. In Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Miller and Tom Shales, former and current ESPN executives talk at length how the network, early on, bet on certain sports soon entering national prominence and playing off the growing sports of the time (college football, wrestling, early NCAAB tournament games, etc) and how that put the network in the position they are in today. I think that if any one of those three networks hopes to succeed, they would be doing the same thing instead of banking on franchises ESPN already has (cough cough NFL cough). And lastly, 3), where does this put the other leagues and NGN? At first, my thought was that NGN would fold or sign a contract with either the AUDL or MLU very soon. But after talking with some friends, I’ve been convinced that NGN could sign on for less-major tournaments, and to bring other games from the ESPN-covered tournaments to the masses (that is, if the ESPN contract allows that). This also puts the AUDL and MLU had a distinct disadvantage in terms of getting their game out there, and over the Triple Crown Tour. Anything they could do to compete – their own service, NGN, etc – cannot compete with ESPN3, plain and simple, unless they get into one of those networks I mentioned above, showing live games on broadcast television. None of the other networks have an established streaming setup yet for something of this scale (I can only think of NBC’s Olympic coverage… but that’s in a totally different league than every other sporting event), nor do I think that the other networks reach as many households as ESPN does. The road to success for either one of the AUDL or MLU just got a lot tougher I think.
5. A response to BVH
In “The Disease of We”, Ken Dobyns of NYNY fame, wrote a response to the article I linked to here last week written by Ben Van Heauvelen titled “What Do We Stand For?” While I don’t agree with all of the points of either article, this is an important discussion for the sport to have. Please once again, take the time to read Mr. Dobyns’ response.
6. Is weather a factor in a team’s success?
I live in Buffalo, NY and currently it’s starting to snow again as temperatures slowly creep below 20 degrees Fahrenheit by tonight. Last week it reached the upper 60’s for a few days though, and I was optimistic that the school would finally let us practice outside again. That would be our first outdoor practice of the spring, having been kept indoors by the temperatures and school-ground restrictions. The weather following spring break though, has me thinking otherwise; along with a recent Accuweather report stating that come early April, the East can expect more snow I’m not as hopeful. The team I play for, SUNY-Buffalo, has a tournament this weekend in Saratoga Springs, NY, and while I don’t think our tournament will be cancelled it does have me thinking about the weather surrounding a team, and how if there is any correlation to success. In theory, it would make a lot of sense. A team in the Northeast is kept on the track longer; while a team in the Southwest has beautiful fields to play on come the winter months. But then again, teams from the Northeast, North Central, Great Lakes, etc. have all contended for (if not won) a National championship year in, year out. Would teams from warmer climates get an early season boost thanks to increased practice time? Or does it really come down to a college’s ultimate ‘program’ – i.e. how prepared they exit the fall season, their winter training schedule, facilities available to them, and strategy entering tournaments? Either way, I know I’d like to be slipping on my cleats this afternoon for a practice, but the weather is holding me back.
7. College Ultimate March Madness?
It’s that time of the year again, March Madness. I’ve never been too great at this, but this year I at least looked at the numbers posted by NYTimes columnist Nate Silver’s estimates of each team’s chances to advance. Seeing a ton of familiar school names across the tournament (could that be another possible indicator of success, a school’s overall athletic prowess?) had me thinking if a 68 team tournament would be possible in ultimate. It also reminded me of the UOA’s attempts at setting up NCAA conference tournaments – which while a good idea, I think got lost between the organization running them and fitting them into an already crowded fall schedule. Obviously, the first consideration in pulling a March Madness ultimate tournament off would have to be finding a field site, and I assume it’d be set up similarly to the NCCAB tournament, with regional action before advancing to larger national games. If this was going to be a regular season event for college teams, there would have to be either a) consolation games to justify the bid price or b) a large number of sponsors in order to keep prices down for the ‘one and done’ teams. Figuring out those two parts would be a logistical nightmare, but once that’s taken care of, there would only be one other major hurdle – how do you set it up? Part of the wonder of the NCAAB March Madness tournament is the fact that games are played one at a time. But one of my favorite parts of the sport is that a team and its players are made not to play one game a day and be done with it, but up to five or six games from sun-up to sun-down. Looking at the tournament schedule, the first three rounds are down by March 24, and then the field is narrowed to 16 teams. Those games could be done regionally, over a weekend, with the rounds spaced out enough to ensure marquee games on the prime field site of each region – allowing a quick tie-in with whomever is there to film (because, c’mon, you’d have to! I hear Bryan Jones is a big Dick Vitale fan), and still giving the tournament a semblance of a normal ultimate tournament. Come the ‘Sweet 16’, the tournament could go National over a three-day weekend – spacing out the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight over two days for the same broadcasting considerations, and then playing the Final Four in the morning of day three, with the championship game coming in under the lights. If the location is made central enough, teams that had competed would be enticed to stay and perhaps even more would come in just to watch. I think it’d be pretty cool, now how do we get USAU on board?