Looking back at Easterns and the rest of the weekend, examining the Dream Cup game, and wondering how USAU rankings will shake out. That… and more!
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.
Ed. Note: I kinda messed up in posting this before this past weekend. So instead, here is an updated version that reflects last week with a bit of this week. I didn’t want to comment much on New England Open as I was competing with SUNY-Buffalo.
1. Easterns Recap
First go take a gander at the score reporter page if you haven’t already. Then, go take a look at Ian Toner’s writeup on Skyd Magazine about the identities of teams at the tournament. I’m not going to commentate on the discussion that has taken place on Skyd about UNCW’s Alan Gruntz, though it is worth a read. What was most surprising for me this tournament is how those identities played out, and where the top teams landed. No Carleton in quarters. No Oregon, Wisconsin or Pittsburgh in semifinals. Instead, Minnesota and Central Florida met in the finals, after taking down Colorado and North Carolina in semis. What the hell happened to those top four teams? They definitely ran into the wrong teams: CUT into the physical UNC-W team, Wisconsin into a hot Colorado team that looked much improved from previous outings, Pittsburgh into UNC’s ‘battling’ zone as Toner put it and lastly Oregon into a strong UCF team (who didn’t play to the identity that Toner describes, but the facts do back up the identity he gives). Should those four teams be worried about running into them again? I don’t think so, especially being able to plan for any future matchups. I also think all four are developed enough programs that they can alter their own identity to defeat the one which took them down.
As for the four actual semi-finalists, Central Florida, Colorado, Minnesota and North Carolina, they looked impressive all weekend long. Starting with the two teams that didn’t make finals, I think North Carolina finally showed they belonged with the other major programs having gotten that far, and seemingly having control of their game against UCF at several points during the game. Colorado, as said, looked much improved from earlier outings – mostly be avenging their two losses to Wisconsin from Stanford in quarters. Minnesota and UCF making the championship game says to me that both teams should be strongly considered as contenders for semi-finals at the National Championships later this year. If UCF can overcome not playing a complete game, as Toner pointed out, then they could possibly go further. Minnesota only has one loss on the season, to Arizona at President’s Day, and even though I questioned how far they could go at Nationals on the Sunday of Easterns on Twitter – they’ve certainly made it seem like they could go all the way as well. Frankly, this weekend through Nationals predictions up in the air. How regionals ends will be a strong indicator. If Florida beats out UCF for the first bid from the Southeast or if CUT/Wisco beats out Minnesota in the North Central, they’ll quickly lose that standing – just because they would probably end up in a more difficult pool.
And the rest of the pack, I think most notable was Florida State not winning a single game in pool play. Granted two were universe point losses, it certainly doesn’t bode well. Dartmouth’s play was certainly surprising as well, given how they performed at the New England Open, but according to UltiWorld, they had been playing with more open lines. With only one round of consolation games on Sunday, and those games being played in very poor weather conditions, I don’t want to read too much into those games.
2. Invite, Terminus and Southerns Recap
The other notable tournaments of the weekend started with the Chicago Invite. It seemed the format, in which no team that finished first in their pool was guaranteed a spot in quarters, took some casualty’s early on. But Pool D seemed to survive just fine, as three of the four teams from the pool made it to the semi-finals, and both finalists were from the pool. Oregon State took the win, and while it helped them jump in the rankings, it wasn’t enough to help them earn the Northwest another strength bid with only one weekend remaining. Unfortunately, Terminus was rained out, with only some games being played come Sunday afternoon – not too much to take away here. And at Southerns, James Madison University had surprise victories in bracket play over Minnesota-Duluth, Luther and Appalachian State to take the tournament victory. While Luther was able to advance to the semi-finals, they ran into a hot JMU, though they were able to secure victories over Carleton-GOP, Mississippi and Georgia Southern. The format of only the top pool finishers moving on to bracket play – with no pre-quarters or crossover games – left teams like Princeton, South Carolina, UC-SB, and Towson in an odd predicament. With two of the tournaments this weekend featuring weird set-ups, I did get the thought that in sanctioned events like this, there should be a more uniform way of how a tournament works. The Chicago Invite could’ve had restraints due to field space because of the large tournament they were running, and same for Southerns, but for Princeton (who lost their pool in a universe match at Southerns) or Iowa (same thing at Chicago Invite) to not get a shot at the championship bracket doesn’t seem right (both teams won out and finished 9th by the way).
3. New USAU Rankings
The new USAU rankings came out, and the poor finishes by Pittsburgh (now 4), Oregon (now 5), and Carleton College (now 7) were all reflected – Tufts was another team that saw a drop after their Easterns play (now 13). North Carolina also jumped to the #2 spot after their strong finish; with Easterns champion Minnesota coming in at #3, and runner-up UCF at #8. In wild-card watch for D1, Northern Iowa currently has a fourth bid locked up for the North Central, and while teams like Iowa and Luther haven’t done enough to earn a bid they certainly have to be happy with this. UNC-W has also done enough to earn the Atlantic Coast region a strength bid, taking the second to last one available. What should these two teams be worried about? It seems like Texas A&M’s season is over, and they didn’t get the South Central another bid, and the same goes for Stanford (Southwest), Victoria (Northwest), and Georgia (Southeast). Two teams that are in action and both at the New England Open that have a chance are Dartmouth and Penn State. Should these teams do well enough (re: beat Tufts or Harvard especially), they could possibly jump one or both of UNC-W or Northern Iowa and take one of those strength bids.
So after the weekend, it seems like Dartmouth did all it could to get itself a bid. Even though Northern Iowa did all it could by crushing lower-level competition, Dartmouth won New England Open while going through both Tufts and Harvard. Some slack has been given to the other two in-region teams, with some claiming they rested their starters. It didn’t seem that way, nor are we truly sure that they’ll secure a bid with Northern Iowa playing the way they did. I think the North Central holds onto that last bid.
4. Easterns Highlights
Speaking of Easterns again, can we mention how awesome that right now, I can link you to SEVEN different highlight videos? One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. And one of those is a top ten video, that shouldn’t even count.
5. USA All-Stars at Dream Cup
I watched through the USA All-Star team playing against both the Japanese team Buzz Bullets and their U-23 squad. Here are some thoughts from when I watched the games…
- What are these jerseys? I understand that on short notice, or perhaps without USA Ultimate’s approval, they couldn’t use the same jersey’s Revolver used at Worlds last year… but purple for a team USA jersey? Just doesn’t seem right.
- Glad to see a crowd for the games.
- The D by Cochran at 2:20 is amazing. Especially when the camera switches angles, and you see just how early he recognized the play to get over to make that grab.
- Really liked that endzone shot for replays of scores/defense there. You can see what’s happening a lot better from the overhead. While sideline overhead may be best for the entire field – rather than the field level back of endzone shot these videos use – I feel like that overhead back of field shot is perfect for the workings of the endzone.
- Notice how at 6:07, the Buzz Bullets come in a very lose zone, with what seems like no mark, in order to deter the hammers. It didn’t work at first (stopping hammers, they did get a break), but I’m interested to see if it works over time.
- And in that zone, and for most points by the Bullets, you hear both the crowd, and a lot of talking from the players on the field and off the field. Definitely helpful on D, especially if they’re trying to stop the hammers.
- The Bullets seemed very physical on defense, getting in the way of the USA cutters, and sometimes completely wrapping themselves around the guy with the disc for the mark.
- Great sportsmanship. Seemed like after every big play, someone from the other team was visibly saying good job or something – you always like seeing that in International play.
- Great cut by Freechild for the score at 14:30
- Surprised by some of the miscommunications/throws with this game being the finals, was expecting to see more of that against the U-23 squad than in this game.
- Watch #97 around 31:14 as the US tries to tie up the game. As soon as I saw him look away from his man and look for where the disc was going, I thought for sure he was getting the D. Good grab by Freechild, and pass for the score.
- All game long, even with the backhand force, the Buzz Bullets looked and got to the break side. That lead to very easy scores, as it always will.
- And finally on the last point, start around 34:50 for after the timeout call, you see the USA team force flick but the Bullets work the break side still, and get the score and the win.
- Hammer city right off the bat for Team USA. Makes me wonder if the Buzz Bullets game planned? Maybe I should’ve watched this game first…
- Basic defensive troubles by the Japanese O-line lead to an easy break for USA. Not keeping the force, and getting beat force side were very prominent.
- Once again, very vocal sideline from the US opponents.
- After the Japanese break, you see #20 (I think) on the U-23 squad almost poach off and get a D (4:22-ish), but because he waited just a second too late to commit, he ended up getting beat for a score.
- At around 6:25-6:30, the US defense has a lot of problems keeping a consistent force, and they almost get burned for it.
- Starting around 11:11, it looks like the US tries a poachy-zone look. It doesn’t stay for long, nor does it work to contain the Japanese offense, as they score.
- Well wait! Travel called. Point on the defense not working still stands, even if Brodie did call a travel.
- US ends up scoring on that point, Brodie skys a dude in the process. Still, the zone thing the US team tried didn’t work.
- At 15:15ish, you see Freechild and the Japanese player have a slight confusion on language. To be honest, I’m surprised that didn’t happen more in a self-officiated game (between these two). But I didn’t see too much of it.
- As the US runs away with it, the Japanese kind of keep it at that buffer. Even with a 14-7 lead late in the game, it still looks like the Japanese squad is (for the most part) making errors on their part to turn the disc over, and from there the US capitalizes.
6. NexGen Announces Tour Dates
NexGen 3.0 has yet to be announced, but the tour dates for the next squad have been. The typical dates are included, with major stops with all the major club teams – except for D.C. and Truck Stop, though there is a gap in the dates between Ring of Fire (Raleigh) and PoNY (NYC) to add a date in the future. The interesting part I thought was that none of the dates are against any of the MLU/AUDL teams from the areas, something we saw last year when NexGen took on the Spinners in Philadelphia. I wonder if this is something that could be added or changed in the future?
7. MLU Steps up its game
Some big announcements for the MLU over the past week or so, the most important I think is their partnership with Elemental Technologies. If you’ll remember, Elemental provides the video encoding technology for live streams of television programs, such as games, and is used by both ESPN and NGN to deliver their content – and now they’ll provide the encoding for the MLU streams. Also part of the deal is that the Portland Stags will have the Elemental logo on their kits, which don’t look half bad – definitely see the soccer influence. The next big announcement is that this weekend’s preseason showcase game between the New York Rumble and Philadelphia Spinners will be streamed live, in order to test the system. Those two obviously play hand in hand, and it’ll be very interesting to see the other things that the press release states they’ll be testing at the pre-season game. And lastly, the most recent announcement is that the popular Apple App Store game ‘Championship Ultimate’ is now known as ‘Major League Ultimate’ with some improvements to the AI and UI from the previous versions. The league seems to not only be embracing proven grounds for expanding their league image and brand, through streaming, exhibition games, etc., but also through new frontiers that should implant the MLU in the minds of both ultimate players and fans as the premier league.