April 5, 2014 by Keith Raynor in Analysis with 6 comments
Things seemed quite settled earlier this week when the women’s preliminary bid allocations were announced by USAU, with possibly drama coming out of the Southwest. The discussion since had been centered on the dominance of the Northwest, who captured a record 6 bids to the national championships. However, late Friday night news broke, revealing the Southwest would receive 3 bids, courtesy of UCLA, at the expense of the Atlantic Coast (via North Carolina).
The Northwest Conversation
After the Northwest’s preliminary status as a record-breaking 6 bid region was solidified, a conversation started by Lindsey Hack spread around the women’s Ultimate community. The questions were the why & how of the Northwest’s dominance – they’ve also won three of the last four College Championships – and what its impact or statement about the division was.
Excellent observations and theories were put forward, ranging from the rankings algorithm to youth development to weather. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, that conversation has turned into “Us vs. Them”, with the Northwest looking to take credit for and defend their achievement and the rest of the country – save maybe the Southwest – pointing to potential systemic issues.
The answer is unclear, and likely not so simple as to be boiled down to one source or another. The solutions could be numerous or could just merely require time and development.
What we do know is the Northwest will send 6 teams – all of whom are talented enough to deserve a spot – to the College Championships. Combined with the Southwest, that gives nearly half the country’s bids to the west coast, leaving eight regions to scramble for the remaining 11 bids.
The Southwest Hits a Buzzer Beater
The region as a whole seemed to be doing everything they could in the end of the season to forfeit a third bid. Their top four teams – Stanford, UC-Santa Barbara, UCLA, and UC-San Diego – were all taking losses to lower ranked teams. In their final combined tournaments, those four went 12-19, potentially dooming themselves.
It appeared they had until all the results were tallied. UC-San Diego’s results were reinstated, adding two blowouts wins to help boost UCLA; UC-Santa Barbara’s win over UCLA at the Santa Barbara Invite was not, another break for UCLA. A 3-6 out of region record for UCLA may not be impressive, but their three wins were over Texas, Western Washington, and the North Carolina team they edged out for the final strength bid.
South Central Claims Three In Strong Year
One of the two regions off the west coast to earn multiple bids was the South Central, who came home with a trio. Regional favorites Texas and Colorado who brought in a bid, with Melee claiming the auto-bid and Colorado doing enough at Northwest Challenge to get a strength bid. The surprise was the presence of Colorado State among the top 20.
Colorado State Hell’s Belles managed to effectively take the path less traveled. Their 14-0 record is impressive (their lone loss to Iowa State was thrown out), but they played only a single team in the top 30 (Michigan) and six teams in the top 50. CSU’s strongest showing was a 6-0 Centex, where four of their wins were blowouts.
Expect a highly competitive regionals, with Kansas being the scariest challenger, but the potential for Texas A&M or Colorado College to get into the mix.
The Big Picture
For the most part, this bid picture is pretty close to representative of the country’s unbalanced strength. Aside from the outliers of Colorado State and Harvard, who each only beat one top ranked team (coincidentally, it was Michigan for both), what appear to be the best team’s in the country earned their bids.
The Atlantic Coast will again be left to gripe, but doesn’t have the same case they did last year, when the region was stronger with three nationally prominent teams and still had a lone bid. North Carolina’s trip to California for a back to back did not do them any favors.
Most of the one bid regions have a very clear favorite, but the beauty of the college series is everyone gets their shot. There’s no math for anyone to abuse or hide behind, no seemingly invisible hand to hold you up or push you down. Now all that matters is winning.