Friday, September 24, 2010

College Redraw: What went okay

As with any plan, some things work and somethings don't and some things fall in the middle. Since I'd like to be more than just a whiner, I'll append solutions to each.

1. Travel time. They helped resolve some of the problems, but left some BIG ones, particularly in the west. In the NW, we no longer have two contenders, UBC (2008 champs) and Stanford (2007 champs) in the same region even though they are separated by an 18 hour drive. Likewise, in the SW, they don't have Colorado anymore which means the teams can probably all drive to Regionals, which is a big savings.

The solution? Twelve regions, the two new regions being formed out of the interior West (ID, MT, SD ND and the four corner.) This of course means creating something out of nothing: two regions that have traditionally had only one team (Colorado) with any national standing. But look at the Metro East. When it came into existence with the last redraw, it was the laughing stock of ultimate, routinely getting multiple bids based on size and then those teams playing in the shit box for 14th, 15th and 16th. This year? Pitt and Cornell made semis. If the USAU is committed to growth, we need a little help out here in the West and having a conference that includes teams 17 hours apart isn't very helpful.

2. Tournament size. The 20 team nationals is a great tournament. The format is a wonderful one and the four days makes for a really lovely event. That said, it's not big enough.

The solution? 24 teams. That allows for the twelve regions described above and also give the tournament a bit more flexibility. I have always been one for the tough cut, the quick cut off into bracket play (should be 40% to 50% of teams), but two recent teams have made me change my mind on this and look for a larger and more inclusive nationals. Western Washington (under Alyssa) and UW- Eau Claire (under Robyn) are teams that went from nothing to contenders in a few short years and really deserved a trip to the show. In Westerns case they had to beat teams like Cal, Oregon and UBC to make nationals. In Eau Claire's case, they had to beat Syzygy. A larger field makes it more likely that these teams will get their trip to the show - a just reward.

3. Someone had to get the shaft. There is no way to rearrange the regions without someone, somewhere getting screwed and this time, it's the California women's division. With five of last year's national qualifiers (Cal, Stanford, UCSB, UCLA and USC), four of whom where quarterfinalists, someone is going to get heartbroken. Oh yeah. Did I mention 2002 National champs San Diego? Or up-and-coming Sonoma State or Arizona? What a mess.

The solution? Practice hard and cross your fingers.

4. Awkward region shapes. There are some weird region shapes out west and a lot of it derives from the USAU's decision to stick to state lines. Makes things a bit easier, but at the same time, splitting huge states like we have out west would have given some flexibility to the design of the regions. It also would have made some regions a bit more manageable travel-wise.

The solution? Ditch the state-line-region-line requirement.

5. Regular season. First of all, let's all quit pretending it's a regular season. When Oregon plays Syzygy in February, that's the preseason, regardless of what you call it and regardless of what it counts for. Second, I don't think we really have a sense of what this is going to do to team's decisions about what tournies they are going to play. Take UNCW for example. They came out west to play Stanford Invite last March and got pounded. It definitely helped them as a team and they were much better prepared at Nationals. It hurt their region by probably costing them a bid. It's unclear to me exactly how the math work, but having the best team in your region get beat by the fourth and fifth teams from the west is not helpful. Had UNCW not come, they would have probably posted a gaudy 25-0 record going into Nationals and that number would have floated their ranking and the ranking of the entire east. The computer ranking system is very dependent on inter-region play and if teams begin to neglect travel in order to boost their rankings....

The solution? Wait and see. I'm not sure it's going to be a problem yet. We are still getting pretty robust rankings, although I think we'd benefit from more tournies like Prez Day and Mardi Gras, particularly in the east.

Next: what went wrong.

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