Friday, April 8, 2011

Centex, Bids and More! Part II

There are several really interesting comments to yesterday's post and my replies out-grew the comment box, so here they are in their own post.

On the bid allocations/Centex format:
One unfortunate consequence of the bid allocation and the format was the last round game for 17th between UNC and Texas. UNC had to put most of their team on airplanes and had only 8 women left for the game. Texas wanted to play (probably partly to avenge Saturday's 11-12 loss) and refused the double forfeit. How much of this decisions was influenced by the bid process? How much was influenced by just wanting to play? I can't help but think that it is influenced by the anxiety about bids. Every team from every region felt it. Everyone was watching how their worst-best-team was finishing. We were watching UBC struggle. The Central teams were watching ISU and Syzygy. The California teams were watching UCLA. UNC was worried about their own finish and Texas, as the best finisher in the South Central could do no better than 17! (Thanks to Lindsey for taking the time to explain some of UNC's thoughts on the system. My own frustrations were with the format and less with the bid allocations process, so I was probably projecting a bit.)

on Going forward/Next year
It is unclear how teams and tournaments will react to the system. It is pretty clear that there will be some changes because the current way the system is set up doesn't work. The early spring tournaments were set up to get people a lot of competition against a lot of teams. Wins and losses had no real consequence beyond team psyche. Experience and practice were the goals. Obviously, that is not the case. Here are some real changes that are likely:
  • Western goes to Midwest Throwdown. Western went to Stanford Invite this year and lost every game. 3-15 is a rough record. Had they gone to Midwest Throwdown, they would likely have come out at least .500, maybe better. As the 4th team in our Region (this year at least) they need to do something to bolster their chances of a 4th bid.
  • Teams 'mess up' rosters. Both UCLA (no Korb, no Kodiak) and us (no lots of people) would have been wise to not turn in rosters for Centex. Is this legal? I think so. Is it ethical? Good question. I don't know if Ottawa intentionally failed to submit a roster to Prez Day, but it would have been smart of them. They're flying across the country. They are leaving behind their star, Anne Mercier. They are playing westies who've been outside for months and there is still two feet of snow on the ground at home. This seems both smart and ethical. Is it ok for a team to decide two weeks before a tourney that they don't like there chances and then not turn in a roster? That seems a bit more dubious.
  • Tournaments restructure. I think Lindsey's concerns about experience and pressure a good ones. As teams begin to reevaluate their decisions about what tournaments to attend and how to approach them, there will be pressure on tournaments to change the way they are doing business. There was a similar change 10-15 years ago when the early spring tournaments really blew up. Prior to 2000, teams didn't travel all that much before spring break. At Carleton in the early 90s, we didn't even throw outside until Saturday morning at Easterns. Fly to Vegas? Fly to San Diego? Fly to Palo Alto? In February?
  • All this adds up to the fact that the landscape is changing. How will it end up? Who knows. Will it get to a good place? Who knows.
On parity
There is more parity this year than last year, partly because of natural fluctuations in the development of teams, but also because there is more talent across the board. Last year saw four teams (UW, UCSB, UofO and Wisco) at the peak of long periods of improvement. All four of those teams are worse now than they were at this time last year. That doesn't mean they won't surpass their previous incarnations; it's just a measure of where they are at this moment. At the same time, there are a number of teams (Cal, Stanford, Carleton, Wilmington, UNC, Michigan, UBC, UCLA...) who returned to the season largely intact and on the rise. The result is a whole lot of teams converging at the top.
Coaching plays a huge role in parity because it keeps teams from collapsing. Michigan is a great example. (Although if I'm wrong on this, Flywheel, let me know.) Their great 2009 E-Bae led team just missed quarters and then a ton of their players graduated. Historically, player-led teams collapsed at this point, sometimes folding up completely. This didn't happen and I would credit it to the continuity that coaching provides. While Flywheel is the example I used, it is by no means the only one.
As to our own (U of O's) losses and injury struggles: a loss is a loss is a loss. Teams beat us. I don't think you ever want to ignore a loss ('97 Sockeye, anyone? '05 Sockeye, anyone?) and you don't want to make excuses. If a loss is out of your control, how will you change it?


  1. Hey Lou, I'm writing the USAU Women's preview for the series. Wondering if you could provide a little commentary on Oregon. Specifically, Oregon's confidence level of defending its title and players to look out for... also your callahan nominee. Anything at all would be great. You can email me at Thanks!

  2. I wrote a response and it became a blog post of it's own:

  3. The easiest way for usau to stop intentional invalid/or non existent rosters is to still count the losses and/or negative impact games to your ranking, but not the wins and/or positive scores. If you want to play to get better and not have it count, go to a club tournament...

  4. There is a part of what I've said here that has been a bit misinterpreted, so I'd like to clarify and distill a couple of things. First, it shouldn't come as a surprise (although it did to me) that there would be growing pains with the way the system has been reworked. Part of what I was trying to think about was how teams are going to adjust and tournaments were going to adjust. Secondly, I was not advocating intentionally messing up rosters after the fact. That is obviously unethical and illegal. I was wondering where the line was on 'messing them up' before an event. Last year, we (Fugue) accidentally botched our roster prior to Centex and those results (including our loss to Wisco) didn't factor in to our ranking, which obviously helped us. Here are my questions:
    1. Let's say you are Ottawa or Carleton or Wisconsin and you decide to go to Prez Day. You need the tourney, but know you will struggle since you haven't played outside yet. Is it okay to not submit a roster to a sanctioned tourney?
    2. Let's say it is Centex and the best player on your team is hurt. You've already got your ten games. Is it okay to not submit a roster?

  5. Lou, because they are sanctioned events, you are required to submit a roster or you aren't permitted to play.

    What would be interesting is if next year a few events develop (or convert) to being non-sanctioned with the express purpose of allowing team/player development. Say, for top teams, keep Easterns, Centex, MWT, and Stanford as sanctioned but have Pres Day and one other event not sanctioned. Teams can get their 10 games in and play for the purpose of winning/earning strength bids at the sanctioned events and play to develop their players/teams at non-sanctioned events.

    This retains the benefits of determining strength bid on current season results while still allowing space for player development. It also requires no change in the rules.

  6. Yes, USAU made it very clear to tournament directors this year that every team must submit a roster or not be allowed to play, otherwise it would impact the ability of the TD to get future events sanctioned.

    It's not hard to envision a "smart" but highly unethical system where non-players (ie friends of captains who don't play ultimate) are registered for the USAU and rostered for one tournament each, and after the fact, only the ones associated with tournaments where the team did well are added to the final roster.

    With a simple scripted implementation of the ranking algorithm, you can even see empirically which combination of valid/invalid rosters yields the most bids for your region.

    You can even tell which games are the most important before a tournament - Stanford knew our game against Ohio at Terminus could conceivably solidify a 3rd bid for the SW and keep the OV region at 1 if we won. Unfortunately, results elsewhere (Tufts over Harvard) knocked us back down to 2 bids, but a loss to Ohio would have definitely meant only 2 bids for the region.

    How can we ensure that teams have valid rosters at every sanctioned event? Well, one way is to bar teams from participating in the series if they have any invalid rosters. Have more early-season non-sanctioned events to allow developmental play, and then make sure all rosters at sanctioned events are valid. If teams fail the roster check for even one event, then they can't play.

    That seems excessively harsh right now, but rostering is not that hard.

  7. The tricky issue here is squeezing developmental games into a tight regular season, especially for teams that can't get outside much in the winter. It's not a long season, especially when games are only on weekends. (Only so many weekends, after all, and you can't go to a full-fledged tournament on all of them.)

    Teams that want more developmental games are going to have to be more creative, like maybe trying for more one-offs (or maybe two or three games on a weekend) with other local teams. (This option is of course more difficult for teams in the Big Sky or Four Corners or Great Plains. But then, so is everything.) Remember triangular track meets (or whatever) in high school? As more and more tournaments become sanctioned, this is going to become a more attractive option for getting experience and developing bench players.

    Mike L.
    ex-University of Montana