This is the biggest weekend in the college Ultimate regular season. A number of tournaments take place this weekend, but four stand out. Well, really one huge tournament stands out, but a few others will be worth nothing. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action this weekend, shall we?
Collecting much of the top Open talent in Wilmington, Easterns will be the final elite open battle before the series. Some teams are making late adjustments while others are in critical bid situations demanding success.
If any teams have made themselves the frontrunners, it would be this collection of #1 seeds: Oregon, Carleton, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin. Behind them are a line of teams that could be in the mix, but haven’t distinguished themselves enough from their tier. Tufts is coming off a semis appearance at Stanford Invite, but also has a loss to Harvard and a 6 point loss to Pitt. UNC Darkside came into Stanford with undefeated wins of ACCUC & QCTU, but lost to Pitt and Colorado in Cali. Florida has wins over Pitt and Georgia Tech, but hasn’t faced much elite competition. The same is true of Florida State, who does have wins over Carleton and Stanford, but few other notable results. All four of these teams sit as #2 seeds. The #3 seed group are teams that have the talent to make the bracket in Madison, but haven’t shown us the consistency or elite wins to write them in yet. Minnesota’s only showing was at Pres Day, where they lost only one game (to Arizona) but didn’t see this level of competition. Central Florida, Colorado, and Stanford all have been inconsistent despite talented rosters and high expectations. Ohio is likely to make it at Nationals, but their struggles on Sunday and their lack of depth raises questions.
It is tough to peg games to watch with such a high level of competition, so keep an open eye.
The field here is led by Southeast title contenders, Georgia Tech and Georgia. The region currently holds three bids, but these teams are right behind those and capable of taking a spot come Regionals, and any losses they take this weekend will sting. The other one seeds are UMass, who had some close losses at Warm Up and went undefeated at the Woodside Invite, and LSU, the next team in line in the Southeast. The top Gulf Coast team has solid record and has been competitive with the elite teams they’ve faced, but have yet to get a big win. In Pool A, NC State has yet to really put it together consistently, but their game against Cinci should be a treat: the teams are 1-1 against each other, with those games decided by one and two points. Williams is a dangerous three seed, having started off strong with their Santa Barbara Invite results and showing they can beat strong teams. Alabama is a team I keep feeling will be good, and on paper, I like them, but they never seem to perform to their capability. Wash U is an intriguing four seed, having a great record, and while they have not seen too many strong teams, they definitely seem like someone who could break seed.
Games to watch: Virginia Tech vs. Wash U (8:00 AM), Georgia vs. Williams (10:15 AM), NC State vs. Cincinnati, Alabama vs. Williams (1:45 PM), Massachusetts vs. Delaware (3:30 PM)
A few hours away from Terminus, Southerns will bring together a wide variety of teams looking to tune up before the Series and get a sense of where their strengths really lie. Princeton travels to Statesboro as the top seed overall and holding an autobid in the Metro East. They have wins over Connecticut and Georgetown and have only lost three games (UNC-W, Ohio, and by two points to Maryland). James Madison will take the next top seed spot, with a 6-1 record where they only lost to UNC-Wilmington in the Hellfish Bonanza final.. UC-San Diego and UC-Santa Barbara are coming a long way, looking to put together win-filled weekends. Neither has had consistent results from Santa Barbara Invite, Pres Day, and Stanford Open, and would like to test themselves against some new teams. Luther, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Minnesota-Duluth will all represent the North Central as one seeds. Luther comes in 5-2, with a win over Iowa, but having only gotten outside for one tourney. Black Cat, conversely, has traveled to a number of tournaments, making a name for themselves at Centex with a win over Arizona. They are led by Kevin Brown and Logan Preuss, who have seen increased attention since being named to the U-23 Open team. Minnesota-Duluth lived the dream last season, stealing a bid to Nationals with a great Regionals run. Nobody really knows what they can do this year, as this will be their first foray outside this spring. Appalachian State is the final one seed. They’ve also shown inconsistency, winning only a game at Queen City Tune Up, but having a stronger Eastern Qualifiers. Their wins over Michigan, Cincinnati, and NC State suggest a capable squad still trying to figure it out. A wild card may be Carleton College GOP, who had a lot of success at D3 Warm Up, the last time we saw them. The rest of the field is a bit of a mish-mash, meaning there could be some surprises. Conditions could have a little wind, but the rain that is expected could have an impact.
Games to Watch: Princeton vs. Chicago, Luther vs. Carleton College GOP, UC-Santa Barbara vs. Georgia Southern, Appalachian State vs. Davidson (12:30 PM)
With the weather craziness this season, Chicago Invite is a critical tournament for a number of regional teams. However, headlining the field will be #1 seed Northern Iowa. Currently, they hold a strength bid for the North Central region, as the #11 team in USAU’s rankings. They lost a single game in the one tournament they’ve been to, so people are curious who they are as a team, but they could inherit the position Luther held in the NC and are eager to prove themselves. The #2 seed overall is Missouri, a team UNI beat handily at Huck Finn, but otherwise has a pretty solid record on the season. One of their only four losses on the season comes at the hand of #3 seed overall, North Texas. Like UNI, they have only lost one game (to Texas A&M), but all of their results are from one tournament. The final #1 seeded team is Carnegie-Melon, a team just below the top tier in the Ohio Valley and looking to break through. They are focused team that would love to build the momentum they’ll need going into OV Regionals.
There are some other teams to keep an eye on throughout the field. Eastern Michigan went to Centex as a ranked team holding the Great Lakes strength bid. They struggled mightily, losing their leader James Highsmith to a concussion in the first game, and coming away from Austin with just two wins. A few weeks ago, they’d be a #1 seed, but they’ll slot in as a #3 seed, but expect a team with a chip on its shoulder. Oklahoma is another team whose Centex results warrant notice. Their performance – 5-2 with wins over Georgia Tech, Cal, and Kansas – flew under the radar, even though they went broke seed, going from last to 9th. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them break seed again. Dayton, Iowa, Tennessee, and Iowa State are all teams that could do damage and exceed expectations.
Games to Watch: Missouri vs. Eastern Michigan, Northern Iowa vs. Oklahoma (9:00 AM), Iowa St. vs Eastern Michigan, Tennessee vs. Oklahoma, Dayton vs. Iowa (12:00 PM), North Texas vs. Dayton, Northern Iowa vs. Tennessee (1:30 PM)