The Eighth Man

Rankings Wrap-Up: Preseason Favorites Make their Moves

A dominant win over USC has our voters once again thinking of UCLA as a World Cup title contender. Credit: Kat Ignatova

A dominant win over USC has our voters once again thinking of UCLA as a World Cup title contender. Credit: Kat Ignatova

Rankings Wrap-Up is a biweekly companion piece to our rankings. The column is intended to establish some context within the rankings, examining not only which teams have moved and by how much, but also why.

 

It should be no surprise that Texas A&M retained its top spot in the rankings – the Aggies haven’t played an IQA official game since the Collegiate Cup. They may have been ineligible for the Bottom of the Bracket Invitational and unable to play in the Mardi Gras Cup, but A&M has been utterly dominant every time they’ve stepped on the pitch, undefeated with just two of their 10 matches ending within snitch range.

 

The University of Maryland retained its second spot, with only a 10-point loss to Villanova in the Mid Atlantic Regional finals on a Billy Greco snitch pull sullying their perfect record. But below the top two teams, there was plenty of movement, as teams rode tournament wins and dominant rivalry victories up the ranking slide.

 

 

The Risers:


Michigan State University (Previous Ranking: UR, New Ranking: 14):

We open with the biggest movers in quidditch this month. The Spitfires shook off an underwhelming performance in the Midwest Regionals – where they made the semifinals but failed to remain in snitch range against Bowling Green State University – to take the championship of the Glass City Classic in Toledo.  They survived a quarterfinal game in which they were dominated by Ohio State on two clutch snitch catches by Jacob Heppe.

With the semifinals of the Glass City Classic televised on BCSN, Michigan State had their revenge, defeating Bowling Green in the semifinals. The Spitfires dominated for most of the game, opening a large lead on the Marauders. Bowling Green slowly crept back into the game while expertly defending the snitch, and finally forced overtime before succumbing to another extra time grab from Heppe.

After a hard-fought finals win over University of Michigan, Michigan State emerged with their first tournament win since the Great Lakes Conference Tournament in October. Barring an unexpected drop-off in the coming months, the Spitfires seem to be a good bet to stay in the top 20 until at least World Cup.

 

University of California in Los Angeles (+4, Previous Ranking: 9, New Ranking: 5):

Most teams residing in the top 10 arrived there by crushing a lot of minnows and coming out on top against the occasional top side. UCLA’s road has been sufficiently rockier thanks to the country’s second toughest schedule by IQA metrics.

UCLA entered the season as a legitimate World Cup contender but stumbled early, raising questions over whether they were even the best team in Los Angeles after Hollywood Bowl losses to the University of Southern California and University of Miami on snitch pulls. Then they went to the WxSW Interregional Showcase in New Mexico and took second place, beating University of Texas-Austin in pool play but experiencing a blowout in the finals. They also struggled against other competition, needing a snitch pull to break a tie with the Westen Region mercenary team.

Since then, they seem to have righted the ship with a strong effort as an unofficial team at a Dead Week Classic tournament where USC stumbled. What really boosted them in the rankings was their most recent effort against the USC Trojans, a 150-40 thumping on USC’s home turf. Although USC was shorthanded in that match, the momentum seems to be on UCLA’s side, and they’ll enter this weekend’s Western Cup as favorites.

 

University of Texas-Austin (+2, Previous Ranking: 5, New Ranking: 3):

This team came into the season as the odds-on favorite to win the World Cup, but they’ve seen their star fall slightly on the back of a bundle of key injuries, most prominently those of beaters Jacob Adlis and Lauren Carter. At last fall’s Diamond Cup, Texas was upset in the semifinals by a rising Baylor University team. They stumbled again at the WxSW Interregional Showcase, losing to UCLA in preliminary play by 50 points before redeeming themselves with a dominant victory over UCLA.

At the Mardi Gras Cup on Feb 3, Texas finally showed the dominant form that we first became accustomed to at World Cup V, where they entered bracket play as the No. 1 seed. They ended Mardi Gras pool play with a point differential more than doubling that of the second seed, and were only held within snitch range once during the entire tournament. They ended the tournament with a bang, dominating Louisiana State University by 140 quaffle points.

Their true test awaits in the Southwest Regional, where we’ll see if Texas can navigate a difficult field of upset-ready teams all itching to give the new World Cup favorites a fight for the regional championship.

 

 

The Fallers:


University of Southern California (-5, Previous Ranking: 4, New Ranking: 9):

USC started the season as the darlings of the quidditch world, riding the elite play of fledgling star Remy Contasers, the still-developing August Lührs, and underappreciated David Demarest to a major tournament victory in the star-studded Hollywood Bowl, a performance that launched them all the way to the top of our rankings.

Since then, their path has gotten rockier. They held on to their undefeated record through November, but the sloppy conditions at the Dead Week Classic helped contribute to a shocking upset, as a quick off-pitch snitch grab by Sarah Staatz gave Stanford University their famous win over the Trojans. USC also fell to an unofficial UCLA team at that tournament, but the fluke nature of the loss kept them in our voters’ good graces.

Unfortunately, they were not able to hide from a blowout 110-point loss to UCLA in an official game that has many people questioning their elite status. One could argue that USC still enters the Western Cup as co-favorites, but they definitely need the crown more than their crosstown rivals to revive some of that positive momentum.

 

University of South Florida (-3, Previous Ranking: T-16, New Ranking: T-19):

The Bulls finished in the top eight of World Cup V, winning what was widely believed to be the toughest pool in the tournament and taking down a perennial power in Emerson College before falling to semi-finalists Texas A&M.

They then proceeded to lose many of that team’s playmakers, with Team USA chaser Sean Pagoada moving to Miami’s team and Sean Snipes joining the army and thus limiting his playtime. While they have still consistently proven themselves to be the second best team in the FQC, there seems to be a good amount of distance between them and Miami. Since we published the most recent rankings they fell to the Hurricane by 70 points, but they looked fairly comfortable doing it, beating University of Florida and Florida State University by 70-point margins.

To be fair, USF likely didn’t slip much because of their overall play; they were jumped in the rankings by two teams on the rise in Michigan State and Michigan. However, their general lack of any impressive wins combined with the relative silence of the FQC outside of the state of Florida makes them easy to overlook. Look for this team to get a little more press after the South Regionals.

 

On the Horizon:
There are plenty of events on the docket before we pump out our next rankings. First up are the West Regionals on Feb. 16 and 17, when both UCLA and USC will look to improve their outlook. The tournament will also serve as a chance for the two Californian community teams, the Lost Boys and the Silicon Valley Skrewts, each of whom have received votes in recent polls, to assert themselves among the nation’s top 20 teams.

The Southwest Regionals take place the weekend after Western Cup, and will showcase four ranked teams – No. 1 Texas A&M, No. 3 Texas, No. 11 Baylor, and No. 13 Louisiana State University, along with Austin Quidditch, who received six votes in the current rankings after beating LSU at Mardi Gras.

Outside of regional championships, the Empire Classic Invitational takes place on Feb. 23, serving as a competition opportunity for six World Cup qualifiers spread out across three regions. The tournament features No. 2 Maryland and No. 16 Hofstra University, along with two teams just outside the top 20 in Tufts University and McGill University. That same day, University of Virginia will host A Cup Worth Fighting For, featuring No. 4 Villanova University along with Ohio State University, who also received votes in the current rankings, in addition to many Mid-Atlantic qualifiers.

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