The Eighth Man

Rankings Wrap-Up: Regionals Bear Out Big Changes

Baylor’s (featured here scoring on The Silver Phoenixes) surprising win at Southwest Regionals has them moving way up The Eighth Man’s Top 20. Credit: Kevin Freeman

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.

 

Unlike the most recent rankings, there was a large degree of uncertainty as to which teams should end up in the top spots. For the first time all season, Texas A&M was defeated in an official game, losing in overtime to Baylor in the semifinals of the Southwestern Regionals. However, their strong overall play and the lack of a clear successor has helped them hold onto the top spot in our rankings. On the west coast, the Western Regionals confirmed that UCLA is, in fact, the best in the West. In the northeast, several World Cup qualifiers clashed with mixed results for various sides in the Empire Classic. Finally, the Mid-Atlantic hosted a tournament worth fighting for, and one World Cup contender showed that without nearly their whole starting lineup, they’ll have trouble against some of the other Mid-Atlantic qualifiers.

 

 

Staying the Same:

Texas A&M (Unchanged, Previous Ranking: 1, New Ranking: 1):

There’s a strong urge to ensure a number one team loses its top spot after being defeated. The Aggies suffered their first loss of the season, falling 140-110 to Baylor in overtime with Baylor getting both regulation and overtime snitch pulls. However, this loss was not enough to take the top spot away from A&M, as it only cost them one first place vote. Our voters looked at overall statistics and decided that outscoring the opponent by 30 quaffle points in a game generally indicates they are the better team. But if A&M were to fall again before World Cup, their top spot would be in serious jeopardy. For now they remain the best team in quidditch.

 

 

The Risers:

Lost Boys Quidditch Club (Debut at 18, Previous Ranking: N/R, New Ranking: 18):

How can a team not receive a single vote in previous rankings then suddenly place inside the top 20? Short of actually winning a regional, the Lost Boys did as well as you can. The Lost Boys entered the Western Regionals with many believing they would qualify for World Cup, but almost the entire quidditch world predicted a rematch between UCLA and USC in the finals. The tournament had other plans however. In the semifinals, UCLA defeated USC while the Lost Boys ousted rival Silicon Valley Skrewts 100-60 with a quick snitch pull in overtime after the Skrewts tied it with the first snitch catch. This triumph made them the first community team to make it to a regional final and showed exactly how a team can debut in a top 20 spot.

 

Baylor (+7, Previous Ranking: 11, New Ranking: 4):

Speaking of things nobody predicted… Powerhouses Texas A&M and Texas were on their way to a rematch in the Southwestern Regional finals, but a funny thing happened on the way: Baylor shocked everyone outside the Southwest by taking out A&M in the semifinals on a pair of clutch snitch pulls. Not content to sit on that upset, Baylor matched up with Texas in the finals. Trailing by no more than 30 points throughout the final, they pulled the snitch for the championship only ten points down. All of a sudden, the big three conversation of Texas, Texas A&M, and LSU had been interrupted by a fourth challenger.

 

McGill University (+6, Previous Ranking: 21, New Ranking: 15):

This team from the frozen north becomes the first team outside of the United States to make our top 20. The Canadian Cup champions have been knocking on the door of our top 20 for a while, but without other highly competitive teams to play, our voters have underestimated their ability. That changed during the Empire Classic when McGill tangled with five of the best teams in the Northeast, only losing twice: by a snitch pull to Tufts in pool play and against Maryland in the finals 100-30 with Maryland catching the snitch. The second place finish in a tournament of World Cup teams (including several teams with second day aspirations at World Cup) was enough to bump McGill into the top 20 in our voters’ minds.

 

University of California in Los Angeles (+2, Previous Ranking: 5, New Ranking: 3):

UCLA has done everything it’s been asked in the last two weeks to show that they’re a top team. They won the Western Regionals while keeping almost all opponents out of snitch range. Only the Lost Boys came close in the finals, which constantly hung in the 30-40 point range but eventually UCLA caught the snitch and ended the game with a 130-60 victory. They were rewarded by receiving a first place vote in the newest ranking, seeing themselves rise from fifth to third overall.

 

University of Texas Austin (+1, Previous Ranking: 3, New Ranking: 2):

With Texas, the Southwest region dominates three of the top four spots in our rankings. For its second place finish in the Southwestern regional, Texas was rewarded with a bump to second overall. Utterly dominant in the tournament, Texas won every game in pool play by at least 100 points, their quarterfinal matchup by 300 points, and their semifinal by 180 points over Texas State. Their path to the championship, however, was sabotaged by an incendiary Baylor, who managed to pull the snitch to defeat Texas by 20 points in the finals. Still, the dominant performance helped boost them to second place overall.

 

 

The Fallers:

Villanova (-4, Previous Ranking: 4, New Ranking: 8):

Villanova went 1-3 at University of Virginia’s Cup Worth Fighting For, which was enough to have our voters drop them by a decent amount. However, Villanova was missing 6 of its starting 7 players and much of its depth. Still, this was an official tournament and under Villanova’s name, and as such, they were penalized by our voters to some degree.

 

University of Maryland (-3, Previous Ranking: 2, New Ranking: 5):

Unlike McGill, who took second place in the Empire Classic and saw a jump in the rankings, Maryland won the Empire Classic and saw their ranking fall. A bruised and battered Maryland team made the trek to New York for the Empire Classic, losing only to McGill in pool play before ultimately getting revenge in the championship game. Maryland was playing against some incredibly strong competition, and most of their fall is due to the rise of other teams more than their own weaknesses. Still, when matched up against regional champions and runners-up, a team will frequently have to be perfect to maintain such a high ranking. Maryland, for better or worse, was not this weekend. However, the high result clearly shows that our voters feel that Maryland can contend for a World Cup title.

 

University of Southern California (-2, Previous Ranking: 9, New Ranking: 11):

USC’s only competition in the last two weeks has been the Western Regionals, where they tied for third place after being dispatched by ultimate champion UCLA 140-30 with the snitch pull for UCLA. The big question with USC, as has been for the last few months, is which USC team will ultimately show up to World Cup? USC has been hampered by injuries and the inability to attend tournaments. They’ve shown that, when at their best, they can beat top teams like Miami and UCLA. However, when they’re not at full strength, they absolutely cannot compete with a top-tier team like UCLA and they fall into the second tier of western teams.

 

 

On the Horizon:

We probably won’t see as much gameplay going into the next rankings as we did this week. The most major tournament will be the South Regionals on March 2 and 3, where No. 6 University of Miami will look to defend its ranking, as it has done all season long inside the Florida Quidditch Conference. Most of the rest of the Top 20 will likely be inactive for the next couple of weeks, though many teams that are working toward the top 20, including Kansas Quidditch, will be active in the Spring Breakout Tournament hosted by the University of Missouri on March 9.

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