Guest Column: Southwest Beater Analysis


Credit: Flax Photography

Credit: Flax Photography

Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to US Quidditch Cup 9. It now includes an updated section with the author reflecting on his predictions.

Many have claimed that the Northwest qualifiers are dramatically over-seeded, while others have joked that the region’s strongest competitor is the mud. One betting line offered via Facebook was that the Northwest would survive pool play with a better total record than at least half the other regions. Frankly, I’d take that bet any day of the week. A more interesting question though is this: would the Northwest have the weakest record after pool play? Despite everything you might say about the Northwest, I think the answer is no.

To get a sense of what is expected  from the newest region, I’m going to first look at where the Northwest teams are seeded as opposed to where they probably deserve to be seeded.

Starting at the top, we have Boise State University. Boise State is officially 8-2 against non-Northwest US Quidditch Cup-qualified teams. However, if we look at the actual outcomes of their games against Crimson Elite, rather than the forfeits, they are 7-3. They are 2-3 against the Crimson Elite, sixth in the West according to my rankings. Their lack of dominance against lower pot teams, and comparatively poor record (in terms of head to head and games with common opponents) with Crimson Elite, suggests that Boise State is realistically a mid to high Pot Three-caliber team.

The Rain City Raptors have a record of 1-0 against non-Northwest qualified teams. Their single win was a snitch-range victory over tenth in the west, Silicon Valley Vipers. The Vipers have a couple of snitch-range wins against lower qualified teams, all but one from behind in a similar pre-pull state to their game against Rain City. Rain City looks like it’s probably a Pot Four caliber team, prior to the departure of Brandon Booth, who was touted as one of the best players in the Northwest. As a result, consideration as Pot Four-caliber may be a bit charitable.

Finally, we have the University of British Columbia. British Columbia is 0-2 against non Northwest qualifiers, with a snitch-range loss to No. 7 in the West, Utah State, and an out-of-range loss to No. 6 Crimson Elite. They are 0-3 against Rain City, with only one game being in range, and don’t really have any victories of note. They seem very much like a Pot Five-caliber team.

Now, all of this seems to have very dark implications for the Northwest, but it is important to remember that this is the apparent relative strength of the teams, not the strength at which they were seeded.

Boise State is a one seed, facing off against New York Quidditch Club, UCLA, Sam Houston State University and Michigan State University. I see Boise State as getting roughly 2.25 expected wins in this pool, slightly better than a Pot Three-caliber team would expect, despite a fairly poor draw for a one seed.

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Rain City is a one seed, and somewhat karmically drew Texas. On the other hand, they drew the Vipers, the one possible draw they could get in the tournament who they’ve already proven they can beat. Second, they drew the Southern Storm, a relatively weak Pot Four team who could give them a potential win. I see Rain City coming out of the pool with 1.45 expected wins, better than expected from a Pot Three-caliber team.

 

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The University of British Columbia drew a pool with Lone Star Quidditch Club, University of Maryland, Cal Quidditch and Central Michigan University. Lone Star and Maryland are going to be decisive losses, but Cal and Central Michigan are winnable games. I see British Columbia having .9 expected wins in this pool, which certainly isn’t great, but still better than expected from a Pot Five-caliber team.

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As a whole, this means that I expect the Northwest to have 4.6 expected wins out of 12 games, for 38% expected win percentage. It’s certainly not a great statistic, but I suspect it may not be the worst.

Looking at the South’s interregional games against qualified opponents, they are 3 -9, winning only 30% of the time when favored to win, and losing 100% of the time they have been favored to lose. The South is sending Miami, Southern Storm, InTENNsity and TTU, who may well be similar caliber teams to the Northwestern delegation, but are seeded in Pots Three, Three, Three and Five, respectively, rather than Pots One, One and Three.

Miami is the shining light for the South in interregional play, having out-of-range wins over Pot Four University of Virginia and Pot Five Emerson College, along with snitch-range losses to Pot Two Maryland and Boston University. The team’s willingness to travel likely helped them this season, as they went from being in the conversation for number two in Florida to winning the regional championship and becoming the only Florida team to qualify. Miami looks like a low Pot Two or a high Pot Three-caliber team.

TTU is 0-2 against out of region qualified opponents. They have an in range loss to Pot Three Appalachian Apparators, and an out of range loss to Pot One UNC. In region they have a snitch-range loss to Miami. TTU is, like the actual rankings, a Pot Three-caliber team.  

inTENNsity are 1-2 against out of region qualified opponents. Their one win was a snitch-range win against Pot Three Appalachian, who also has one in range victory over them. They also have an out of range loss to Pot Four Ohio State. In region they have split games with Southern Storm. inTennsity are probably a Pot Four caliber team.

The Southern Storm is 0-2 against out of region qualified opponents, with out of snitch-range losses to Pot One UNC and Pot Three Appalachian. Their only win over a qualified opponent was a snitch-range game against Pot Three inTENNsity who they are 1-1 against with the loss out of range. The Southern Storm is likely a low Pot Four caliber team.

Now that we’ve assessed the capacities of the South’s teams, we need to put them in the context of their pools to see how many wins the South can expect.

Miami is a Pot Three facing off against Texas Cavalry, District of Columbia Quidditch Club, Utah State, and Syracuse.

Cavalry’s dominant beating and physicality are likely to prove too much for Miami, and while District of Columbia is probably better than the Maryland team that Miami played a close game with. However, Utah State is a very winnable game for Miami, as is Syracuse. I see Miami as having 2.0 expected wins in this pool, which is exactly average for a Pot Three team.

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TTU is a Pot Three team in a pool with Michigan, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and RIT. Michigan has a reputation for trampling lower seed teams and dominating with their physicality, and I don’t expect to see anything else there. Similarly, Oklahoma State has made a habit of abusing higher seeds from other regions. Penn State was a regional finalist, but has been very inconsistent, which gives TTU opportunities. RIT is definitely a winnable game for TTU. I see TTU as having 1.1 expected wins in this pool, which is relatively low for a Pot Three team.

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inTENNsity is a Pot Three team in a pool with Bowling Green, Boston University, the Silicon Valley Skrewts, and Lock Haven. Bowling Green is a relatively vulnerable Pot One team, with a recent loss to Pot Four Illinois State. That said, ISU’s play style positions them for upsets while also making them vulnerable to the same. Boston is a very athletic team with aggressive beating of the sort that inTENNsity probably aren’t used to. They could win, but it’s not likely. The Skrewts look like a bit of a shell of their former selves, but they are still a smart team that has found ways to win games they probably shouldn’t. Expect this game to be close, and a more comfortable match for the Skrewts than for inTENNsity. Lock Haven is athletic, but they frequently look lost on the pitch. This match should definitely favor inTENNsity. I see inTENNsity as having 1.45 expected wins in this pool, which is on the low side for a Pot Three team.

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The Southern Storm is a Pot Four team in a pool with Rain City, Texas, Appalachian, and the Silicon Valley Vipers. I expect the Southern Storm to have a slight disadvantage against Rain City, little chance against Texas, a fairly low chance against Appalachian, and a good match-up against SVV. I see the Southern Storm as having 1.35 expected wins in pool play, which is relatively high for a Pot Four team.

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I expect the South as a whole to win 5.9 matches out of 16, for an expected win percentage of 37%, just under the Northwest’s expected 38%. Now, we have to take everything with a grain of salt. These estimates are made with a very small sample of data for both in-region and out-of-region games, and the general lack of interregional play makes it hard to judge the relative merits of teams on opposite sides of the country.

While I don’t expect the Northwest to perform better than the average region in pool play, I think it’s more likely than not that the Northwest will not have the poorest performance in pool play.

I’ve shown that there is reason to believe that the South may be marginally worse, but other regions could also easily fall below the Northwest, given the seeding and pools.

Post Event Analysis
My basic prediction was that the Northwest as a region would have a below average winning percentage through pool play, but would not have the lowest average win percentage. This proved to be true, as the Northwest won 41.7% of their games, which was the 3rd lowest among the eight regions, beating the South (25%) and the Midwest (31.3%). In these terms, the Northwest slightly overperformed my expectations as a whole, and the South, the region I had picked as having a decent chance to have a weaker pool play performance substantially underperformed.

However, below the aggregate level, I made some substantial errors in my expectations, the clearest of which was underestimating Boise State. I had predicted that Boise State would have 2.25 expected wins in pool play, and I thought that a run to the sweet 16 would be a very good outcome for them. Instead, Boise State went 4-0 in pool play, and advanced to the Elite 8.

When I initially made my assessments I pegged Boise as being comparable to Crimson Elite, who I judged to be a Pot Three-caliber team. This likely moderately undersold Crimson Elite, who advanced to bracket play as the fifth seed in a very tough pool. But it also underestimated the comparative performance Boise State would go on to deliver.

That said, there are certainly still some interesting similarities between the two teams. Both teams tended to play tight games against teams of relatively diverse skill levels, and relied on snitch pulls to win. Crimson Elite faced four SWIM situations in six games, pulling twice in these cases. Boise State faced five SWIM situations in seven games, and pulled in four of the five instances. Included in this statistic is the fact that both teams were put into overtime by an opponent, before pulling to win. The two teams also were eliminated from the bracket by the same opponent, Lone Star.

Lone Star  160 – 60* Boise State
Lone Star 130 – 50* Crimson Elite

Looking at the results, I think the comparison between the two teams was relatively fair, given the information available, and I think their divergence was exacerbated to some degree by their difference in seeds (Boise State was a Pot One team, whereas Crimson was a Pot Five). That said, Boise State definitely looked like the stronger team while I had assumed them to be marginally weaker, and they did a fantastic job of leveraging their seed.

As important as understanding the over performance of the Northwest is, it’s also important to understand the South’s underperformance. Miami and Southern Storm, the two finalists both did well for themselves, going 2-2 in pool play, before falling in their first bracket matches. TTU and inTENNsity on the other hand went 0-4.

Interestingly, you can draw some parallels to regionals, where TTU and inTENNsity grabbed the one and two seed, respectively, coming out of pool play, but crumpled under pressure, as the 5th and 7th seeded Miami and Southern Storm made their way to the finals. It’s also interesting to note that in their first game of the day, TTU was up out of range against Penn State, in a game that would end up running very long with at least one called off snitch pull for each side. In the end, Penn State would pull themselves back into the game and pull en route to a 3-1 record in the pool and an exit in the Sweet 16 at the tournament. After the loss, TTU seemed to deflate to a fair degree, falling fairly easily to RIT, Oklahoma State and Michigan. I’ve heard that TTU lost a key player to injury during the game, but I can’t confirm it.

Perhaps my expectations for the South were unreasonable, their win percentage in pool play did perfectly mirror their win percentage against qualified teams from other regions throughout the season, but there were certainly signs that the South could have reasonably had a more successful tournament.







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