Monday, January 29, 2018

Three Takeaways from the Santa Barbara Invite (M)

Our spring for CSU Hibida officially kicked off this past weekend at the Santa Barbara Invite. Our goal for the tournament was to win the whole thing - pretty straight forward. We came up a little short, getting demolished in the finals by a very impressive Washington squad but nonetheless we had a blast and here are a few of my takeaways from the weekend.

Huck Heavy Teams Did Well (to a point)

Early season hucks can net solid results. Chemistry, polish, spacing, etc all tend to be less defined in the early season. The more throws you attempt the greater chances for problems within those aforementioned categories. There are also more opportunities to isolate your top players/athletes within a huck-heavy scheme.Victoria, Utah, Washington all over-performed relative to (some folk's) expectations coming in, and from my observations, all three teams largely relied on their deep game on the offensive side of the disc. 

I don't mean to use the term over-performed to imply that any of these teams were undeserving of their results (especially Washington - they were the 1 seed after all - see below). I think those were just the three most surprising teams to onlookers. It's also interesting to note that Arizona, who ran a very well-practiced zone, unexpectedly beat Utah in the final round of pool play. Also, Western Washington, who ran quite a bit of junk and bracketing against us, max-scored Utah and USC, who also ran their heavily-practiced zone, beat Utah as well - all schemes that disrupt hucks. 

This isn't mean to be a bash on Utah section; I was very impressed with their squad. We also run defensive scheme built towards making hucks difficult and they beat us. It's also conceivable that they punted the Arizona game knowing they had the pool already won and those other games were in consolation play. However, after two pool play wins against 2017 nationals qualifiers (SLO and us), I would hope they would have kept the gas on the pedal no matter what the context of the game was - those early results had "bid-earning" potential. 

Washington Is Really Good

We played Washington at Santa Barbara last year while Khalif was injured and this is what I wrote about that game:

"Despite not having their top player (Khalif El-Salaam), they still ran a brutally effective offense with pinpoint hucks and elite speed across both their O and D lines...they are a team with all the tools they need for quarters+ at nationals." 

Our finals game vs Washington this year felt almost the exact same as our pool play game last year. We just didn't have an answer for their speed, spacing and pinpoint hucks. The difference in last year's 11-13 loss and this year's 7-13 drubbing is that they put consistent pressure on our O-line while maintaining their extremely crisp and efficient offense. 

I'm sure they had some "bulletin board material" from their preseason ranking but I'm also sure they'll shoot up Ultiworld's rankings now, probably into a much more deserved top-10 location, and you won't hear me argue - they're a really good, deep team with a lot of throwing depth and a lot of speed. 

BYU's Impact On the Bracket was...? 

Let's rabbit-hole the Sunday matchups if BYU stays in:

UCSD vs USC --> Davis vs USC

For the second year a row, USC gets the BYU boosted pre-quarters matchup, this year in UCSD. Swapping that over to a strong Davis squad that went 3-1 adds some definite intrigue to this game. I'm not sure who comes out on top but I don't think either squad gets through the Washington buzzsaw in the next round. 

Davis vs Victoria --> WWU vs Victoria 

This matchup swap is fascinating and I think where the bracket could have potentially changed the outcome the most. Western was prepared schematically for huck-heavy teams and if they can get through Victoria here they get a Utah squad in quarterfinals they beat 13-5 in the non-hypothetical world. This likely gives us the semis rematch from last year that was arguably the game of the tournament, in which a fired up Western squad took down Washington on universe. I don't think history repeats itself, but that was a heck of a game. 

CSU vs WWU --> CSU vs BYU

The quarterfinal matchup swap here could be interesting but with Western beating BYU Friday night and the actual CSU/WWU game not being overly close, theoretically this doesn't change the outcome and subsequent semi-finals matchup. However, I know different teams match-up in different ways - we'd have loved  to play BYU - we've played them a lot in the past 12 years and it's always been an extremely tight, fun game. 

End all be all, I don't think Washington is losing this tournament no matter who they play. There are definitely some interesting changes that could have happened on their half of the bracket, but in the end I don't think BYU's dropping changed that much about the results. However, for the algorithm, keeping WWU and Victoria away from each other in the pre-quarters could have bid implications down the road if they continue their strong seasons.

My All-Tournament Team (from only teams we played against)

Cody Spicer - CSU
Jack Hinchsliff - CSU
Steven Benaloh - Washington
Derek Mourad - Washington
Gabe Hernandez - Stanford
Jeff Letsinger [edit] - Utah
Nate Pettyjohn - SLO

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