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Let The Series Begin: D-I Open Conferences Preview

by in News, Preview with 23 Comments

2013 USA Ultimate College Series logo.Forget about bids, forget about rankings, and forget about the regular season: this weekend marks the start of the college postseason. In one of the cooler aspects of any sport, every team in the country now has an opportunity to make a run at the National Championship. But first you’ve got to get out of your Conference.

Conferences aren’t often considered particularly interesting. They are usually a formality for top teams, one last chance to tune up before the serious work begins at Regionals. But every year, there are some surprises. From a Conference that doesn’t get enough bids to big upsets, there’s usually something to talk about.

Here’s a look at the D-I Open Conferences. The ones in bold we expect to be particularly interesting or worth paying attention to.

ATLANTIC COAST

Carolina
Bids: 6
Top Teams: #5 North Carolina, #16 UNC-Wilmington, App. State, Clemson, South Carolina

Archrivals UNC and UNC-Wilmington will face off in their first real matchup of the season, always an exciting game. They quietly played some scrimmages earlier in the Spring, but said only that the games were “competitive,” not sharing information about the victor. While neither team has any chance of missing out on Regionals, whoever comes out on top here will have the mental edge in what could be a Regionals rematch for a bid to Nationals.

Colonial
Bids: 5
Top Teams: Maryland, Delaware, Georgetown, George Washington

This is likely to be one of the more across-the-board competitive conferences, with a good amount of parity among the top teams. The fight for seeding in the Atlantic Coast region — which has 10 of the top 70 ranked teams in the country — is important.

Virginia
Bids:5
Top Teams: #25 James Madison, Virginia Tech, Virginia, George Mason

JMU has big ambitions this year to be challenging for a bid to Nationals. This will be an important test. If they can’t get through conferences easily, they’ll have a tough time getting past the Carolina teams at Regionals.

GREAT LAKES

East Plains
Bids: 4
Top Teams: Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame

Illinois
Bids: 7
Top Teams: Illinois, Chicago, Illinois St.

Tons of bids for a pretty weak conference. Illinois should roll through this tournament.

Michigan
Bids: 3
Top Teams: #21 Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan

Despite every team in this conference deserving a spot at Regionals, it will only advance three. Western and Central Michigan did not get 10 sanctioned games in by the end of the season, leaving them without those additional bids. That means that one of the four top teams in the Region will not be at Regionals. This is likely to be one of the most hotly contested conferences in the country.

Michigan has looked very good late in the season, and should lock up the first bid. The battle between Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan for the last two will be intense. After developing rookies all spring, we expect Eastern Michigan to take the second spot and Michigan State to grab the third.

METRO EAST

Hudson Valley
Bids: 3
Top Teams: Connecticut, Central Conn. St., Yale

Metro NY
Bids: 6
Top Teams: Princeton, Columbia, NYU, Rutgers

Consistently one of the most competitive conferences in the country, this year shouldn’t disappoint. The top four teams all have Nationals ambitions. The one bid Metro East makes the battle for seeding even more important.

Hard to pick a favorite here; every team is capable of beating the others. Princeton, as the one seed, is the nominal favorite, but don’t be surprised by an upset.

Western NY
Bids:5
Top Teams: Cornell, SUNY-Buffalo, Syracuse, Queens Kingston

Can SUNY-Buffalo pull off the Conferences upset of Cornell two years in a row? Buffalo got soundly beaten by the Buds at late March’s New England Open, 13-7, and will need to bring their best game to beat them when it counts. An important early test for Cornell if they hope to retain their Metro East champion title for another year.

NEW ENGLAND

Metro Boston
Bids: 6
Top Teams: Harvard, Tufts, Boston College

Since neither team can seem to figure out Dartmouth, the almost certain finals matchup between #14 Harvard and #15 Tufts takes on another layer of meaning. With only two bids coming out of New England and three teams in the hunt, winning this first matchup is critical for confidence.

North New England
Bids: 3
Top Teams: Vermont, Salem State, New Hampshire

South New England
Bids: 4
Top Teams: Brown, Massachusetts, Williams, Rhode Island

Brown continues to fly under the national radar, but they have the pieces to pull off some upsets at Regionals. First they’ll need to prove they can take down the solid competition in their conference. Williams was ranked in the Ultiworld Top 25 for a time this season, after an impressive performance at the Santa Barbara Invite.

#13 Dartmouth is playing in the North New England DIII conference.

NORTH CENTRAL

Lake Superior
Bids: 5
Top Teams: #4 Wisconsin, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette

Northwoods
Bids: 4
Top Teams: #1 Minnesota, #8 Carleton, Minnesota St.-Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth

The season’s first matchup between Minnesota and Carleton should be a battle. Minnesota is coming off of a strong, undefeated performance at Easterns, but Carleton couldn’t be a more dangerous team. Former NexGen teammates Simon Montague (Carleton) and Greg Arenson (Minnesota) will be leading the way for their teams.

West Plains
Bids: 6
Top Teams: Northern Iowa, Luther, Iowa, Iowa State

The North Central region has been ravaged by poor weather, causing tournament cancellations and a tough regular season. This will finally be an opportunity to see how these good midwestern teams stack up in (we hope) decent conditions.

Northern Iowa narrowly missed out on a fourth bid for the region and now face a situation where they have a target on their back. With a lot of detractors calling them overrated, this is a chance to prove that they’re the team to beat from the West Plains, and at least give something for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Carleton to think about heading into Regionals.

Should be one of the best conferences to watch.

NORTHWEST

Big Sky
Bids: 5
Top Teams: Whitman, Washington St., Utah

Cascadia
Bids: 5
Top Teams: #2 Oregon, #24 Oregon St., Victoria, Washington, British Columbia

The big question mark here is: who takes second place? Oregon shouldn’t have much trouble getting the top spot, but the team that takes second jumps into the conversation as a possible Nationals contender. Right now, Oregon State, who played Oregon close at an early season tournament, looks like the frontrunner, coming off of a Chicago Invite tournament victory.

But Washington and the Canadian teams are right on their heels.

OHIO VALLEY

Ohio
Bids: 7
Top Teams: #17 Ohio, Ohio State, Dayton, Cincinnati

Another conference where the second place finisher will get noticed. Dayton had some impressive results earlier this year at Warm Up, and Cincinnati has been talked about as a possible Sunday Regionals contender since early this season.

But Ohio State has a head-to-head win over Cincinnati already this season, and played well at the Tally Classic. They are the team to beat.

Ohio shouldn’t have trouble winning this conference.

East Penn
Bids: 4
Top Teams: Penn, Millersville, Temple

West Penn
Bids: 4
Top Teams: #6 Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon, Penn State

Pitt will use this as a warm-up for Regionals, but Carnegie-Mellon and Penn State both have Nationals dreams. A second-place finish would set them on their way towards achieving them.

SOUTH CENTRAL

North Texas
Bids: 2
Top Teams: North Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech

Ozarks
Bids: 7
Top Teams: Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas St., Kansas

South Texas
Bids: 4
Top Teams: #9 Texas, #20 Texas A&M, Texas State

Texas and Texas A&M will meet in the finals and get an important look at each other in advance of their two-bid regionals. Texas captain Mitchell Bennett told Ultiworld at the Stanford Invite that he is nervous about Texas A&M, where his brother Matt captains.

Rocky Mountain
Bids: 3
Top Teams: Colorado, Colorado College, Colorado St.

SOUTHEAST

Gulf Coast
Bids: 6
Top Teams: Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Tulane

Follow the action from the GCCs on Bama Secs, the conference-specific microblog.

Florida
Bids: 4
Top Teams: #3 Central Florida, #18 Florida State, #12 Florida, South Florida

The three top teams in the Region face off in Conferences: you gotta love it. With strong teams from Georgia hungry for one of the region’s three bids, seeding will matter. Sunday should be a lot of fun to watch.

Florida State beat Florida 8-5 at Easterns in dreadful conditions; Florida left the game at halftime. They will likely meet in semifinals for a more skill-representative matchup.

Southern Appalachian
Bids: 5
Top Teams: #23 Georgia Tech, Georgia, Tennessee, Georgia Southern

Georgia Tech v. Georgia game is always a must-watch. Winner this year will be in the best position to nab an upset and steal a Nationals bid from one of the Florida teams at Regionals.

SOUTHWEST

Desert
Bids: 2
Top Teams: #10 Arizona, Arizona State

NorCal
Bids: 6
Top Teams: #11 Stanford, Las Positas, UC Davis

UC Davis had a poor showing at the Stanford Invite, losing all of their games, but they are still a dangerous team with experience winning when it counts. If they face off against Stanford, it should be a good game to watch.

Las Positas is still a bit of a mystery. They were trying to earn a bid to the Stanford Invite this year by winning the Open, but they lost to Santa Cruz in the semifinals. They have shown the ability to hang with top teams. A strong performance at Conferences would say a lot.

SoCal
Bids: 8
Top Teams: UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State

San Diego State made a nice run at the New England Open two weeks ago, nearly taking down Dartmouth in the quarterfinals. Does that put them as the frontrunner in this conference?

With eight bids, you’d expect more top-end talent, but the fact is that no team from this conference is likely to make a big dent at Regionals.

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About Charlie Eisenhood

Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

View all posts by Charlie Eisenhood →

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  • dan

    How does Dartmouth play D3 and then go to D1 regionals?

    • Ryan Nation

      Even if they can why would they want to? Is it strategic? Logistical? Is DIII conferences closer or something? Seems like an odd decision.

      • guest

        My guess is that they don’t want to play Harvard and Tufts again before regionals.

        • guest

          They’re a dIII team. They don’t have the option. DIII teams have to go to dIII sectionals. They choose beforehand whether.to go to dI regionals or dIII regionals.

          • Guest

            Why can’t USAU just say any team that wants to go the D1 regionals route participates in D1 conferences? That way you don’t have some teams at a D3 conference trying to be top 2 to get to D1 regionals, and others trying to be top 4 to get to D3 regionals. It’s a mess.

          • http://www.facebook.com/rthompson Ryan Thompson

            Exactly. These teams shouldn’t be competing against each other for bids to different tournaments.

          • Guest

            The purpose is to provide higher quality conference events. How do you organize a conference championships when there’s potentially a large variance in the number of teams? Also, if you give every DIII/Dev team the ability to participate in DI confernces, that could quickly bring down the playing quality of those events.

            Yes, the solution is not ideal, but I think the pros of the current set-up outweigh the cons. We’ve seen significant increases in the quality of sectionals/conferences since this change with increased organization and better quality competition across the board.

          • guest

            Most of them don’t want to, and would rather retain their eligibility for D3 regionals. The default is D3 for these teams and teams that don’t care, or aren’t very good, will stay where they are placed anyway. There are really only 1-2 teams per region nowadays that try to do the D3->D1 route – is that such a burden on the conference tournament organizer, given that the teams have to announce two weeks in advance (at least), and given that there can be unexpected new D1 teams showing up, as well? It totally messes up formats in the D3 tournaments to have separate qualifying goals.

            And the “playing quality” argument is nonsense. There are all sorts of crappy D1 teams playing already.

          • guest

            Here is the mess from Ohio D3 Conferences:

            “Kenyon chose the D-I path and is the only team eligible for D-I Regionals. In order to qualify they must finish in the top 5.

            [5th place] earns bid to D-III Regionals if Kenyon finishes in the top 5.”

            Pretty silly. Not to mention that Kenyon having to finish top 5 in this conference is a much lower bar than the one that teams in D1 conferences have to reach.

          • Ryan Nation

            In Section III. A. a. iv. of the series guidelines it’s clear that everyone must declare the division they wish to pursue before the series (which is a welcome change from previous years). Section Section III. B. 2. b. regarding conference assignment includes a limiter for the D-III division (<7500 students) which is the only language I can find that would apply here (and even this is ambiguous). There is additional language in Section Section III. B. 2. b. iii. regarding teams qualifying for D-I Nationals in the previous 4 years being automatically included in D-I, but that doesn't apply here.

            There should probably be some additional language that clarifies that D-III teams choosing to go to D-1 Regionals are still required to attend D-III Conferences.

          • guest

            I.B.5 : “5. Series Progression – Every team that meets the Roster Deadline will begin the series at their Conference Championship… ”

            It’s a separate section but it is included

        • mottsauce

          Since Dartmouth hasn’t made nationals since 2008, the team was forced by USAU to play in D3 conferences. I’m an alumnus of the team, and the team did want to play D1 conferences.
          In any case, Dartmouth isn’t in the same conference as Tufts/Harvard, and wouldn’t meet them until regionals anyway.

    • mottsauce

      The winner of D3 conferences has the option of going to D1 regionals. I think Kenyon is doing something similar.

      • ultimate

        Kenyon only has to get top 5 in their conference championships because of their ranking though.

  • todd

    Las Pos lost to Santa Cruz in the semifinals

  • Ryan Nation

    “Florida State beat Florida 8-5 at Easterns in dreadful conditions; Florida left the game at halftime.”

    What? Florida just left? How is this not considered a forfeit? Seems a little shady to me.

    • http://www.ultiworld.com/ Charlie Eisenhood

      There was something of a battle on Score Reporter to list the game as an 8-5 loss or a forfeit.

      • Bob

        Assess points after half and report 15-5 win?

        “If only one team fails to signal readiness for the start of a scheduled game, the opposing team may be awarded goals by the event organizer at a rate of one goal for every five minutes elapsed after the posted start time.”

        That does only mention the START of the game though.

  • guest

    just wondering… how did you pick these? seems odd that in some cases you list teams ranked around 90 as being the ‘top teams’ while ignoring teams ranked above them.

    • Josiah

      The level of effort put into the “Top Teams” feature was clearly pretty low. Just look at Marquette’s inclusion as a top team in the Lake Superior Conference of the North Central. I know there’s not much information on a lot of the smaller teams, but one look at scorereporter tells you that Marquette isn’t even an average team.

    • http://www.ultiworld.com/ Charlie Eisenhood

      Just top seeds, nothing fancy here. Where are there teams ignored?

      • Guest

        Case Western is really underseeded. They’re better than Dayton I think.

  • Guest

    Ohio Conference in doubt for this weekend because the fields are underwater. The TD is searching for alternate fields for this weekend but might be forced to hold the tournament next weekend, back to back with Regionals.

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