February 13, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 15 comments
Each year, Florida Warm Up is a bellwether tournament for the college season. An elite selection of teams converges each year in mid-February on Tampa, Florida, to, in many cases, get outside for the first time in the spring.
This year is no different. 12 of the 181 teams in attendance (including six of the top 10) are ranked in Ultiworld’s Top 25, with a handful more sitting just outside those rankings. More than half are beginning their season in Tampa.
Warm Up’s unusual format — with unseeded pools that try to balance geographic diversity and overall strength — gives teams a look at a number of different opponents over the course of three days, with the pool winners and two “wild cards” advancing to Sunday’s bracket play.
|POOL A||POOL B||POOL C||POOL D|
|PIttsburgh (#8)||Central Florida (#9)||Carleton (#7)||Wisconsin (#5)|
|Georgia (#15)||Georgia Tech||Florida (#12)||Florida State (#13)|
|Minnesota (#6)||Texas (#4)||Texas A&M (#11)||Tufts (#14)|
|DROP||Cincinnati||Northwestern||Arizona State (#18)|
Top 10 Teams To Square Off
Over the past two seasons, Warm Up has been the third-strongest tournament in the Men’s Division behind only late Spring’s Stanford Invite and Easterns. That is often due to the powerhouse lineup drawn heavily from the top 25 teams in the country.
Six truly elite teams will face off this weekend — #4 Texas, #5 Wisconsin, #6 Minnesota, #7 Carleton, #8 Pittsburgh, and #9 Central Florida. Three of the four were in the semifinals of the 2013 College Championships — only one (Minnesota) missed Nationals last year.
But more questions than answers loom over the heads of Pittsburgh and Central Florida, the finalists last season, who have both sustained some heavy talent losses and will look to Warm Up as a chance to test themselves against the best — and perhaps discover an identity for the 2014 season.
Identity is something both Pittsburgh coach Nick Kaczmarek and Central Florida coach Andrew Roca stressed throughout last season. Both teams had some struggles throughout the season before hitting their stride at the College Championships.
The opposite was true for longtime super power Wisconsin, who blew past the field at Warm Up before hitting rocks at Nationals as they lost their Callahan nominee Brian Hart to injury and, in front of dozens of hometown fans, busted out in prequarters to UC Davis. This weekend, Wisconsin will be without Colin Camp, who is still recovering from a torn ACL.
Nearly every team listed above has lost hugely important pieces, except Texas, who is quietly one of the country’s top contenders this year. Will Driscoll and Mitchell Bennett will guide a retooled offense looking to exploit matchups.
But the losses from the other teams are notable: Hart (Wisconsin), Greg Arenson (Minnesota), Simon Montague (Carleton), Nick Stuart (Carleton), Justin Norden (Carleton), Tyler Degirolamo (Pittsburgh), Alex Thorne (Pittsburgh), Mischa Freystaetter (Central Florida), and Michael Hickson (Central Florida).
That doesn’t mean these teams aren’t still stacked with talent — there’s a reason they are consistently among the best in the country — but they have new roles to figure out.
Watch for big weekends from Minnesota’s Jason Tschida and UCF’s Jeremy Langdon.
Driscoll and Langdon should get a good first look at each other in the showcase game on Saturday night that will likely determine whether Texas or UCF wins the pool.
The other notable pool play matchup will be between Minnesota and Pittsburgh, who play in the Friday night showcase.
The Next Tier
The other six ranked teams — #11 Texas A&M, #12 Florida, #13 Florida State, #14 Tufts, #15 Georgia, and #18 Arizona State — will all have a big opportunity to rewrite the script of this season. Most of these teams are largely intact from last season — and generally have been getting better.
Compare that to the losses suffered by the teams at the top and upsets are on the horizon. Texas A&M is ready to step into the spotlight with a renewed focus, Florida State is developing a great system, Florida seems poised to make the leap if they can develop their defense, Georgia looks much better than last year, and Arizona State has been on the rise for two years.
Pool D is stacked with talent, and it’s not a stretch to think one of either Florida State, Tufts, or Arizona State upsets Wisconsin to take the pool. Tulane will be a formidable 5th seed in easily the strong pool at the tournament.
Best Of The Rest
Rest assured, this is a very important weekend for a number of the lower “seeds” at this tournament. Cincinnati, Tulane, and Northwestern all have a chance not only to get in games against good teams, but to score some upsets and potentially put themselves in a great position for bid magic.
Northwestern scored one of the big upsets of the fall with a great win over Tufts at the Steel City Showdown [VIDEO]. They were one point away from a berth in the finals, as well, falling to Ohio in the semis on double game point. A pair of fifth year pickups and some quality freshmen have Northwestern in the Great Lakes mix.
Cincinnati was the buzz of the fall, but didn’t impress at the Santa Barbara Invite. With a fuller roster this weekend, we’ll see if they can match the hype. An extra bid has to be a huge incentive for them to leave it all on the field this weekend.
Tulane almost had an incredible story in Santa Barbara after going 3-1 in pool play with just 8 players, but they struggled on Sunday. Either way, with an intact team this weekend, they will have the chance to impress. But can they make a dent in the brutally tough pool D?
What To Watch For
– This could be Texas’ announcement of excellence. They lost just two games at Warm Up last year — both to the champion Wisconsin. They will have a good shot at going undefeated this year. Their matchup with UCF will be a must-watch. Will Driscoll could also make a statement in the Callahan race with a big performance this weekend.
– Who is the front runner in the North Central? Luther, not playing this weekend, is lurking in the shadows, but the three big names will all have a chance to grab the early season crown. Carleton and Wisconsin will go head-to-head late on Saturday, and Minnesota will see Texas, UCF, and Pitt.
– Will last year’s finalists reassert themselves? Both Pitt and UCF have been good, but not great, so far this season, dating back to the fall. They’ll have a chance to silence the critics with a big weekend in Tampa. Don’t be surprised, though, to see more mixed results as they still look to find themselves and slot rising players into the right roles.
Enjoy this look back at 2013 Warm Up Game of the Tournament between Wisconsin and Pittsburgh:
[youtube I-DNvHNnMSw 600 337]
This year’s field has been pared down from 20 to 18 due to Washington University and Maryland dropping at the last minute due to canceled flights. ↩