The first real test of the college fall!
November 3, 2017 by Charlie Enders and Michael Ball in Preview with 0 comments
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Missouri Loves Company is midwest ultimate’s last hurrah before it crawls back into its den to hibernate for the winter (and eventually reemerges for Conferences). It’s the final opportunity for many teams to assess what they have and to give rookies playing time against elite teams without worrying about the results. This years field includes six 2017 Division I Nationals qualifiers, three DIII Nationals qualifiers, and BYU. What more could you want?
Let’s take a look at some of the top competitors.
- Date: Nov. 4-5, 2017
- Location: Columbia, MO
- Weather: 60s and sunny on Saturday, highs in the mid-70s with a small chance of thunderstorms on Sunday
- Pools and Brackets
Carleton Still The Favorite
The 2017 National Champions are the preemptive favorite in 2018 for a reason: they’re really, really good. When a college team can almost field a full line of Club Nationals quality players, it’s a little unfair. Sol Yanuck, Henry Fisher, Eric Taylor, Dillon Lanier, Tim Schoch, and Joe White all played integral roles in their club teams’ successful summer campaigns. Add in 2017 Ultiworld Offensive Player of the Year runner-up Alex Olson and USAU FOTY Stan Birdsong and you have the most talented top eight in the country, bar none. Then you have Alex Walker, Chris Padilla, Ethan Bloodworth, DIII ROTY and Davidson transfer Andrew Roy… while it’s unlikely all of these guys will be playing (that’s just how CUT rolls before the postseason), they still shouldn’t have too much trouble holding onto their MLC champion mantle.
Talent Turnover In Minnesota
Jagt, Bumsted, McCutcheon, Poletto, Weinberg, Kautz. All gone. For most teams, such a dramatic exodus of talent would be a death knell. For Minnesota Grey Duck, it’s merely a setback. Wyatt Mekler and Tristan van de Moortele, both of Sub Zero and the U24 Men’s team, lead Grey Duck’s O and D-lines, respectively. Meanwhile, graduate student Codi Wood (of Penn State and Philadelphia Patrol) adds immediate firepower to whatever line coach Tallis Boyd deems to put him on. Grey Duck is probably the number two team in the North Central, but the gap might be closer than you think. If everything at MLC goes to seed, we’ll see how they stack up in the final.
Can BYU Become A “Program?”
A wildcard if ever there was one, BYU epitomizes the “faceless army.” What few stars they had in 2017 are gone, but Jason McKeen and Bob “Dad Bod” Bodily leave behind a team that’s on the cusp of “program” territory: a team that is consistently good year-in and year-out. BYU’s depth has always been its strong point, with an army of athletic defenders and experienced (read: old) throwers. While they may not be playing on Sunday, they should again be one of the deepest and most polished squads on Saturday.
Wisconsin With Work To Do
Much like Minnesota, the Hodags are facing a substantial amount of turnover. Gone are the old guard: no more Avery Johnson, Nick Ladas, Ross Barker, or Chris Wilen. In comes a huge crop of rookies and, consequently, the lowering of expectations. The Hodags were probably good enough to win it all last year — they lost in epic fashion to North Carolina in quarters — but that’s perhaps not a reasonable goal in 2018. Now, I wouldn’t say the Hodags are in full-on rebuilding mode — they still have a ton of talent, highlighted by David Yu, Nick Vogt, and Jeff Maskalunas — but they may need to sacrifice early season results for depth development if they plan on being a competitive team at Nationals.
Colorado In Rebuild Mode
2017 Mamabird was a classic case of peaking too early. After making the finals of the Stanford Invite, their season fizzled out and they ultimately ended up tied for last place at Nationals. 2018 Mamabird has a much different problem: how do they replace a majority of their starters? Mark Rauls, Josh Crane, Wesley Chow, Marc Kaylor, Jonathan Stork, Jeremy Harker, Erik Hotaling…Colorado has some of the most severe turnover in the country. Now, no one likes to use the “R” word before the spring season even begins. But there’s simply no way around: this is a rebuilding year for Mamabird. There’s still plenty of talent — Alex Tatum, Isaac Chestler, and Quinn Finer are among the South Central’s finest — but developing the team’s youth should trump any amount of early (in this case, super early) season wins. Look for freshman Sam Hammar (of Sub Zero) to make an immediate impact.
Texas A&M Put A Fork In Me
Before the 2017 season, I cited the departure of A&M’s entire offense (Dalton Smith) as evidence they would no longer be a nationals-quality team. I even said that you could “put a fork in ‘em, they’re done.” To their credit, they proved me wrong, claiming the second bid in the South Central behind stellar play from Carter Hollo and Zach Marbach, among others. They even used my “fork” line as a rallying cry, uniting behind an “us against the world” mentality and providing the first concrete evidence that anyone actually reads what I write. I’m not going to make the same mistake (even if they want me to). If Dozen can survive losing someone as paramount to his team’s success as Dalton Smith was, they can certainly weather their departures this season.
Dangerous Colorado State Could Win The Tournament
In the chaotic sea of college roster turnover, Colorado State stands as a shining beacon of consistency. The core that powered them to their first Nationals berth last season returns, led by fifth-year Cody Spicer. Spicer’s combination of size, speed, and awareness made him one of the best defenders in the country last year- expect him to be THE best in 2018, and a short-lister for Player of the Year. Add in CSU’s superb depth and chemistry (much of the team played together on Choice City Hops over the summer) and you have a team that’s woefully underseeded: expect to see them in semis.
Texas Looking For New Identity?
One of the more disappointing teams of the last couple years, Texas failed to qualify for Nationals last season despite rostering some of the best players in the division. With the departures of Dillon Larberg and Joel Clutton, TUFF doesn’t have that luxury anymore. Instead, they have an identity crisis. Do they change their style of play to reflect their lack of superstars? Or does someone step up to fill the void (perhaps sophomore Noah Chambers)? If TUFF hopes to halt their two year Nationals hiatus, they’ll need to have that figured out come spring.
These two are in the same bucket- it’s anybody’s guess as to how they’ll look. Both graduated incredibly important players — Callahan nominee Tarik Akyuz and U24 tryout-invitee Jake Rovner from Case, superstar Ben Spielman from NW — and neither enjoy the wealth of well-known players afforded to the other teams in power pools. While a win in pool play isn’t out of the question, I’d be extremely surprised to see either playing deep on Sunday.
While much of the focus this weekend will be on the D-I powerhouses in the power pools, followers of Division III will be keeping an eye on the other pools and the bracket to get an early look at a few perennial contenders.
Air Force Still A Top D-III Contender
Coming off of two consecutive seasons as a national title contender, Air Force Afterburn will be competing to try and win Pool D in order to cut their teeth against the programs in the power pools. Look for 2017 POTY Runner-Up Alan Villanueva and 2017 Breakout POTY Kainoa Chun-Moy to lead Afterburn to a strong weekend.
Pool C gives us a rare look at some inter-region D-III competition, with Colorado College Wasabi and Union Jaxx both making the trip to Missouri. Just a few years removed from D-I competition, Colorado College has been a top ten team in the division each year since transitioning to D-III play. This year should be no different. After making a run to the game-to-go last year in a one bid Southeast, Union will be looking to prove they belong in the national conversation for the upcoming season. While fall games don’t have any tangible impact, a win over Colorado College this weekend would be huge for Union mentally; they were 0-6 against D-III Nationals qualifiers in 2017.
Carleton GoP Seeking To Reemerge In North Central
Rounding out the D-III competition in Tier 1 is Carleton GoP, who is looking to rebound from a disappointing finish to the 2017 season. Despite missing out on Nationals for the first time since the creation of the division, GoP will enter 2018 as the favorites in the North Central, and a strong showing this weekend in Missouri would be a step towards showing that last year’s absence won’t be repeated this season.
Let’s be clear: if CUT wants to win this tournament, they will. If they don’t care, Minnesota and Colorado State are the two teams most likely to pull off the upset. Grey Duck, especially, would love a win over the team that ended their season in 2017.
Of note, the weather this weekend looks uncharacteristically superb: let’s hope the ultimate follows suit.