12 Days of College Ultimate 2024: D-I Staff Picks

On the fourth day of Christmas Ultiworld gave to me...D-I staff picks!

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2024 college season is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

It’s time to unwrap some presents as we introduce the 12 Days of College Ultimate. For the next 12 days, we will be releasing one gift per day, though don’t count on getting any holiday fowl: it’s all college ultimate. From highlight videos to player chatter to a season predictions, we’ve got a little something for everyone. On the fourth day of the 12 Days of College Ultimate, we bring you our staff picks for the D-I championship!

Women’s Division

Call it a gambler’s hunch, but it seems to me like we are in for some major turnover at the top of the women’s division this year. The finalists from each of the last two seasons, UNC and Colorado, simply have not reloaded their cupboards at the rate of many of the teams chasing them. They’ve retained enough top-end talent (Erica Birdsong, Clil Phillips, Dawn Culton, Stacy Gaskill) that it won’t be surprising to see either of them in semis again. In fact, it’s probably the expectation. But we saw the kind of impact first-year players had last season when added to teams that didn’t have a full slate of Nationals-caliber players already on board: think of Oregon’s Ezra Weybright and Georgia’s Quincy Booth. Now take that same philosophy and apply it to rosters that already feature some of the game’s top performers. That’s what we’re going to see with Stanford, Vermont, Washington, and Oregon, all of whom dominated first-year recruiting. In my opinion, we’ll see the fruit of that crop next May with an almost completely new set of semifinalists. Stanford get my official endorsement as the most likely of those four to win it all thanks to fantastic coaching and the takeover play of Esther Filipek.

– Edward Stephens

Seeding going in: 1) UNC 2) UBC 3) UVM 4) Colorado 5) Stanford. Stanford upsets Colorado in pool play and Colorado bows out in quarters in a tight game against UVM. This sets up semis to be matchups of huck-happy athletic teams versus move-the-ball systems teams. I think the UNC discipline and experience in big moments helps them overcome Stanford. And I predict UBC will have learned and reloaded from their semis loss last year and will come out on top over UVM, who will be feeling the fatigue from their Colorado quarters matchup.

– Grace Conerly

It’s bold to suggest the undefeated three-time national champions will bow out in semis, but preseason is the time for hot, improbable takes. Allow me to make my case. Vermont returns some of their centerpieces along with a talented rookie class. Colorado is looking as title-worthy as ever, returning Philips, Gaskill and Emma Williamson for another season. And most importantly, both teams are hungry for it, with Colorado having been denied twice before and Vermont building momentum season after season. With both desire and the talent to execute, if these teams get hot at the right time, either of them could knock UNC off. Then it’s just a question of who will actually take home the title. My money’s on Colorado–you have to lose on the big stage before you can win and Quandary’s finals experience will give them the edge in the end.

– Felicia Zheng

Men’s Division

UNC Darkside are going to win a fourth consecutive national title in 2024 before, finally, giving up the crown in 2025. They are the most talented, most dedicated, most resilient team in the country – again. I actually feel more certain of it this year than at any point during this miraculous run. As far as who will join in them in semis? My picks above are a total dartboard. I like Colorado, Oregon, and Cal Poly-SLO a lot, but not really any more than Pitt, Texas, Georgia, UMass, or Brown. You could even sneak a Washington or a Carleton in there without raising my eyebrows too much. The fight for first is (hopefully for the last time) a foregone conclusion, but the fight for runner-up could be the spiciest we’ve seen in years.

– Edward Stephens

Scene: A marble carving of Matt Gouchoe-Hanas’ visage, the head of a statue that once stood proud and tall now lies, half covered by the sands of time, at the base of a plaque from which rise two legs, adorned in Vapor Edges and mid-calf BE socks.

The plaque reads “Darkside won three titles in a row (sorta). We’re old as hell in a division meant for children, most of us have been going to club natties since we were in middle school, and we don’t let anyone take geography classes, in case someone learns there are other places in the world people can live. Look up our works ye mighty and despair.”

Nothing beside remains.

– Patrick Stegemoeller

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