Some Assorted Easterns Thoughts

If you’re looking for reported insight, please go read the Easterns tournament recap and the finals recap. What’s below are some opinionated thoughts about Easterns and where the Men’s Division stands as we head into the postseason.

– Let’s all hope we get to see Pitt and UNC Wilmington face off again at Nationals. They have been the two best teams this season, now without question after UNCW beat Oregon in semis. They’ve played two stellar games against one another in the past year: first UNCW’s upset win in 2014 Nationals quarters (a game with just one break, one that came on double game point) and then Pitt’s win at Easterns (total breaks: 3). Intense, fiery, explosive, exciting. Everything you can want from a college ultimate game.

– Speaking of UNCW, they played with great spirit this weekend. The jawing, the trash talk — it wasn’t there. They really kept their composure in their televised game against Florida, despite some histrionics from UF.

– Coming into Easterns, I was struggling a bit with determining a Player of the Year hierarchy. There are a lot of viable candidates this year, but most have shown some flaws. There is no Jimmy Mickle in 2015; no obvious standout.

Note that I only watched eight games at Easterns, but after talking with reporters and watching every top team play across every major tournament this season, it’s starting to come into view. Now, remember, we don’t select POTY or other player awards until after Nationals, because we feel the importance of the postseason is immense. Here’s who will come in as the top tier candidates (in no particular order):

Max Thorne (Pitt)
Dylan Freechild (Oregon)
Xavier Maxstadt (UNC Wilmington)
Chris LaRocque (Florida State)

Here’s the next tier down:

Jon Nethercutt (UNC)
Matt Bennett (Texas A&M)
Chase Cunningham (Texas)
Pat Earles (Pitt)

There are some more players another tier down that still have a realistic shot if they play an unbelievable Nationals.

I’ll get into more details about why these players land where they do in a future article. I’ll probably write something about the Callahan race as well.

– Georgia is much improved since I saw them play last at QCTU. They’ll have a legitimate shot at taking the Southeast crown this year, though I still think Florida State (who rebounded nicely at Easterns after a flat Stanford) is the top dog in the SE. Really, though, UGA has gotten MUCH better. Super impressed by Sam Little’s play for the defensive line. He has been much more dominant around the disc compared to earlier in the season. UGA was just a handful of points away from a monster weekend (DGP losses to UMass and then UNCW in quarters).

– Who do you pick: Oregon’s Connor Matthews, UNCW’s Jack Williams, or Pitt’s Christian Pitts? Three guys with wiry frames and some serious cutting skills. I think Jack Williams is probably the MVP of the three because of how much he does for the UNCW offense, but there’s a good argument for all three.

– The North Central teams, Wisconsin and Carleton, are just haaaanging around. Wisconsin’s defense is legit, and Pat and Simon were right in the Easterns tournament recap that if the offense can just get 25% better, they will be a scary team. Carleton has really not been very good yet this year, but they’ve had flashes, and they’ve played without John Raynolds, who is a literal game changer. If he gets healthy and Carleton starts playing like every game counts, look out. One of these two teams could make semis.

– Hoo boy, New England Regionals! You know UMass is starting to sweat, now that it’s confirmed that the region will have just one bid. Harvard suddenly looked right this weekend and John Stubbs, when he was on the field, was playing out of his mind. That region is absolutely going to be a tossup. Lucky for UMass, they’ll dodge a tough semis matchup, as Tufts and Harvard should be the 2 and 3 seeds and face off in semis. Could be a boon for UMass.

– I have not seen Maryland play this year. But how awesome that the team stormed into Easterns and came from outside of the bid cutoff to earn a shot at Nationals. They won’t have a free ticket to Nationals, not in the Atlantic Coast region, but they will absolutely be the favorites to win the game to go.

– Not sure what to make of Auburn’s weekend. Landing a fifth bid for the Southeast was a long shot anyway, but they imploded. I could see it going one of two ways: either it is a wake up call after riding a bit too high post Stanford, or they totally lose their edge and melt down at Regionals. They have time to figure it out. But right now, I wouldn’t bet against Georgia and the Florida teams to emerge from the Southeast.

– What the heck happened to Michigan this season?

– The Metro East is just awful, but Cornell seems to be the least awful. They’ll get back to Nattys this year.

– Easterns is just a wonderful tournament. I’d like to ask TD Greg Vassar to turn up the temperature dial about 10-15 degrees next year, but otherwise it’s just great. Ocean view hotel rooms, nice amenities and restaurants and mini golf in Myrtle Beach, spectacular fields at the new sports complex there, and great people. The IT guy for the city of Myrtle Beach literally talked to me on the phone for 45 minutes after working hours on Friday to help us get connected to the Internet.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

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

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