The majority of this report was prepared with the help of the quizbowl community over the IRC. Most of what is written here does not represent the opinion of any particular individual. The final 2012-13 ranking of each team has been listed in red for comparison.
#1 – Yale A [Previous Rank: #1]
Yale was one match away from winning both Nationals last year, and the Matt Jackson/Kevin Koai pairing has won a championship all three years of its existence. Yale returns everyone and adds some high school talent to boot – among them Jacob Reed, Jonathan Marx and Nicholas Wawrykow. This team has an extremely low neg rate, in stark contrast to the teams ranked #2 and #3. This team has excellent coverage in science through Ashvin Srivatsa, and Kevin Koai and the Grace/Spencer combo have done a surprisingly excellent job making up the literature deficit that John Lawrence left upon his departure. It also does not look like Matt Jackson is anywhere near plateauing yet, so he may find himself atop a separate list when it is all said and done.
As we’ve seen in the past, Yale’s matchup against Virginia will be highly packet dependent and a significant portion of the year for those two teams will be spent trying to reduce the variability. While Yale considers itself better at ACF than NAQT, they do own an ICT victory over Virginia. This matchup may hinge on the little things – can Tommy Casalaspi learn his areas of science faster than, say, Grace Liu cements her quizbowl biology knowledge?
#2 – Virginia A [Previous Rank: #3]
This team placed 5th at ACF Nationals despite having the highest PPG in the field. On the heels of writing a well-received Chicago Open, Matt Bollinger will look to add to his title count as Virginia A returns everyone from last year save David Seal. The key here to watch will be Tommy Casalaspi’s science development, as that area was previously held, at least on NAQT questions, by David Seal. The pressure will be on Evan Adams at ACF Nationals as it is his last shot to become the first ever player to achieve a Grand Slam. They were unlucky at last years ACF Nationals as, despite having the highest PPG in the field, they lost to Michigan by 5 points and then ran into an extremely hot Chicago A team. If Virginia just even plays to their average, as opposed to “well”, they should be in fine shape.
Virginia has a science advantage on Chicago A thanks to Tommy Casalaspi. These teams have met at VCU Open already with Virginia taking both games decisively. However, the Chicago team we see right now is not going to be the same one in April – it is too early to tell.
#3 – Penn [Previous Rank: #4]
Penn has proven time and time again that they are capable of beating absolutely anyone – this year, Eric and his supporting cast (identical to last year’s, mind you) will try once again to break through and capture that illustrious title. This team has a higher neg rate than the rest of the top 5, which has been an issue in matches before. Eric, of course, is the best science player ever and that will not change. This team will have to focus on playing smarter, not necessarily harder, and their younger players, Patrick Liao and Saajid Moyen, acquiring even greater depth in the humanities if they wish to take home a title. How this team does will also heavily depend on the quality of the science at the various nationals – Penn may find it much easier to beat good, science-deficient teams like Chicago A if the tossups aren’t full of ambiguous clues on obscurata. With Jerry Vinokurov and Auroni Gupta editing the science for this year’s Nationals, it is likely to be of high quality – Eric should have a field day.
#4 – Chicago A [Previous Rank: #8]
The acquisition of superstar free agent John Lawrence and high school prodigy Max Schindler put Chicago A into immediate title contention, despite losing half of their starting lineup. This team played together for the first time at VCU Open where they performed similarly to Maryland but well below Virginia. Max Schindler is allegedly looking to cover their greatest weakness – science. John Lawrence will bring veteran leadership to this team, and his desire for excellence should rub off on his teammates in a positive way. This is likely the lowest ranked team on this list that has a realistic shot of winning a championship. In his one year at King’s College London, John Lawrence quietly developed himself into an excellent and efficient generalist – but will he need to play more aggressively to take his team all the way? This team will likely consist of John Lawrence, Max Schindler, Doug Graebner and Marshall Steinbaum, who will be in his last year of competition. Chicago is a deep club, so it remains to be seen if one of the B team members can find a spot in the lineup.
This team will take the Art and Literature from Penn without a problem, but may drop all 4 Science tossups. Penn has the definitive edge in History and Mythology, so Chicago’s chances in this match will either hinge on stealing a tossup or two in those areas, or grinding out the remaining tossups with their generalist strength.
#5 – Maryland A [Previous Rank: #6]
Chris Ray brings back his excellent history knowledge and questionable gazebo knowledge for another run at the top. This team will compete with the likes of Virginia and Penn at regular difficulty, but see a drop-off when it comes to harder questions. Brian McPeak is a good science player and his improvement will play a large role in how this team does and Arun Chonai will add a few tossups a game as expected. Like every year, the story with Maryland isn’t going to be whether they will win a title (they probably won’t), but whose title chances they will ruin along the way. While they are currently ranked 5th, many on the IRC think Illinois (below) could surpass them by the end of the year. Maryland, of course, is very good at history but will need to control their negs.
#6 – Michigan [Previous Rank: #5]
Michigan acquires Siddhant Dogra from DCD as he tries to fill in the gap left by Libo Zeng and, at least for a while, Kurtis Droge, whose playing status may be the most interesting thing in quizbowl. If Kurtis is indeed not playing, this team is probably 3-6 ranks too high. Will Nediger is absolutely terrifying at any form of literature and has branched out into other areas as well, including science. Sid will also be expanding his science knowledge to fill the gap, so Michigan’s success will likely be determined by how well the remaining players can steal history questions away from their opponents.
Will Nediger may find himself being more frustrated than usual on the literature at this year’s ACF Nationals, as his tastes tend not to match up with Ted Gioia’s very well despite both of them being top-tier literature players.
#7 – Harvard A [Previous Rank: #10]
If he wasn’t one already, Stephen Liu certainly emerged as a leader last year. Unfortunately, some key losses in the round robin at ICT and the absence of Graham Moyer at ACF Nationals meant that their results didn’t quite pan out the way they would’ve liked. This is a team that has a great deal of real knowledge and can get extremely hot against top competition. Harvard also has a very deep club and it is possible that someone on their B or even C team will improve significantly to grab a starting spot. Sriram’s CO editorship and biology and chemistry knowledge will give this team some matchup advantages, Mark Arildsen may be a household name soon and Stephen Liu’s dedication could see him break into the Top 10 individually. On the other hand, while they can get hot, they are also prone to some spectacular neg-streaks, as evidenced by their 6-4-8 statline against Ohio State in the ICT Undergrad Final.
#8 – Ohio State [Previous Rank: #11]
Ohio State placed 8th at ICT last year under Jarret Greene and company – like a few teams slightly below them on this list – their goal this year will not be just making the top bracket, but placing respectably in it. This team, despite the ranking, is probably not as good as Illinois. This is a very good NAQT team due to their pop culture and current events coverage , and Jarret Greene is an excellent history player. Jasper Lee adds some music and science knowledge – two areas where it can be difficult to find talented players. However, this team likely loses Peter and his science + NAQT knowledge. Nevertheless, this is a highly motivated group and they should see continued success yet again, possibly even as high as 6th or 7th.
#9 – Illinois [Previous Rank: #2]
Last year, the Illinois team was able to finally achieve glory – surrounding high-level generalist Ike Jose with players who were nothing short of elite in their categories. Ike is now gone, and it’s Aaron’s turn to take over. This team is definitely considered a wild card among the community – Aaron has already shown his generalist knowledge but will have to improve that even more. Billy Busse is the consensus #2 science player at the moment and is close to lock-down at chemistry. This team acquires Tristan Willey, who will try to unseat Andrew Wang in the fourth spot. Some think this team is underranked, but the history and literature gaps that Ike Jose’s departure leave will have to be addressed as Austin Listerud and Aaron Rosenberg continue to get better in those respective areas.
#10 – Stanford [Previous Rank: #14]
The top team on the west coast – Stanford have proven themselves to be a top quality team, winning Division 2 at ICT and the second bracket at ACF Nationals. To take the next step, they will need to show that they can take down other top bracket teams. One top player stated that Stanford could be a top 5 team if they wanted to, as this team is loaded with potential between players such as Benji Nguyen, Nikhil Desai, Roger Cain, James Bradbury and Ian Torres. Benji Nguyen provides a bulk of the scoring for this team as their leading generalist, and has exceptional ability in literature and arts. He also seems quite dedicated to improving – so he, as well as the rest of the Stanford team, could see their stock rise dramatically in a short time.
#11 – Alberta [Previous Rank: #13]
The only Canadian team on the list brings back their entire starting lineup as they try to become the first Canadian team ever to crack the top 10 (2010 Toronto was also ranked #11 in the year-end poll). This team relies heavily on their two generalists: Trevor Davis and Sinan Ulusoy. Between the two of them, they have phenomenal coverage of the canon – posting bonus conversion numbers similar to that of a fringe Top 5 team. This team, which came within 10 points of beating Illinois at ACF Nationals, will have to prove that they have the ability to do damage in the top bracket and not just the round robin. This team, like Stanford above it, may suffer from not facing enough high-level competition on a regular basis, and will have to do something to mitigate that. They will also need to control their negging, especially against good teams.
#12 – Chicago B [Previous Rank: #12]
Chicago B has long been the gold standard for second teams from a school but this year they may face some stiff competition. Many feel that this team is overranked based on historical precedent. It is also unknown whether players like Morgan Venkus will even be active over the coming year. Chicago has a very deep club and a lot of good players, so they will almost certainly be a Top 25 team yet again. The interesting question here is whether or not Max Schindler, who is otherwise on Chicago A, may join this team for a run at the Division II ICT championship. Ben Chametzky and Charles Tian will likely head this team, which may include some combination of Ben Gammage’s math and physics knowledge as well.
#13 – MCTC [Previous Rank: #15]
Rob and Bernadette return for another go-around as MCTC tries to crack the top 10 with their thin yet very talented roster. Despite the higher ranking, the IRC largely believes that JSR is probably a bit better than MCTC – especially on NAQT, despite Bernadette’s excellent current events coverage. Interestingly enough, that game may just come down to a few science tossups. Rob Carson brings a large amount of literature and fine arts knowledge that should cause trouble for top bracket teams that are unprepared for it.
#14 – J. Sergeant Reynolds [Previous Rank: NR]
Matt Weiner is going to school! … and nobody has any idea how he will do. Another talented Matt says that JSR will likely make the top bracket at ICT, and several good players state they would be terrified to be in his bracket at that event. As with other solo teams, JSR will be highly packet-dependent. This means that they will pick up a few losses here and there to teams that may not be as good as them, but if Matt Weiner gets a favourable packet he may bulldoze straight over someone’s championship aspirations. Upset Potential: teams “prone to neg” and teams who can’t consistently answer science questions may find themselves on the losing end of a match with J Sergeant Reynolds.
#15 – MIT [Previous Rank: #19]
A team that, year in and year out, is filled with many talented players who all know the same thing – science. It is unlikely that this year’s recruiting class will be any different, so Neil Gurram, Stephen Eltinge and the rest of the gang will have to cover their weaknesses themselves. MIT will acquire Allan Sadun of champion LASA, another good high school player who will add more science knowledge to a team that is already in the top 3 or so in that category. This team is about as easy to predict as Neil Gurram’s attendance – which is, to say, they aren’t easy to predict at all. While Anderson Wang provides some much needed literature knowledge, this team needs to find out where they are going to get points on history questions if they are to be more successful.
#16 – Georgia Tech [Previous Rank: #9]
After one year playing alongside Will Butler, Adam Silverman has the reigns entirely to himself as he will try and lead the Georgia Tech team to glory. Adam Silverman is very, very good at science (especially chemistry) and has proven his ability as a top-notch HS generalist – he has great buzzer instincts and will be competitive on nearly every question. However, he may have to make a large individual improvement if he wishes to see his team advance further. He will be joined by recruits such as Will Ha from Hunter, Mostafa from Norcross and Alex Liu from Chattahoochee. It remains to be seen what kind of support these players will provide.
#17 – Columbia [Previous Rank: #23]
This team is somewhat overhauled from last year – trading Michael Arnold for Alex Gerten and Rafael Krichevsky. They also acquire Illinois player Shreyas from Metea Valley, who will add some much needed science knowledge to a team of Jon Xu, Rafael, Alex Gerten and Aidan. History is this team’s main weakness, while Rafael’s music ability should ensure they take the fine arts from most of the teams they face – Rafael has shown that he can regularly beat music legends Kevin Koai and John Lawrence in those categories. However, this team needs a player, probably Rafael or Aidan, to develop into a good generalist if they want to crack the Top 10.
#18 – Michigan State [Previous Rank: #24]
Michigan State is a pretty good team that attends a lot of tournaments. What will it take for them to get better? For starters, they retain the same lineup as last year, led by Shan Kothari, who scales up excellently in his areas (music, philosophy, etc.). To improve, this team needs to expand their generalist knowledge. Joe has a lot of real knowledge and Connor is a pretty good fine arts player, but those two and whoever their 4th will be will have to learn areas outside of their comfort zones to be successful. This team is probably not as good as Dartmouth (below) on ACF level questions, but has the edge at NAQT due to Joe’s current events and Connor’s trash knowledge.
#19 – Dartmouth [Previous Rank: NR]
Dartmouth is a fairly good team who will try and crack the middle bracket at ACF this year. A well-balanced team consisting of Nick Jensen, Will Alston, Cameron Orth and Kirk Jing – Dartmouth will have no shortage of opportunities to practice against top competition within their own region. Led by Nick Jensen, one of the few bio and chem players in the game, this is a team that is certainly enthusiastic about improving but may be having trouble converting that interest into tangible results. Will Alston is an excellent history player.
#20 – Berkeley [Previous Rank: #22]
Another young west coast team comes to us from UC Berkeley – these guys lose supporting player Sam Braunfeld to Rutgers but are hoping their experiences together can push them up this list. This team will likely be getting a ton of California recruits as usual and it will be up to them to develop those players into something good at the National level. Ankit Aggarwal had a very large number of negs at ACF Nationals and will have to work on his aggressiveness – however, with freshmen jitters gone, that problem may have already been taken care of.
#21 – WUStL [Previous Rank: #25]
Richard Yu and Charles Hang are at it again! This team placed 21st at ACF Nationals this past year including a performance that saw them upset top 10 team Georgia Tech in the prelims. Richard Yu is certainly one to watch, as he has shown his ability to get tossups early against good competition on several occasions – it will be interesting to see whether or not he can breakout and advance to the next level. Charles Hang, like Richard, is also a very good history player – interestingly enough, the two seem to have great chemistry despite this overlap. Bonus conversion is also another area this team will have to work on if they want to advance further.
#22 – Brown [Previous Rank: #21]
Brown is a very difficult team to rank. After obtaining a #11 rank in the Midseason Poll, they were bumped down significantly by voters after not playing either National. However, if this team can pull together and come to things then they should shoot up this list extremely quickly.
#23 – Vanderbilt [Previous Rank: NR]
Henry Gorman has graduated after a good career at Rice and will be taking his talents to Nashville, TN as part of the Vanderbilt team. He will likely be joined here by Rohan Nag and be asked to carry an even larger load than he did at Rice. Rice finished 11th at ACF Nationals in 2012 so it’s possible this team may be underranked as Henry has proven himself to be dangerous on higher difficulties.
#24 – Yale B [Previous Rank: NR]
Never count out Yale. Even if it’s the B team – just don’t. This is a strong club with excellent leadership and with many good players as well. The B team will likely consist of Spencer Weinreich/Grace Liu (whichever is not on the A team) leading a group consisting of at the very least Jacob Wasserman, Jacob Reed or visual arts player Basil Smitham. This is a very solid core. Despite the ranking, the general consensus in the IRC is that this team is probably slightly better than Chicago B, assuming best possible rosters.
#25 – Harvard B [Previous Rank: NR]
Harvard acquires a boat worth of talented freshman that will make their B team absolutely terrifying. The question will be whether or not Vimal Konduri can develop into an A-team type player and whether Raynor Kuang’s playstyle will get the best of him at the college level. His neg rate is very high and he will have to curb it to succeed. Rumour has it that he is certainly enthusiastic about trying to become Harvard’s next great literature player. Will played D2 ICT last year, but some combination of these players should easily be good enough to finish between 1st and 3rd.
Kevin Malis and Dan Donohue will be possibly joined this year by Dylan Minarik. If so, expect them to hang out in the second bracket at ACF Nationals and cause some teams trouble. It remains to be seen whether or not Dylan’s attendance record and ability to play well on harder questions work out for the better. Northwestern’s recurrent problem is that they seem to acquire high school generalist after high school generalist – often these players don’t wind up panning out at the higher level.
Libo Zeng will be at Washington next year, joining Mike Bentley in a formidable duo. Libo has expressed his desire to go to Nationals and Mike is eligible for ACF tournaments. A strong team in history and the arts, this team will have to overcome their spotty literature and music coverage in order to properly do some damage at the highest level. Libo’s science knowledge at higher difficulties is going to be a huge boon. Expect them to get around 6-7 tossups against good teams at Nationals.
This is a team with a good amount of talent but very spotty attendance. Similar to Brown, if they can actually get their players together to come to tournaments regularly, they will see their ranking improve. We will certainly keep an eye on Ryan Rosenberg in the meantime.
Yogesh Raut is finished after an impressive showing at ICT. However, Aaron Cohen possibly returns but has expressed some doubts about continuing. The supporting cast at NYU looks a lot thinner than it did last year. It will be interesting to see if Aaron and company can regroup to make another Top 25 run, or if they will suffer from trash capture once again as is the norm.
The second unit from the University of Virginia will likely consist of some combination of Daniel Hothem, Sarah Angelo, Dennis Loo and Anant Shah. Matt Bollinger certainly has faith in his clubmates – when asked if Virginia B could potentially surpass any of the ranked B teams, he answered “Why wouldn’t they?”.
Harrison Brown is gone. Jake Sundberg is gone. Even if Dargan Ware remains, which is an unknown, this team is taking a very large hit. I wouldn’t expect much this time around.
Oxford usually makes the trip to ICT and finishes in the third bracket of Division I. It is unlikely this year will be any different but, with the departure of John Lawrence to Chicago, Oxford should be the undisputed best team in the U.K. until further notice. This is a team good on easy questions but will have to work on harder material if they hope to scale up.
Henry Gorman’s career at Rice is over – it is now time to see what the rest of the club can accomplish. This will be a rebuilding year for Rice, certainly, as they hope to achieve a similar level to what they’ve done in the past 4 years.
Stephanie and Jonathan can both get points at lower difficulties. Rutgers also acquires Sam Braunfeld formerly of UC Berkeley, who should add a decent amount of math and science knowledge.
Maryland can be a black box. They acquire Kara Vo and retain Daniel Galitsky and Dan Puma. However, they always seem to find people to fill out their team and it is likely that it will stay that way again. Chris Manners may round out this team. They have an outside shot at Top 25 for sure given the quizbowl experience that their members have.
Minnesota loses everyone except hypothetical Mike Cheyne. After an excellent run spanning half-a-decade, it is highly unlikely they will find themselves back in the top bracket this year. The question, for now, is whether they will be the best team in their own state, or whether that mantle will go back to Carleton.
Carleton doesn’t seem to have anyone who is interested in being super active or getting good at the top level. They will be competitive with teams up to the second tier at difficulties up to regular but will likely not be a factor beyond that.
VCU loses their leading scorer Sean Smiley off a team that placed near the top of the third bracket at ACF Nationals. Cody Voight will be asked to pick up a lot of the slack as he tries to get his team into the Top 25. However, his supporting cast is likely going to need to improve for that to happen.
On ACF Nationals Editors
Ted and Auroni split literature, Ryan does history, Jerry and Auroni split science, Ted does painting, Jerry other art, Ryan religion, Auroni myth, Jerry philosophy, Jerry/Ryan social science, Jerry remainder.
The obvious question will be whether or not the difficulty will be more comparable to that of the Magin-edited ACF Nationals from the past two years, or the much more difficult ACF Nationals 2011. The science is likely to be of high quality this year, which should benefit those teams with a science player that much more – especially Penn.
Ted has a very peculiar set of tastes for literature – this will benefit some players, such as John Lawrence, and disadvantage others, like Will Nediger, who don’t share those preferences. Ted’s style is that of making sure every clue is buzzable, not punishing players for knowledge, and focusing on core topics. This should make for a very interesting set of questions.
On History Bowl
The first question right off the bat is whether History Bowl is even going to happen. The current rumour is that a team consisting of Matt Weiner, Mike Bentley and Jerry Vinokurov will be working on it and that it will be announced in December if sufficient progress has been made. This tournament, if it happens, will be attached to ICT. Like non-history quizbowl, UVA and Penn and probably Yale should be the favourites in this event. Maryland gets a boost as history is Chris Ray’s best category, while Harvard has a very solid team with Stephen, Graham, David and former History Bee champion Mark Arildsen. Chicago has many players in its club and some combination of Charles Tian and Ben Chametzky accompanying members of the A team will be enough to make them quite competitive. Ohio State also figures to be decent – led by Jarret Greene.
There doesn’t seem to be any upcoming tournament that people are significantly worried about with regards to quality. Penn Bowl was suggested by many to be a strong contender for the year’s best tournament, as was ACF Nationals.
People were very hesitant to make predictions for the tournaments themselves – however, there was an agreement that there are fewer contenders this year than there were last year. Last year had five teams that could have very easily won a title, whereas this year there are probably at most four – although John Lawrence himself does not think Chicago A is “there yet” as a contender.
Thank you to everyone who came to the IRC to help in writing this report. Good luck to all of the teams over the coming season!