2015 Collegiate Quizbowl Fall Preview

The following season preview draws on a preseason poll carried out on the forums, and on an IRC discussion rundown of each of the teams on that poll. As such, it does not represent the opinion of any one person, the official views of hsquizbowl.org, or anything like that. Special thanks to Mike Cheyne for running the poll and to the contributions of all who participated in the subsequent discussion.

It should be noted that, for the most part, this poll and discussion was limited to publicly available  information, and the following preview reflects this. As with previous incarnations of this preview, actual results of teams during the upcoming season may well differ substantially from what this preview indicates.

 

The following teams either received at least ten votes in the preseason poll or were singled out specifically by participants in the preseason discussion:

Amherst College (2 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Boyang Jiao, Corry Wang, Kevin Wang

Kevin Wang joins his brother Corry and fellow Arcadia alumnus Boyang at Amherst. He brings his superb ability in science – easily able to compete with top collegiate players – to a team which already has similar levels of ability on history between the other two players, particularly Corry. Kevin and Boyang are both decent generalists as well and can get plenty of buzzes outside of their main categories.

What this team lacks in generalist ability, it makes up for with extreme depth in its specialist subjects. Amherst is therefore likely to play something of a spoiler role in Northeast, able to potentially take games from teams like Yale and MIT B, Brown, and Dartmouth – or even some of the stronger teams if the packet really goes their way – by nailing its best subjects and sniping a few questions in other categories, particularly if their opponents neg. All three players remain untested at ACF Nationals or D1 ICT, though their specialism suggests that they could probably do a decent job scaling to that level.

Virginia Commonwealth University (10 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Sarah Angelo, Akhil Garg, Nate Boughner, Casey Bindas

Sarah Angelo is back playing this year and joins the rest of VCU’s team, the highlight of which is science player Akhil Garg, who managed to get all four questions in that category off Auroni Gupta at ACF Nationals. Sarah adds a lot of quizbowl experience and a lot of knowledge of literature and classics to this team, and will definitely be able to help them to higher finishes in regional tournaments.

University of California, San Diego (10 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Jason Cheng, Parikshit Chauhan, Ashok Kunda, Jonathan Luck

Junior Jason Cheng is all that’s left of last year’s UCSD A team. A decent generalist on his own, Jason will be joined by rising sophomores Ashok Kunda and Parikshit Chauhan and Canyon Crest Academy player Jonathan Luck this year. This team won’t be posting nearly as high finishes this year as they did last year, but they will be around the circuit and probably perform decently.

New York University (11 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Sameen Belal, Alec Vulfson

Junior Alec Vulfson and sophomore Sameen Belal headline this team. Without the benefits of Evan Adam’s experience and wide-ranging knowledge, this team will probably see a substantial dropoff in performance compared to last year, but Alec and Sameen have stuck with the game and will probably continue to do decently as long as they do, especially if Sameen continues to improve at science.

University of Texas (15 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Andi Qi, Arnav Sastry, Arthur Lee, Joseph Langas

The victors of last year’s D2 ICT, this team has definitely shown that it has plenty of knowledge between its four players to compete at regular difficulty tournaments and certainly enough to dominate the relatively weak Texas region. Beyond that, some suspect that they may suffer D2 capture, and even if they don’t, it’s going to be a lot of work if they are to become nationally competitive at a higher level.

McGill University (16 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Derek So, Joe Su, Sebastian Drake, Sam Baker

Graduate student Derek So leads this team both in knowledge and in scoring, with his greatest ability being in literature. His supporting players have a substantial amount of real knowledge across the distribution, allowing this team to put up good bonus numbers, but don’t typically buzz in particularly early on tossups. This team will rule the Canadian circuit unless Alberta shows up to more events; buzzing in earlier on more tossups will be crucial if this team is to become more competitive outside of the frigid north.

Duke University (16 votes)

Prospective Lineup: John Stathis, Ryan Humphrey, Gabe Guedes

Each of Duke’s players is very strong at low difficulty – Gabe in particular is a superb high school player with excellent knowledge in literature and the arts who could probably win a D2 invitation on this own. With Ryan and John being ineligible for D2 though, it remains to be seen at what level this team will be competing this year – if it’s higher difficulty, it’s unclear how competitive this team will be.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology B (17 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Unknown. Likely some combination of: Anderson Wang, James Rowan, Oliver Ren, Bryce Hwang, Saumil Bandyopadhyay, Erica Liu, Rohan Kodialam, Farah Kabir, Kevin Li, Claire Kennan.

Between the huge number of players who could play for this team, MIT could very well field a strong C team in addition to a B team. While it’s unclear which of the MIT freshmen will be picking up buzzers in college, if any combination of them do, they will in all likelihood be fairly competitive at regular difficulty in the same way that last year’s incarnation of MIT B was, and they will be assisted by some number of veteran players to boot. Some combination of the freshmen on this team will likely be a real threat at D2 ICT this year.

Yale University B (18 votes)

Prospective Lineup: Unknown. Likely some combination of: Connor Wood, Isaac Kirk-Davidoff, Adam Fine, Cathy Xue, Nicholas Wawrykow, Laurence Li, Jacob Mitchell, Bernard Stanford

Like MIT, Yale has a very large list of people who could potentially end up on its B team, and any reasonable permutation of four of them would be competitive at regular difficulty tournaments and possibly Nationals as well. The highlights of this team would be Blair science player Cathy Xue, Maggie Walker leading generalist and history/music expert Connor Wood, and University of Chicago Lab School generalist Adam Fine, with Isaac Kirk-Davidoff potentially taking Connor’s place on this team at non-NAQT tournaments. Again like MIT, the freshmen among these players – namely Connor, Adam, and Cathy – would likely be a serious threat at ICT and would definitely be among the teams in contention to win.

 

REGIONAL CONTENDERS: The following teams are most likely to make the playoffs of whatever regional tournaments they choose to play and, depending on the region in question, may stand a good chance of outright winning such tournaments. However, it is unlikely they will make the top bracket of either national unless they exhibit major improvement.

 

T-23. Oxford University (on 8 ballots; highest rank: #16)

Prospective Lineup: Joey Goldman, George Corfield, Charles Clegg, Oliver Clarke

Coming off an impressive performance at 2015 ACF Nationals, Oxford returns but without their top scorer from Nationals and chief scientist, Ewan Macaulay. This has necessitated a bit of retooling. Fortunately, to fill their science gap, Oxford has George Corfield waiting in the wings, who brings to the table biology and chemistry knowledge that let him score powers on half the biology at STIMPY. Reportedly, George has been studying physics a fair bit over the summer.

The rest of Oxford provides strong coverage of the humanities. Oliver’s classics knowledge lets him mop up bonuses on Brauron and the Eleusinian mysteries with alarming alacrity, and he brings solid coverage of Europe and the Middle East to the table as well. Charlie provides deep knowledge of fine arts and Christianity, with a good grasp of his home country’s literature as well. Joey is a functioning generalist in the UK, though in American fields it’s his strong literature and philosophy specialties that earn him most of his buzzes, along with his steadily improving knowledge of world history. Predictably, all of these players have a solid command of British and European history to bring to the table.

As a team, Oxford puts up bonus numbers that seem to would place them above their current standings. George, Oliver, and Joey combined for 19.19 PPB on STIMPY without Charles, and the team doesn’t really have any major weaknesses on large subject areas. The big question is whether the UK’s competitive environment will allow them to develop the sort of buzzer instincts that are necessary to compete in an American field. With Ewan’s move to Cambridge for a Ph.D. the hope is that, with a newly invigorated squad of Cantabs to compete against, the answer for Oxford will be yes.

 

T-23: Dartmouth College (on 10 ballots; highest rank: #20)

Prospective Lineup: Will Alston, Victor Borza, Charles Jang

Due to unfortunate circumstances, Dartmouth was unable to attend either national tournament last year. With this being Will Alston’s final year in collegiate competition for the foreseeable future, he is unlikely to let this situation repeat itself again.

As with last year, Will is likely to provide most of this team’s scoring with his very deep history knowledge and developing generalist ability in thought, the arts, geo/CE, and religion/myth – something likely to improve between Will writing nearly half of Missouri Open and doing a fair bit of studying on his own. His main teammates are two pre-med students: Charles Jang, who supplements his bio knowledge with incredible depth on the Bible and knowledge of 19th century U.S. history, and Victor Borza, who has been working to solidify his quizbowl knowledge in the sciences. This team is quite weak at literature and is unlikely to be able to adequately patch this subject in an area full of strong literature players such as the Northeast.

Dartmouth’s strategy for beating other teams will actually be remarkably similar to Amherst’s – get the history and science and snag enough questions in other categories to get to the crucial 11-tossup threshold – though Dartmouth is stronger at history, weaker at science, and quite a bit better at every other category. Assuming the team improves enough to reach at least 19-20 points per bonus – which is likely – this strategy may well be viable, but they’re still a substantial underdog to other Northeast teams like Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and Yale.

 

T-23: Brown University (on 10 ballots; highest rank: #15)

Prospective Lineup: Lloyd Sy, Abid Haseeb, Evan Pandya, Rohith Nagari

Brown adds Auburn all-star Evan Pandya to a squad already dominated by…Auburn all-stars Lloyd Sy and Abid Haseeb, with Rohith Nagari generally playing second scorer to Lloyd’s generalist.

This team has all the makings of a strong regional contender and possibly a middle-bracket team at ACF Nationals. Lloyd and Evan provide a strong foundation with generalist ability and plenty of knowledge in literature and fine arts. Rohith adds deep knowledge in the sciences and mythology to round out a team that’s going to be plenty capable of putting up good numbers on regular sets – Evan scored 16 powers on last year’s Penn Bowl and Lloyd, Rohith, and Abid combine for 18-19 PPB on such tournaments despite holes in subjects such as history.

While they definitely have the ability to compete at the regional level, Brown has yet to attend a collegiate national tournament, so their ability to scale to high difficulty is uncertain. In any case, their stock this year is completely uncertain and probably highly dependent on how many tournaments they actually play.

 

T-21: College of William and Mary (on 15 ballots; highest rank #15)

Prospective Lineup: Sean Smiley; three of: James Cole, Jon Leidenheimer, Alex Frey, Chris Miller

The William and Mary team put up solid performances under Sean’s leadership throughout last season, including a very respectable 11th place finish at ICT and an 18th place finish at ACF Nationals. The same squad returns this year to compete throughout the mid-Atlantic.

This team’s got a great base of history knowledge between Sean and Jon, and Sean’s many years of experience playing have given him a wide enough knowledge base to make him an effective generalist, able to reliably buzz late in questions across many categories even at high difficulties and pull a number of bonus parts. What this team has in breadth, it does somewhat lack in depth – they score relatively few powers and don’t generally get a ton of early buzzes.

William and Mary will qualify and attend nationals, as it has managed to do and will hopefully continue manage to do. What it lacks is a strong drive for improvement – they could easily be surpassed by several of the teams above them on this list, and many think this will in fact be what happens.

 

T-21: University of Louisville (on 9 ballots; highest rank #12

Prospective Lineup: Kurtis Droge, Nick Conder, Ramapriya Rangaraju,

Kurtis Droge returns to school at the same time that Nick Conder takes his talents to the University of Louisville for a Ph.D. program. They join a team led by Ramapriya Rangaraju, an experienced science player who’s had to function as a generalist in the past year with Austin Brownlow’s departure, but will now be relieved of such a duty.

Kurtis is somewhat rusty, but he’s a very experienced player with a wide knowledge base and good depth in history to build on. Nick Conder adds very strong knowledge of current events and additional history knowledge to this team, which is rounded out by Rama’s knowledge of physics and math. Effectively, this team is a classic specialist-generalist setup.

Thanks to Nick’s ample current events knowledge, this team will likely be better at ICT than ACF Nationals – it wouldn’t be entirely unsurprising to see a solid second-bracket finish there, assuming Kurtis transitions well back into the game, which his VCU Open results suggest he will – meaning this team could well end up ranked higher than it currently is.

 

  1. University of Chicago B (on 15 ballots; highest rank #8)

Prospective Lineup: One of: James Lasker, Jason Zhou; three of: Athena Kern, Marianna Zhang, Alston Boyd, Kai Smith, Olivia Kiser

As always, the University of Chicago has plenty of bright young minds to fill the slots on its B team. New to the club this year are Alston Boyd, Kai Smith, and Olivia Kiser, all strong high school generalists with impressive numbers and finishes to their names. Between all of them, Chicago will likely field a decent C team as well!

Whichever of Jason and James isn’t on Chicago A will end up on this team. They could be joined by any of: Athena, who has solid visual arts knowledge; Marianna, a strong “thought” player; Alston, who’s got very good depth in history and mythology; Kai, who’s probably the best generalist of the bunch and is very good at music; and Olivia, who put up very impressive numbers at NAQT’s SSNCT this past year. There’s a foundation for great things here, especially if one of the players really catches fire – if anything, it’s likely to be Alston who’s got the quizbowl fever, at least if the time he spends on the IRC counts for anything.

This team’s automatically one of the top contenders for the D2 title at ICT, and will likely compete for that title with Yale B and the University of Virginia. Beyond that, they probably won’t have too many incredible finishes in the regular season given the quality of Midwest competition, but a decent finish in the third or second bracket of ACF Nationals is likely.

 

  1. University of North Carolina (on 14 ballots; highest rank #15)

Prospective Lineup: Natan Holzman, Ryan Rosenberg, Zihan Zheng, Nick Neutefel

This team doesn’t get any new players, remaining unchanged from the squad that took down D2 at ACF Nationals 2014 and 15th place at ICT 2014. Natan provides the bulk of the team’s scoring and has a specialty in music and reasonable ability to scale difficulty. Ryan brings a lot of knowledge of politics to the table, and Zihan retains generalist ability from his time at Hunter.

There’s definitely a solid knowledge base here, but it remains doubtful whether any of the team members will exhibit substantial improvement from their current abilities. General consensus seems to be that this team, like William and Mary, is somewhat overrated and retains its spot due to the players’ experience and well-won respect from their strong performances at previous tournaments. That said, UNC is nothing to sneeze at and will put up good numbers, especially on bonuses, on any regular tournaments they play.

 

  1. University of Alberta (on 13 ballots; highest rank #10)

Prospective Lineup: Trevor Davis, Mitchell Schulze

After top-bracket finishes at 2013 and 2014 ACF Nationals and winning the second bracket of that tournament in 2015, Sinan Ulusoy’s done with school, leaving Alberta’s fate in the hands of Trevor Davis and Mitchell Schuzle. Trevor remains one of the most grizzled of the veterans still around in quizbowl and retains a great command of the canon and superb knowledge of classics. Mitchell emerged as something of a mid-level scorer on incarnations of last year’s Alberta team, and could likely play a similar role next to Trevor.

General consensus is that this team, despite its ranking, is probably worse than Louisville or at least will be by the end of the season since Louisville is a similar situation – mainly reliant on one veteran player – but features stronger support for said veteran. This team will continue to finish strong at Canadian tournaments and put up decent finishes elsewhere, but nowhere near to the extent that it did before.

 

  1. University of Virginia (on 13 ballots; highest rank #7)

Prospective Lineup: Eric Xu, Jack Mehr, Vasa Clarke

UVA’s heavily decorated lineup from the past four years is finally gone – in its entirety. In its place are a set of formidable former high school players, not least of whom is Eric Xu, one of the few one-man teams to ever make the finals of a high school national tournament.

Eric provides a great, wide spread of knowledge across every single category for this team to build on – knowledge that is perhaps greatest at high school nationals difficulty, but which definitely is plenty to scale up to regular difficulty with. Jack and Vasa add specialty knowledge, with Jack being a reasonable generalist on his own. Last year’s PADAWAN at Richmond provides a preview for what this team’s scoring profile might look like, with Jack and Vasa contributing 20 to 30 PPG each to Eric’s high numbers on a regular set.

This team will probably compete with Chicago B for the D2 ICT title and is likely a favorite, at least at the start of the season, given Eric’s prodigious knowledge of material somewhat below regular difficulty level and his excellent supporting cast. The question remains as to whether this team can scale well beyond this level – right now, it probably can’t, and none of the players here are nearly as motivated as they were in their younger years. That said, great things have come of freshman players before, and it’d be exceedingly unwise to rule them out just yet.

 

  1. Northwestern University (highest rank #12; lowest rank #21)

Prospective Lineup: Dylan Minarik, Greg Peterson

Dylan Minarik has cemented himself as a solid regular difficulty generalist, which means that the addition of another regular difficulty generalist may not be exactly what the team needs. That said, it’s undeniable that this team is going to be a good bit better than last year’s incarnation of Northwestern. Greg brings additional depth in literature to the table to supplement Dylan’s broad knowledge, including of the physical sciences, and depth in jazz and American history.

This team, like its main players, probably peaks at collegiate regular difficulty, but they’re no slouches at higher difficulty tournaments either. Dylan’s consistent ability to pick up questions earned him a decent 15th place finish at last year’s ICT and 18th at ACF Nationals, and Greg will only cement this ability further. This team is unlikely to atrophy and will definitely steadily improve, but a gigantic improvement is unlikely.

 

  1. Georgia Institute of Technology (highest rank #11; lowest rank #20)

Prospective Lineup: Adam Silverman et al.

The Eric Xu of an older generation, Adam has shown repeatedly that he is an excellent generalist who’s able to score tons of powers on regular difficulty sets, scale up reasonably well, and nail the categories he’s become an extremely prolific writer in – biology and chemistry. He hasn’t seem to have atrophied in particular over the years and retains good buzzer ability despite not having strong competition for most of the year.

Adam’s main limiting factor remains his teammates. A one-man team can only do so much, a fact even more pronounced at the college level than the high school level, where it’s even MORE difficult to have every subject down solidly. Georgia Tech will probably put up a solid second-bracket finish at whatever nationals they attend, as they have the previous two years, but likely nothing more.

 

OUTSIDE CONTENDERS: These teams aren’t guaranteed to make the top bracket of either national championship, but they definitely have the skills and knowledge to make that a real possibility.

 

  1. Harvard University (highest rank #9; lowest rank #17)

Prospective Lineup: Will Holub-Moorman, Mark Arildsen, Raynor Kuang, Vimal Konduri

Harvard replaces long-time science specialist Sriram Pendyala with buzzer-happy generalist Raynor Kuang as Will Holub-Moorman moves into his senior year and second year leading this team, shifting this team away from a specialist model to more of a jack-of-all-trades model.

Raynor brings wide-ranging low-level generalist ability and lots of knowledge of literature clues to the team, which may combine well with Will’s depth in literature, particularly modern literature, as well as the arts. Mark Arildsen adds a wealth of history and general knowledge, as well as knowledge of physics and math from his studies, to this team. Vimal Konduri adds even more low-level generalist ability and superb knowledge of geography.

This team doesn’t have any real weaknesses but, outside of literature and NAQT subjects like geo and trash, it doesn’t have any particularly prominent strengths either. An important factor to watch is whether Raynor is able to reign in his buzzer-happiness, which can often lead to unnecessary negs that can cost games. That said, the ceiling on this team’s performance is fairly high, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them beat any of the higher-ranked Northeast teams and put up very good numbers.

 

  1. University of California, Berkeley (highest rank #6; lowest rank #18)

Prospective Lineup – four of: Bruce Lou, Justin Nghiem, Aseem Keyal, Michael Coates, Ankit Aggarwal

This team adds high school stars Bruce Lou and Justin Nghiem to a solid core of Aseem Keyal and Ankit Aggarwal. Of all the teams reliant on new high school talent, this one is likely the most promising given its members’ excellent specialties and their teammates’ experience with the college game.

Bruce Lou and Justin Nghiem were two of the four players on this year’s NASAT-winning California squad, providing that team with pillars of knowledge on history and literature to build on. Ankit, a veteran of 2012’s decorated Bellarmine team, brings experience and some thought knowledge to this team, which is rounded out by rapidly improving sophomore Aseem Keyal, who has worked to cover Berkeley’s previous weaknesses in literature, the arts, and some of the sciences – the latter two of which remain rather weaker than literature. Michael Coates is a possible addition for NAQT tournaments, where he brings considerable knowledge of current events and American history to bear.

The much-improved Berkeley team will likely play second fiddle to Stanford on the West Coast, but looks to provide plenty of good competition on regular-season tournaments for that team. Assuming all of the freshmen play D1 SCT, which seems to be the plan, this team will probably be able to pull off a good second-bracket finish at both of the Nationals tournaments.

 

  1. Stanford University B (highest rank #7; lowest rank #17)

Prospective Lineup: Nathan Weiser, Tabitha Walker, Alex Freed, James Bradbury

This is the same squad which took down last year’s UG championship at ACF Nationals, back for another year of in all likelihood excellent performances. Nathan and Freed, half of 2014’s dominant LASA squad, combined to provide the foundation for the Stanford team that put up the best numbers in the field at last year’s D2 ICT as well. Between James, Freed, and Nathan/Tabitha, this team has the big three subject areas covered extremely well, and there’s plenty of geo/CE knowledge floating around to make the team particularly scary at NAQT questions.

This team has shown steady improvement as all of its areas and will probably continue to do so with Nathan and Freed writing DISCO again this summer. Its main rival in the region is Berkeley, which probably has a higher ceiling than this team but also a lower floor due to the main distinguishing factor between the two squads – experience. Expect a similar performance from this team as last year.

 

  1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain (highest rank #7; lowest rank #17)

Prospective lineup: Andrew Wang, Tristan Willey, Alex Fregeau, Austin Listerud

If last year has shown anything, it’s not just that Andrew Wang is hilarious, but that he’s a much better player than many people would like to admit. ACF Nationals 2013 veteran Austin Listerud may be rejoining the Illini this year, providing another scoring option to a team with solid support from Tristan Willey and Alex Fregeau.

Andrew provides the bedrock of this team’s scoring with his extensive knowledge of literature and mythology clues and very real knowledge of sciences, particularly anything to do with analytical chem. If he plays, Austin would be a very good complement, since his knowledge is concentrated in history and thought, with some lit and trash as well. This team’s weaknesses remain in religion, geo/CE, and the arts.

This team has a reasonably high ceiling, though that’s very dependent on how hard Andrew works this year. If he puts in the time for studying like he did last season, he could very well find himself in the finals of the ACF Nationals undergraduate championship again.

 

TOP BRACKET CONTENDERS: At present full strength, these teams are almost guaranteed to make the top bracket of ACF Nationals and stand a good shot at doing the same for ICT’s smaller top bracket as well.

 

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology A (highest rank #7; lowest rank #24)

Prospective Lineup: Neil Gurram; three of: Julian Fuchs, Oliver Ren, Bryce Hwang, Saumil Bandyopadhyay, James Rowan, Anderson Wang

With Stephen Eltinge gone, MIT’s roster this year looks rather uncertain. It is certain, however, that Neil Gurram is one of the best generalists out there and possibly the best player in the Northeast, providing an excellent foundation for the rest of the team to build around.

More than any player in his region, Neil is a breadth-wise generalist, with large amounts of quizbowl knowledge in every category across the board and extremely fast buzzer speed and clue recognition. He’s got a wide range of possible teammates, including any number of players from last year’s well-performing MIT B team. Most prominent among these is Julian Fuchs, a strong music player and decent all-around generalist who brings good knowledge of literature to the table.

Like last year, MIT will be at the top of most Northeast fields and will probably take down a couple tournaments in the area, as well as finish well at national tournaments. This team has no real weaknesses, though it does have some issues scaling up depth-wise if not necessarily breadth-wise – scaling up in specific subject areas and developing its non-Neil players more is a good path ahead.

 

  1. Washington University in St. Louis (highest rank #8; lowest rank #13)

Prospective Lineup: Richard Yu, Charles Hang, Seth Ebner, Will Mason

Seth and Will showed their ability last year to contribute to a team led by Richard Yu and Charles Hang, mainly the former. WUSTL definitely has shown it has plenty of ability to take down teams above it with a victory over Maryland at last year’s ICT, but otherwise has been fairly stagnant.

This team’s greatest strength is in history, with Charles Hang’s extensive knowledge from audiobooks and reading various historical novels, Will’s specialty knowledge of medieval and classical subjects, and Richard’s quizbowl history generalism combining for a triple attack on the category. Aside from that, most of the players have some degree of generalist ability in each category, with Richard having far more than the others due to his strong science background and good knowledge of myth and literature.

It’s generally agreed that this team is somewhat overrated and that its spot on the rankings is more due to incumbency than anything else. While Richard and his teammates will continue to improve somewhat, none of them have shown a remarkable increase in ability.

  1. University of Minnesota (highest rank #6; lowest rank #17)

Prospective lineup: Shan Kothari, Jason Asher, Sam Bailey, Sam Levin

Though the question of how many tournaments he’ll play remains up in the air, Sam Bailey is an excellent addition to the revived Minnesota team coalescing around Shan Kothari and Jason Asher. Shan and Sam both scale up fantastically well, particularly in “thought” categories, with Shan also having a large base of science and music knowledge and Sam having deep knowledge in some areas of history and literature. Jason Asher provides this team’s generalist base at lower levels of difficulty and contributes equally with his teammates there, while providing the ability to pull plenty of bonus parts on harder questions.

Every player on this team has shown steady improvement over time, with Shan continually improving thanks to the growth of his very large base of real knowledge and Jason continually reviewing his numerous flashcards (he has over 20,000 of them!) They’ve definitely got plenty of ability to get good packets and upset higher-ranked teams and will be a threat for the top bracket at whatever tournaments they play.

 

  1. Columbia University (highest rank #5; lowest rank #9)

Prospective lineup: Raphael Krichevsky; three of: Ben Zhang, Aidan Mehigan, Charlie Dees, Jon Xu, Alex Gerten

Columbia picks up an excellent player this year in Charlie Dees, giving them even more options for an already crowded A-team. What’s certain is that Raphael Krichevsky will be the team’s anchor; what’s uncertain is who will be at the buzzer beside him, since Columbia’s got five good options available to it. Whoever isn’t able to make the A-team is likely to be a strong addition to Columbia’s already-decent B team as well.

This team’s strength is that its players are each solid generalists on their own, and they all have key specialties that generate strong early buzzes in many categories. Rafael has great knowledge of music and the physical sciences; Ben’s very deep on bio, American history, and myth; Aidan’s very strong at poetry and visual arts; Jon’s a scientist with strong clue knowledge in many categories; Charlie’s a musician with good specialist knowledge of many areas, and Alex has lots of thought and NAQT subject knowledge.

Columbia will be at the top of most and is going to be a serious threat for the top bracket of both Nationals. It remains to be seen if any of its players will exhibit great improvement – if one of them can become a high-level generalist, then this team could easily shoot up the rankings.

 

  1. Yale University (highest rank #3; lowest rank #9)

Prospective lineup: Jacob Reed, Grace Liu, Stephen Eltinge; one of: Isaac Kirk-Davidoff, Connor Wood

Yale returns the entirety of its main team from last year, with Jacob Reed, Grace Liu, and Isaac Kirk-Davidoff all back for another round. Stephen Eltinge, a strong science player coming from MIT, and Connor Wood, the leading humanities generalist from the Maggie Walker team that took 3rd place at PACE NSC this year, are both also in contention for a spot on this year’s Yale team, which looks to be one of the best in the Northeast.

Coming off a very strong individual performance at Chicago Open, Jacob looks to be the top player in the Northeast this year along with Neil Gurram. His music knowledge, second only to John Lawrence’s (and by only thin margins), is only the tip of the iceberg, with a wealth of literature and arts knowledge and a solid grasp of the sciences forming an excellent basis for this team’s scoring. Grace adds even more depth in the categories Jacob is strong at and brings her own real-world knowledge of biology and chemistry to this team. Stephen adds excellent knowledge of the sciences, particularly physics, math, and astronomy, making this team possibly one of the best science teams in the country. This team’s options for a fourth player are Isaac Kirk-Davidoff, a superb NAQT subject player with plenty of knowledge in other categories as well, and Connor Wood, who adds great knowledge of classics, history, and (as if Yale needed it) more music.

Yale looks to be the best team in the Northeast going into the season, though Columbia and MIT aren’t very far behind and could easily take games off them. Like Columbia, this team has a very high ceiling – if Jacob can cement himself more firmly as a high-level generalist then he could easily lead this team to some fantastic finishes, if not necessarily any championships, much like Stephen Liu did with 2013-14’s Harvard team.

 

POTENTIAL SPOILERS: These teams are unlikely to make the finals of any national tournaments, but definitely pose a serious threat to teams ranked above them due to the skill and experience of their best players.

 

  1. University of Pennsylvania (highest rank #1, with one vote; lowest rank #15)

Prospective lineup: Eric Mukherjee, Jaimie Carlson, Jinah Kim, Max Smiley

Coming off his long-sought ACF Nationals victory, Eric Mukherjee plans on toning down his quizbowl activity, allowing the rest of Penn to take a greater role this year as real world responsibilities mount. That said, he’s still really good and any team he’s a part of is guaranteed to be a competitive threat. Given Chris Chiego’s inactivity, Eric will be joined by sophomores Jaimie Carlson, Jinah Kim, and Max Smiley, who complement him fairly well – Eric’s main strengths are in science and history, while his teammates concentrate on literature, religion, mythology, and thought.

This team’s unlikely to take down any major titles this year, but Eric’s unmatched prowess at science and status as the only real super-generalist left in the game (to use John Lawrence’s phrase) mean that this team could definitely steal games from teams ranked above it. Penn will likely compete with Maryland for supremacy in the Mid-Atlantic and will be one of the favorites to win any Northeast tournaments it attends.

 

  1. University of Maryland (highest rank #2; lowest rank #10)

Prospective lineup: Jordan Brownstein, Naveed Chowdhury, Ophir Lifschitz; one of: Sam Rombro, Adam Hussain

Of the UMD squad that took third at last year’s ACF Nationals and fourth at ICT, only one member returns. Luckily, it’s the most valuable member: Jordan Brownstein, who is likely to solidify his position as the best player in collegiate quizbowl this year as his legend continues to spread. A squad of relatively fresh faces joins him on the A-team this year, looking to fill Jordan’s large gaps.

Jordan provides a superb foundation for this team, with his best-in-the-game history knowledge and literature knowledge that is only rivaled by University of Chicago captain John Lawrence. If CO Arts indicated anything, Jordan’s also a very strong visual arts player, and he has pockets of decent knowledge in most other humanities categories, particularly mythology. Ophir adds excellent knowledge of music and physics, while Naveed adds knowledge of areas of modern history that Jordan’s weak at and has a great base in all of the subjects that NAQT emphasizes. Sam Rombro or Adam Hussain will be this team’s science player, with Adam also bringing excellent knowledge of all things Islamic (except history) if he gets the slot.

This team is rather like Penn in that it’s well-poised to play a spoiler role, but has large enough depth gaps that it’s rather unlikely they’ll take down a championship – and with enough slips like last year’s loss to WUSTL (with a much better team) they could end up in the second bracket. Maryland should be an easy favorite to win most Mid-Atlantic tournaments that Penn doesn’t show up to, though.

 

THE CONTENDERS: These are the teams considered to have the best chance at winning either ICT or ACF Nationals.

 

  1. Stanford University A (highest rank #3; lowest rank #5)

Prospective Lineup: Stephen Liu, Austin Brownlow, Nikhil Desai, Benji Nguyen

Stanford returns its entire A team from last year, moving up the rankings by default as other top teams lose key players. With Austin and Nikhil being in what appear to be their final years as Cardinals, this team has developed something of a program by which its players intend to take on all categories of the distribution.

Leading the attack is Stephen Liu, the team’s main generalist and the best active collegiate player in visual arts and Western mythology, who supplements this with strong commands of European history and 20th century literature. Austin brings world myth and religion knowledge to complement Stephen’s western myth, and has good grasps of physics, math, and U.S. history. Benji’s made efforts to branch out from his low-level generalism into greater specialties in literature, philosophy, and social science, and plans to tackle organic chemistry for this team. Nikhil rounds this team out with his additional science knowledge, including excellent computer science capabilities, and is focusing on specific areas of US and world history to boot.

If it’s not the next two teams in the finals of both nationals tournaments, Stanford is the most likely to be facing off against either one of them. This year is probably their best shot to win a title, but it remains to be seen if the program they’ve outlined will deliver serious results – there’s a ton of room for improvement.

 

  1. University of Chicago A (highest rank #1, with four votes; lowest rank #2)

Prospective Lineup: John Lawrence, Chris Ray, Max Schindler; one of: Jason Zhou, James Lasker

Chicago’s second-place team from last year’s ACF Nationals and third-place team from ICT is back for another run, with Chris Ray what may actually be his final year of collegiate quizbowl. High school all-star turned superb science player Max Schindler will be the third on this team, whose fourth player is, in a similar situation to last year, a position up for grabs.

This year’s Chicago team will definitely be bringing the heat more than last year. In his last year of competition, Chris Ray appears to have the fever – he outscored John Lawrence while sitting next to him at VCU Open, something he didn’t do on any mACF sets all season (though he wasn’t far behind at ACF Nationals). He’s gotten better across the board, particularly at his best major subject – history – as well as at his trademark ability to buzz on anything at any time. John hasn’t improved massively, but his continuous writing means that he has nowhere to go but up in terms of prowess on literature and arts, and he continues to solidify his philosophy specialty. Max Schindler continues to improve at physics and other science and is always a threat to buzz late on questions thanks to his high school generalism.

This team is incredibly well rounded and doesn’t really have any major weaknesses outside of possibly chemistry. It’s got everything it needs to win a national championship, having only gotten better since last year. With his specialties, John Lawrence is this team’s most solid pillar – if Chris and Max are on their game and not making dumb buzzes, this team is going to be very difficult for any but the best to stop.

 

  1. University of Michigan (highest rank #1, with eleven votes; lowest rank #5)

Prospective Lineup: Will Nediger, Auroni Gupta, Brian McPeak; one of: Siddhant Dogra, Kenji Golimlim

Shooting to the top of the preseason rankings is the University of Michigan, to which UCSD’s all-star generalist Auroni Gupta and Maryland’s science player Brian McPeak have moved. These two extremely valuable additions to a team that was already good have been enough for Michigan to rise to the top of the rankings, though in no way are they considered overwhelming favorites in the same way Virginia has been in years past.

More than any other team, this squad basically has no serious weakness. Auroni and Will are both fantastic generalists and combine for great depth in literature, the arts, and philosophy. Will is particularly deep on literature and thought, while Auroni provides broad coverage of history, mythology, religion and social science as well. Brian adds even more philosophy knowledge, as well as his background in religion and the sciences, particularly physics and math. This team’s fourth will either be Kenji Golimlim, who specializes in geography and current events, or Siddhant Dogra, who brings added depth in chemistry (his generalist ability is overshadowed here).

Though their two leading players are likely to have significant overlap, this team is going to be extremely well-rounded and will probably put up fantastic numbers when it coalesces. Whether this will be enough to overcome Chicago remains to be seen, but even if this team doesn’t work out to be as strong as predicted, odds are still very good you’ll be seeing the Wolverines in the finals of at least one national tournament, and likely both.

2014-15 College Quizbowl Midseason Preview

The following is a mid-season preview of the top 25 teams in college quizbowl, per the mid-season poll run by Mike Cheyne; it also draws on an IRC discussion hosted thereafter by Dan Puma and Saajid Moyen. The results from today’s ONGOING ACF Regionals sites are not included, so it will serve best as a checkpoint for where teams seemed to be before ACF Regionals.

REGIONAL CONTENDERS

The first few teams in this preview will regularly make the playoffs in their regions, but almost certainly won’t make top bracket at nationals, absent extreme rapid changes. Some may be able to engineer themselves to make a run at Undergraduate or Division II titles, depending on whether they have the eligible players to pull that off.

25. Chicago B (22), -3, highest: #22

Prospective lineup: Marianna Zhang, Athena Kern, Jason Zhou, one of {James Lasker, Michael Coates}

 

Though the Chicago club is perhaps at a relative minimum size compared to the large 20+ person contingents of the Teitler era, and the relative parity of its A and B teams from the 2012-13 season has also passed, it still fields a B team that ought not be ignored. Several of the new recruits, including ex-Hunter lit player Marianna Zhang and ex-Penn B scientist James Lasker, have stuck with the game and combine to perform decently at regular-difficulty events. There is still some fluidity in this team’s lineup until the A team is settled, and since many of this team’s members are not eligible for Division II, it will likely look very different at this year’s NAQT events; as is virtually always the case, Chicago should put together a good team for Division II out of the people still eligible to play it.

 

24. MIT B (29), unranked, highest: #19

Prospective lineup: Saumil Bandhopadhyay, Oliver Ren, Julian Fuchs, Bryce Hwang

 

The Beavers have been stealthily assembling a lineup of talented freshmen and sophomores with which to rebuild after the Eltinge-Gurram duo moves on. Of particular note this year are a trio of freshman Californians who have all adjusted decently enough both to the college game and to the East Coast: Julian Fuchs, formerly of Davis; Oliver Ren, formerly of Canyon Crest Academy, and Bryce Hwang, formerly of Foothill, who put up a respectable 46 PPG at DEES. There is some fluidity on these lineups — most notably, an MIT C team tied for third with an 8-3 finish at PADAWAN this past October — but at any rate, this school should be able to find its best set of four soon enough, and put together another solid Division II top-bracket team with little trouble.

 

23. Stanford B (31), unranked, highest: #19

Prospective lineup: four of {Nathan Weiser, Ian Torres, Jialin Ding, Alex Freed, Tabitha Walker}

 

Over the past two years, Stanford has built up an impressive stable of former high school stars who have stuck around for the college game. Current word is that a team of Nathan Weiser (captain and lead scorer of LASA A ‘14), Alex Freed (also LASA A ‘14), Ian Torres (of the third-place Loyola ‘13 team) and Jialin Ding (“geo-beast” and 2013 PACE NSC champion with Ladue) will play together at this year’s Division II ICT, at which it is likely to be an unstoppable juggernaut akin to sophomore-Benji Nguyen’s team in 2013. Many of the players in this stable are quite decent at regular-difficulty college questions already, if Penn Bowl is any indicator, and should have promising futures if they continue to stay serious about college quizbowl over time, though it’s a bit premature to predict even a middle bracket finish from this team at ACF Nationals.

 

22. William and Mary (39), unranked, highest: #19

Prospective lineup: Sean Smiley, three of {Chris Miller, Alex Frey, James Cole, Jonathan Leidenhemmer}

 

In his second year of law school, Sean Smiley has managed to assemble quite a respectable team at Mr. Jefferson’s other university (the one he attended), helping end a half-decade of stagnation in Williamsburg. Atop Smiley’s generalism, which was good for 58 points per game across a lower-bracket weekend of last year’s ACF Nationals, this team boasts not one, but TWO National History Bee champions in its ranks, now that Alex Frey (St. Joseph’s HS class of 2012) is back in action and freshman Jonathan “Leadin Hammer” Liedenheimer has matriculated. Their banner victory of the year thus far — over a McPeak-less Maryland team at DEES — is unlikely to be repeated, but the combination of Smiley’s familiarity with past quizbowl answers and some genuine specialty knowledge at least up to the regular-difficulty early clue level should help them defend a spot in the 20s range at either national, and get several tossups off teams that finish higher.

 

21. Northwestern (54), -5, highest: #15

Prospective lineup: Dylan Minarik

 

Kevin Malis seems to be largely finished with quizbowl, leaving Dylan Minarik as the sole force bringing in points for Northwestern. Minarik is a dedicated, solid top-20-or-so individual player, and can consistently win more games than he loses on college sets up to regular difficulty, but it is hard to imagine him punching through against more fully-stocked teams at either national tournament. That said, he is only a sophomore, and may be able to pull in a current high school player or train a new-to-quizbowl college novice with the aim of rising above this ranking in future years.

 

20. Dartmouth (75), -3, highest: #16

Prospective lineup: Will Alston, Charles Jang

 

After spending a term doing his best Francisco Pizarro imitation in Peru, Will Alston has returned to the home country to quizbowl again. The retirement of Nick Jensen from active play makes it unclear what his team lineup will be, but in any event Alston and his signature can-do attitude will be getting between 80 and 100 percent of the points this team can manage in a crowded Northeast circuit. An interesting unfolding story will be the extent to which Will has become a regular-difficulty generalist outside of his renowned narrow specialty categories, a process possibly helped along by his prolific writing and editing for for ICCS, PADAWAN, DEES, and Penn Bowl this past fall (for which his 100+ questions included painting, religion, philosophy, and music).

 

POTENTIAL UPSET DELIVERERS

These teams are unlikely to make it to the top bracket of either national without an extreme stroke of luck, but they are strong enough to command respect regionally and could well upset a team or two which finishes higher than they do.

 

19. Brown (98), +5, highest: #16, lowest: #23

Prospective lineup: Lloyd Sy, Abid Haseeb, Rohith Nagari, Kirun Sankaran

 

After a rocky year or two in which the legacy of Jerry Vinokurov’s graduate-student days looked in doubt, it seems that Brown’s team remains, and is a respectable regional contender in an admittedly very stacked region. Lloyd Sy has retained his impressive generalism at lower difficulties over the past two and a half years, and is still good for 55-60 points per game at regular difficulty. Along with Ohioan metaphysician Kirun Sankaran, the new addition which really makes this team pop is Rohith Nagari, a sophomore whose early buzzes on science and mythology reportedly remind Eric Mukherjee of an early undergraduate Eric Mukherjee.

 

All that having been said, it remains a black mark on this team’s ambitions that no member of the current Brown team has ever attended an ICT or ACF Nationals, with plans to do so in the future seemingly up in the air. The last year in which this school attended either tournament was 2012. In order to be taken seriously — indeed, in order to know how to prepare for next school year, when their whole bench returns and their top-bracket prospects become brighter — Sy and co. need to start making plans now to attend at least one national this year, and start assembling the resources it takes to travel to one in advance.

 

18. Berkeley A (116), same, highest: #16

Prospective lineup: Ankit Aggarwal, Aseem Keyal, Nicholas Karas,

 

Recent incarnations of the Berkeley quizbowl team have surpassed even mid-2000s UChicago as the largest college quizbowl team in existence, with the capacity to field an I team (as in: A, B, C, all the way down to I) at its own site of ACF Fall in November. With such a large and ever-rotating stable of decent players to choose from, it’s unclear who exactly will stand in for the departed Tanay Kothari on any given Saturday. It’s pretty certain that Ankit Aggarwal is still good, and former Westview High School star Aseem Keyal is also making waves at regular difficulty, but picking the correct third and fourth players will be important in seeing if (or when) they will break out of the range of nationals finishes they’ve retained for the past two years. This team is taking full advantage of, and contributing heavily to, a West Coast circuit which is much more vibrant this year than in the recent past; the creation of an A team as strong as Stanford or UCSD out of their absurdly large number of farm teams still seems like a multi-year project.

 

17. Minnesota (125), +4, highest: #11, lowest: #21

Prospective lineup: Shan Kothari, Jason Asher, Peter Estall, Han Li

 

Now that Mike “Funk Master Flex” Cheyne has ascended to the ranks of the professoriate at the Morris branch campus, all members of the 2007-2013 power era of Minnesota Quizbowl have now moved on. But their replacements, the delinquent duo of Ph.D-seeking Michigan State alum Shan Kothari and potential beast frosh Jason Asher, haven’t disappointed yet. At their major outing of the fall semester, PADAWAN, they managed to upset a Schindler/Ray Chicago team on their way to a third place finish above Illinois. More generally, Kothari’s deep pockets of philosophy, social science and music knowledge at all difficulties and Asher’s across-the-board low-level generalism complement each other well and give them hope for scoring key upsets at either national. The rate at which they power tossups seems quite low at present, and this team is traveling less often than Minnesotas of the past seven years or so, but Kothari and Asher are only in their first of what could well be four years as a duo. This is only the beginning.

 

16. North Carolina (133), same, highest: #15, lowest: #20

Prospective lineup: Natan Holtzman, Zihan Zheng, Ryan Rosenberg

 

If Ryan Rosenberg is to be believed, three members of the UNC team have forsaken Chapel Hill to study abroad in DC this spring, aligning this team even more strongly with the ever-distinct “Mid-Atlantic” rather than the purported “Southeast.” This team managed a pretty balanced attack against Adam Silverman’s Georgia Tech at the Southeast Penn Bowl mirror, at which it split its games against that team 2-1 to take second place and outdid them on points per bonus with 19.38. If last year’s Nationals statistics are any indication, that changes as difficulty increases and Holtzman scales up best among the trio; further success in their new Mid-Atlantic home base will depend on all three familiarizing themselves with more regular- and high-difficulty material.

 

TOP BRACKET CONTENDERS

For the past few years, the NAQT Intercollegiate Tournament has only allowed 8 teams to advance to the playoffs; ACF Nationals has a more lenient 12-team top bracket. The set of teams with a very good shot at making either or both of those playoffs is, to get straight to the point, larger than 12. As such, some matches determining the playoff tier will be very fierce as teams on the verge of making it have to face off against one another for a limited number of spots. Some of these teams will find themselves on the outside looking in come March; a lot will depend on comparative levels of dedication, which are difficult to measure this far out.

15. Georgia Tech (167), -3, highest: #11, lowest: #18

Prospective lineup: Adam Silverman, Alex Liu

 

Christmas comes three seasons early to Atlanta this year, and guess what NAQT has put in the city’s metaphorical stocking? The 2015 Intercollegiate Championship Tournament! The lack of travel distance to at least one national championship should come as a relief to this year’s Georgia Tech team, for whom competitive opportunities in the Southeast have dwindled at the same time that Adam Silverman et al. established themselves as the dominant force in the area. As an individual Silverman remains quite strong, with the ability to consistently power 2-3 regular difficulty tossups per game and particular specialties in chemistry, chem-ish biology, and chem-ish physics. But a very small bench of inexperienced supporting players, a lack of challenging local competitors, and a need to develop secondary specialties at the nationals level are genuine and major obstacles to his attempts at making the top bracket. It remains to be seen whether those factors will change or be overcome, and if so, where within the lower top bracket or upper middle bracket Georgia Tech will finish.

14. Illinois (193), +5, highest: #9, lowest: #21

Prospective lineup: Andrew Wang, Tristan Willey, Alex Fregeau, Chinmay Kansara

 

UIUC has thus far defied expectations that it would slide down the rankings after several high-profile players graduated. This year has seen several breakout performances this far from junior and team captain Andrew Wang, who has emerged from the shadows of the departed Billy Busse and Aaron Rosenberg as a strong team captain and generalist in his own right. At tournaments such as Penn Bowl and PADAWAN, Wang (a biochemist by trade) put up about as many powers as Adam Silverman, and he’s by no means a one-man show; he has a fair amount of backup from former small school star Tristan Willey among others. There’s much work to be done before the Illini can give their upstate rivals at UChicago a scare or an upset, but they are very much a regional power in the upper Midwest as it stands, and are in a solid place from which to disprove the naysayers.

 

13. Alberta (206), same, highest: #7, lowest: #16

Prospective lineup: Trevor Davis, Sinan Ulusoy, John Yoon, Mitchell Schultze

 

Trevor Davis and Sinan Ulusoy are both back and probably as good as last year! After finishing 12th at ACF Nationals last year, and taking editing gigs on Regionals 2015 and VCU Open 2014 science respectively to keep them refreshed, a similar performance should be expected at either national from the Canadian Wonder Twins this year, provided that their schedules overlap and they can both attend. Given their increasing graduate school obligations and the distances involved in flying to every event that isn’t online, it is noteworthy that Trevor and Sinan are having more difficulties playing the same tournaments as a duo these days; if they are unable to do so at either national (as was the case at ICT last year) it will drop their standing for sure. That said, it seems as though a third player, Mitchell Schultze, is emerging as a mid-level scorer at least on Sinan-only incarnations of this team, and could help them finish strong either way.

 

11. TIE–WUSTL and Yale (216), Yale -1, WUSTL +4, highest for Yale: #9, lowest: #15; highest for WUSTL: #8, lowest: #15

Prospective lineup (WUStL): Richard Yu the Great, Charles Hang, Seth Ebner, Tirth Patel

Prospective lineup (Yale): Jacob Reed, Grace Liu, Nick Wawrykow, Isaac Kirk-Davidoff

 

Because these two teams tied in the mid-season poll, this entry will be presented as a GRUDGE MATCH in which the Washington University in St. Louis and Yale squads are directly compared and contrasted.

 

Both of these teams are primarily a one-two punch with a lot of depth in specialty areas and basic coverage across most of the board. On WashU, junior Richard Yu and super-super-senior Charles Hang provide most of the scoring, with a core strength in history (Hang has reportedly spent much of the past few years listening to “hundreds of history audiobooks”) and the areas of mythology and real-life science study that Yu brings to the table. By contrast, Grace Liu and Jacob Reed reach their greatest depth in fine arts; ex-beast-frosh Reed is utterly dominant on music (second only to John Lawrence among active players, and not by much) and the pair has auxiliary specialties in visual art, literature, and mythology. In both cases, the pair hasn’t played together much — on Yale, a Liu-only team played at PADAWAN and Dees, and a Reed-only team is going to have to play Regionals; at WashU, Hang was not enrolled for much of last year, and a consistent Yu-Hang teamup is something of a new experience for both of them, despite some tournaments together during Yu’s freshman year. In both cases, it remains an open question how the team is going to cover all categories at basic Nationals-level proficiency, and what their full roster will contribute on top of the major duo. WashU seems to have a dependable third player in Seth Ebner,  (EDIT: and an occasional fourth in medical student and bio/chem player Tirth Patel), whereas Yale is still deciding which players work best from their decently-sized stable; depending on the division that angry young man Isaac Kirk-Davidoff chooses to play in, his current events and trash knowledge may be useful. And in Yale’s case, any foundation they build up this year will serve them well next year, when they return everybody and a shot at the top bracket is much more guaranteed. In a hypothetical match between the teams, it’s hard to say who would win, given their non-overlapping category specialties; a lot will come down to developing across-the-board generalism to pick up unexpected tossups and middle/hard parts.

 

There are two more asides worth noting about these teams, which involve their contention for titles other than the overall championship. Given its specialties, WashU may well be a contender for the top 3 or 4 spots at this year’s College History Bowl, along with Penn, Maryland, and UVA. And Yale is all-undergraduate, making it a viable contender for the UG title at ACF Nationals against its regional bete noire, Harvard.

 

10. UCSD (241), +4, highest: #7, lowest: #13

Prospective lineup: Auroni Gupta, Jason Cheng, Rohit Mande

 

Well-regarded generalist Auroni Gupta, or “Mrs. Gupta” to those who love him,  has been a prolific writer and editor in his two years away from active college quizbowl play, and it’s kept him in good shape for this year. He has continued with his heavy question writing regimen by producing George Oppen, this year’s pre-Nationals hard tournament, and head-editing the PACE National Scholastic Championship, one of the most rigorous contests high school teams can enter. If Gupta stays sharp and his teammates all chip in, this team becomes a very dangerous top-bracket contender at either national, and could certainly upset a top tier team at either event. The world outside the West Coast circuit is less sure what the specialty areas of Gupta’s teammates are, but if the numbers at Penn Bowl are any indication, they’re an important part of the scoring picture.

 

9. Harvard A (251), same, highest: #7, lowest: #13

Prospective lineup: Will Holub-Moorman, Sriram Pendyala, Mark Arildsen, Raynor Kuang

 

After the departure of its main generalist, Stephen Liu, this year’s Harvard team is much more compartmentalized into subject area specialists who draw on real-life interest in the categories they buzz on. Captain Will Holub-Moorman is primarily into literature and fine arts, having become a capable enough music player in rivalry with his former high school teammate Jacob Reed; Sriram “SRIIIRAAAM” Pendyala is armed to the teeth with science clues, and Mark Arildsen does much of the history and general knowledge. It’s hard to say between its hosting of Penn Bowl and its shorthanded rosters/no-shows at other events, but it seems for now that this team has settled on Raynor Kuang, a buzzer-aggressive chemist whose primary area of quizbowl study is in literature clues, for its fourth player. Given how little we’ve seen of them thus far, it’s hard to know whether these disparate knowledge bases and play styles will cohere into a whole which is less than, the same as, or greater than the sum of its parts. In either event, they have a strong foundation to build from — a team on which Pendyala and Holub-Moorman rotated Arildsen, Kuang, and geobeast Vimal Konduri into spots 3 and 4 got 21.58 points per bonus at PADAWAN. As was the case last year, Harvard is very likely to make it into the top bracket or to just miss it on account of difficult prelim seeding.

 

This year’s Crazy Cantabs are also all undergraduates, making this lineup a likely contender for the Undergraduate title at either national. In order to secure it, their main competitor is once again likely to be the Yale Bulldogs, a rivalry which is currently much more evenly-matched than those two schools’ recent history on the football field.

 

8. Columbia A (255), same, highest: #5, lowest: #13

Prospective lineup: Ben Zhang, Aidan Mehigan, Jonathan Xu, Rafael Krichevsky

 

While a lot is still unclear due to various short-handednesses of lineups at the events thus far, the rough equilibrium in the Northeast seems to have put Columbia vying for MIT at the top, with Harvard and Yale competing right below. At Columbia, star freshman Ben Zhang has acquitted himself pretty well thus far, averaging just over one power per game with teammates who are no slouches themselves. With at least four very solid players to pick from, this team can contend for a top bracket finish at nationals. However, this team has also had trouble scaling to nationals-level difficulty in the past and it remains to be seen if they have changed in that regard. Another mystery which remains for the Lions is whether their law student and social science expert from last year, Alex Gerten, will be returning; in either event they probably ought to make a contingency plan without him. This is another team that can expect to return everybody going into 2015-16; however, they should not rest comfortably on that fact if they want to perform as best they can this spring.

 

7. MIT A (271), +4, highest: #6, lowest: #10

Prospective lineup: Neil Gurram, Stephen Eltinge, Anderson Wang, Mia Nussbaum?

 

Neil Gurram, now going for a master’s degree which might last two years, has proven himself consistently to be a capable generalist on regular difficulty questions. His most frequent teammate, the often-underheralded science player Stephen Eltinge, will be beefing up further by writing all much of the science for George Oppen as well. There has historically some fluidity in the third and fourth players that MIT chooses to field; while Anderson Wang is almost always their third, linguistics graduate student Mia Nussbaum is often unable to attend tournaments and the bench of possible supporting players runs very deep. Developing a consistent third and fourth player into specialty contributors at all difficulty levels will help this team pull ahead, as Columbia, Harvard, and Yale are all hot on its heels.

 

THE LONG SHOTS

Both of the next two teams are well-rounded enough to be immortalized on the Top Four chart on QBWiki at one or both nationals this year – if they can avoid the others stepping on their toes. Absent some extremely rough seeding, each of these teams is almost certain to make the playoff pool at both national championships, and should win at least some games there. It’s also plausible that these teams will act as “spoilers” to contenders, delivering upsets which affect the course of the tournament even if they themselves do not make the championship picture. While it’s not out of the question that one team in this pair might find itself on the finals stage when the dust from the playoffs settles, it seems fair to say that they are very long-shot contenders for an actual title, and would have to put in a disproportionate amount of effort to change that.

 

6. Michigan (307), -2, highest: #4, lowest: #7

Prospective lineup: Will “The Thrill” Nediger, Siddhant Dogra, Kenji Golimlim, Todd Maslyk

 

This year’s Blue Wolverines return every member of their 2013-14 squad, and seems to be well on its way to a very similar finish at this year’s nationals. Will Nediger seems to be holding firm at lower difficulties and promises once again to scale and do much better at the more difficult answer lines that flummox other players at hard events. His teammates, including the NAQT-category-centri Kenji Golimlim and Latin maven Todd Maslyk, have increased their share of scoring over the past year as well. A distinguishing feature of this year’s Michigan team, which helps them with consistency, is their very conservative, laid-back playing style; in the words on one commentator, they seem to “let the tossups come to them” instead of “going after the tossups” with aggressive guesses or lateral thought.

 

That said, it seems as though this team has slid behind Stanford and Maryland by virtue of staying in the same place as their rivals have improved. Relatively full Michigan lineups are having a hard time holding off just the Ray/Schindler duo from shorthanded Chicago and even losing to that shorthanded Chicago team at DEES. Their bonus conversion seems to be, if anything, slightly down from previous years, if PADAWAN is any indication. Nediger’s graduate program is leaving him relatively little time to focus on studying more quizbowl topics independently. It seems unlikely that this year’s squad will recreate the mid-2000s Zeke Berdichevsky/Adam Kemezis glory days, but a large amount of how much they do below that depends on what the re-dedicated Dogra, Golimlim, and Maslyk bring to the table. If those two can combine to average above 30 points per game at either national, then Michigan is more likely to enter the championship contender picture in earnest.

 

5. Stanford A (314), same, highest: #4, lowest: #10

Prospective lineup: Stephen Liu, Benji Nguyen, Nikhil Desai, Austin Brownlow

 

After a decent top-bracket finish at last year’s ACF Nationals, the current incarnation of the Stanford team promises to the best run since the Yaphe era through this year’s top brackets. After four years in rather Grinchly surroundings, Stephen-Liu-Who is in back in his home state of California, and has already ascended to lead this team in scoring. Liu may well be the best visual arts player in the country, and he also supplements his years of quizbowl generalism with a strong secondary specialty in European history. Benji Nguyen (who focuses primarily on lit, philosophy, and social science) and Austin Brownlow (who despite his curricular studies in electricla engineering assures the world that he also handles American history, world myth, and religion) appear to be two of the most improved players in the country this year; both have greatly improved their power percentages despite playing with one of the top players in the game. And Nikhil Desai remains strong in the sciences. Stanford dominates this year’s revived west coast circuit, though it remains to be seen how they’ll do against the East Coast powers. That should change when they (minus Nguyen, whose term abroad in Turkey ends the week before ICT) make their pilgrimage to the Mecca of quizbowl, College Park, MD, to play George Oppen against one of the strongest non-Chicago Open fields in recent memory.

 

A challenge they have now is that they are relatively scattered; with Benji in Asia Minor for the term before ICT, Nikhil doing more research for credit, and Stephen often buried under a flood of court cases, they’re not often in the same room at the same time learning to play as a team. Functionality and cohesiveness will be important for an attempt to break into the top four. Even so, per a recent discussion, Brownlow has hinted that this team has something of a “two-year plan” in the works. Odds are high that Nguyen returns next year to complete a Master’s degree, which would mean this entire team is a mere trial run for the 2015-16 year, when several high-profile graduations affect many of their rivals. If they don’t quite scrape their way into the title contention this year, be warned that they almost certainly will next year, when the Cardinal’s title run really takes off.

 

THE CONTENDERS

There were three teams in this category last time, and now there are four.

4. Maryland A (317), +2, highest: #3, lowest: #8

Prospective lineup: Jordan Brownstein, Chris Manners, Brian McPeak, Dan Puma

 

Though Chris Ray has now departed for windier climes, this team has acquitted itself quite well in his absence, upsetting Penn to clinch a disadvantaged final at PADAWAN and delivering UVA its first loss of the year by a razor-thin 15-point margin at Penn Bowl. The rise of Jordan “The Red Viper of College Park” Brownstein to dominance, particularly on American and British literature and history, has already been well noted. Less frequently noted is the surge in scoring from Brian McPeak, who has upped his scoring to 35-40 points per game on regular questions and branched out into non-science categories such as religion and philosophy atop his usual physics and math specialties. Chris Manners and Dan Puma provide continued support on lit, history, and arts for this team, and Puma in particular could be something of a secret weapon at ICT, where his extensive trash and movies knowledge will give the Terrapins an extra edge.

 

This team makes no secret of its ambitions to win a national title before three-fourths of its lineup graduates this May, and it will be interesting to see how much trouble they raise for other contenders in their quest for it. By contrast with Michigan, with whom they’ve swapped rankings since the last poll, this team does tend to play very aggressively and “go after” tossups, sometimes to the point of negging itself out by going for the guess. And it is worth noting that while Maryland seems to be as good as (or better than) every team but UVA at getting tossups early, its bonus conversion is as of yet the lowest of any title contender, though it’s unclear how much effect that has on swinging close matches on high-difficulty questions.

 

A literal reading of the NAQT ICT undergraduate eligibility rules (in which a player must compete in their fourth “distinct” year of competition to become ineligible) mean that Dan Puma (who competed at ICT in 2011, 2012, and 2014, only three distinct years thus far) is still eligible for an Undergraduate title there. If that is indeed the case, Maryland should run away with the UG title at ICT with little trouble. They will not be eligible for it at ACF in any case, leaving Harvard, Yale, and Illinois as the main competitors for the Undergraduate title at that event.

 

3. Chicago A (347), same, highest: #2, lowest, #4

Prospective lineup: John Lawrence, Chris Ray, Max Schindler, one of {James Lasker, Michael Coates}

 

Without its lead scorer, John Lawrence, this year’s incarnation of the Chicago juggernaut has been able to hold Michigan’s full lineup to within a single-tossup margin at PADAWAN and DEES. The full Chicago lineup, therefore, seems to be utterly unbeatable in its region, rivaled only by teams from the mid-Atlantic which it hasn’t played yet. Over the course of the past year or so, Max Schindler has been curbing his negging and  reinventing himself as a science player, a necessary shift intended to help this team counteract of Brian McPeak and Tommy Casalaspi (to say nothing of The Big Bad Eric) on their rivals’ squads. While still relatively high-neg, Chris Ray has already improved his tossup numbers beyond the baseline he set at Maryland. Those two supplement the ever-unflappable and extremely low-neg John Lawrence, whose extreme depth in literature (cf. victory at Gorilla Lit 2014) and fine arts has recently expanded out to include a top-level philosophy specialty and more areas of history and religion. Striking the right balance between aggressiveness and discipline will be an issue for this team as it seeks to increase its power rate to match UVA’s.

 

Chicago also has yet to make an important choice regarding their fourth player, who may well have to consistently chip in a tossup or two to take them over the edge. At present, it seems that Michael Coates, whose niche areas are largely geography, history, and current events, and James Lasker, who can get buzzes in science, jazz, and Catholcism, are each capable of getting about 10 points per game alongside the LawRaySchind trio. Their eventual choice of fourth player, and the results of their clashes against Penn, Maryland, and UVA at George Oppen should reveal a lot about the proper ordering of the top four. At present, Chicago seems to be more dedicated to an intense improvement regimen than either Penn or UVA; it’s unclear how much they will have to ratchet it up to overtake one or both of those teams or even get within range to deliver them a loss.

 

2. Penn A (357), same, highest: #2, lowest: #3

Prospective lineup: Eric Mukherjee, Saajid Moyen, Patrick Liao, Chris Chiego

 

This is the last year of undergraduate for Saajid Moyen and Patrick Liao, who both took very quickly to the task of rebuilding a title-competitive team around grizzled veteran Eric Mukherjee upon entering college quizbowl in the fall of 2011. And that triumvirate has done pretty well for itself, with Mukherjee leadng by far in scoring and the other two providing support for several 3rd and 4th place finishes at ICT and Nationals. But that most pasta-like of teams, Penn A, hasn’t yet made it to a national finals match. Though Mukherjee has some more time left in his (intensifying) academic program after Saajid and Patrick graduate this spring, it remains the case that this is the last, best, shot he will have at a championship.

 

Perhaps sensing the pressure to deliver, Moyen seems to have grown into a real second player for this team, pulling off the early buzzes on literature, fine arts, and other areas that it needs to retain its edge. Eric, of course, remains Eric- almost certainly the second best player in today’s college game. When combined with Patrick’s history prowess, this team has an especially formidable command of the history distribution, to say nothing of its known science strengths. It seems that for their fourth spot, Penn has let Dallas Simons float off into the world of graduate classics education, replacing him with former UGA and UCSD standout Chris Chiego. Chiego’s political studies give him deep pockets of knowledge in American history, social science, and current events, and his hobby interest in the world’s geologic formations will also prove quite handy for handling the increased geography distribution at ICT. Chiego is midway through a demanding Ph. D program, and will have to look ahead at his schedule to ensure that he can attend nationals; losing a critical fourth player at the last minute will almost certainly squelch the Quakers’ long-stoked national title ambitions.

 

This team has not defeated a full Virginia lineup since the spring of 2013, almost two years ago, or ranked ahead of UVA at any tournament since 2013 ACF Nationals. Is this the year they make a final push to overtake UVA and finally satisfy their championship ambitions? It will most likely come down to whether Eric’s supporting cast can deliver in the clutch against other Top Teams, and on whether Chicago can rage-study with enough intensity to overtake Team MukherJid’s statistical upper hand.

 

1. Virginia A (375, all first place votes), same

Prospective lineup: Matt Bollinger, Tommy Casalaspi, JR Roach, Daniel Hothem

 

The War of the Two Matts has been over for more than a semester now, and the resulting Pax Bollingeriana continues. (Is it a coincidence that his current forums avatar is a statue of Emperor Augustus?) At the one tournament he played this fall, the main site of Penn Bowl, Bollinger got an astonishing 78 powers across fourteen rounds of play, almost certainly a record-setting amount for the college game. When flanked by now duly-established science specialist Tommy Casalaspi and the extra history and current events gains from JR Roach, it is very difficult to imagine many teams with an earnest shot at matching UVA’s statistics or even upsetting them.  If the departures of Dennis Loo and Evan Adams made this year’s Cavaliers any weaker than last year’s triple-Triple Crown winners, it isn’t by much, and statistically speaking they are still at the top of the heap with a decent gap in powers per game and points per bonus between them and the next teams down the list.

 

There are some winds blowing around this seemingly-invincible armada, however. For one thing, it is unclear how much more time Bollinger has available to stay keyed-in to quizbowl and maintaining his current position of dominance, given a rather demanding and non-quizbowl-related course load at Virginia’s School of Commerce. The prospective plans for Western Albemarle High School senior Eric Xu to dual-enroll at UVA did not come to pass, leaving it unclear who the fourth player on this team will be; options include the long-inactive Daniel Hothem, current B-team lead ringer and perennial tournament director Josh Duncan, or an empty chair. We also know now that UVA is beatable, because they have been beaten — having dropped the first match in a tense final with Maryland at Penn Bowl. Despite all that, though, UVA remains the overwhelming favorite, with perhaps a 90-95 percent chance of winning either national versus a 5-10 percent chance of anyone else prevailing. We’ll see in Atlanta and Ann Arbor which other potential contenders are willing to take up the challenge in earnest and how far tenacity and perseverance can take them.

2014-15 College Season Preview

***UPDATED TO REFLECT POLL CHANGES 9/14***

The following season preview draws on a preseason poll carried out on the forums, and on an IRC discussion rundown of each of the teams on that poll. As such, it does not represent the opinion of any one person, the official views of hsquizbowl.org, or anything like that. Special thanks to Mike Cheyne for running the poll and discussion, and to Dan Puma for his considerable contributions. Additional disclaimer here that this preview is based only on publicly-known information and the best conjectures we have about whether players will or won’t keep playing. A lot might, and plenty definitely will, change when teams begin to actually play this year’s tournaments, where everything of ultimate significance actually happens.  

REGIONAL CONTENDERS

The first few teams in this preview will regularly make the playoffs in their regions, but almost certainly won’t make top bracket at nationals, absent extreme rapid changes. Some may be able to engineer themselves to make a run at Undergraduate or Division II titles, depending on whether they have the eligible players to pull that off.

25. Cornell (postseason ranking: 25; change: 0)

Possible lineup: Sean McBride

Cornell loses its longtime star Tejas Raje, and Ian Lenhoff leaves campus halfway through the year; their young hotshot Matt Moschella has also apparently moved on. In exchange, they gain a fearsome high school graduate in Sean McBride, the lead scorer and science specialist from last year’s High Tech A team. McBride should already be well-prepared for collegiate science questions and able to make a dent in other categories; if he and other younger members of this team stay involved, this team should start its rebuilding phase on a good foot.

 

24. Brown (postseason ranking: unranked)

Possible lineup: Daniel Brach-Neufeld, Abid Haseeb, Rohith Nagari, Lloyd Sy

While longtime graduate students Daniel Klein and Justin Byrd seem to be moving on, the trio of Daniel Brach-Neufeld, Abid Haseeb, and Lloyd Sy returns for its third year. Many commentators have serious doubts about Brown – they play in a very stacked region, where they’re likely to face Columbia, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and possibly Penn or Dartmouth any given Saturday, to say nothing of powerful B-teams. What’s more, none of the returning undergraduates has ever attended a collegiate national championship. If Sy and co. don’t  prove the naysayers wrong and prepare for an eventual showing at either ICT or ACF this year, they will rapidly lose this ranking.

 

23. Maryland B (postseason ranking: 19; change: down 4)

Possible lineup: Arun Chonai, Gaurav Kandlikar, Sohan Vartak

As Isaac Hirsch moves on to funnier climes and some members of this team move up to Maryland A, it’s less likely that Maryland B will be as frequent a regional top-bracket presence this year as it was last year. Nonetheless, the Maryland quizbowl team returns a rather large stable of returning experienced players. That said, the title of “second best B team in the country” is very much up for grabs. While this team was discussed, the names of two unranked teams were brought up as potential top-25 material: Harvard B (returns Stephen Morrison, Artur Meller, Vimal Konduri; gains Mason Hale from Loudoun County HS) and Stanford B (returns James Bradbury and Ian Torres; gains a boatload of talented freshmen; see “Stanford” below).

 

22. Chicago B (postseason ranking: 22; change: 0)

Possible lineup: four of {James Lasker, Marianna Zhang, Athena Kern, Bess Goodfellow, James Kiselik}

Though much of last year’s Chicago B (including Doug Graebner, Ben Gammage, and Connie Prater) is lost to graduation, the university predictably picks up several new players with which to reload. Among those are James Lasker (formerly of Penn, bio/chem/astro specialist), Marianna Zhang (formerly of Hunter College High School, generalist with lit specialty), and Athena Kern (formerly of Dunbar High School). Though it’s unclear which set of people will be slotted in here or what categories they’ll know, Chicago B plays every tournament seriously every year, and there’s no reason to expect that to change.

 

21. Minnesota (postseason ranking: unranked)

Possible lineup: Shan Kothari, Jason Asher

With the ascension of Dr. Mike Cheyne to the professoriat, Minnesota loses the last member of its 2011 championship squad, pushing the Golden Gophers into a near-total rebuilding mode. That said, The U has two very solid blocks with which to begin the rebuilding process: Shan Kothari, who carries his deep pockets of science, arts, philosophy, and social science knowledge over from Michigan State, and Jason Asher, the lead scorer from last year’s successful Stevenson High School team.

 

20. Northwestern (postseason ranking: unranked)

Possible lineup: Dylan Minarik, Kevin Malis

Though noted Broadway superfan Dan Donohue has taken his bow and exited stage right, Northwestern returns its two lead scorers, who combined for a respectable 62.41 points per game at ACF Nationals. Minarik in particular has shown himself to be a solid low-level generalist at last year’s Division II ICT; he is in a good place to build on that generalist ability and do more damage at higher difficulties if he puts in the effort.

 

19. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (postseason ranking: 8; change: down 11)

Possible lineup: Alex Pandya, Andrew Wang, Tristan Willey

It’s a serious rebuilding year for Illinois as they lose Austin Listerud, Billy Busse, and Aaron Rosenberg. The remaining members of the Academic Buzzer Team, led by Tristan Willey and budding biochemist Andrew Wang, should put up respectable performances regionally, though they may have trouble fending off local rivals Chicago B and Northwestern as the season continues and all three try to climb the regional ladder.

 

18. University of California, Berkeley (postseason ranking: 21; change: up 3)

Possible lineup: Ankit Aggarwal, Nicholas Karas, Ilyas Bayramov, Ben Gammage

Last year’s Berkeley team, led by ex-Bellarministers Ankit Aggarwal and Tanay Kothari, finished 20th at ICT and 15th at ACF. Tanay, having graduated early in three years, will not be back, leaving Aggarwal in charge of picking three teammates from a relatively large stable of decent players and niche specialists. These may now include Ben Gammage, a long-time Chicago B mainstay who will be attending Berkeley for grad school in mathematics. It’s very hard to imagine this team defeating Stanford regionally, and with little other competition in their area, it seems likely that their national finishes will about match last year’s at best. That said, Berkeley’s long-term prospects may look brighter; their work on building up the Bay Area high school circuit will almost certainly reap large dividends for them as more strong high school players matriculate in the years to come.

 

17. Dartmouth (postseason ranking: 17; change: 0)

Possible lineup: Will Alston, Charles Jang, Caleb Amponsah

After no-showing for the second day of ACF Nationals last spring, it seems clear that Nick Jensen will not be returning to play quizbowl for Dartmouth during his senior year, taking his literature, bio/chem, and fine arts scoring with him. Effective leadership turns to noted barbarian enthusiast Will Alston, who will have to become a much more far-reaching generalist and effective team leader after spending the whole fall semester studying abroad. This team will not do as well as last year, and may not even make playoffs in crowded Northeast fields. Though Alston’s unwavering can-do attitude should at least keep them in attendance for the duration of next spring’s tournaments, he will have to rely on improving himself, rather than holding out hope that inactive or long-gone players will return.

 

16. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (postseason ranking: 23; change: up 7)

Possible lineup: Ryan Rosenberg, Zihan Zheng, Natan Holtzman, Kisan Thakkar

The relatively young UNC team – returning in its entirety for this upcoming year – has been extremely dominant on low-level questions such as ACF Fall and Division II SCT for the past two years. They’ve now largely outgrown that difficulty level, now that Rosenberg and Holtzman are juniors and Zihan Zheng is a sophomore – and seem plenty interested in continuing to attend local tournaments and both nationals. As this team’s three returning players become more specialized with age, they ‘ll need to remember how it felt crushing foes on easy questions as a motivator to learn to crush foes on regular-difficulty questions. The top of the second bracket may be all this team can hope for at nationals this year, but they may as well start preparing now for an even stronger showing in 2015-16.

 

PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

For the past few years, the NAQT Intercollegiate Tournament has only allowed 8 teams to advance to the playoffs; ACF Nationals has a more lenient 12-team top bracket. The set of teams with a very good shot at making either or both of those playoffs is, to get straight to the point, larger than 12. As such, some matches determining the playoff tier will be very fierce as teams on the verge of making it have to face off against one another for a limited number of spots. Some of these teams will find themselves on the outside looking in come March; a lot will depend on comparative levels of dedication, which are difficult to measure this far out.

 

15. Washington University in St. Louis (postseason ranking: 24; change: up 9)

Possible lineup: Richard Yu, Seth Ebner, Charles Hang?

Richard Yu has established himself as a very strong individual player, using his knowledge that scales well in history and biology in particular to earn All-Star awards at both ICT and ACF Nationals last year. That said, he has had a very small and inconstant supporting cast over the past year, a trend which is likely to continue. While Yu is likely to keep distinguishing himself individually, he will have to start training his teammates more seriously for his team to put the “[h]ustl[e]” in “WUStL”, and perhaps take its first crack at a playoff run. Rumor has it that long-time presence Charles Hang might be returning after a year of leave, which would help this team’s chances somewhat; after many years at the same skill level, though, Hang would very much be playing second fiddle.

 

14. University of California, San Diego (postseason ranking: unranked)

Possible lineup: Auroni Gupta, Jason Cheng

After two years of semi-retirement spent largely writing and editing questions at all difficulty levels, including many HSAPQ sets and last year’s ACF Nationals, Auroni Gupta returns to the collegiate fray for 2014-15. All that writing should allow him to resume active play on a very strong footing, though it remains to be seen whether it’ll be enough to propel the UCSD team to the top bracket. Expect this ranking to be higher by the end of the year, and expect Gupta’s team to perform about as well as last year’s MCTC, if not slightly better, for similar reasons – producing George Oppen, this year’s “nationals prep” event, can’t hurt UCSD’s chances.

 

13. Alberta (postseason ranking: 15, change: up 2)

Pissible lineup: Trevor Davis, Sinan Ulusoy

Alberta spreads its wings to fly to tournaments once more, returning both of its star players as Sinan continues his medical education and Trevor goes for a big bad Ph.D. Relatively little changes here; we can expect a similar bottom-of-the-top-bracket finish from this team if both Davis and Ulusoy are able to attend nationals again, or a top-of-the-second bracket finish if they have a rough weekend.

 

 

12. Georgia Tech (postseason ranking: 14 ; change: up 2)

Possible lineup: Adam Silverman, Alex Liu

Adam Silverman’s situation at Georgia Tech is in many ways quite similar to Richard Yu’s at WashU; he is no slouch individually (69.28 PP20H in last year’s ICT prelims), and has a particular strength in chemistry which few other teams in this section share. But he often plays on 2- or 3-person teams with teammates who vary from weekend to weekend and score far less than he goes. And of those teammates, it’s unclear whether some, such as Brian Owen or Mostafa Bhuiyan, will even return next year. This team isn’t helped by the relative lack of tournament hosts and competitive opponents in the Southeast, which may dwindle even further next year. As such, most of this team’s ability to move upwards depends on whether Silverman stays motivated to step up his game outside of his science specialties. Otherwise, they should win most Southeast tournaments handily and do about the same nationally. [Sidenote: This team was also unable to attend ACF Nationals last year, making it difficult to predict how they might do on that format compared to ICT; with ICT a few minutes away in downtown Atlanta this year, it may well be easier for them to attend both nationals and duke it out for certain.]

 

11. MIT (postseason ranking: 11, change: 0)

Possible lineup: Neil Gurram, Stephen Eltinge, two of {Max Timmons, Mia Nussbaum, Cory Smith, Anderson Wang, Sam Spaulding}

There’s a good reason why four teams from the Northeast are all listed in a row here. After two major graduations (Matt Jackson from Yale and Stephen Liu from Harvard), there’s a very high-level parity at the top of that region, in which several teams are all reasonable competitors for regional dominance but none seem prepared to break into the top tier nationally (counting Penn as “mid-Atlantic” rather than “Northeast” for the purposes of this assessment). There will be no easy victor in the four-way struggle for local supremacy.

 

First on that list is MIT, a team which graduated nobody from last year’s 10th-place ICT finish (Neil Gurram is entering his fifth year in a combination bachelor’s/master’s program). Gurram’s across-the-board generalism has held up decently for several years now; between him and Stephen Eltinge, this team has extra [albeit unsurprising] edge at science questions, and a large stable of decent players to choose from as thirds or fourths to cover gaps in subjects such as literature or fine arts. Interestingly, Neil Gurram has thus far never attended an ACF Nationals, so it’s hard to say how well this team would do (or if they plan on doing) on high-difficulty ACF format and distribution.

 

10. Yale (postseason ranking: 2; change: down 8)

Possible lineup: Jacob Reed, Grace Liu, Nick Wawrykow, one of {Jacob Wasserman, Mitchell Weldon, Isaac Kirk-Davidoff}

Despite losing half of its lineup (and two thirds of its scoring) from last year, Yale stays strong. The returning comedy duo of Jacob Reed and Grace Liu takes the reins, with a large stock of other young players to choose from for support as they rebuild. It seems clear from MFT and MUT statistics that the Liu-Reed effort retains excellent across-the-board generalist ability and high power rates at regular-minus difficulty. Above that, a lot comes down to how well they can supplement their specialized humanities knowledge – focused in literature, fine arts, and mythology —  with the categories that Jackson’s ghost leaves behind (history, religion, philosophy, social science). It also remains unclear how well this team’s pockets of straight-outta-classroom science learning can be expanded into consistent buzzes in that category, an important ingredient for filling the Ashvin-sized hole in its aspirations (and hearts). Yale’s team will be all-undergrad next year, and will likely be Harvard’s main competition as it seeks to defend the Undergraduate titles it picked up from ICT and Nats last year. (Dan Puma, while still completing his bachelor’s degree next year, graduated high school in 2009 and is in his fifth year of college quizbowl, rendering Maryland ineligible for the UG title if he plays for them.)

 

9. Harvard (postseason ranking: 7; change: down 2)

Possible lineup: Mark Arildsen, Will Holub-Moorman, Sriram Pendyala, one of {Raynor Kuang, Vimal Konduri}

Harvard, after much gnashing of waitlisted teeth, loses their long-time captain Stephen Liu to another school whose mascot is a shade of red. But Liu’s entire former supporting cast returns, and is certainly gunning for success in the “good quizbowl schools with adjectives for mascots” rankings. Will Holub-Moorman has been improving rapidly over the past season, especially at literature, and should be prepared to take the helm come October; Sriram “SRIIIIRAAAAM” Pendyala has a pretty thorough command of chemistry and physics, and Mark Arildsen brings in military history and all sorts of unpredictable (but excited) buzzes. The likely fourth for this year’s Harvard A, fresh off their reigning NAQT Division II championship team, is lit player Raynor Kuang, though he will have to attend more regular tournaments throughout the year and adjust his notoriously high-neg playing style to get adjusted to higher difficulties; geobeast Vimal Konduri might also be slotted in here. At any rate, this team shouldn’t lose much even as it replaces its previous best player, and is likely to compete for the Undergraduate title once nationals season rolls around.

 

8. Columbia (postseason ranking: 16; change: up 8)

Possible lineup: four of {Aidan Mehigan, Rafael Krichevsky, Jonathan Xu, Alex Gerten, Ben Zhang}

Now emancipated from their ACF-Nationals-hosting yoke, Columbia returns everyone from their 12th-place ICT finish last year, and gains high school hot-shot Ben Zhang, perhaps the best individual player to have graduated high school in 2014. Because college quizbowl teams can only field four players at once, someone is likely to get bumped off; the identity of the bumpee is likely to be determined by which subjects Zhang starts to learn at a collegiate level and how he adjusts to becoming a team player. (In high school he had a particular fondness for biology and mythology; if that interest in life sciences continues, Xu may be the one who gets the axe.) That said, Columbia also returns a pretty decent B team, so the person among these five who doesn’t continue with the A-team may well get Columbia B into later top-25 polls this school year.

 

7. Minneapolis Community and Technical College (postseason ranking: 10; change: up 3)

Possible lineup: Rob Carson, Bernadette Spencer

The Carson-Spencer duo soldiers on for a third year representing MCTC. Carson retains his humanities generalism, with particular strengths in literature and fine arts, and Spencer’s specialties in philosophy, Christian stuff, and social science bring in some additional points. They didn’t make the top bracket of ICT last year, largely due to an incredibly (and mistakenly) stacked prelim bracket; it remains to be seen whether they can make it this year, but they’ll sure come close if they don’t. [Note: This team is presumably competing in ICT only; Carson is signed on as an editor for ACF Nationals 2015.]

 

TITLE CONTENDING PICTURE: THE LONG SHOTS

Each of the next three teams is well-rounded enough to be immortalized on the Top Four chart on QBWiki at one or both nationals this year – if they can avoid the others stepping on their toes. Absent some extremely rough seeding, each of these teams is almost certain to make the playoff pool at both national championships, and should win at least some games there. It’s also plausible that these teams will act as “spoilers” to contenders, delivering upsets which affect the course of the tournament even if they themselves do not make the championship picture. While it’s not out of the question that one team in this set might find itself on the finals stage when the dust from the playoffs settles, it seems fair to say that they are very long-shot contenders for an actual title, and would have to put in a disproportionate amount of effort to change that.

 

6. Maryland A (postseason ranking: 7; change: up 1)

Possible lineup: Jordan Brownstein, Dan Puma, Chris Manners, Brian McPeak

In a sure sign of the End Times, Chris Ray has completed his studies at Maryland and will be moving on next year. It will be quite a shift for Maryland to adjust now that a player who has been a steady part of their lineup (and their karaoke night life) for over half a decade is now gone. That said, it’s impossible to ignore the rapid rise of Jordan “The Viper” Brownstein, a “very polite” “beast” who, in his freshman year and first year of serious quizbowl, greatly outscored Ray in Ray’s strongest category at College History Bowl and led his team to a 3rd-place finish at Chicago Open. By most accounts, Brownstein’s knowledge base scales to arbitrarily high difficulties, but only in literature and history (and sometimes painting). This means that for now a lot of Maryland’s success depends on ensuring adequate category coverage with its three other players. They’ll likely take Brian McPeak for science, and Dan Puma and Chris Manners for further history, lit, religion, and trash. All three of those players are in their last year at Maryland, so they’ll have to make this year count and seriously defend their niches before the Terrapins do a more thorough reloading of Brownstein’s supporting cast in 2015-16.

 

Even with solid support, a lot of Maryland’s future trajectory depends on how much Brownstein is willing (or able) to develop quizbowl generalism and start recognizing recurring clues outside his categories. Often, for specialist-y star players who didn’t play in high school, this happens on its own with increased question exposure (cf. Lawrence, John) or with increased question writing obligations (such as the ones Brownstein has taken on for SUBMIT, HSAPQ, VCU Open, the upcoming ACF Fall, and a potential packet-sub tournament this spring).

 

5. Stanford (postseason ranking: 13; change: up 8)

Possible lineup: Stephen Liu, Benji Nguyen, two of {Austin Brownlow, Nikhil Desai, Nathan Weiser}

It’s finally settled that former Harvard captain Stephen Liu will be going to Stanford for law school, where he is likely to attend nationals even if he doesn’t play everything throughout the year. Liu’s near-total dominance of visual arts questions and his high-level humanities generalism (including secondary specialties in European history and contemporary literature) are a godsend for senior Benji Nguyen, who was already leading this team to West Coast victories and to the ACF top bracket last year, but has had some trouble scaling to higher difficulties. Stanford also gets former Louisville science player Austin Brownlow and their pick of extremely strong incoming high school players; if even two of {Alex Freed, Nathan Weiser, Tabitha Walker, Jialin Ding} stay involved, they have a perhaps unparalleled shot at the Division II ICT title. With many good players in their stable (sciencer Nikhil Desai and current events beast James Bradbury are both still enrolled) and little competition in their region, this team may have a hard time picking the strongest possible set of four and training them accordingly for inter-team dynamics, covering all categories, etc. But a Top Four finish certainly isn’t out of the question if they make the best of a very good hand.

 

4. Michigan (postseason ranking: 6; change: up 2)

Possible lineup: Will Nediger, Siddhant Dogra, Todd Maslyk

Michigan is another known quantity which returns everyone from last year’s 6th-place finishes at both ICT and Nats. Most of this team’s scoring comes from big word enthusiast Will Nediger, whose skill at literature questions only seems to increase as the titles and countries get obscurer. Todd Maslyk and rising sophomore Siddhant Dogra provided 15-20 ppg each on categories Nediger doesn’t specialize in, such as science and geography, and there’s no reason to suggest they won’t again. That said, if they continue to play too dependably at the same level of intensity, they won’t be able to pack the punch they need to break into the crowd of true contenders. Michigan pulled off no upsets at either national last year (i.e. they lost every game they played against teams which ended up finishing above them); retaining a laid-back attitude is likely to cost them again if they’re looking to re-enter the championship picture.

 

TITLE CONTENDING PICTURE: THE FAVORITES

The top three teams from this year’s pre-season poll are all known quantities, captained by seasoned veterans who have been in the “title-contending” picture for three years or more. Odds are very high that the finals at this year’s championships (if there are finals) will be played between two of these three teams; the chances that at least one of them wins at least one title this year approach statistical certainty. Because the relative strengths and weaknesses of these teams (or the matchups between them) may not be known to a broader audience, these profiles will be longer and more detailed.

 

3. Chicago A (postseason ranking: 4; change: up 1)

Possible lineup: John Lawrence, Max Schindler, Chris Ray, Michael Coates

This year’s Chicago team is largely a three-man effort. First among equals in this year’s triumvirate is captain and second-year Ph.D student John Lawrence, who brings back his best-in-the-game dominance on music questions, his wide and deep command of literature and visual arts knowledge, his Anglophilia, and his inflexible will to win. The second returning player, Max Schindler, sailed into college as the best high school player from the class of 2013, but has yet to carve out his niche or have a breakout collegiate performance alongside strong teammates. Barging into Hyde Park for the first time this year is long-time Maryland stalwart Chris Ray, whose well-known skill at history and trash has been balanced out lately by a more thoroughgoing generalism and a willingness to buzz in on any category if it seems necessary.

 

At first glance, subtracting their previous history, social science, and geography specialists (Marshall Steinbaum and Charles Tian) to add “Christ Ray” seems like a bad bargain if this team plans to finish higher than last year — though Ray’s knowledge base extends more broadly, he did not get as many powers at the latest ICT or at College History Bowl as the Steinbaum-Tian combination. What’s more, Chris and Max both have a reputation for a gunslinging, high-neg play style. This team almost definitely starts the year with a lower raw knowledge level than UVA or Penn, especially in science (though both Ray and Schindler can successfully buzz on high-difficulty questions in that category, Ray more so in life sciences and Schindler more so in physics and math). That said, no one has a better track record for living up to team-improvement hype than John Lawrence, whose own icy-conservative play strategy and taskmaster-like approach to building up teammates earned him two ACF titles while at Yale. If this trio can gel well, they should be in much better shape by the time ICT rolls around, even though their key opponents have outmatched them on paper thus far. They’ll also want a fourth player who makes real contributions; as of now that person looks to be Michael Coates, who provides extra oomph in history and current events.

 

The scoring trajectory of Schindler will be a very good indicator of whether this team has a shot at a title in 2015. Given his relative youth, Max is presumably much farther from his “peak” than the more experienced players on either side of him, and more plastic/mutable in his play style and areas of focus. He showed in high school that he could hunker down and master the game of quizbowl at that level with enough hyperzealous dedication. Can he do it again now that the difficulty ceiling is far higher? Quizbowl history is full of dominant sophomore showings, including the breakout 2006-07 season of Eric Mukherjee, and more recently the championship-leading 2012 performances of Matts Bollinger and Jackson. Given the likely strength of Chicago’s opponents next year, Schindler may need to aspire to join that caravan and triple or quadruple his powers/early buzzes to get his team into top shape.

 

2. University of Pennsylvania (postseason ranking: 3; change: up 1)

Possible lineup: Eric Mukherjee, Saajid Moyen, Patrick Liao, Dallas Simons

Penn returns the same lineup it used to make the top four at both nationals in 2013 (3rd at ICT, 4th at ACF) and 2014 (3rd at both ICT and ACF), and it’s known pretty well by now how it operates. Eric Mukherjee uses his dominance in the three major sciences, buttressed by years of generalist experience and secondary specialties in mythology and world history, to serve as a fearsome lead scorer. Saajid Moyen provides backup on literature, fine arts, math, and computer science; Patrick Liao improves their edge at (particularly military) history and all things Canada; last but not least, Dallas Simons rounds them out by mopping up classics and geography. Saajid and Patrick are now in their last year of undergrad. That makes it likely in turn that this is the best – probably last – chance for long-time stars Dallas Simons and Eric Mukherjee to pick up a long-desired national title, even though the latter two will both be in their graduate programs for longer.

 

The big question for Penn this year is whether they can take their already-high level of play up another level, or whether they will stay as-is. After many years, Mukherjee is likely at or near a “plateau” at which his skill is unlikely to improve, and Simons is no longer actively studying to improve outside his specialty areas. And the strength of the other two hasn’t changed much over the past two years; Moyen has improved incrementally at ACF from year to year, while Liao has stayed basically the same. One or both of Penn’s seniors has to hit the books and occupy a true second-seat role, perhaps looking to fellow 2015er Tommy Casalaspi (18.24 PPG at ACF Nationals 2013; 34.21 PPG a year later) for inspiration. This team rises or falls with the strength and dedication of its supporting cast.

 

Due to geography, Penn gets more matches during the year against UVA than Chicago, and needs to throw itself at all of them full-bore without losing heart. Penn has to retain faith in itself that it can earnestly turn the tables — and get realistic about what that will take from Liao and Moyen — or else it almost certainly won’t do so.

 

1. Virginia (postseason ranking: 1; change: 0)

Possible lineup: Matt Bollinger, Tommy Casalaspi, Eric Xu

The University of Virginia Cavaliers, reigning champions at both NAQT and ACF, set historic standards for greatness in 2014, cracking an unreal 21+ points per bonus and winning all but one game across both. In August, having earned his bachelor’s degree, Bollinger shocked the college quizbowl world by announcing that he would be returning to UVA for a single-year Master’s program in the 2014-15 season. It’s an understatement to say that this change of plans leaves everyone else scrambling. With UVA, the question isn’t so much “Can they win?” as “Can anyone else stop them?” If their statistics without Adams and Loo look anything like last year’s, any other team will have to seriously redouble its efforts to even come close. (And they’re likely to look very similar indeed: the Bollinger/Casalaspi duo got 75% of their team’s tossup points at ICT and 84.9% of their team’s tossup points at ACF. Bollinger as an individual got a strictly greater number of powers than any non-UVA team in the ICT field last year; the team with the second-most powers, Yale, got 53 across the tournament to his 54.)

 

Bollinger is by far the best active history player in the game, and is very good at literature, RMP, and fine arts to boot (particularly anything “classics” in any of those categories). Tommy Casalaspi broke out of his well-known lit specialty last year by becoming a dominant science player as well, second only to Mukherjee on chemistry and physics questions; he also provides many of this team’s music and film buzzes. Beyond those two, dual-enrolled high school senior Eric Xu, also of Western Albemarle High School just west of Charlottesville, will almost certainly become a part of the picture (an experience which Casalaspi once had, earning an ICT undergraduate title with VCU while dual-enrolled at Maggie Walker Governor’s School). Their most likely option for a fourth seat, if they need one, is Caslaspi’s former high school teammate JR Roach, who has been less active in college but can still, if this past VCU open is any indication, get deep specialist buzzes in European history and current events.

 

Key questions for this team are (1) how quickly they can fill in the subjects they delegated to Evan Adams  for three years running (2) whether they can regain the advantage on trash questions that Adams, Loo, and David Seal once gave them (3) whether either of those concerns matters at all if they can just prepare to power everything that isn’t an Evan Adams thing or a trash thing regardless. If Mattb and Tommy continue to improve, or even if they stay the same but find two other people who add about 20 reliable tossup points per game, this team may well be the first team since Chicago 2007 to be utterly unbeatable at both national tournaments. (Latest update from Bollinger is that he is not planning on actively putting in work to improve this year, though Casalaspi absolutely is.) It remains to be seen whether other possible contenders will see this team’s prospects and resign themselves to defeat, or stand up and declare “Not if I have anything to say about it!”

 

Others can take solace in this, at least: Before UVA 2014, no one knew that numbers like UVA 2014’s were possible. Now that the records have been broken and everyone knows that the ceiling is much higher than they thought, numbers like UVA 2014’s are going to be necessary to win collegiate titles for the foreseeable future – after all, at least one team every year will be studying hard enough to attain them. The seven months between now and ICT leave plenty of time for other contenders to set new goals accordingly.

 

2014-2015 Preseason Poll Results

Voters: Ike Jose, Will Alston, Sean Smiley, The Viper Jordan Brownstein, Charlie Dees, Matt Jackson, Adam Sperber, Saajid Moyen, Sinan Ulusoy, Will Holub-Moorman, Brian McPeak, Stephen Liu, Dan Puma, Jacob Reed, Dylan Minarik, Nicholas Karas, and Richard Yu

1. Virginia (416, 14 1st place votes, lowest #6)–also #1 in postseason poll
2. Penn (405, 1 1st place vote, lowest #3)–+1 from postseason
3. Chicago A (399, 2 1st place votes, lowest #3)–+1
4. Michigan (362, highest #3, lowest #6)–+2
5. Stanford (348, highest #4, lowest #8)–+8
6. Maryland A (340, highest #4, lowest #19)– -1
7. MCTC (295, highest #7, lowest #13)–+3
8. Columbia (280, highest #7, lowest #13)–+8
9. Yale (273, highest #4, lowest #14)– -7
10. Harvard (272, highest #4, lowest #15)– -3
11. MIT (262, highest #8, lowest #16)–same
12. Alberta (228, highest #7) and Georgia Tech (228, highest #10, lowest #19)–Alberta went +3 and GT went +2
14. UCSD (189, highest #7)–not ranked
15. WUSTL (165, highest #12, lowest #24)–+9
16. North Carolina (149, highest #15, lowest #23)–+7
17. Berkeley (114, highest #14)–+4
18. Dartmouth (113, highest #12)– -1
19. Illinois (95, highest #14)– -11
20. Northwestern (88, highest #15)–not ranked
21. Minnesota (73, highest #16)–not ranked
22. Chicago B (68, highest #14)–same
23. Maryland B (53, highest #15)– -4
24. Brown (38, highest #17)–not ranked
25. Cornell (30, highest #18)–same

Also Receiving Votes: Harvard B (28), Stanford B (28), Washington (27), Michigan State (25), Rutgers (25), Columbia B (24), Ohio State (22), William and Mary (14), Virginia B (13), McMaster (10), Rice (9), Ottawa (7), Missouri (5), Louisville (4), Notre Dame (4), Berkeley B (3), McGill (3), Carleton (2), Oxford (2), Texas A&M (2), Penn B (1) and UCLA (1).

Dropping Out of Top 25: J. Sargeant Reynolds, Washington, Ohio State, and Michigan State

2014 Midseason Poll Results

24 ballots were received. For the top 25, I posted the highest and lowest rank each team received (if a team does not receive a lowest rank, at least one ballot did not rank them).

Voters: Will Alston, Matt Bollinger, Nick Conder, Siddhant Dogra, Bryce Durgin, Alex Gerten, Cory Haala, Itzhak Hirsch, Matt Jackson, Tanay Kothari, Jasper Lee, Saajid Moyen, The Esteemed Will Nediger, Benji Nguyen, Joe Nutter, Jacob O’Rourke, Victor Prieto, Dan Puma, Jacob Reed, Dr. Marshall Steinbaum, Jake Sundberg, Morgan Venkus, Richard Yu, and Libo Zeng.

1. Virginia (600, all 24 1st place votes), +1 from last poll
2. Penn (564, highest: #2, lowest: #5), +1
3. Yale A (558, highest: #2, lowest: #4), -2
4. Chicago A (515, highest: #2, lowest: #7), same
5. Maryland A (500, highest: #3, lowest: #7), same
6. Michigan (481, highest: #3, lowest: #8), same
7. Harvard A (457, highest: #4, lowest: #16), same
8. Illinois A (417, highest: #7, lowest: #13), +1
9. J. Sergeant Reynolds CC (359, highest: #6, lowest: #19), +5
10. Columbia (329, highest: #9, lowest: #18), +7
11. MCTC (325, highest: #8, lowest: #21), +2
12. Alberta (324, highest: #7), -1
13. Stanford (320, highest: #8, lowest: #19), -3
14. MIT (310, highest: #8), +1
15. Ohio State (273, highest: #7), -7
16. Georgia Tech (253, highest: #10), same
17. Michigan State (176, highest: #15), +1
18. Dartmouth (169, highest: #16), +1
19. Chicago B (157, highest: #12), -7
20. Maryland B (126, highest: #15), not ranked
21. Washington (117, highest: #13), not ranked
22. WUSTL (104, highest: #15), -1
23. Berkeley (97, highest: #16), -3
24. North Carolina (64, highest: #19), not ranked
25. Brown (58, highest: #15), -3

Falling out of top 25: Vanderbilt, Yale B, and Harvard B

Also receiving votes: Cornell (38), Northwestern (26), Harvard B (19), UCSD (16), Yale B (15), Rutgers (13), Louisville (8), Alabama (4), Minnesota (4), Illinois B (1), Ottawa (1), Oxford (1), and Rice (1).

Thanks for voting, everyone.

2014 Pre-Nationals College Preview

This is a preview of the top college teams in advance of the three upcoming national tournaments – ICT, ACF Nationals, and College History Bowl. This report was compiled with the help of the quizbowl community through discussion on IRC, and most of what is written here does not represent the opinion of any one individual. For comparison, the previous ranking of each team is provided.

 

UNRANKED TEAMS

 

Cornell – Ian Lenhoff, Tejas Raje, Matt Moschella, undetermined fourth

Finishing just outside the Top 25, Cornell has attended a number of events this year and put up respectable finishes at each of them. Ian Lenhoff leads a team that’s solid on physical science and American history and has some good overall knowledge. Like North Carolina, they haven’t played any hard events yet this year, so it’s unsure how well they’ll stack up at the national tournaments.

Northwestern – Dylan Minarik, Dan Donohue, Kevin Malis, undetermined fourth

Northwestern’s only got a DII team at ICT, and Dylan Minarik, who’s kept up his game over the past year, can be expected to make a top-bracket performance there. They could do some damage at ACF Nationals, but their ability to scale may be questionable.

Chicago C – Morgan Venkus, three undetermined teammates

High school all-star Morgan Venkus will be leading the top Chicago team for Division II ICT, which will make them a serious threat for the championship.

Harvard B – Raynor Kuang, Vimal Konduri, Robert Chu, undetermined fourth

This team hasn’t gone to many events, but their SCT performance was phenomenal, brought down only by a streak of unfortunate negs against Yale B during the two games they played. This team does have a negging problem, but despite that they’re easily one of the top teams at DII ICT and a serious threat for the championship, as long as their aggression doesn’t get the better of them.

Yale B – Nick Wawrykow, Laurence Li, Mitchell Weldon, Haohang Xu

The Yale B team is well balanced and plenty of a threat to the other teams in Division II at ICT, though perhaps not as strong as some of the other top teams. They’re a lot more well-balanced than Chicago C and Northwestern, which could be an advantage, but, like Harvard, they have a neg issue that they’ll have to curb if they want to do well.

 

RANKED TEAMS

 

25. Brown (previously #22) – Lloyd Sy, Abid Haseeb, Daniel Brach-Neufeld, Rohith Nagari/Justin Byrd

Lloyd’s taken Guy’s place as the leader of this team, and is a very capable generalist on anything up to regular difficulty. His backup players are solid, too, with Abid and Daniel both being good high school players with real science knowledge and some specialties. This team’s managed to stay together and play tournaments, and have done reasonably well at what they have attended, including making second place at their NAQT sectional with the help of Justin Byrd. That said, they won’t be going to either nationals, and need to study and attend more tournaments if they want to move up in the rankings.

24. North Carolina (unranked) – Natan Holzman, Ryan Rosenberg, Nick Neuteufel, Zihan Zheng

This team, lead by Natan Holzman, is murderously good on easy questions, but their ability to scale isn’t quite as impressive. Natan and Zihan will be playing DII at ICT, so in all likelihood their DI team will end up in the fourth bracket, but come ACF Nationals this team’s performance is a little bit less certain, as we have yet to see UNC play a hard tournament.

23. UC Berkeley (previously #20) – Tanay Kothari, Ankit Aggarwal, Ilyas Bayramov, Lucas Vlahos

Tanay hasn’t played much all year, and he and Ankit don’t seem to have improved (other than at science) much since last year, when Berkeley made a pair of solid performances but was held down by a negging problem. It’s unsure how well they’ll do this year, but they’ll probably end up in the third bracket like last time.

22. Washington University in St. Louis (previously #21)– Richard Yu, Seth Ebner, Collin Nadarajah, Tirth Patel

Richard’s been able to hold his own without Charles this year, putting up impressive performances at SCT and DRAGOON. That being said, he’s not a true generalist, though he does have a lot of history and science knowledge. This team’s split at ICT, with Seth and Collin taking on DII and Richard and Tirth in DI, meaning they’ll probably be more of a force at Nationals than ICT. Expect them to hang out in the third bracket at ICT and do some damage there if they get a good packet or two.

21. Washington (unranked) – Mike Bentley, Libo Zeng, Joelle Smart, Chris Grubb

Mike Bentley’s eligible to play ACF tournaments, meaning this team’s going to be making an appearance at Nationals, though not at ICT. They’ve got their history, physical science, and visual arts down, but outside of that this team has fairly spotty coverage and lacks a solid generalist. They’re plenty capable at regular difficulty, but have a tougher time on harder questions outside their areas of expertise. On a good packet, Washington can beat most teams, but they’ll have to get a lot of those if they want to climb high in the second bracket at ACF Nationals.

20. Maryland B (unranked) – Dan Puma, Sohan Vartak, Isaac Hirsch, Ophir Lifschitz

As Matt Jackson put it, this team has something of a “four high school generalists walk into a bar” feeling about it. Dan Puma is the leader here, boasting good history, trash, and film knowledge and generalist experience, and he’s supported by Sohan on RMP, Ophir on music and science, and Isaac on all sorts of random stuff. Between Isacc and Dan’s trash knowledge and Cane Ridge Revival showing that they don’t scale that well on hard ACF-style tossups, this team’s probably a lot more of a threat at ICT than ACF Nationals.

19. Chicago B (previously #12) ­– Charles Tian, Michael Coates, Connie Prater, Kay Li

Between lead scorer Charles Tian and Michael Coates, this is an excellent history team. Connie and Kay Li cover holes in literature and science, respectively, but it’s questionable whether this team will be capable of the sort of performance we’ve seen from Chicago B teams that we’ve seen in the past due to coverage issues. Regardless, this team’s got plenty of strong players and should be able to fight it out with similarly ranked teams well enough, probably ending up in the higher end of the third bracket at ICT.

18. Dartmouth (previously #19) – Nick Jensen, Will Alston, Kirk Jing, Charles Jang/Cameron Orth

Nick Jensen and Will Alston form the backbone of a team that’s deep in their vanity areas and specialties, but lacks overall generalist capability. Dartmouth’s great on mythology, religion, history, biology, chemistry, and visual arts but has serious holes in physical sciences and philosophy. This team hasn’t played together all year, and it’s unknown how much Kirk and Charles will contribute other than fortifying history, biology, religion, and current events knowledge. Relative to their ranking, this team has a high power rate, but also a relatively high neg rate, so they have some solid upset potential. Between Will, Kirk and Charles, this team’s got a good shot at the undergraduate history title, and led by Nick they could easily put up a strong finish at the normal nationals, though that’s not for certain.

17. Michigan State (previously #18) – Shan Kothari, Joe Nutter, Connor Teevens, Chris Wolfe

Shan Kothari leads a team that’s solid overall and particularly good at music, philosophy, physics, and biology. Outside of their pockets of deep knowledge, though, this team doesn’t really get a whole lot of deep buzzes, though they don’t neg much and their bonus conversion is fairly good. Their relatively low tossup strength will probably prevent them from getting a lot of upsets or making a surprise high finish, but this team will do well in the second bracket of Nationals and the second or third bracket at ICT.

16. Georgia Tech (same) – Adam Silverman, Alex Liu, Mostafa Bhuiyan, undetermined fourth

Adam Silverman is an excellent science player and a good generalist to boot, and he’s got some support in the form of solid high school players. Though the folks at Georgia Tech have kept playing, they haven’t been keeping up their studying as much, and the ability of their non-Adam players to scale is questionable. That said, since Adam himself hasn’t played much all year, we can’t really be sure as to how strong this team really is, but they should definitely be in the second or third bracket at ICT.

15. Ohio State (previously #8) – Jarrett Greene, Jasper Lee, Max Bucher, Tyler Friesen

This is mostly the same OSU team from last year, with Peter Komarek being replaced by Tyler Friesen. Jarrett is an excellent history player, and Jasper is strong on biology and music; the two of them, together, lead this team. They had a fantastic run at ICT last year, and probably shouldn’t be expected to do as well this year, especially with the increase in quality of middle-ranked teams. Nonetheless, this team is strong on NAQT questions and should be expected to do respectably there. In addition, Jarret’s strength on history makes this team a contender for the undergraduate title at history bowl.

14. MIT A (previously #15) – Neil Gurram, Stephen Eltinge, Anderson Wang, Max Timmons (ICT)

MIT consists of a core of Neil Gurram, Anderson Wang, and Stephen Eltinge plus a fourth – essentially three generalists. As one would expect, all three players are solid at physical sciences. Neil, one of the best high school players of all time, provides a plurality of their scoring and has been steadily improving since he returned to consistently playing tournaments. For a fourth, their options are Sam Spaulding, Cory Smith, Max Timmons, and Mia Nussbaum, with Max confirmed as their fourth for ICT. They are relatively weak at history, but aside from that they’ve got all subjects covered fairly well and don’t have any real weaknesses, meaning they’re quite good against teams of their own caliber, but probably don’t have much upset potential unless they get a good packet. You’ll probably find MIT doing damage in the second bracket at ICT, and they might manage to crack the top bracket at Nationals if they play well.

13. Stanford (previously #10) – Benji Nguyen, Nikhil Desai, James Bradbury, Thomas Wilson

This team’s one of the best science teams out there, with their entire A-Team composed of science students of one sort or another. Besides this, Benji is a great literature player, and they have good coverage of NAQT subjects thanks to James’ current events knowledge. Their power numbers aren’t as good as some of the other teams in their bracket, but they’ve got good coverage of most subjects and bonus conversion. Expect a solid second-bracket performance at both nationals.

12. Alberta (previously #11) – Sinan Ulusoy, Trevor Davis, undetermined third and fourth

Alberta’s got two great generalists in Sinan and Trevor, who’ve both got solid specialties and overall general coverage to boot. Sinan’s a great bio and chem player, and Trevor’s solid on history, and they’ve got enough other knowledge to fill in the gaps on most categories, which should be enough to put them in at least the second bracket of ICT. They do have something of a negging problem, which will probably diminish their ability to pull off upsets and could result in them losing to worse teams, but this team will probably do Canada proud.

11. MCTC (previously #13) – Rob Carson, Bernadette Spencer

Like JSR, MCTC is only going to ICT, and for good reason – Rob Carson’s a master of trash questions, though he’s a great literature and arts player and overall generalist. Bernadette backs him up on current events and other areas, and the two overall make a threatening duo who should be able to do well in the second bracket of ICT like last year. Like any team heavily reliant on one player, though, their performance will heavily depend on brackets and packets.

10. Columbia (previously #17) – Aidan Mehigan, Rafael Krichevsky, Alex Gerten, Jonathan Xu

Columbia is another well-balanced team, with four players who each have specialist knowledge and generalist ability. High school all-start Aidan is strong on literature and visual arts, Rafael’s great at music and physical science, Alex is strong on American history and social science, and Jonathan’s got bio/chem and some European history. Their scoring is balanced, but they’re relatively lacking in history and mythology knowledge compared to some other categories. They’ve been relatively even with MIT throughout the regular season, but they’ve got their strongest lineup ready for both Nationals, while MIT may not be able to say the same. Expect a strong second-bracket finish at ICT, and possibly a top-bracket finish at Nationals.

9. J. Sergeant Reynolds (previously #14) – Matt Weiner, George Berry

Matt and George are probably the stronger of the two-player community college teams to take to the field at ICT. Matt’s got a lot of history and trash knowledge, but is solid in general, and George Berry’s able to provide good backup on most categories. They’re not great at science, but they don’t neg very much and scale pretty well, so they have a good shot at the top bracket at ICT. Like most teams heavily reliant on one player, their performance will be highly packet-dependent, but as long as they don’t hit too many science bonuses, JSR should do just fine.

8. Illinois (previously #9) – Aaron Rosenberg, Andrew Wang, Austin Listerud, Billy Busse.

Though they’ve lost Ike, Illinois has the other solo D2 ACF Nationals champion on hand to replace him, Andrew Wang, who serves as a backup generalist for Aaron Rosenberg. Billy’s a fantastic all-around science player, second only to Eric Mukherjee, and Aaron backs him up on physical sciences as well as being a very good music player to boot. Austin’s a good player on American history and literature, and Andrew and Aaron are just solid all-around, especially after writing DRAGOON.

This team considers itself better on ACF questions, and they’ll almost certainly make the top bracket there, but they’re not sure if they can make the top bracket at ICT. That being said, they’ve got a well-balanced team, not particularly reliant on any one player, and should be respectable at whatever tournament they attend.

7. Harvard A (same) – Stephen Liu, Will Holub-Moorman, Sriram Pendyala, Mark Arildsen

Harvard is led by Stephen Liu, who consistently destroys myth and visual arts questions and acts as a fine generalist as well. His support comes from a well-balanced squad of Sriram Pendyala, Will Holub-Moorman, and Mark Arildsen. Will brings deep knowledge in social science, music, and literature to the  table, Sriram is a fantastic science specialist, and Mark brings a ton of useful, random knowledge to the table, particularly in American history, geography, and physics.  Harvard started out the year with a negging problem, but they’ve managed to curb it and give Yale a tough time in the Northeast throughout the regular season.

This team is dominant on visual arts and mythology, even at the top level. Expect them in the top brackets of both ICT and Nationals, and to be a serious threat to top teams should they get a favorable packet. They, along with Dartmouth and Ohio State, are front-runners for the undergraduate history title, and they’ve got a reasonable shot at the overall undergraduate titles at both ICT and ACF Nationals as well, though they’ll probably have to fight Yale for the honor.

6. Michigan (same) – Will Nediger, Siddhant Dogra, Peter Jiang, Todd Maslyk

As we have discovered, Will Nediger is, in fact, good at NAQT questions as well as ACF ones. He’s also become a solid generalist in his own right. This team traded Kurtis Droge and Libo Zeng for high school star Siddhant Dogra, which hasn’t worked out too badly for them at regular-season tournaments, though it may not be as good at the national level. They’re fantastic on literature and “thought” questions, and have enough knowledge in other areas to get games from short-handed Chicago teams at Penn Bowl and SCT.

Michigan’s ability to scale to Nationals-level on topics that Will is good at is unquestionable, and Sid has been making an effort to get better at science. However, the loss of Kurtis and Libo definitely hurt this team on history and on harder questions in general, and Sid’s ability as a generalist drops off as difficulty increases. If a given packet has enough things that Will’s read in it, this team can probably roll over anyone, but they’ve got some holes that could very well cost them. A top-bracket berth is probably guaranteed at ACF Nationals, but their performance at ICT may not be quite as good.

5. Maryland A (same) – Chris Ray, Jordan Brownstein, Brian McPeak, Chris Manners

Maryland’s a better team than ever with the addition of freshman wunderkind Jordan Brownstein, who supplements a solid squad led by eternal quizbowl player Chris Ray and featuring Chris Manners and Brian McPeak. Chris Ray, Jordan, and Manners are all strong lit players and Chris Ray and Jordan make a strong duo on history and visual arts. Without Arun, this team probably won’t be as good on the arts and “thought” as it was before, but Chris Ray’s years of experience and the team’s overall commitment to improving may be able to partially cover this hole.

As with last year, Maryland’s a fairly aggressive team when it comes to tossups, which means they may be better able to steal games from top teams than similarly ranked teams, but may cost them against a fairly low-neg top team like Michigan or J. Sergeant Reynolds. They’re a threat at History Bowl, ICT, and Nationals – probably more at ICT than Nationals, since their weaker spots in the arts and religion are diminished there.

4. Chicago A (same) – John Lawrence, Max Schindler, Marshall Steinbaum, Doug Graebner

This team has been significantly overhauled since last year, with specialist-generalists Sam Bailey and Matt Menard replaced by the best fine arts and literature player in the game, John Lawrence, and high school superstar Max Schindler. Marshall Steinbaum covers American and European history as well as the social sciences, and Doug Graebner supplements John as a superb visual arts player with some good knowledge in history, religion, and mythology.

This team brings up Charles Tian and possibly Michael Coates from the B-Team for History Bowl, which should definitely make them a front-runner there. This team’s probably the best arts team in the nation and a strong literature and history team to boot, but their coverage of science, religion, and mythology is rather spotty. This will probably hurt them less at ICT, where Marshall gets a boost thanks to his CE and geo knowledge, but at the same time, the smaller arts distribution at ICT isn’t good for them.

3. Yale A (previously #1) – Matt Jackson, Jacob Reed, Ashvin Srivatsa, Grace Liu

Last year’s ICT champion and ACF Nationals runner-up is mostly intact this year, with high school prodigy and music expert Jacob Reed taking the place of Kevin Koai, who is ineligible this year. More than ever, Matt Jackson is the powerhouse and engine of this team, with his fantastic generalist ability and deep knowledge in RMP and social science, as well as strong history knowledge. His teammates cover areas he’s not as strong at – both Grace and Jacob on some literature and other arts, Jacob on music, Grace on biology, and Ashvin on physical and other sciences, as well as assorted Indian content.

Yale’s the most well-rounded of all the top teams and one of the least prone to negging, but they have a relative weakness in literature and can be gimped on tossups in that area. That said, they are definitely a top-3 team and a threat to make the finals of either national tournament, though their ability to beat Virginia is questionable. This team’s also the favorite to win the undergraduate title at both ICT and Nationals, though if the regular seasons says anything, Harvard’s going to give them a run for their money.

2. Penn (previously #3) – Eric Mukherjee, Saajid Moyen, Dallas Simons, Patrick Liao

Though they missed out on making the finals of a national tournament last year, don’t expect this year’s Penn team to let that happen again. Eric and Saajid have curbed their negging compared to last year, and still brings a wealth of science knowledge and generalist capability to the table. Dallas is still formidable at classics, geography, and American history; Patrick brings deep knowledge of modern, classical, and military history to the table; and Saajid is a fine literature and arts player who’s been improving quickly recently.

Penn’s not as well-rounded as Yale, but they’re deeper in several categories, particularly history and science. Their biggest weaknesses are social science and philosophy, which probably mean they’re better suited for ICT than Nationals (especially with Dallas’ geography knowledge), but this team’s a threat at any academic format, History, NAQT, or ACF.

1. UVA (previously #2) – Matt Bollinger, Tommy Casalaspi, Evan Adams, Dennis Loo

The best team by numbers last year is back and better than ever. Tommy’s become a great science player, though that subject remains their main weakness. Matt is a superb player on all humanities, particularly in classics but all-around in general. Besides his science knowledge, Tommy has a lot of literature and arts knowledge, and Evan Adams is a fantastic backup generalist with deep knowledge in some categories, notably architecture, and solid trash knowledge. They put up a seamless 13-0 record at the Cane Ridge Revival against Penn, Yale, and UMD, with more than 100PPG more than any other team. They are a substantial favorite to win both national tournaments as well as History Bowl, but as their experience last year illustrates, anything can happen.

2013-14 Mid-Season Preview

Most of this was written by Alex Liu, Dylan Minarik, and Collin Parks, with the help of other quizbowlers over the IRC. For the most part, what is written here does not represent the opinion of any particular individual.

1. LASA A

This year’s version of LASA A will consist of Nathan Weiser, who returns after leading his team to an HSNCT win and contributing to a second-place NSC finish, and three members of last year’s LASA B, as was the case at Penn Bowl and ACF Fall. They are heavily favored to win, with Nathan, a force at HSNCT last year, and his teammates all returning for their senior year. Their only losses have come from college teams at Penn Bowl (where they finished fourth) and from St. John’s at Texas’ ACF Fall site. Expect high showings (and wins) at HSNCT, NSC, and probably History Bowl.

2. St. John’s

St. John’s is a good example of a well-balanced team with a star player: Carlo De Guzman. With Claire Jones and the rest of the squad back and better than ever, this team has been able to jump right back into the thick of the game, without any of the growing pains seen by teams losing most of their A team from last year. This team is highly competitive this year, with their only losses coming from LASA A at ACF Fall in Texas (though they still beat them once, and this was without a full team). This team will easily place highly at HSNCT and NSC. Expect a good showing at History Bowl as well.

3. LASA B

LASA B will consist of last year’s LASA C, led by former Kealing stars Ethan Russo and Corin Wagen, who lead that team to a T-13th finish at last year’s HSNCT. Already an elite team last year, there is no doubt in most people’s minds that this is a top five team (though not necessarily top three). Their only losses have been to St. John’s, LASA A (with both teams being the ones ranked above LASA B), and Seven Lakes (by five points), and they apparently have a weakness in fine arts. This might be one of the greatest B teams of all time and are a sure pick to win HSNCT or NSC … next year. This year, they’re probably going to finish in the top five.

4. Dorman A

Captain Tabitha Walker and Lee Holden form one of the strongest history duos in the country, while Lane Yates and Chase Fleming are both very proficient at literature and science respectively. This team has fared well against strong competition all year, beating Western Albemarle and Maggie Walker in every game they’ve played, though they have suffered losses to Chattahoochee and Northmont. The team should be highly competitive at both HSNCT and NSC, as well as the National History Bowl, and is in the running to win any of those competitions.

5. IMSA A

One of the strongest teams in Illinois, IMSA A returns leading scorer Anton Karpovich, a great science specialist who also gets a massive NAQT boost due to his strong current events and geography knowledge. He has a great supporting cast as well, featuring lit specialist Dan Pechi and history specialist Waleed Ali. Dan reaching around the same level of lit mastery that Sabrina Lato had last year will be key to the future success of this team. Recent losses to Auburn have threatened their position as the top team in Illinois, and they may be overranked a bit, but IMSA will be sure to have high national finishes. Anton’s knowledge makes them a bigger threat for the title at HSNCT than NSC.

T6. High Tech

High Tech is returning their top scorer from last year in senior Patrick LeBlanc, who, along with former B- and C-teamers Sean McBride, Rohan Kodialam, and Srishti Srivastava, are forming the core of a team that is very balanced and already looking considerably better than last year’s A team. While losing early at Princeton to DCC, they went undefeated at LIFT XIII, and are the best team in New Jersey, having bested St. Joseph’s in all of their matchups. They also placed 9th at the 2013 Penn Bowl, losing only to a couple of college teams and LASA B. Their weaknesses have traditionally been lit and fine arts, but despite that, they’re probably accurately ranked. Expect a top ten (or maybe even top five) finish at both national tournaments.

T6. Ladue

Ben Zhang leads the post-Max Schindler Ladue, and he has not disappointed. While lacking the top-notch PPB of Ladue A last year, this year’s team is still running roughshod over all local competition. Jialin Ding has also emerged as a solid second option. However, an out-of-state trip for Ladue seems unlikely, so we’ll have to wait to see what this team is truly made of. (WUHSAC will be getting some good out-of-state competition in Northmont and Chattahoochee.) Unlike last year’s Ladue, Ben and Jialin’s support doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was last year. Also, the graduation of Max and Haohang Xu left some large gaps in knowledge. Expect a strong finish at HSNCT and a stronger one at NSC, but for now it’s unclear just how far they’ll take it.

8. Arcadia

Arcadia, led by Boyang Jiao, has been posting monstrous stats all year, ones that show them to be one of the top teams in the nation. However, this team is pretty much locked in to the highly isolated SoCal circuit, so their stats are a bit inflated by the fact that the best team at tournaments they play at is usually themselves. The team also ran into trouble at California Cup #1, where they lost to a Sameer-less Bellarmine twice and were upset by Amador Valley (recording at least five negs each game). Last year’s Arcadia A also put up great stats throughout the year before disappointing at HSNCT, and this year’s A team, while much better this time around, should be wary of finishing similarly.

9. Northmont

Sam Blizzard stands as one of the best currently-active players in the high school game, and certainly the highest scoring and one of the most balanced. He is the engine that has driven Northmont for the past two years and will drive for the next two. But despite being almost guaranteed to be the top scorer at any tournament Northmont attends, is he good enough to be able to consistently knock off top teams? He’s beaten Dorman at UK Fall and DCC twice at Rowdy Raider, yet 141 PPG at New Trier was only good enough to finish fourth behind Auburn, IMSA A, and a short-handed Stevenson. He may have plateaued a bit, but expect a good showing at HSNCT and NSC, as well as at History Bowl (though not necessarily a top 10 finish).

10. Auburn

After a few stumbles in tournaments early in the year, Auburn has become a team capable of regularly taking games off of fellow Illinois juggernaut IMSA. Evan Pandya has improved quickly, becoming a strong generalist over the past semester. At this rate, with Cole Timmerwilke and some strong support players along to help out, Auburn could rise above IMSA by the end of the year. They still have a science hole, though, and while expected to perform well at nationals they were only projected to finish as high as 10th. Also, IMSA definitely still has the edge on NAQT. But with Evan and Cole returning returning next year, and the current team playing at an extremely high level, this is a team to watch out for in the future.

11. Richard Montgomery

Richard Montgomery has reloaded well despite graduating their entire A team. They are led in scoring by Gabe Guedes, a junior, though his teammates provide a solid amount of support to make RM one of the best in the Mid-Atlantic region. However, they’ve showed occasional signs of inconsistency, such as losing to Marshall at RAYNOR while losing to their B team and Western Albemarle twice at the Metro Richmond Invitational. Regardless, their performances so far suggest a good run at nationals, and depending on who remains with Gabe next year, this team could eventually become a contender.

12. Western Albemarle

After a year of rapid improvement and an impressive HSNCT performance, Eric Xu has emerged as one of the strongest individual players this year, and will definitely be one of the top scorers at nationals along with Sameer Rai and Sam Blizzard. His self-proclaimed main weakness is science, but he is still strong enough to single-handedly make his school the best in Virginia. However he isn’t quite good enough yet to defeat higher-level competition, as shown by his games with Dorman A, and has holes like every other one-man team. He should continue to get better over the course of the year, and this team could easily upset some top competition at either national tournament.

13. Bellarmine

Sameer Rai has yet to attend a high school tournament this season (much like last year), so their stats are probably much, much lower than what this team is actually capable of. It’s very likely that Bellarmine will shoot up to the top 5 when Sameer, arguably the best player in high school quizbowl right now, starts playing again. His teammates notably recorded two wins over Arcadia A at the first California Cup tournament, and have been said to be capable of covering Sameer’s main weakness: science. Sameer has been said to be attending SUBMIT at UC Berkeley might even make appearances at future California Cup tournaments, so a preview of what this team can really do at nationals may happen soon. High finishes at nationals are expected, and it might even possible for this team to take first place for themselves.

14. Maggie Walker

Connor Wood, the only returning player from last year’s A team, is one of the best juniors in the game and a fantastic history player. Core teammate Vasa Clarke makes up for many of his deficits in areas outside of history, though this team still has noticeable weaknesses in science. They will likely still be one of the top twenty teams in the game and their current ranking is probably accurate. They are currently the second best team in Virginia behind Western Albemarle, though that could easily change, as all of their games have been decided by less than fifty points. Don’t expect them to go for the gold this year, but next year may be a different story if they can cover up their holes. Having Connor around gives this team an NAQT boost, so a strong finish at HSNCT seems more likely than a strong finish at NSC.

15. duPont Manual

After graduating half of an A team that had respectable finishes at both nationals, this school has been putting up strong stats, with relatively balanced PPGs from the players and high PPBs. However, they failed to make the top playoff bracket at Kentucky Fall and lost to Gatton at the Hilltopper Invitational, with their only tournament win coming at Louisville (where they defeated a short-handed Gatton in the final). Their ability to beat top teams has been called into question, with one Kentucky quiz bowler suggesting a lack of depth and stating that Dunbar is possibly better. In any case, this team should perform respectably at nationals, but right now, they look like a team that’s going to get upset.

16. Detroit Catholic Central

Having lost their entire A team and half of their B team from last year, DCC is in a rebuilding year. Led by juniors Jack Watts and Austin Foos, and surrounded by rapidly improving sophomores Conner Reynolds and Joshua Cantie, the team has competed well against local competition, and are the best team from Michigan. They have faced some high level competition in High Tech and Wilmington Charter A, besting both at Princeton, as well as Northmont, losing a three game series at the Rowdy Raider 2013 2-1. They’ve been somewhat disappointing at other outings, such as Kentucky Fall and New Trier, but this is a DCC team and they’ll likely improve faster than most other teams in the country will. As a team on the edge of greatness, expect them to continue to play well, though a championship run won’t be happening this year.

17. Chattahoochee

Despite a disappointing HSNCT performance and the graduation of two seniors, Chattahoochee is a much stronger team than they were last year. Their main weaknesses are a lack of a strong science player and their gunslinger mentality, which can lead to a large amount of negs, especially from leading scorer Nirav Ilango. Chattahoochee is definitely in the upper level of teams this year, and a second-place finish at UK Fall with its stacked field and two wins (so far) over Dorman A show that they’re probably underranked by several spots. Consistency can be an issue (as shown by losses to Oak Ridge and Dunbar at UK Fall), but this is a team that can definitely surprise at the end of the year.

18. Stevenson

Stevenson surprised many last year by going 8-2 in prelims at HSNCT (with wins over St. John’s and Norcross), where they ended up tying for 13th. They started the year strong by taking first at UIUC’s Earlybird, though they do not seem to have played with their full team since. At full strength, it’s been said that this team is only just behind IMSA and Auburn, and a shorthanded Stevenson, led by Jason Asher and Jeeho Lee, placed fourth at ACF Fall Illinois and third at New Trier, with wins over IMSA A and Northmont. This team is probably underranked and is on course to surprise again at both nationals.

19. Carbondale

Carbondale returns all of last year’s players. This team always seems to put up good stats, but sometimes loses to teams they shouldn’t be losing to. Without their science player, they were upset by Fremd and IMSA B at New Trier Varsity before having to forfeit most of their playoff games due to the weather. A rising star on this team is Jonathan Huh, a sophomore who lead Carbondale’s B team to victory over their A team at their IHSSBCA Kickoff and was the A team’s leading scorer at New Trier. This team is vulnerable to upsets but, with only one senior on the A team, next year should be a different story.

20. St. Joseph (NJ)

St. Joseph is the second best team in New Jersey, behind only High Tech A, to whom they lost at LIFT XIII. However, they had a very strong win at MIT Fall, beating Wilmington Charter handily. Jack Mehr is the best individual player in New Jersey (and possibly the entire Northeast as a whole). However, last year’s bizarre 5-5 prelim record is a potential warning sign, and the graduation of Michael Ploch leaves a science hole that doesn’t seem to have been filled yet. A better nationals finish is a given, but this team may have hit the “one-man teams can’t win anything” wall.

21. Wilmington Charter A

Jaimie Carlson is the only A team member from last year to return, but Wilmington has been able to put up great numbers without her at FAcT and Phoenixville, showing that she has a solid supporting cast. Consistency issues were demonstrated at Harvard Fall, where they convincingly beat DCC but dropped games to St. Joseph (NJ), Ridgewood, and Kellenberg. This year’s team is a little better than last year’s and will probably have better runs at both nationals, though probably not by a significant amount.

22. Dunbar

Dunbar returns their entire A team sans Will Walters, who now plays for Gatton. While the team struggled at FKT at Sidney and during playoffs at Harvard Fall 2013 (while missing one A team player), they made a huge statement by winning the UK Fall Championship, beating Northmont and edging Chattahoochee while only losing to DCC A. While it’s uncertain if Dunbar will be able to continue their success, it’s clear that this team has potential to pull off multiple upsets. This team is probably a few ranks lower than they should be and should have good placings at both nationals.

23. Oak Ridge

The team first came to prominence at UK Fall (Apparently the only tournament so far this year where they have had their full squad), where they upset Chattahoochee in prelims and DCC A in playoffs. Most of the team that finished tied for 33rd at HSNCT (where they upset of High Tech A) returns. William Mason, who was 17th overall in scoring at the last HSNCT, leads the team, with other solid players backing him up. Unfortunately, not much else is known about them, but their high PPB and wins over higher-ranked schools hint at them being underranked a bit. This is a team to watch in the coming months and at nationals.

24. Ezell-Harding

Ezell-Harding returns almost all of the players that finished tied for 33rd at HSNCT. The only stats available for this team come from the Hilltopper Invitational, which they won over teams such as Gatton, duPont Manual, and Corbin. They have also won other local tournaments, though they have yet to face a team in the top 25 other than an incomplete Oak Ridge. Ezell, led by high-scoring senior Griffin Ray and the Cunningham twins,  have shown a lot of potential in the past and appear to be living up to it now, but it’s yet to be seen how exactly they’ll fare against top-level competition. Expect them to finish higher at this year’s nationals, and perhaps upset a few teams, too.

25. Early College at Guilford

Guilford has put up strong stats against local teams in their native North Carolina, finishing second to Raleigh Charter with half their full team while winning the Demon Deacon Challenge. They finished an impressive 4th place when they traveled up to Virginia for GSAC. Their best player, Ziad Ali, appears to be only a junior, which hints at a promising future. Other than that, not much else is known about this team.

2013-14 Mid-Season High School Poll

Now that we have reached pretty much everyone’s winter break, it is time for the Mid-Season High School Poll!

Send to me your top 25 high school teams in order, 1 to 25. Teams will get 25 points for a 1st place vote, 24 for 2nd, and so on.

Email them to me at georgeberry.vcu@gmail.com, and please include “hsquizbowl Top 25” in the subject line of your email. I have started to accept ballots and will accept ballots until the end of Wednesday, January 8th.

Ballots that are bad will be reviewed and possibly rejected; if I have enough time, I’ll prompt you for reasoning and what not.

Remember that the poll is intended for a general ranking of how good teams are. You should consider the team’s best possible performance, as if all players who have shown up this year were available for play. B teams and the like are eligible to be ranked.

2013-14 HSQB Pre-Season Poll

LASA A from Texas is ranked number one in the 2013-2014 HSQB Pre-Season Poll. LASA A received 9 out of 12 possible first place votes. St. John’s (TX), Bellarmine (CA), Dorman A (SC), and IMSA A (IL) complete, in that order, the top 5 of this year’s pre-season poll. St. John’s received two first place votes, while Bellarmine received one. The full top 25 can be found below:

1. LASA A (TX)
2. St. John’s (TX)
3. Bellarmine (CA)
4. Dorman A (SC)
5. IMSA A (IL)

6. Northmont A (OH)
7. High Tech (NJ)
8. LASA B (TX)
9. Ladue A (MO)
10. duPont Manual (KY)

11. Western Albemarle (VA)
12. Chattahoochee (GA)
13. Dunbar (KY)
14. Fisher Catholic (OH)
15. Maggie Walker (VA)

16. Adlai Stevenson (IL)
17. DCC A (MI)
18. Torrey Pines (CA)
19. Carbondale A (IL)
20. Rockford Auburn (IL)

21. Arcadia (CA)
22. Oakland Mills (MD)
23. Ezell-Harding (TN)
24. Wilmington Charter (DE)
25. State College (PA)

Full results as well as a list of voters and their ballots can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ak6SO92aPH91dFdEWkZ6U1lYeVhjbFJmVU5qOVVsTVE#gid=0