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.