Philadelphia Area Pre-Nats Preview

The following are predictions for each of the Philadelphia-area quizbowl teams that are attending one of the two national championship quizbowl tournaments, the 2015 NAQT HSNCT in Chicago and the 2015 PACE NSC in Reston, VA (for reasons on why the tournament known as the National Academic Championship does not qualify as a national championship anymore, see here).

We are pleased to see so many Philadelphia-area teams taking the time to attend nationals this year and want to encourage more to do so in future years. These predictions are intended solely for fun and bulletin board material to encourage greater interest in the game of quizbowl in the Philadelphia area and increased studying by the participants.

Each of the two national tournaments has a different format. The 272 teams at the HSNCT play 10 games in the preliminary rounds on Saturday; teams with a winning record after the prelims play double-elimination playoffs on Sunday (teams that finish at 6-4 start in the loser’s bracket so it’s single-elimination for them). Teams at the NSC are grouped in a number of seeded preliminary pools and then proceed in a series of rebracketings that eventually rank all 96 teams. For HSNCT, we will give the predicted record of the teams on Saturday (and Sunday if they are predicted to make it) and for NSC we will give the predicted final rank (plus or minus some error).

“Berwyn”

This team played only Great Valley’s tournament and qualified for NSC off of that. We have little idea how they will do based on a lack of data, but what data we do have suggest a lower-half finish. 3rd place on an A set is nice, but the questions at the NSC are so much more difficult that it’s hard to make a prediction of how they scale up. They seem a bit of a one man team, which might hurt them in terms of preparing. It is good to see that they’re planning on attending, but there’s just not enough of a record to really compare them to other teams very well and the difficulty jump may be shocking.

Prediction (NSC): ~80th?

Cedar Crest

Cedar Crest qualified for HSNCT by the virtue of their 3rd place finish in the Lancaster-Lebanon league and will try to improve on last year’s 3-7 finish. We’re glad to see them making the trek to Chicago, but it’s tough to see them improving too much. They had some flashes of promise, such as averaging over 18.6 points per bonus at Blue Hen, so there’s talent to work with here (though that A team actually finished below their B team there thanks to some odd results and schedules). However, most of their local play was on A-Sets and thus they have little experience on nationals-caliber questions (note that both the HSNCT and the NSC are significantly tougher than pretty much all high school tournaments during the regular year). Inconsistent lineups at invitationals may also negatively impact whatever lineup they go with for nationals. We think they will acquit themselves well and build for the future, but don’t see the playoffs as a realistic goal this time out.

Prediction (HSNCT): 4-6

Delaware Valley

Similar to Berwyn, we have very little information on Delaware Valley. They placed 4th at a New Jersey tournament, but only put up ~16 PPB on an IS set which seems odd since they had 18+ PPB at their only other pyramidal tournament appearance back in November. This suggests that they may be one of those teams better at tossups than bonuses. They did beat some solid teams at the November tournament including Ithaca (NY). We’re very glad to see them attending HSNCT this year (and would love to see more NE PA teams in general!), but they might have benefited from playing more of the regional tournaments throughout the year to build up a stronger knowledge base.

Prediction (HSNCT): 4-6

Emmaus

Emmaus will make their nationals debut at HSNCT. They’ve had a fantastic season for their first year on pyramidal questions, with two tournament victories (Henderson and Eastern PA State Champs) and many other 2nd-4th place finishes in our area. Ryan Bilger has been the heart and soul of the team and has done most of the heavy lifting. The problem with one man teams is inconsistency, especially at higher levels of difficulty and against the best competition. If Ryan has a bad round, Emmaus is in trouble; while his teammates contribute none yet seem capable of carrying the team up to a victory in a close match. However, he has shown extensive real knowledge in his areas (History, Fine Art, some Literature) and similarly could go on a tear to beat a top-50 team on the right packet. What will his teammates contribute? They’ve shown some clutch buzzes in matches we’ve read for them, particularly Omar Ahmed on science, but they’ll need to have studied up to help make Emmaus a more balanced and dangerous team. Either way, Emmaus should have an exciting HSNCT and could easily notch an upset or lose to in a head-scratcher any given round. The playoffs are a good possibility, but a run deep into Sunday is very unlikely.

Prediction (HSNCT): 7-5 (6-4 Saturday, 1-1 Sunday)

Manhiem Township A

Seasoned veterans of multiple previous national tournaments, Manheim A will be playing both HSNCT and NSC. We see them as a high-floor, low-ceiling team. Between Jake Deerin and Ahan Patel, they have very solid core players who will not let questions go dead and will keep bonus conversion solid in all subjects. Piotr Crittenden and Eric Zhuang will provide ample backup, though there’s a question of how deep their science knowledge in particular may be. However, they lack a real “home run” threat to get consistently deep powers and take tossups off the top teams in the country. Conversely, Manheim does have the benefit of being a team that plays smart and rarely makes bad negs, so they could make a neg-happy team pay dearly.

Prediction: 6-5 (6-4 on Sat, 0-1 on Sun) at HSNCT, ~55th place at NSC

Manheim Township B

Manheim Township’s B team is shockingly similar to the A team in terms of strengths and weaknesses. They are similarly good at bonuses, cover the distribution of topics well without having an area of true expertise, and keep the negs to a minimum. They will probably not make the playoffs like their A team, but should preform very ably and gain good experience for next season.

Prediction: 5-5 at HSNCT, ~80th place at NSC

PALCS

PALCS is going to NSC, but that’s one of the few concrete things we know about this talented yet mysterious team. It seems that they split their teams based on age of the players instead of skill and thus the B team consistently outperformed the A team across the season. PALCS never made it higher than 3rd at a tournament, but got better as the season went on and shows a lot of young promise. Gianni Mangielli, their best player, only has played sporadically. How PALCS finishes will be largely dependent on who is in the lineup when the tournament comes around. Big upsets are unlikely but they will win some games.

Prediction (NSC): ~70th Place

Souderton

Souderton appeared on the local pyramidal circuit mid-season with a bang, notching a grail in their third-ever pyramidal match.  We’re exited to see what they can do now that they’ve had some practice and are hopefully building on their real knowledge with packet-reading and quizbowl knowledge. A two-man team for the bulk of their points, the Alexes (Kozitzky and Cross) have some good, deep knowledge in certain subjects, particularly history. Souderton may still be a bit raw and inexperienced compared to other teams, but will win a decent number of matches and look poised to become a rising power in the region for next season.

Prediction (NSC): ~65th Place

Wilmington Charter A

Charter A seeks a third national title for their school this season and will play both national tournaments. We don’t see them seriously contending for the gold this year, but they will almost certainly finish the highest of all Philadelphia-area teams. We like Varun Wadha’s geography expertise to propel them far at HSNCT in particular. Rohan Narayan and Shrayus Sortur will add elite buzzes in their categories of Science and Literature. Mohan Malhotra is a bit more of a generalist who can provide more-than-adequate backup. One concern for them though is buzzer discipline; Charter A negs too much even at lower levels of difficulty and is almost certainly going to lose a game or two at nationals thanks to being too aggressive on the buzzer. We like their chance to make a deep playoff run at HSNCT, but a top-10 finish may be out of reach.

Prediction: T-13th at HSNCT, ~20th place at NSC

Wilmington Charter B

This B team is a lot like the other B team playing from our area, with more of a focus on building for future years rather than contending for the playoffs. They will only play HSNCT this year. Charter B doesn’t have any super weapons but are consistently solid and seem to cover the broad categories fairly well. The lineup going to HSNCT has never played as a whole this season, so they may not quite have the team chemistry that might help them fill out all the niches. Playoffs are unlikely, but they may show some flashes of promise.

Prediction (HSNCT): 5-5

Wilmington Charter C

This team is mostly younger players being thrown to the lions for experience at HSNCT. We like that moxie and think that these players will finish well in the future. But not next weekend.

Prediction (HSNCT): 3-7

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