By: Jimmy Leppert
With a few tournaments in the books after this past weekend, do potential championship contenders have a reason to be concerned? A look at the results of past contenders within the Men’s division.
For President’s Day weekend, two major tournaments gave us all a first-look at many of the contending college teams take place – Warm Up: A Florida Affair and President’s Day Invite. But what should we think about Carleton’s two big losses to Florida State at Warm Up, Colorado’s loss to Washington in the Pres Day semi-finals, and California-Santa Barbara playing all the way into the other semis?
This is on top of the tournaments which have already taken place. Queen City Tune-Up saw Michigan, Harvard and Georgia fail to live up to expectations. At Santa Barbara Invite, UC-San Diego and UC-Santa Barbara fell in quarterfinals. And at Carolina Kickoff, Pittsburgh and Florida fell in the semifinals, and UNC-Wilmington in quarterfinals.
Upsets happen. Teams get streaky, hot and cold. But in the past, has early season defeat dampened post-season success? Looking at the semi-finalists of the past three seasons, it gives us a clue.
Champion: Pittsburgh Some losses, but mostly strong play for En Sabh Nur. One loss at Warm Up to Carleton on the way to a tournament win, two losses at Stanford including the finals to Oregon, undefeated at Easterns, a weird loss to Penn State at Sectionals, and a loss to Michigan to close out pool play of their championship run at Nationals.
Runner-up: Wisconsin Their results are littered with losses. Three losses during Warm Up, semis to Oregon during Stanford Invite, losses to Minnesota late at Centex and Someday Tournament, and Carleton at Regionals before losing in the finals to Pittsburgh.
Semi-finalist 1: Carleton Similar story to Wisconsin, a ton of losses. Three losses at Warm Up, semis loss to Pittsburgh of Stanford Invite, three losses at Centex, and a loss to Luther at regionals before falling in the semis at the championships to Pittsburgh.
Semi-finalist 2: Oregon Two losses all season. One to Michigan State at Centex, where they would still win the tournament, and their next loss was in the semi-finals to Wisconsin.
A lot of losing! No perfection! Oregon got the closest out of any of the teams, with only one regular season loss, which was very different from the other three semi-finalist teams. Pittsburgh had an early swing towards losses, the two during the 2012 version of the Stanford Invite stick out, but come Easterns they entered another zone and maintained that (for the most part) through the championship.
Champion: Pittsburgh Five losses during the regular season, one during pool play of the championships. Craziest was the early knockout at Easterns by North Carolina. Also includes three during Warm Up, a close loss to Carleton during the Stanford Invite, and a loss to Arizona during pool play of the championships.
Runner-up: Central Florida Nine regular season losses. Nine. Their next two losses were during the championships, one to Ohio during pool play and the next to Pittsburgh in the finals. Two of those nine losses were to Pittsburgh by the way.
Semi-finalist 1: Carleton Take the nine regular season losses of Central Florida, and then look at the 10 total losses all spring season for Carleton. Two of those came in the final games of the first two post-season tournaments (third post-season loss in semis, obviously). A loss in the finals of Stanford Invite to Oregon. Four total losses during Warm Up.
Semi-finalist 2: Oregon Again, Oregon gets closest to having a perfect season. Four total losses all season long. Once during Stanford, twice during Easterns, and then to Pittsburgh to close off the championships.
A lot more losses this season! UCF and Carleton sure lost a lot, and sometimes to weird teams. Again though, Pittsburgh builds on early losses and translates it to post-season success. The North Carolina loss looks more like an anomaly than anything else.
Champion: Colorado Outside of the two losses during Stanford Invite, and how weird that was, they would lose once during pool play at the championships. That’s three losses on the season. (Note: Not counting the loss to ‘Jerome Brown’ that comes up on the USAU website.)
Runner-up: North Carolina A fairly similar season to Colorado’s with a few more losses. Once at Stanford, twice at Easterns, once at regionals in a surprise loss to UNC-Wilmington (well, surprise at the time), a pool play loss to Florida State before falling to champion Colorado. Six total losses, five if you don’t count the loss in the finals.
Semi-finalist 1: Oregon The 2014 Oregon team didn’t follow the trend of the previous two Oregon teams. Once at President’s Day Invite, three at Stanford Invite, twice at Centex, but they got it together for a near-perfect post-season run. Bucking the trend (kind of) worked out!
Semi-finalist 2: UNC-Wilmington They were the unexpected team to make the semi-finals, and their twelve total losses (eight in the regular season) starts to paint that picture. Three times during Queen City, a single loss during Easterns Qualifier and the Tally Classic (both in the finals), three at Easterns, a single loss during sectionals, and two pool-play losses at the championships.
Colorado is the most perfect team to win D-1 Championships out of the past three seasons, and it kind of rises from there looking down amongst the pack.
Where does it leave us? Well, for one thing, if a team drops in the Ultiworld Coaches Poll because of some early season losses they shouldn’t be counted out just yet. None of the past three champions made it through the regular season without a few losses. None of those champions finished the season without one loss on their regular season record that makes you wonder what the hell was up with that team during that tournament way back before they won it all. Colorado in Stanford last spring. Pittsburgh at Easterns two season’s ago, and the Pittsburgh of 2012 at Stanford. Warm Up has been a blood-bath in recent years, so results (and more importantly, losses) should be taken with a grain of salt. The 2012 Pittsburgh team did win that tournament with only one loss, but that’s the outlier over the past three seasons.
As we’ve seen in the past, the key for any team is to learn from their losses and to be able to put it all together when it counts.