OUC 2015 – Mixed Preview

Number of teams: 13
Number of bids: 6

Teams along with their seed:

  1. Union (GTA)
  2. Raft (National Capital Region)
  3. Backdraft (Durham Region)
  4. Crash (Waterloo Region)
  5. Local613 (Kingston)
  6. NoBS (GTA)
  7. Force (Barrie)
  8. The Grind (GTA)
  9. Zen (GTA)
  10. Legendairy (Port Perry)
  11. Skerj (Hamilton)
  12. MMV (GTA)
  13. Rising Tide (Durham Region)

Do you like the Ontario Mixed Division? Of course you do, that’s why you’re here. It provides everything that a spectator could want: action, uncertainty, mixed results, and a chance to see how poor a certain writer’s predictions will be.

The Mixed division is notoriously hard to call as teams split and join, few go to meaningful tournaments or if they do it’s way to early and played in tough conditions. Nevertheless there are known quantities and there are some interesting teams in the mix for CUC bids.

Let’s start with how you get to CUC. There are two pools of 7 (A) and 6 (B) teams with round robins played until Sunday afternoon. At that point if you’re in the top two in your pool you’re going to CUC, just play some placement games and call it a day. If you’re 3rd in your pool you play against the other 3rd placed team (3A vs 3B) the loser of which plays in the game to go against the winner of 4A vs 4B. If you placed 5th or lower in your pool then the highest you can finish is 8th and hope you’ll get a bid to CUC in case of DQs or teams decline their bid (very unlikely this year). So, the target for all of the teams is to finish 4th at the end of pool play.

Looking at the pools and teams involved the 4th seed in each pool is going to be quite competitive while the 3rd and up shall be difficult to upset. This creates a serious challenge for those vying for the final bid, they have to overcome some serious odds in order to make it Winnipeg. Let’s look at the pools and how they could shape up.

Pool A features: Union(1), Crash(4), Local613(5), The Grind(8), Zen(9), MMV(12), and Rising Tide(13). Union is clearly the favorite with the only team out of Ontario likely to finish in the top 4 at CUC. They’ve come off of a good performance at the US Open but haven’t quite peaked yet. OUC shall be a good tune up before they start focusing in on the goal. Union has also added a few players from a few other Ontario teams that have strengthened their roster including those from last years CUC Mixed Finals (Union and other top teams were unable to attend last year due to a conflict with WUCC).

One of the teams that Union has pulled players from is Crash. They’re the second seed in the pool and have a substantially different roster from last year. It’s a pity the team didn’t stick together to demonstrate what they could do in a WUGC year. Adding players from the feeder teams in the region they’ve got a mix of experience as well as athleticism which should allow them to finish in the top four in their pool. While they lack a lot of flash of other teams they bring a very strong set of fundamentals that other teams shall find hard to overcome. Still, 2nd in their pool is not a lock and they can be upset.

The team most likely to upset Crash is Local613. Finishing in 4th at Comedy of Errors they demonstrated they’ve continued building upon strong finishes over the past few years. The Kingston team doesn’t have home field advantage this year which also means they won’t be distracted with any organizational duties they may have had. They have an ability to take 2nd seed in the pool and are likely to finish 3rd or higher.

Starting at the 4th seed spot in Pool A is The Grind who have a strong mix of talent. Comprised of players from across the Golden Horseshoe that have played on a wide variety of teams, including Mayhem, they sit in an awkward spot. They need to try and upset Local613 or Crash while fending off a strong challenge from Zen. They’re in the most precarious position but their experience should allow them to maintain 4th.

The difficulty for Zen is that they have four strong teams ahead of them with much more experience. They have, in the past, captured the last bid for CUC and shall need some of that magic if they hope to go this year. The reasonable performance in Montreal leads me to believe that they shall have a good chance against The Grind for an upset to take the 4th seed in the pool.

For MMV and Rising Tide it’s another tournament for them to gain experience and develop chemistry. If they don’t let the loses get to them then they should both have a great tournament with plenty of development. Playing against Union they’ll see what world class play looks like, against Crash they’ll see fundamentals on display, with Local613, The Grind, and Zen they’ll see the passion for the sport. Of course, they know of all of this and it’s going to be a solid weekend for these teams.

Pool B features: Raft(2), Backdraft(3), NoBS(6), Force(7), Legendairy(10), and Skerj(11). Nobody is safe in their position and this shall be the exciting pool to watch play out. Raft is from the National Capital Region with players from both sides of the border. Last year they finished well despite some let downs against Crash. This year they’re seeded second and had a second place finish at Comedy of Errors. Let’s see how their improved training helps them fend off challenges from both Backdraft and NoBS.

Backdraft was the only team, at CUC, to challenge Crash and at one point was a single point away from finals. While the roster is missing a player or two from previous years they’ve still got strong handlers and some great cutters. They’ll need to contend with the pace and physical play of Raft but they’re not strangers to that sort of game. Expect a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the pool unless there’s an upset.

NoBS is a bit of a wildcard as they’re a low seed but on paper are much better. They also tend to scrounge out a victory in critical games. This creates a bit of a headache for Raft and Backdraft as a momentary lapse in focus is something NoBS can quickly take advantage of. As I said, on paper this is a great team and for some reason they can’t figure out how to make it easy for themselves. I guess they like to play more Ultimate rather than less and that’s a problem for all of the teams in this pool.

The actual wildcard in this pool is Force. They’ve got some fantastic players with great experience that can make game changing plays. They’ve got former Union, Maverick, and PPF players on the team who are mentally tough enough to play at the elite levels. They’re also playing at home which should give them a small advantage. This is the one team in the tournament that can upset all of those ahead of them. The question will be whether they can pull it off and get one or two upsets by mid-day Sunday.

Legendairy and Skerj face the same issues as MMV and Rising Tide. They’re in a pool where the teams ahead of them are closely matched and have also, in many cases, pulled potential talent from their region or are a small ultimate market. For Legendairy they’re one of three teams in and around Durham Region that have made significant strides in the past. This year shall be much more difficult for them to rise in the ranks with a smaller roster. Skerj has lost many players, from a former life, to Toronto teams and teams in other divisions. The matchup between these two teams is likely to be close but neither is likely to break into the top 4 in their pool.

Here’s how I see it playing out:

The primary battle in Pool A is going to be for spots 2, 3, and 4 between: Crash(4), Local613(5), The Grind(8), and Zen(9). In all probability we’re looking at Local613, Crash, and The Grind making it through.

In Pool B the battle is not as heated with Raft(2), Backdraft(3), NoBS(6), and Force(7) all finishing in the top four. However, there are upsets possible and Force is likely to finish 3rd in the pool if not 2nd.

In the playoffs Union shall take the championship leaving Local613, Crash, The Grind, Raft, Backdraft, NoBS, and Force to decide the final 5 bids. If Force are on point they’ll be through as shall Raft and Backdraft. That leaves Local613, The Grind, Crash, and NoBS for one spot. Given the talent in front of them it’ll likely be Local613 and NoBS in the game to go with The Grind eliminated in the 4/4 game and Crash winning vs Local613 in the 3/3 game.

End result:

  1. Union(1)
  2. Raft(2)
  3. Force(3)
  4. Backdraft(4)
  5. Crash(5)
  6. Local613(6)
  7. NoBS(7)
  8. The Grind(8)
  9. Zen(9)
  10. Legendairy(10)
  11. MMV(11)
  12. Skerj(12)
  13. Rising Tide(13)

The Local613 vs NoBS result is based upon the strong performance at Comedy of Errors by the Kingston team. In any case, let’s see how it shapes up.

Games to watch on Saturday:

0830 – Field 2a: Raft vs Backdraft

0830 – Field 2b: NoBS vs Force, our first sign of what Force is like. If they’re flat then my predictions are wrong.

1345 – Field 2b: Backdraft vs NoBS

1530 – Field 5b: Crash vs Local613

1715 – Field 4a: The Grind vs Zen

Games to watch on Sunday:

1200 – Field 2b: Backdraft vs Force, if Force is on point then this is a possible upset. A win likely puts Force into CUC without critical games in the afternoon.

1345 – Fields 5a and 5b: The 3/3 and 4/4 games. Winner of 3/3 heads to CUC, loser of 4/4 is eliminated.

1530 – Field 5a: Game to go.