- Brophy (AZ)
Brand-new to the regular quizbowl circuit this year, Brophy holds a rare victory over a near-full-strength Torrey Pines team at an NAQT event, but suffers from inconsistency probably as a result of their newness to circuit play (although they did play NAQT-provided questions at local league events, apparently). Definitely a team nobody wants to be matched up against, but I doubt they’ll be able to pull at 2005 Lakeside (another little-known school new to quizbowl from out West) and make a deep playoff run.
- Bellarmine (CA)
A solid school with motivated players that hasn’t been able to travel much and has also suffered from not having all their best players at the same tournament. Admittedly second fiddle to a full-strength Mission San Jose in the Bay Area, but a strong team nonetheless.
- La Jolla (CA)
A nicely balanced team that seems to eat up some of the more NAQT-specific aspects of the distribution like pop culture and current events. They’ve been just behind nearby rival Torrey Pines at most tournaments, but have emerged victorious on at least one occasion. They could knock off a better team that’s sleeping or just have the game of their life and pick up some momentum.
- Rancho Bernardo (CA)
They’re lost their best player from last year (Anurag), but they’ve reloaded to some extent and should make a solid showing. I have noticed from watching them play and looking at their results that they seem to have a lot of breadth– not too many tossups will go dead against them–but not as much depth comparatively. Thus, I’d expect them to wrack up high scores over lesser-quality opponents
The South (Broadly Defined)
Note: it’s hard to compare many of the Georgia teams to the rest of the country because many of the tournaments in Georgia, for whatever reason, haven’t reported the points-per-bonus (PPB) statistic for each team. This statistic is crucial because PPB is the best measure of how well a team did on that question set independently of the opponents they played against. Thus, it’s hard to compare a team that averages 450 Points Per Game at one tournament with a team that averaged 350 PPG at another tournament on the same set unless you know the bonus conversion. I sincerely hope future Georgia tournaments will collect at least this statistic (individual statistics would be useful too because it’s hard to tell if a team is playing at full strength otherwise).
- Alpharetta (GA)
William has turned himself into one of the top players in the country and in the process made Alpharetta into a formidable team that regularly knocked off local powerhouses Brookwood and Chattahoochee throughout the year. They’ve lost to Dorman and Centennial along with some others this year, but put up a solid fight in all cases. [Edit: Word has reached me that Alpharetta will NOT be attending the HSNCT. Sorry for the confusion.]
- Chattahoochee (GA)
The ‘Hooch had a fairly disastrous showing at UM’s Fall Tournament, but at least their bonus conversion was respectable. They’ve gotten the better of their Brookwood (GA) rivals at most tournaments this year, but haven’t done much that would suggest they could replicate their Tie for 7th placement at last year’s HSNCT.
- DuPont Manual (KY)
Just barely breaking into the South by a few miles south of the Ohio River, Manual has a solid victory over Detroit Country Day (albeit a couple of losses too) as well as a very fine record of performance within Kentucky this year, losing out only full-strength Dunbar teams. A solid team that’s en route to returning to the heights of their mid-decade teams, but probably not going to get more than one or two playoff wins this year.
- Hume-Fogg (TN)
Led by perhaps the best player you’ve never heard of, Ian, Hume-Fogg has had great results against inferior competition within the area for the most part (wish it weren’t that way–as a Tennessee high school graduate, I’d love to see more competitive teams coming out of TN). They lost to Hoover at the start of the year and have a few close losses to crosstown rival MLK at the state tournament.
- MLK (TN)
More mystery here. We certainly know that Cody has great quizbowl lineage, but he seems to have more breadth than depth on average. He played well solo at Harvard’s Fall Tournament, but took a beating from the top teams. MLK is an excellent school so I’m sure he’ll have support in some form. Probably won’t be enough to go better than 7-3 on Saturday.
- Walton (GA)
Another perennial Georgia powerhouse, I’m not sure what to think of Walton because information on their performance seems to be more scant than even the other GA schools. They did appear to do fairly well at this tournament, but never actually played Alpharetta head-to-head thanks to yet another quirk of GA tournaments- single elimination playoffs. Should be a good team, but again probably won’t replicate last year’s performance of going 8-2 on Saturday.
The East Coast/Northeast
- Bergen County Academies (NJ)
They’ve put up some very fine numbers in their results this year, but have had a hard time getting over the top to actually win tournaments. In fact, it appears they’ve lost no less than 3 games this year to a statistically inferior team (St. Joseph’s; more on them below). Always consistently in the hunt, but rarely the actual winner. Still, a very good team that should easily make the playoffs.
- Caesar Rodney (DE) [Note: this is a later edit to make up for overlooking CR at first]
My apologies to CR for overlooking them at first; they’ve worked hard all year to improve from the start of the year by leaps and bounds and own victories over Wilmington Charter A as well as Detroit Catholic Central. They suffered from attending tournaments in the loaded DC/VA area for the most part (where playing against GDS, Maggie Walker, and Wilmington Charter was all in a day’s work), but that experience may be beneficial as they showed they could stay competitive with some of the top teams. If you’re interested in seeing an enthusiastic coaching perspective on one team’s full year of quizbowl, you can’t do better than Coach Chrz’s blog.
- Kellenberg (NY)
A strong team from Long Island that’s managed to carve out a niche of good quizbowl within the vast quizbowl wasteland of Long Island, Kellenberg seems like it’s the best of the NJ/NY teams that’ll be at the HSNCT this year. They have a couple of strange losses this year, but otherwise seem to have solid fundamentals. They could put up a fight in the playoffs.
- Raleigh Charter (NC)
Always a solid, well-coached team, Raleigh Charter looks like it’ll at least make the playoffs this year, but might have a hard time making it out of the first few rounds of those. Good results at local tournaments, but the PPB seems to be lacking this year.
- St. Joseph’s (NJ)
St. Joseph’s has had the opposite experience from their NJ counterparts at Bergen- they’ve been able to prevail against statistically better teams a number of times this year, for instance here against Bergen, here again against Bergen, and here against Kellenberg. I like teams that can overachieve or happen to be really fast on the buzzer, but you have to figure the law of averages will hurt ‘em over a long weekend of many close matches.
- Thomas Jefferson (VA)
The venerable all-time HSNCT championship (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008)-leading program has fallen on hard times recently, capped by a stunning 2nd-round playoff exit last year and some frustrating results at regular tournaments this year. But with such a talented pool of students to draw from and a decent bit of experience this year, they should be a playoff team yet again. They may be able to do exceptionally well on science questions especially, which could be interesting since science is often an area in which even some top teams lack good knowledge.
The Midwest (Broadly Defined)
Note: Some of these teams I just don’t know too much about and they have very similar histories as a result of playing together on a very close-knit circuit, so I’ll cover two or more schools at once.
- Auburn/Adlai Stevenson (IL)
Despite all the chatter about Illinois quizbowl that goes on in the quizbowl forums, Illinois teams have not had much success at their hometown/state national tournament in recent years and this year looks to be a particularly down year. Stevenson put up a solid PPB stat at Illinois’ NAQT qualifer this year, but there’s just not much experience on the NAQT format here. Auburn on the other hand won the tournament, but finished with a lower PPB. Both could, however, pull a New Trier from last year (which knocked State College out of the winner’s bracket in the playoffs on a very strange packet, resulting in a number of teams getting eliminated by State College perhaps before they would have otherwise) and pull off a big upset.
- Detroit Catholic Central (MI)
Although last year DCC triumphed over crosstown rivals (there appear to be a lot of crosstown rivalries going on here- I guess that speaks to the pattern in which quizbowl competition is focused in specific areas across the country) DCD at the HSNCT en route to a 4th place finish, DCD has outclassed DCC much of the year and DCC’s results have suffered. Still, they’re a veteran team with very balanced scoring across the board.
- Olmstead Falls/Northmont/Solon (OH)
Ohio has a somewhat fractured quizbowl circuit, with a few small pockets of intense competition (like in Mahoning County) and with the rest scattered around the state. This year’s slate of Ohio teams lacks a circuit-shattering player like Ike from last year or Noah from Solon a few years ago, but does have some excellent players in Jim from Olmstead Falls and Brandon from Northmont. Neither team looks like it’ll do more than make the playoffs this year though they have improved significantly it would seem from the start of the year. Solon (OH) might be the best team in Ohio and put the work into writing a house-write tournament this year, which is a good sign of dedication, but hasn’t clearly differentiated itself from its fellow Ohioan pack (this is, after all, what national tournaments are quite useful at doing).
- St. Marks/Seven Lakes/LASA B (TX)
Texas is kind of a unique place in the quizbowl circuit; it may be far away from pretty much every other area, but it has a lively albeit small quizbowl scene with a good number of NAQT tournaments taking place there this year. While LASA’s A team seems to be clearly at the top of the pack this year, its B team should be very, very solid as well. Shifting combinations of teams make it hard to pinpoint exactly how well LASA B will do, but they should be quite competent and may easily finish in the top 25. St. Marks and Seven Lakes are both solid teams with good records and solid PPBs in the tournaments they’ve competed in, with Seven Lakes keeping it close against Dorman several times when Dorman ventured out West. St. Mark’s also holds a victory over Arkansas’ flagship quizbowl team, Parkview Magnet. But they’re stuck for the moment playing second fiddle to LASA, though that could change in years ahead.
Note: I’ve probably left out a number of other excellent teams here as I somewhat tried to find a bit of regional balance since it’s hard to compare teams that don’t play outside their region very often. If you feel you were unfairly left out, use it as bulletin board material in the upcoming week– we’re now just 6 days away from the tournament!