The Official Blog of the 2013 NAQT HSNCT

May 18, 2010

Team Previews: Championship Contenders

Note: Just to liven things up and spark some debate, I’ll be making my picks for the final finishes at the 2010 HSNCT for what I think are the top teams contending for the championship. Feel free to disagree and debate; my next post will have a list of teams who didn’t quite make this tier, but are still very capable of making a deep run through the playoffs

Detroit Country Day (MI)

The Good:
Some of the more incredible individual performances of the year have been posted by Neil of DCD. Just recently at Culver Academies’ Midwest Championship (run on novice-level college questions from NAQT), Neil posted an astounding line of 125.63 points per game, with 51 powers (i.e. correct buzzes early in the question) to only 14 negs (incorrect buzzes while the question was still being read) en route to winning the championship. DCD did drop one game to a surging DuPont Manual team (more on them in the next post), but overall finished with an incredible 22.49 Bonus Conversion rate (meaning they got, on average, 22.49 points out of every 30 point bonus–better than all but 2 of the college teams who played on these same questions!). In other tournaments, DCD has simply annihilated the competition, including crosstown rivals Detroit Catholic Central (who beat them at the 2009 HSNCT). One quizbowl pundit opined that DCD was his “first choice for ‘will-knock-a-better-team-out-of-the-tournament'” team.

The Bad:
Neil is a noted master of Math Calculation, so the elimination of those tossups [EDIT: tossups, not questions in general; there will still be mathcomp on the bonuses. Apologies for not making this clear. When in doubt, rely on the official NAQT documents.] in this year’s distribution might hurt them a bit. With so much of their scoring based around one player, they may not be able to recover from an inconsistent round from Neil; no team has won the HSNCT with less than 60.87 PPG from non-leading players (Richard Montgomery, 2006 champion) and some of the top individual performers like Kurtis Droge, Dallas Simons, Ike Jose, Jason Loy, and Johnathan Hess have never won a championship. DCD lost to Dorman twice in December and dropped a game to DuPont Manual last week.

The Pick: 4th
Quite capable of getting very far in the playoffs, but also likely to lose a game or two that they should win. If they lose early, they may tear up the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination playoffs.

Dorman A (SC)

The Good:
Coach Eric Huff has shown a remarkable ability to consistently churn out disciplined teams from year to year that strike fear into opponents whenever they play across the Southeast and beyond in their trademark pale-blue polos. Voracious travelers, their victory list is littered with highly competitive teams from all across the country: Hoover, Alpharetta, LASA, Detroit Country Day, Detroit Catholic Central, Centennial (GA), and many more. Check out what they did to this absolutely-loaded field at the University of Michigan’s fall tournament: two victories (and one loss) to fellow contender Detroit Country Day, plus victories over many other capable teams. More recently, they knocked off a highly competitive LASA (Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy- more on them in the next post) at the Texas Quizbowl Association’s Pre-Nationals Tournament. This kind of experience playing against the top competition will definitely prove useful when they get deep into the playoff rounds at the HSNCT.

The Bad:
Last year’s runner-up at the 2009 HSNCT, Dorman has come heart-breakingly close to a national championship on several occasions, but has fallen just short every time except at the 2003 PACE NSC [thanks to Matt Weiner for the correction]. This year’s team seems to be lesser-known than some past Dorman teams, despite traveling just as extensively, but perhaps a poorer-than-expected showing at Hunter College High School’s February tournament (where they lost to an on-fire LASA team on a difficult question set) and a strange loss to their B team at Princeton back in October plus as a few losses to in-state rival Southside High have caused their detractors to multiply.

The Pick: 3rd
Hard to pick against a Dorman team, especially one like this year’s iteration with no major weaknesses (very well-balanced scoring across the range) and with a strong record of accomplishments on NAQT-provided questions. I can’t help shake a feeling though that this year’s team isn’t quite as formidable as in years past and that two other teams–Maggie Walker and State College–would be able to edge them in close games.

Georgetown Day School (DC)

The Good:
Another veritable one-man wrecking crew much in the line of Neil from DCD, Matt Jackson was described by one quizbowler as “Kevin Garnett on the Timberwolves” for both his beastly level of play as well as the lack of major support from teammates (although I should note that when your teammate is putting down 100+ Points Per Game, getting even 20 PPG is hard to do). He’s proven himself quite capable of winning tournaments alone and as a team they took down St. Anselm’s, probably the best  team in the country that won’t be at the HSNCT.

The Bad:
“MVPs don’t win championships on their own,” says one anonymous quizbowl pundit. The Kevin Garnett analogy may be highly appropriate in this case as Garnett never won an NBA title until he moved to Boston. Even moreso than DCD, GDS is dependent on the performance of a single individual, which is never a good thing in a close match. They’ve taken some tough losses to Maggie Walker and haven’t had a real marquee victory other than the St Anselm’s games (and possibly victories over Wilmington Charter A as well).

The Pick: Tie-5th
I would not be surprised to see GDS deliver a stunning loss to a team like Maggie Walker or Dorman. I rank DCD’s chances slightly above GDS because DCD has slightly more support for its lead player.

Maggie Walker Governor’s School (VA)

The Good:
Perhaps the team best equipped to knock off  the State College juggernaut is Maggie Walker, a veteran team whose team members have a voracious drive for high-difficulty questions. They have strong victories over GDS as well as St. Anslem’s and Thomas Jefferson. Maggie Walker’s team members are comfortable playing on tough questions, as they’ve attended a number of college-level tournaments (often playing against fellow high school team State College in the finals). One quizbowl pundit exclaimed, when asked about Maggie Walker’s chances, “With John Barnes as a coach, how can you go wrong?” Strong coaching keeps Maggie Walker teams, like those of Dorman, State College, and Wilmington Charter, consistently strong over the years and allows them to rebuild after outstanding players graduate (Maggie Walker was the 2007 HSNCT Champion).

The Bad :
“They certainly CAN do it. The question is: will they?” ruminated one anonymous online quizbowler when asked of Maggie Walker’s chances for winning. One person who has seem them play repeatedly said they have a tendency to “sit” on questions they definitely know, waiting to be sure instead of buzzing in when they think they know it. While that strategy may allow them to avoid negging (i.e. answering a question incorrectly while the question is still being read), they may lose a few buzzer races to other top teams if they wait too long.

The Pick: Runner-Up
If there’s a team that can match State College’s knowledge level, it’s Maggie Walker. But if I had to bet on the outcome of a single match, I’d take State College over MW in a close one.

State College Area High School A (State College, PA)

The Good:
Stunningly well-balanced across all categories, with players who have deep knowledge of their respective fields and good speed on the buzzer. All are also capable generalists and should be able to fill in for their teammates in case one misses out on a key clue. They can simply crush even the most talented of challengers, whether at the high school level or even the collegiate level. They finished 12th at one of the toughest college-level academic tournaments of the year, ACF Nationals, out of a field of 28 college teams. Probably the consensus pick for the championship according to almost everyone involved in quizbowl that I asked.

Even scarier? They’re mostly juniors and will be back for more next year.

The Bad:
Knowing too many things may actually be to your detriment. Since State College’s players know their subjects in such great depth, they may be slower on the buzzer than other teams since there are many more potential answers, plots, facts, etc. for them to sift through in the seconds it takes for a question to be fully read. One quizbowl pundit noted that they might be, “lacking that killer instinct,” for closing out matches or making comebacks when down. They could also be hampered by the presence of current events and pop culture questions, which can really throw a wild card into some matches, and require a different approach to studying than standard academic questions.

The Pick: Winner
How can I pick against a team that blows away the competition at pretty much every level they play? Last year they got stuck in a screwy round to fall into the loser’s bracket early on before losing a close match to a very talented Dorman team and finishing in 3rd. This year, they should go all the way.

What do you think of these picks? Agree? Disagree? Going to use this for bulletin board material? Vote in this poll and/or post a comment below!

For my next post, I’ll examine several other teams that, while they aren’t quite at the level of these teams (at least on NAQT questions), are certainly capable of making a run through the playoffs and knocking off some of the top teams.



  1. My thoughts:

    Dorman did actually win a national championship at the PACE NSC in 2003.

    GDS has played without Matt, and played well, on many occasions. DCD’s other players have no experience trying to take the lead in a game and I think will ultimately contribute less than the GDS supporting cast.

    NAQT distribution will favor different teams in different ways. Science is the only category guaranteed to get its full representation in every round, and State College is the premier science team by an enormous margin. Emphasis on title-recall and buzzer speed will help Dorman a lot and State College some. Increased geography and current events compared to non-NAQT tournaments gives hope to Maggie Walker.

    It’s pretty clear that State College comes in as the favorite, with an undefeated record in high school play this year, several high finishes at college tournaments under their belts, and the most experience of any of the contenders at playing as a consistent lineup that knows whose responsibility it is to answer each question. Going undefeated at the HSNCT is tremendously difficult, and something that only the legendary 2005 Thomas Jefferson team has done, so I expect SC to drop a game to one of the other teams you listed, but to lose twice would require extremely bad packet-opponent matchup luck.

    Comment by Matt Weiner — May 18, 2010 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

  2. This is a good write-up. I look forward to these in the future.

    DCD can and should scare anybody in Chicago. They can beat anyone. Will they? Almost certainly not. But i also see them getting at least 4th. They could beat Dorman for 3rd, as well. But those two seem to be your certain 3rd/4th place teams.

    Between Gov and SC, i can’t see SC losing to them, at least never more than once. This is probably the only team that can beat SC (whereas i could (MAYBE) see DCD or Dorman pulling the amazing upset against Gov), and if they don’t, they can forget about 1st place.

    I’m a little surprised with this many votes for Dorman.

    I’d also like to see (i guess it’s coming soon) what other teams Chris thinks will tie for around 5th place with GDS.

    Comment by Andrew Chrzanowski — May 18, 2010 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

  3. Perhaps the differences in Dorman respect stem from the lack of information–I don’t think they’ve actually played against State College or Maggie Walker, so nobody knows what to expect of Dorman against those teams. I think the early exit of Dorman A (to Dorman B) at Princeton’s Fall tournament in those weird single-elim playoffs may have hurt Dorman’s rep. and it looks like they’ve been improving over the year. Also, I wonder if the lack of Dorman players posting on the forums this year may be contributing to lower expectations for them.

    Good correction on Dorman’s 2003 PACE championship Matt, I’ll be sure to correct that. Can you point me to the results of GDS playing without Matt? I wasn’t able to find any right off the bat.

    The next update will probably come this weekend sometime.

    Comment by cchiego — May 19, 2010 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  4. Chris, GDS played without Matt a couple times this year.

    At VCU in April, GDS played quite well without him: Almost 20ppb on Prison Bowl.

    Also at VCU back in January, they played well without him: More than 17ppb on the UGA set.

    And at CR’s tournament also in April, GDS came without Matt and did really well on the easy set: Almost 21.5ppb on this set.

    I think it’s happened at least once more, but it was at a tournament that CR didn’t get to.

    Comment by Andrew Chrzanowski — May 19, 2010 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  5. […] Team Previews: Championship Contenders […]

    Pingback by Errata and Tournament Liveblog Plans « The Official Blog of the 2010 NAQT HSNCT — May 23, 2010 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  6. […] are the championship contenders: Detroit Country Day (MI), Dorman A (SC), Georgetown Day School (DC), Maggie Walker […]

    Pingback by Pre-Tournament Prognostication Post « The Official Blog of the 2010 NAQT HSNCT — May 24, 2010 @ 1:45 am | Reply

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