The Official Blog of the 2013 NAQT HSNCT

May 31, 2010

How were my predictions? + Random Thoughts to End the HSNCT

Filed under: Site Issues,Uncategorized — Chris C. @ 5:55 pm

What a tournament. I can’t think of a real organized way to direct all my thoughts, so here are some things I got right and wrong in my predictions before the tournament:

The Top 6: I got 5 of the 6 teams that finished 5th or higher, but in a slightly different order. Bellarmine (CA) was a huge surprise, particularly since I had actually seen them play before, but that was without their best player who was a huge difference maker at the HSNCT. DCD (MI) probably had the skills to finish in the top 6, but ran into an on-fire Bellarmine team and they lost a high-scoring match to State College A (PA) to be knocked of the tournament in 7th. I also didn’t anticipate Maggie Walker (VA) performing so exceptionally well on current events- JR seemed to get nearly every TU I saw on that topic, usually in power. That, plus some solid geography knowledge, allowed them to hold off State College’s immense science and history knowledge. GDS (DC) performed about as well as expected and LASA A (TX) showed that it could hang with the top teams, but seemed to have some strange knowledge gaps that led to a number of bagels and bad negs when they could least afford them. Dorman A (SC) was the only team all tournament to beat Maggie Walker (in the prelims), but their aggressive playing strategy led them to getting stuck in some early holes that they couldn’t climb out of in the playoffs.

7th Place: I did not see, and I don’t know anyone else who did, Adair County (KY) coming from out of the blue to finish in 7th, but major props for them for winning all their playoff games when on the verge of elimination. They knocked out MLK (TN), Walter Johnson (MD), Hoover (AL), and OakPark/RiverForest (IL).  I correctly predicted Torrey Pines (CA), though they came within 20 points of knocking off Dorman A  in their final elimination match. Detroit Catholic Central A (MI) proved once again that they play their best quizbowl at nationals. DCD probably won’t be happy with this finish and the career-ending tournament of Neil Gurram was a huge disappointment, but he just couldn’t single-handedly pull his team through against the absolute top teams.

11th Place: Wilmington Charter A (DE) finished where I originally had them before boosting them upwards. Seven Lakes (TX) proved my hunch that the stats for many of the TX teams were artificially low because they were stuck playing tournaments against LASA teams and they should be proud of their impressive run. Hoover (AL) unfortunately wasn’t playing with their 2nd-best player and then ran into the Adair County wrecking crew in the loser’s bracket. Mission San Jose (CA) deserves props for putting together a fine performance despite not having their A team, although they probably should watch their sugar intake in the future since they were the most hyperactive bunch of players I’ve seen. LASA B (TX) has one of the highest finishes by a non-Dorman B team ever and it looks like they’ll be good next year too. That’s kinda scary to imagine. Adlai Stevenson (IL) carried the torch for Illinois and deserves to be lauded for playing well on the NAQT format. Eden Prairie A (MN) also had a nice tournament, but couldn’t really catch a break against the top teams.

22 Random Thoughts:

  • How about a nod to the relative high amount of female representation on the top teams? Both teams in the finals had a female player and Dorman A even had 3/4 of its members lacking the Y chromosome. I’d still guesstimate the tournament was 75-80% male, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way in the future.
  • Fashion successes:
    -Torrey Pines, which was decked out in stylish all-black pants/button-up shirts with color-coordinated ties.
    -The Dorman A team, which came dressed in cocktail dresses and other finery.
    -The NAQT t-shirts for this year, which had a very retro feel to them.
  • Fashion failures:
    -Pensacola (I think), which wore bright neon-pink shirts that were a visual assault on the eyes.
    -LASA A, whose t-shirts in various shades of yellow and brown (probably unintentionally) reminded me of a Rothko painting (I dislike color-field paintings- sue me).
    -Arcadia, which had “I play quizbowl, will you go out with me?” printed on its t-shirts. Just FYI- when they (all males) walked by a group of girls, the girls immediately and loudly noted that those kinds of shirts are usually not very successful.
    -The NAQT t-shirts for this year, which had a very retro feel to them (all depends on your view of if retro is cool or not!)
  • Hats were another fashion accessory on prominent display at this year’s HSNCT. Besides a certain staffer wearing a WWI-era German military helmet, I also saw a player from Arcadia wear a sort of safari-like hat and a player from Wilmington Charter wear what looked like a Chinese-style headpiece. What’ll people show up to next year’s tournament in– Davey Crockett coonskin hats?
  • Why do teams substitute bad players for good ones? I mean, I understand you want all players that you brought to the tournament to play, but taking out a player who’s doing well and replacing them with dead weight just seems like a bad idea. If you’re trying to get players more experience, why not take out the worst-performing player instead of the best? Substituting “because that’s what we always do,” as one team put it, just seems counterproductive.
  • At first I was thinking there had to be a negative correlation with the number of parents, coaches, hangers-on attached to a team and success at quizbowl, but I was proven wrong when I ran into the Dorman and Maggie Walker cheering sections. Quizbowl isn’t exactly a spectator sport, but it was good to see large enthusiastic crowds in some matches.
  • Best match I saw in the whole tournament was the first Maggie Walker-State College match in the playoffs. Maggie Walker jumped out to a large lead, then State College began finding its range about midway through. After a short duel of powers, State College shifted into higher gear and chipped away at what I think was at least a 200 points deficit [EDIT: it was actually 235 points and SC got all 6 of the last TUs, including 5 powers, to fall just short) , but MW made a few crucial buzzes down the line to stall SC just short, 420-405 at the end. Extremely well-played match on both sides.
  • The best moderators are those who can confine the banter to a minimum before, a “good game guys” after, and nothing but TUs in between.
  • I never was a big believer in the value of coaches for HS teams, but I saw some very good examples of strong coaching at the HSNCT this year. For instance, calling strategic timeouts BEFORE the game gets out of hand (most player-called TOs were far too late to stop a run by another team) was a big difference-maker in several matches I saw. Other coaches seemed to be really good at getting their players to focus before matches or in helping them evaluate what they had to do after matches.
  • Poor Bellarmine, who took 3 of their 4 losses at the entire tournament to Maggie Walker. When I saw them play against MW in the playoffs, Bellarmine definitely looked like they had a mental block for some reason, losing many buzzer races, negging way too early in the question, and fumbling easy parts of the bonus. Funny how one team just matches up really well against another.
  • The current events at this tournament were some of the best I’ve seen. Really seemed to reward teams/players who paid attention to important recent news.
  • I guess many teams forgot their Ritalin at home, since I have never seen so many hyperactive high schoolers in my life. Seriously y’all, take a chill pill. Or three. And props to the high school teachers who have to deal with this kind of insanity on a daily basis.
  • On the other side of the coin, it seemed like most of the top teams were very calm and composed, so maybe getting your emotions under control might be a good idea. Teams that were overly emotional didn’t get very far.
  • State College was the first team to stand up and applaud Maggie Walker when Maggie Walker was awarded the championship trophy. Very classy move by the runner-ups.
  • For a program only 4 years old (I think), LASA has quickly become a powerhouse easily on the level with Dorman, Wilmington Charter, etc. not only in quality of the A team but also in strong, deep B (and even C!) teams. This program will be one to watch in coming years.
  • Perhaps the scariest part of this year’s HSNCT was how few seniors were participating–two of Maggie Walker’s top players, 3 of LASA’s, 3 of State College’s (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) ALL FOUR of State College’s A team, and all of Bellarmine’s will be back next year. Dorman also returns several of it’s A teamers. Many of the top scorers on the 10-25 teams will also be back. And of course, there was Kellenberg B’s 7th grader, who I believe managed to make the freshmen all-stars list. Good thing there’s no such thing as turning pro early in QB.
  • How good were the Texas teams in general this year? St. Mark’s finished 17th, Seven Lakes A 11th (along with LASA B), and LASA A picking up 3rd. And Cistercian’s 3 teams were all solid in what I believe was their first visit to the HSNCT, at least in a long time. Plus there was a team from Highland Park representing the Dallas area, as well as St. John’s, and 3 teams from all the way out in El Paso. Hope more TX teams will be able to make it to future HSNCTs.
  • The card system this year seemed to really benefit teams that lost earlier rather than later- a lot of the 8-2 teams seemed to be those with earlier losses and several of those washed out of the playoffs early. Also, several of the 8-2 teams seemed statistically weaker than many of the 7-3 and even some of the 6-4 teams, but we’ll need to see powers/bonus conversion statistics to be sure. It varies greatly depending on who the opponent is for that match.
  • Teams that tried to “speed up” and play faster as they realized time was running out and needed to make a comeback almost uniformly made many, many careless mistakes that taking just a few more seconds to think would’ve prevented. I know the use of the clock is unusual, but it can’t hurt to at least discuss beforehand what strategy you might use if you find yourself down with time running out.
  • Props to South Range (OH) for ending the career of Jarret Greene on a high note by winning a disadvantaged small-school final against Russell (KY), which was also the runner-up last year. Also props to DAR (AL) for finishing in 3rd in the small-school division.
  • The high level of sportsmanship in general was pretty impressive; most of the players I saw were very cordial and generous with the other teams. Coaches on the whole seemed more restrained than in years past, although I did hear a few amusing anecdotes about coaches being convinced certain readers were “biased” and demanding that they be replaced.
  • The strange combination of the HSNCT, the notorious adult-activities conference, and what I can only assume to be the national throw-darts-while-drinking-huge-mugs-of-beer championships all taking place at the same hotel at once made for at least a highly enjoyable arena for people-watching in the hotel lobby.

Thanks for reading this blog everyone- we got over 5,000 unique visitors in the last week as well as nearly 1,000 views of the liveblog. I may in a few weeks transcribe and edit some match recaps from the liveblog and post those separately. Hope to see everyone back at the HSNCT next year!



  1. Our (Arcadia’s) shirts were successful once or twice in the past, but only when a girl was wearing it. It was more of a tradition thing than a fashion thing.

    Comment by Alex W — May 31, 2010 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  2. Re: Pensacola’s neon shirts. We bought those for a state tournament that requires uniforms. Two of our more obnoxious members decided it’d be a great idea to bring them to HSNCT. One of the reasons we got the pink shirts was that we were feeling good about winning that tournament, so it was less douchey. That was our reasoning, anyway. 🙂

    Interesting note: we ended up playing Bellarmine twice in the prelims. We figure the odds of playing the fourth-place team twice are really low. Terrible luck. 😦

    Comment by HD — May 31, 2010 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  3. Your comment on the card system is largely accurate. There really isn’t any other way to do this in a field of 200 teams though, probably. But it sure makes me wish for the round-robin brackets of NSC.

    Comment by Andrew Chrzanowski — May 31, 2010 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

    • True, but PACE has the advantage of usually a smaller and probably on average more elite field, so there’s a bit more information out there about those teams. This year at least, the NSC comes after the HSNCT so all the “surprise” teams this weekend won’t be dark horses at the NSC and the PACE people can seed the brackets accordingly. I almost think the HSNCT needs teams to play 12 matches instead of 10 now to more accurately sort out the teams since there are so many more teams than when the 10-match-prelim started. But that would probably require more moderators and rooms so… we’ll see.

      Comment by Chris C. — May 31, 2010 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  4. We also wore grillz for a part of the prelims, and I wore a Lebron James-esque headband for much of the tournament. We’ll be better (read: worse) dressed next year ;).

    Comment by Kay Li — May 31, 2010 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

    • I eagerly await to place y’all on the HSNCT all-time worst-dressed list next year.

      Comment by Chris C. — May 31, 2010 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  5. I also want to point people who are reading this blog who don’t peruse the boards to this thread where some additional discussion of the HSNCT is occuring:

    In particular, Coach Blessman of Culver points out an interesting statistical datapoint from this tournament whereby… well, let me just shamelessly quote him so you can see it for yourself:

    “I have done a little analysis on this year’s vs. last year’s playoff field. The average PP20TUH for a playoff team this year was 243.0 compared with 231.6 last year. That 11.4 increase is all the more impressive when one considers WHERE it occurred. Below are the average PP20TUH for teams ranked 1-10 in the prelims, 11-20, etc. The last column indicates the change up or down from last year:

    Code: Select all
    Rank ’09 Ave ’10 Ave Delta
    1-10 334.41 345.322 10.912
    11-20 285.46 285.483 0.023
    21-30 282.04 269.714 -12.326
    31-40 254.16 244.328 -9.832
    41-50 230.74 227.301 -3.439
    51-60 205.83 214.123 8.293
    61-70 187.88 203.846 15.966

    So the top 10 teams went up 11 PP20TUH on average, teams 11-20 were effectively flat, teams 21-50 actually went down, and 51-70 made dramatic increases. PPB will give a better analysis tool, but for now I found it noteworthy that the gap from 11-20 to 61-70 has decreased from 98 to 82 PP20TUH, bringing those matches much more frequently in to a range where a luck buzz or bad neg can make the difference.”

    Interesting analysis there, and I’m particularly surprised because I thought this tournament was a pretty tough tournament overall. Seems like teams in general are getting better, though we’ll have a better comparison when we get points per bonus stats up (nope, sorry, I don’t know when that will happen!).

    Comment by Chris C. — May 31, 2010 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

  6. Bellarmine’s coach here — to be fair, we had five losses, not four: three to MW, one to SC, and one to LASA in the 3rd place round. Thanks for the props, though.

    Comment by C Fleitas — May 31, 2010 @ 10:19 pm | Reply

  7. Ritalin is for the weak. In any case, what did you mean when you posted

    “Detroit Catholic Central A (MI) proved once again that they play their best quizbowl at nationals. DCD probably won’t be happy with this finish and the career-ending tournament of Neil Gurram was a huge disappointment, but he just couldn’t single-handedly pull his team through against the absolute top teams.”

    Detroit Country Day or Detroit Catholic Central?

    Comment by Jeffrey Li — June 1, 2010 @ 5:16 am | Reply

    • I meant that DCC A, which hadn’t had a very impressive regular season this year from the results I could find, definitely stepped it up a notch for nationals to finish in 7th. DCD on the other hand was probably good enough to have a fine shot against any of the top teams, so they’re probably more disappointed with 7th place.

      Comment by Chris C. — June 1, 2010 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  8. Adair County (KY) is a public high school–the only high school in its rural county–that was just 20 students over the limit for small school division. All four starters were underclassmen.

    Comment by H.S. — June 1, 2010 @ 12:18 pm | Reply

  9. “Hats were another fashion accessory on prominent display at this year’s HSNCT. Besides a certain staffer wearing a WWI-era German military helmet, I also saw a player from Arcadia wear a sort of safari-like hat and a player from Wilmington Charter wear what looked like a Chinese-style headpiece. What’ll people show up to next year’s tournament in– Davey Crockett coonskin hats?”

    Look for a Captain Canada with a finding Nemo hat next year 🙂

    Comment by Jj L. — June 1, 2010 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

  10. While appreciating the general comments about Texas and our teams, (“And Cistercian’s 3 teams were all solid in what I believe was their first visit to the HSNCT, at least in a long time. Plus there was a team from Highland Park representing the Dallas area,”), I must admit that Cistercian Prep only had two teams there, not three. Also, being in Irving, TX, most of us consider ourselves to be in the ‘Dallas area’ since the cities of Irving and Dallas share a common municipal boundary that runs for many miles.
    Also, I would like to add a compliment about another Texas team from Prosper, TX; finishing with a 5-5 record is outstanding for such a young, active team.
    Finally, a self-complimenting remark: with 3 of the top 10 freshmen at the tournament coming from Cistercian Prep, we look forward to being at the HSNCT for a run of several years.
    Once again, thanks for all your kind remarks! My students, parents, and I had a great time in Chicago.

    Comment by Father Gregory Schweers, O. Cist. — June 1, 2010 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

    • Oh yeah, sorry I didn’t look too closely at the exact location. I remember being very impressed with the number of Cistercian’s top freshmen which bodes quite well for their success in the future. It’s crazy to imagine, but next year will likely be even better for Texas teams…which is a scary thought for the rest of the field!

      I also wanted to add to all teams that it’s entirely possible for teams to turn from “barely made the playoff” to “the final four” in just a year- last year Bellarmine’s two teams finished at 7-5, with each going 1-1 in the playoffs. This year, they finished 4th. With enough hard work, pretty much any decent team can become a contender.

      Comment by Chris C. — June 1, 2010 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

      • While this is technically possible, it does help being from a richer area and having a student body with an advanced curriculum and academic mindset. It can be a struggle for the rest of the “regular” schools to be successful year after year, especially those without a rich history of good quizbowl or any middle schools that play at all.

        Comment by Andrew Chrzanowski — June 2, 2010 @ 10:04 am

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