||Scripps Ranch A
As usual, I’d like to thank UCSD for hosting a very well run competition last Saturday, as this year’s iteration of States ran incredibly smoothly. The quality of staff which UCSD was able to put together on such short notice was extremely high, and it made the competition flow near-flawlessly from start to finish.
There are, however, many factors which make this tournament somewhat tricky to analyze. For starters, because of some tomfoolery on the part of Santa Monica where the A and B teams were reversed, bracket B in prelims became crazily overpowered, and knocked a handicapped (but still effective) CCA out of contention for playoffs. Another oddity was the sheer number of teams that were missing players in some capacity. Arcadia was playing without both Andrew and Michael, Del Norte split their teams in an effort to double qualify for nationals, Olympian had a rare absence from an NAQT event, and 3/4 of CCA’s regular A team decided that they would rather mod than compete. Even the teams that did have the majority of their players on A were restricted in some regard, as Westview A was missing both Daniel Shaw and Rohan V. (Who decided instead to relegate himself to C) and Scripps Ranch A had to play without a fourth. Ironically enough, the only full strength A team was on Santa Monica B, which worked out for them as their silver medal would be enough to qualify for nationals. That being said, there are still many things to be learned, so let’s dig in.
I’ve joked about derping to victory before, but this time more than ever, it is literally the most accurate way to describe how Westview won on Saturday. The morning was a complete joke, with more negs than any other team and both Junu and I failing to make the top 5 individually. It was… how do I say this gently… an absolute garbage performance. But, despite our worst efforts, we went 4-1, which was enough to make playoffs. After that, Westview A managed to pull itself together to go 5-0 and keep under 2 negs a game. One of the more interesting things I noticed about this particular set was the disparity between the kind of gameplay that was rewarded in the morning vs. in the afternoon. Morning IS 183 rewarded patience and punished any and all frauds, whereas the afternoon rounds heavily favored hyper-aggressive gameplay and straight up denounced conservatism of any kind. Naturally, team power cult did better in the afternoon, much to the chagrin of anyone unlucky enough to face the reverse derp head on. What’s interesting is, despite our solid performance, we still had a relatively low power rate and PPB. However, I’m willing to attribute this to the fact that Junu and I have holes in our knowledge that are simply covered better by other players on the team who weren’t there on February 2nd, and that our coverage of the big three categories is good enough to succeed in most high-pressure situations even if we don’t have expertise of 100% of questions asked.
Santa Monica had a really impressive showing last week, taking the highest PPB prize by almost 2.5 points at the end of the day. These results are indicative of the somewhat absurd breadth of categories covered by the team. Santa Monica “B” was led by Sophmore and history specialist Josh Xu, who ended the day with 27 powers and over 60 PPG. SanMo’s other players were also extremely important to the success of the team, with the other three players putting up an average of over 20 PPG. These efforts resulted in a second place finish and, perhaps more importantly, a return to nationals. Undoubtedly, Santa Monica will want to improve on their performance at HSNCT last year and make it to playoffs, but there are some barriers they’ll have to cross first, the most important is a seeming lack of depth in categories that don’t begin in H and end in I-S-T-O-R-Y. If they can figure out a way to increase their depth on other categories before nationals, I can see SanMo easily going 7-3 or better in the morning rounds at nats.
Despite not directly qualifying their target two teams for nationals (which was admittedly a near impossible feat with only three slots available), Del Norte was still able to put up a solid fight and may have done well enough to earn a wildcard slot through the performance of their B team. One of Del Norte’s strengths is just how well everyone on the A team synergizes with each other, and their deep understanding of what their fellow teammates do and do not know in-game. The problem here is that, if the team does need to split, they are hit particularly hard by the holes in knowledge left by absent players. However, what I have seen from nearly every A team regular is a significant increase in depth of knowledge since the beginning of the year. Whether or not that depth will translate to nats level questions remains to be seen, but based on what we’ve seen from them at the past couple of competitions, Del Norte definitely seems to be on the track to success.
Obviously, the absence of arguably the best player in SoCal from Arcadia’s roster was bound to be a hit to their overall performance. However, Arcadia A still put up some very, very solid stats last week, leading the field in powers and coming only 0.03 PPB away from taking the silver in the stat at the end of the day with exactly 21. If this is the kind of breadth that a team led by William and Sean (two science specialists) can do, they pose a serious threat to almost everyone when at full strength. Normally, if a clue that is considered “common” is dropped in a tossup, there is generally one person on each team racing for it. What Arcadia proved last week is that everyone on the team is actually fairly likely to know an answer at the cliff, indicating that buzzer races between Arcadia and their opponents are actually consistently 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 on average, rather than the 1 to 1 showcased by most games. This means that Arcadia has a much higher chance of getting a tossup on a cliff probability-wise than almost every other team when they’re at full capacity and on a set like HSNCT, where difficulty cliffs are extremely commonplace, Arcadia could go very, very far.
Scripps Ranch had arguably their best performance so far this year at States, being the only team to successfully take down Westview all day, and putting some solid numbers up while doing so. Jack and Michelle complement each other really well on NAQT, with Jack handling most of the History/Geo/Ce/Trash and Michelle proving her ruthless efficiency on Literature and Science. One thing I’m still not 100% sure about is how well the team will scale up come nationals season. Jack and Michelle have depth, but the question now is whether or not that will hold when the questions get to HSNCT levels of difficulty.
Individually, the stats from the morning and afternoon seemed to shift around… a lot. In the morning, the top five players were, in order, Sam K (with 21 more points per game than his closest competitor), Alan Z, Rohan V, Jack I, and Kyle K. Weirdly enough, only Sam and Alan managed to stay in the top five in the afternoon, as monsieur derp returned with a vengence in the afternoon to get over 27 PPG more than the next closest player in Alan. (Yes I’m flexing, no you can’t stop me.) Rounding up the top five was Josh X in third, along with Sam in fourth and Jonathan H in fifth. At the end of the day, Sam took the first prize individually, but Rohan probably gets some kind of bonus points from being the first C team player to make the top five in this circuit individually… so there’s probably some memetic pride that goes along with that.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who came to States, and I hope to see you all again very soon.
– Written by Shahar Schwartz