By Matt Melton
Ever since Xander Manshel convinced a bunch of his classmates to jump on brooms and play quidditch, it has been dominated by two regions: the Northeast and the Southwest.
Mathematically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before a team from outside one of those conferences jumps in and steals the USQ Cup away, but who or where is most likely to do it first? Let’s take a look at all the possibilities – from the rapidly growing states where a contender could be forged to the team playing right now that has arguably the best chance ever to steal it away.
Future Champion Breeding Grounds
Florida boasts its own quidditch conference, growing competition amongst its college teams, and a new Community team in Carnage quidditch that is hell bent on working with the rest of the teams in the state to finally get the South some recognition. Add this in with the ability to practice year-round and a regular location for Nationals, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team from Florida eventually bring home a championship. If only they had an MLQ team…
Enjoying the same benefit of year-round quidditch as Florida, Arizona has regularly had high level college teams in Arizona State University and the Northern Arizona University Narwhals. This year, they finally added an accompanying community team in the Arizona Scorpions to gain the crucial benefits of a veteran presence in the area. The loss of the Phoenix Sol definitely hurts, but with the rest of the West also losing MLQ for now, perhaps Arizona can join the West in whatever summer quidditch league is formed in the area.
Bowling Green State University is no longer the powerhouse it used to be, but Ohio University and Miami University have quietly become forces to be reckoned with in the eastern portion of the Great Lakes. And with the recent successes of Lake Erie Elite and Ohio Glory at USQ Cup 11, Ohio could also play a large part in the next Great Lakes community team that comes together.
The Kansas Mizzou Community Team
Kansas and Mizzou are perennial powerhouses, share an MLQ team, and are roughly two and a half hours apart. Yet somehow, there still isn’t a community team that has combined their graduates into a community powerhouse. KC Reign attempted to do so last year, but failed to materialize, and for now Boom Train has been the beneficiaries of the local talent looking for a team. But once this team does come together, it wouldn’t be surprising for it to be a top-tier community team its first season.
Ground zero of quidditch on the west coast, SoCal has a plethora of community and collegiate teams that can play with and against each other, and even a few that have made the final fours at USQ Cup and MLQ Championships. With the ability to play quidditch year-round and the sheer number of players in the area, it’s somewhat surprising the area hasn’t already created a champion, and I would expect it to finally breakthrough sometime soon.
Teams that Took a Step Backwards this Year
UCLA started 4-4 in collegiate play, and half of those losses weren’t even in snitch range. All 4 of those teams were unquestionably top-tier teams, and the Cal loss was avenged, but a 1 – 4 record against the teams that are supposed to be your peers does not bode well for a Nationals title run. Going 5 – 1 at Regionals was somewhat impressive, but losing to Utah State and not a team like Texas tells me that UCLA isn’t primed to make a Nationals run this year.
The Lost Boys
Losing multiple veterans has reduced the West Coast crowd favorites to a shell of their former selves. It’s doubtful they’ll be down for long, but it’s almost certain that they’ll be unable to repeat their Final Four appearance from last year, let alone improve upon it.
Following their run to the elite eight at last year’s Nationals, Cal looked like the one of the teams to beat this year. But a disappointing showing at Heroes vs Villains saw them swept out of the college division and off the radar for winning Nationals this year. West Regionals may have been a chance to redeem themselves, but falling to Utah State ruled that out of the question as well.
Up and Coming Teams to Watch
Playing together for their fifth year now, TCQC (formerly TC Frost) has been steadily improving for years with the same core group of players for about three of those years. With the Minnesota Voyageurs being added to MLQ as the Minnesota Monarchs, the large share of TCQC players that played on both teams will gain some seriously competitive quidditch over the summer, as well as some solid networking for adding more players to their team. TCQC is on the cusp of joining the elite level of community teams, and the addition of an MLQ team may push them over that edge.
Terminus has greatly improved upon last year’s performances, handily beating every college and mid-tier community team they’ve come against so far. But they’ve also been swept by the one top-tier squad, the Warriors, both times they played this year. Only one of those games was even in range. Terminus is improving quickly, but they’ll need some signature wins a decent day two run at Nationals before they can get in the title discussion.
With wins over UCLA, Cal, the Arizona college teams and the Rain City Raptors, Utah State is turning heads again in the Northwest. And that was before they ran through the field at West/NW Regionals and took the title home to Utah. It’s not the same as winning the NE or SW college Regionals, but definitely puts Utah State on the map as a team to watchout for in the near future.
Teams Not Quite There Yet
University of Virginia
Virginia was the undisputed number two college team in the Mid Atlantic, beating every other college team in the region except for their arch nemesis Maryland. But then they went and defeated Maryland twice at the Founder’s Cup, and suddenly that number two ranking is in question. This may be the year they can finally stop being overshadowed by Maryland and join the ranks of the college elite, but first they need to knock off some elite teams from outside the Mid Atlantic and prove the MA is not as inferior to the NE as has been in the past…
Tony Rodriquez is the hands down best shooter in quidditch, but his team still lacks the depth it needs to compete with the best of the best. Going undefeated through the West Regionals was impressive, but failing to get anywhere near snitch catch range vs either Texas team in three tries at Heroes vs Villains relegated this team to second tier for the time being. Kudos for their clutch game show skills though; dropping “movies” and “flowers” with one second on the clock was the craziest finish in “America Says” history. YouTube it if you haven’t seen it yet.
The Very Distant Darkhorses
The other Miami team (note: NOT Miami of Ohio, per Matt Dwyer) has taken advantage of their size and steamrolled through the Great Lakes college ranks this fall. Most of their wins have been well out of range, and their only loss was a surprise upset to Bowling Green on a quick catch right before Miami could put them out of range. Other than Regionals, Miami has not played any community teams or other top tier college teams yet, and the lack of elite competition is hard to replace. But with their size and improved gameplay, Miami is the new leader of the Great Lakes college division and the region’s best chance at a deep Nationals run right now.
The perennial Mid Atlantic community champions added Tyler Walker to their squad this year, and their consistency against other community and elite college teams has been quite impressive this year. They’ve only played three games in range all year, and two of those were against East powerhouses BosNY and QCB. However, they did lose both of those games, so questions arise about whether they can grab the snitch and finish games against the top teams. A 150* – 110 Alamo Cup victory over Texas University says they can, but a 220* – 130 loss to Texas Heat says they can’t make it to the point anyways.
The regular season darlings of the Mid Atlantic, Maryland finished February sitting at the top of the combined USQ standings with a 16 – 1 record. They lost to the Warriors to kick off their year, then won their next 16 games in a row, which is remarkably similar to last year when they also lost to the Warriors before rifling off an incredible 27 wins in a row. The problem is they followed that up by going 2-2 on day one of Nationals, giving them a much more difficult path to the Finals on day two. Maryland could definitely help themselves by playing better teams from outside the region or the Warriors more often, but their continued dominance of the Mid Atlantic makes them a force to be reckoned with in the college division and a scary team for anyone to face. But until they get some regular season play against better teams, it’s hard to call them anything more than longshots to win it all. Sorry Mike!
Boom Train, the latest rendition of GL/MW “super team”, spent the whole fall season as nothing more than a hype train – and then they rolled out of Heroes vs Villains II with wins over BosNY and Cavalry. With the overwhelming majority of its team coming from Indianapolis Intensity and/or Lake Erie Elite, Boom Train similarly relies on solid defense and some of the best beaters in the country to keep itself in range long enough for its seeking to get the win. And while Boom Train has been scoring against elite teams more consistently and keeping games in snitch range longer than their predecessors, they also seem to suffer from LEE’s inconsistency. They followed up their upset of Cavalry by losing to the Gambits – a team both Texas teams put well out of range at HvI II. A similar event happened with their in-regional rivals TCQC, whom they’ve never put out of range and were a fingertip away from stealing a game at the MW Regionals. Boom Train is definitely talented and disciplined enough for a deep run at Nationals, and their win over Cavalry proves they are capable of beating any team out there, but right now they’re just as close to the Finals as they are to being upset in the first round of bracket play.
The Real Contenders
Mizzou has been putting an elite team together for many years now, and this year is no different. They’ve torn up the Midwest college scene, handing Kansas their only collegiate loss early in the year while only losing to TCQC in range and Boom Train. The weather at MW Regionals ruined the long-awaited rematch between Mizzou and Kansas, so it’s tough to say if Missouri still holds the edge over Kansas since their last meeting. What Mizzou hasn’t done that Kansas has is left the Midwest to go play other elite college teams. A close win over a Kansas says a lot, but until Mizzou either stomps Kansas out of range, beats them a few more times, or starts beating teams from another region, it’s hard to put them on the same pedestal as Kansas. Fortunately, there’s plenty of time in the spring for Mizzou to get some games in against elite competition, including that rematch against Kansas where we can see if Mizzou still has the edge over their neighbors next door. Missouri is an extremely good team and has a real chance of winning it all…yet still not as much of a chance as the next team does.
The Best Chance We’ve Probably Ever Had
Winning the USQ Cup requires going to a multi-regional tournament with the best of the best and coming out on top. Kansas did exactly that at Heroes vs Villains II, where they dominated the college division with two far out of range victories and a third one over Texas Quidditch that was on the cusp of being out of range. That’s the kind of performance that makes Kansas look like the team to beat at USQ Cup 12. And they seem to have only gotten better since then, avenging their earlier TCQC loss with an in-range catch win at Kansas Cup. Just watching Kansas play other college teams, it looks like grown adults playing high schoolers, it’s not even fair some times. With most of their wins being far out of range and their only losses this year coming from Boom Train, TCQC, and local rival Mizzou, consistency has also been on Kansas’s side, and should help them avoid a rough path to the finals on Day 2 of Nationals. If they can avoid the terrible luck they’ve had at the past two cups, Kansas could finally be the team that breaks the streak and brings a USQ Championship to a third region. In a few short days, we’ll find out.