Midwest Regional Preview

This weekend in Rockford, Ill., the IQA’s largest region descends to determine which 15 teams will represent the Midwest at World Cup VII.

The pools have been set, the schedules posted and the rest of the IQA will be watching closely to see how the arguably deepest and least-predictable region will shake out not just for those top 15 spots, but number one in the Midwest. The weather this weekend is slated to be classic for Midwest quidditch--brisk and windy in the upper 40s. Will the play on the field be just as timeless?

Pool One: University of Kansas, Eastern Michigan University, University of Missouri, Ohio University, Falcon Warriors
Pool Two: Ohio State University, Michigan State University, Southern Illinois University, University of Minnesota, Grand Valley State University
Pool Three: Central Michigan University, Miami University, University of Michigan, Illinois State University, TC Frost
Pool Four: Ball State University, Marquette University, Purdue University, the Mighty Bucks, Northwestern University
Pool Five: Bowling Green State University, Crimson Warhawks, University of Toledo, Loyola University-Chicago, Iowa State University, Indiana University South Bend

Instead of your traditional analysis of the tournament, we decided to tackle the big questions.

Can any of the top teams separate from the pack?
The general consensus is that the five number one seeds--University of Kansas, Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University, Ball State University, and Central Michigan University (CMU)--are the five teams in contention for the Midwest title. All five teams have strong arguments for and against taking this weekend’s title.

Kansas enjoyed a run to the Elite Eight at World Cup VI but graduated some of their best quaffle players after the season. A surprising loss to Wichita State University at last weekend’s Kansas Cup shows Kansas may still be adjusting to the new talent it brought in. Central Michigan has improved the most of these five from last season. It took down Michigan State in overtime to take the Mid-Michigan Melee on October 5, but failed to capitalize on a number one bracket seed at Phoenix Cup last weekend, losing to Bowling Green State University in the semi-finals.

Bowling Green has been the most questioned team so far this fall after losing two of its top male beaters, but with an added infusion of new talent at chaser, Bowling Green’s only loss thus far was within snitch range to Ohio State. Ball State University has had the least amount of turnover and allegedly have yet to bring a full-strength roster to any fall tournaments. However, Ball State has lost twice to Ohio State and once each to University of Maryland and Penn State University. Ohio State has had the most successful fall season and is undefeated, but in its win against Ball State in September at The Tournament of the Stars, the team was down 20 at the snitch grab.

Of these five teams, no one has been able to convincingly put their stamp at the pinnacle of the region. This weekend, with every roster at full strength and every eye on them, we will have a champion determined, but will the question be answered? From fall results thus far, I am going to say no. Once the Midwest Cup reaches the semifinals, expect every match to come down to a seeker game.

Could another team disrupt the top five’s hold on the region?
I think this question should be split into two: will any of these top five teams drop games to anyone besides each other? Are any of these teams serious title contenders?

To answer the first question, look no further than the hyped “pools of death,” pools two and three. Pool two (number one seed: Ohio State) features traditional Midwest powers Michigan State and Minnesota State University, as well as an up-and-coming Southern Illinois University. Michigan State was an overtime grab away from taking down CMU and Southern Illinois had an impressive victory over the South’s Tennessee Tech early in September. Minnesota has yet to be seen this year, which may play in its favor as no one expects such a deep program to lack in talent.

Pool three (number one seed: Central Michigan) might be even deeper: a Michigan squad that may be better than last year, a Miami team that has a renewed focus on physicality, WCVI qualifiers Illinois State and a massive wildcard in the community team TC Frost. TC Frost features a mix of graduated Minnesota players with members from UM’s intramural system. All of the above mentioned teams have a great chance to take down their number one seeds if they are not taken seriously.

In the other pools, upset potential still exists. Pool one (number one seed: Kansas) features a Missouri team that is very familiar with its Border War foe and an Eastern Michigan squad that prides itself in physicality. Pool five (number one seed: Bowling Green) has one extra team and, thus, one extra game for the Falcons. Look for the Crimson Warhawks and University of Toledo to try to catch Bowling Green exhausted later in pool play. In pool four (number one seed: Ball State), last year’s regional champions Marquette University will hope to shake off its early season rust and massive roster turnover to prepare for a rematch of last year’s intense Midwest semi-final.

But can any of these teams seriously contend past the quarterfinals on Sunday? I do not see many of these teams being able to take down the top five without serious help from snitches, weather or poor preparation on the number one seed’s part. Michigan and Michigan State are the most likely two, but Minnesota and Marquette may be able to sneak into the conversation as well since so little is known about their rosters. The other teams will need to show something new to enter the title conversation.

With 15 total spots, what teams will qualify for their first World Cup? And will any team not return from last year?
The first “new” team is obvious: Central Michigan--who only went to Kissimmee, Fla. after other teams dropped out. CMU lost an intense battle to Illinois State in a win-or-go-home match at last year’s Midwest Cup but has way too much talent to even consider not making it. Miami University is another likely bid. A Division II WCVI semi-finalist, Miami has shown the improvement necessary to make it out of pool three in good enough condition to secure a spot on Sunday. All of the other teams mentioned from question two also have very good chances of qualifying for North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Of the yet to be mentioned squads, pay attention to Bowling Green and Ohio State’s new B-teams, the Falcon Warriors and the Mighty Bucks. Both teams benefit from practicing with the some of the Midwest’s best talent and each feature a few members of last year’s WCVI rosters.

Last year’s official qualifiers are all expected to make the World Cup for another year, but nothing is set in stone. University of Loyola-Chicago--who also attended WCVI when other teams dropped out--has not looked as strong this season and is going to need to raise its level of play to return. Purdue University is expected to qualify but showed some offensive struggles in its first tournament, Phoenix Cup, last weekend and may need to rely heavily on seeker play in a seeker-heavy region. It also needs to be mentioned that as high the ceiling is for Marquette and Minnesota, the floor could be just as low due to their lack of tournament experience this season.

Bold Predictions: The 15 Qualifiers and Midwest Champion
15. Falcon Warriors
14. Marquette University
13. University of Toledo
12. Purdue University
11. Miami University
10. University of Minnesota
9. Crimson Warhawks
8. University of Missouri
7. Michigan State University
6. University of Kansas
5. University of Michigan
4. Ball State University
3. Bowling Green State University
2. Central Michigan University
1. Ohio State University

Why Ohio State University? For all of the uncertainty surrounding the top five teams, only one thing is for sure this early in the season, the Buckeyes are undefeated and no one else is. Any of the teams listed in the top seven have a legitimate shot to the throne, but Ohio State has appeared the most dominant through its first two tournaments. I am picking Ohio State simply because it has not lost yet. However, everyone knows the season is young and with the deepest region all gunning for a chance to take down the best teams, Ohio State will have the biggest target on its back. Only the play on the pitch this weekend will tell if any of these top teams are ready for that pressure.