Q2 Homestretch 2012: West Region
5W Rat City's June 23 game with 6W Bay Area will be a key test -- Bay has already faced tough competition with Rocky Mountain and Denver this year, while Rat City hasn't played a single game yet. Photo: Axle Adams.
UPDATE 4:30 CT -- Updated to reflect results of VRDL / Silicon Valley at Dust Devil.
With the second quarter WFTDA rankings period closing at the end of the month, June's bouts represent the final chances for teams to solidify their seeding for the September and October regional tournaments -- or claim an invite by breaking into their region's top ten.
This week, DNN takes a four-part look at how the playoff picture is shaping up over the final five weeks of the WFTDA "regular season." On Monday we examined the East region and Tuesday covered the North Central; Wednesday London bureau chief Lex Talionis dug into the South Central and today our series concludes in the West.
Although 1W Oly has won the West in two out of the last three years and appeared in every WFTDA championship game since 2009, they're an enormous question mark in 2012. With only one game so far -- a 169-66 win over 9W Jet City in March -- and a roster that has both added and lost immense talent, it's nearly impossible to confidently predict what Oly is capable of in any given game this year. But as of today, it's not completely clear whether Oly will even be able to qualify for the WFTDA postseason.
Per organization rules, a team must play at least two sanctioned in-region games prior to July 1st to be able to qualify for that year's playoffs. Oly has one such game so far, a 169-66 win over 9W Jet City, and another game coming up on June 30 against WFTDA apprentice league Sac City.
This makes tomorrow's scheduled announcement of new WFTDA member leagues particularly key for Oly. If Sac City graduates on June 1 from apprentice to full member league, their game with Oly will count as Oly's second sanctioned in-region game -- but if they don't, Oly could find themselves shut out of the playoffs. (WFTDA officials did not respond to requests for comment on the subject.)
Even if Oly does play their qualifying game, it's still anybody's guess as to how the WFTDA voters will interpret their play against highly overmatched regional competition in a year that's seen the traditional power structure of the West crumble.
The Big … 7?
Over the last couple of years, the top teams in the region -- Oly, Rocky Mountain, Rose City, Rat City, Denver and Bay Area -- have become unofficially known as the Big Six due to their national competitiveness and the significant dropoff in regional parity below them. (At last year's Western Playoffs, games between a Big Six member and a team seeded 7-10 were decided by an average of 225 points, while games involving two members of the Big Six were decided by an average of just 26). Current 10W Arizona seems to be poised to elbow their way into that club this year, following their 9 point loss to Rocky Mountain in April.
Arizona's current ranking at 10 seems to be a result of some voters taking that result against Rocky Mountain into consideration and some ignoring it. Per WFTDA policy, only games from a specific quarter (January-March, April-June) are supposed to be considered when ranking, but the delay between the end of the first quarter and the closing of its ranking vote allowed Arizona / RMRG to fall in that nebulous window. It's likely that the next ranking vote will more fully reflect that game.
Putting the Oly mystery aside, a series of head-to-head results from the rest of the year would seem to put current 3W Rose City in the driver's seat in the region. Rose City defeated 4W Denver, who in turn defeated 6W Bay Area and 2W Rocky Mountain; Bay Area also defeated Rocky Mountain, who in turn defeated Arizona.
Rocky Mountain, Denver and Arizona are all done with regional play for the regular season; Rose City has one more regional game against 7W Sacred City, but the skill gap there makes it unlikely that the result will affect Rose City's current standing.
That makes a solid case for playoff seeding of Rose City > Denver > Bay Area > Rocky Mountain > Arizona, which means that June 23's match between 5W Rat City and Bay Area will be key for determining where the Seattle crew ends up. Like the North Central's Detroit, Rat City has not played a single sanctioned game thus far this year, and there's no way to tell whether that will work for or against them.
Four Five Teams?
Arizona's ascent will likely leave three spots available for other teams. Up until very recently, it looked like current 8W Angel City and 7W Sacred City were locks for two of those spots, but a stunner of an upset on May 19 from 15W Wasatch over Angel City, 145-141, has recently blown up the rankings logic -- particularly with Angel City's equally narrow win over Sacred, 143-137, on May 5.
Also in the mix are unranked VRDL and current 9W Jet City, who are particularly tough to figure as they finished their regional play on March 18. Wasatch nearly beat them as well very early in the season at the Big O, where Jet City eked out a 117-112 victory.
However, it's Jet City's other game at the Big O that might prove to be their undoing -- they lost by 2 points to current 12W Silicon Valley. With VRDL whomping Silicon Valley by 135 points at Dust Devil, that could allow VRDL to sneak by even with VRDL's 44 point loss to Angel City on the same weekend.
Wasatch plays Silicon Valley and 17W Santa Cruz June 23 and 24 in a weekend that's suddenly taken on more impact; if Wasatch gets convincing wins against both teams, that would likely be enough to bring Wasatch up to the top of the Angel / Sacred / VRDL / Jet clump. A win for Silicon Valley would definitely be good news for Jet City and VRDL, but it's hard to predict whether Angel City, Sacred City or Wasatch would suffer most as a result.
Both Angel City and Sacred City have one more chance to make their own case for a better ranking, though they'll have to deal with very strong competition to do it. Angel City hosts Rat City on June 17 and Sacred City hosts Rose City on June 30.
Of course, there's also the possibility that Oly will fail to qualify for the postseason, which would allow four of the five to get into the top ten.
Just a Little Short
Over the course of the first five months of the season, there were a few teams that looked like they might be able to make the playoffs, but ran into some seemingly fatal results along the way:
11W Tucson lost by 132 points to Angel City in April; with the tightness of the Angel City / Sacred City / Wasatch / Jet City clump, it's hard to see how they can get in there with no regional games in June.
12W Silicon Valley had the early-season win over Jet City at the Big O, but was bashed by both #16W Terminal City and unranked Victorian at Dust Devil.
14W Emerald City came within 2 points of Silicon Valley at the Big O, but couldn't keep momentum and had their final hope snuffed out when Tucson beat them by 40 in May.