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2021 Pre-Season Analysis Empty 2021 Pre-Season Analysis

Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:35 pm
Hello AMTA community!

We at Mock Analysis Is My Drug are extremely excited for the unofficial beginning of the AMTA season with the case release on coming up any day now! We’re all about to dive headfirst into preparing the case for early season invitationals.

As we do each year we decided to make some predictions before we get any indications from the case about which programs might and might not be successful. So we put our heads together and created everything below so that we can start a discussion about where every program stands and where they’ll go moving forward. This post has 3 parts: (1) our MAIMD top 15 Power Rankings for the upcoming season, (2) a list of individual competitors to look out for, and (3), some predictions for this year’s tournament results.

Two additional notes this year: (1) You may notice that our usual table of who graduated from the teams at NCT is missing. It will be back next year, but since there was no 2020 NCT we didn’t have anything to base it on. (2) We recognize that some of our predictions may be based on less complete information than we usually have. There will be competitors who are missing this year because they have had to take gap years for COVID and AMTA’s eligibility rules won’t allow them to compete while they are away. We know about some of these cases but by no means all of them. There will be programs who excel at translating to the online format (and new time constraints) and move up relative to their prior ranking and programs who fall short. We have done our best to predict this based on styles, but there is a lot about online that still remains to be seen.

Everything here is meant to start a discussion. We don’t expect everything we have to be correct or that everyone will agree with us. But we hope that you find this post interesting and engaging as we transition into another exciting year of mock trial!

Top 15 Power Rankings

Mock Analysis is My Drug is pleased to include our Preseason Top 15 Power Rankings. These rankings were based on a composite of the rankings of all of our contributors, based on our own competitive experiences from previous seasons as well as tab summary analysis and number-crunching. These rankings are meant to reflect overall team power from the very first invitational all the way to the National Championship. We recognize that these types of rankings are inherently subjective.

1) Virginia A:
You might be surprised to see Virginia at the top of our rankings this year. The last image we have of the 2019-20 AMTA season was Virginia A going 5-3 at the Cincinnati ORCS and failing to earn a bid to the 2020 NCT. And they’re graduating TBC top 5 finisher Dan Peale. So the recent storylines on UVA would make you think that they should be further down in these rankings. But the reason we’ve ranked them higher this year is because we think that this team will come back hungry. It’s true they’re graduating Peale, but he is the only graduating member from the team that won Great Chicago Fire, so they still have a lot of talent on the returning team. UVA’s B team, who earned a bid to NCT, also had a lot of strong competitors who can fill in for what this A team might be lacking. The online format should also benefit UVA because they are a program that prioritizes clean and polished performances with easy to follow content and interesting demos—all of which has been shown (through Trial by Combat and One Last Time) to be particularly successful in online mock trial. Finally, UVA has managed consistent success at the NCT even immediately following rough performances at ORCS. In short, if this team has the motivation to come back and avenge their 2020 ORCS finish, then we think they can go all the way.

2) Rhodes A:
A paragon of consistency, Rhodes comes into the season with the longest active streak of qualifying for the National Championship Tournament. In recent years they’ve weathered the retirement of their longtime coach, Marcus Pohlmann, as well as the graduations of immensely strong competitors like Jennifer Bitterly and Kelsey McClain. So it would just be silly to predict anything other than a top finish at the 2021 NCT for Rhodes College. But this year in particular marks a lot of attrition for Rhodes. They’re graduating three senior attorneys: TBC second chair Jeena Piriano, TBC competitor Richard Madden, and 2019 final round opener Matthew Broussard. That’s a lot to lose. But in our own words, from last year’s preseason post, “we’ve seen this movie before.” Every year Rhodes has attrition and every year they come right back, qualify to Nationals, and place well. Led by longtime coach and former final round competitor Anna Eldridge, we expect nothing but chalk from this Rhodes team.

3) Miami A:
Rounding out our top three are the (somehow still) reigning national champions, Miami. This is a team with a lot going for them. They have a coaching staff that is right up there with the best in the country, led by Neal Schuett. They have TBC alternate Katie Hunt and TBC second chair Kayla Groneck returning to lead their team. And they are one of the quintessential system programs, which creates almost guaranteed success. Of course, there are some potentially worrying signs. Miami just graduated team leaders Maddie Witte and Trisha Chatterjee. And ever since the 2018 NCT, Miami has disappointed whenever they’ve gone up against the very top level of competition. They placed second in their Nationals division in 2019, but that was after getting swept in Round 1 and then carving their way through the bottom of the bracket. At this year’s GCF, Miami went 2-6, winning their 2 ballots against the bye buster. So you can come up with the argument that Miami is going to perform well, but will have trouble at the top levels of NCT. We think that the historical dominance of this team is a better indicator of how they can do and we predict a very strong finish for the Redhawks.

4) UCLA A:
UCLA is the most consistent team on the West Coast, consistently advancing 4+ teams to ORCS and advancing two teams to Nationals over the past two years. UCLA is known for their dynamic, dramatic performances—as both attorneys and witnesses. Despite UCLA graduating a decent amount of their A and B team members, we have no doubt that their younger members will fill those spots seamlessly. The name to watch on UCLA is Gladiator winner Audrey Shephard. Entering her junior year, she has already earned a spot on A team in her first year in the program and made her name known in the AMTA community by earning awards at both GAMTI and CUBAIT. UCLA A has consistently come close to the final round but hasn’t been there since 2014, and we think this could be the year that they get there.

5) Yale A:
Yale is an interesting case this year. From 2015-2019, they had a five year streak of dominance at NCT making the final round every year. Based on the most recent Nationals results, then they should be at the top of our list. But the Yale team we will be seeing this year is not the Yale team that we saw at the last nationals. That team was decimated by the sanctions and by now few if any of them remain. They also just graduated half of the 2020 team, including their remaining, non-sanctioned All Americans. This means that the Yale team will include at most one or two members who have been on their top NCT teams, and with last year’s NCT being cancelled they didn’t get a chance to train any more. This team will be young and inexperienced, and in an uncoached program that really matters. On the other hand, Yale has succeeded in taking very young, very inexperienced teams to the NCT final before, and they seem to defy wild odds to do it enough that we should just expect it by this point. Their system seems to be particularly effective at putting teams into the top of their NCT division even when they don’t have the experience of the programs around them. So we would be unwise to count them out. It also remains to be seen how their style will play online this year. They tend to lack polish and rely on a flashy style. But they also have a talent for catching attention and pursuing simple, captivating story lines. We will see if Yale’s wild streak of high performance continues.

6-Tie) Duke A:
Duke’s style has shown itself to be amazingly effective at online mock trials. Some of this is simply the phenomenal performance of TBC champion, Sonali Mehta. But other Duke competitors including witness Georgia Lala and attorney Tristan Malhotra have also seen success with this style in the past few months. Duke keeps the Coach that took Sonali to a TBC championship and the Duke team to a win at OLT, Eric Roytman. Thus we have to balance the loss of a number of amazing competitors (including all of those listed above) this year with the introduction with a competition format they are obviously good at. It remains to be seen whether the success of Duke’s program in the online format was more attributable to their style being successful with the online format (which would suggest a meteoric rise this year) or to their phenomenal graduating class (which could lead to problems now that that class is gone). Keep an eye out on Duke in the fall to see if their online run continues.

6-Tie) Patrick Henry A:
Patrick Henry is a relatively new program, having only been formed in 2008, but it has been steadily on the rise for the last few years. At the last nationals in 2019, they took fourth in their division. That team had three members who were young enough to still be around this season. And Patrick Henry had a pretty strong recruitment year last year too. Last year they placed consistently well at invites (including being poised to play Tufts for a spot in the final at GCF). Unfortunately, they never got to compete at ORCS since they were assigned to Memphis, but they looked ready to start another successful run to Nationals. Patrick Henry takes the slow polished style common in the Mid-Atlantic region to an extreme. This may be an advantage in that it will not produce the unforced errors that seem to be ever more important in online mock. On the other hand, the extreme drop in speed may make the already low energy online trials even lower energy. Given the adaptability they have shown to new circumstances in recent years, however, we expect them to find a way to make it work and excel.

8 ) Tufts A
After missing out on the NCT in 2016 and 2017, Tufts has earned Nationals bids three years in a row and the student-run program has become one of the most difficult teams to beat in the Northeast. They had a number of impressive showings this past year, most notably a 7-0-1 finish at the Great Chicago Fire, which earned them a spot in the final round. While they graduate All-American Witness Arvind Goday and two OLT champions in Steven Becker and Isabel Pentland, Tufts has has a deep bench of young talent to pull from, with 3 of its 4 teams earning bids to ORCS and Tufts B missing out on an NCT bid by just a half-point in CS. Returners like All-American Witness William Porter, All-National Attorney Bennett Demsky, and GCF-award-winning opener Oliver Marsden—who is coming back for a 5th year—form a formidable core for this Tufts team. Their style is classic northeast mock trial: big characters, crazy theories, and aggressive cross-examination. We won’t be surprised if the Tufts group’s meteoric success carries over from last season; whether or not their style will translate to Zoom remains an open question.

9) Ohio State A
Rapidly becoming one of the top programs in AMTA, the Buckeyes will want to cement that in 2020-21. It will, of course, be difficult after graduating players like TBC semifinalist Matt Besman, his OLT co-counsel and TBC coach, Maddie Driscoll, and online witness competition champion Anna Defendiefer. In fact, Ohio State was one of the schools who was able to fill an entire OLT team with graduating seniors from their A team. But we think this team will still be able to compete at the highest level. They’re returning players like Tamara Joseph and TBC second chair Clay Owens from their A team. And OSU B is one of, if not the best B team in the entire country. One question we have is whether the Ohio State style, which prioritizes devastating responsiveness and loud courtroom presence, will translate to an online format particularly well. But this team was a favorite heading into the 2020 NCT after going 7-1 at ORCS, and we expect that same success to continue this year.

10) Chicago A
University of Chicago mock trial is quite possibly the team with the most talent in the entire country. Consistently, Chicago shows themselves to be a team that makes smart arguments and runs characters that aren’t run of the mill mock. And they are one of the few top teams nationwide that isn’t graduating a large portion of their team. But it hurts when the competitor they are graduating is two time TBC competitor Regina Campbell. Campbell has been a cornerstone of this team for years, both double closing and captaining. This team returns strong players like Sahil Nerurkar and Henry Hopcraft. They’ve experienced success with their B and C teams (both of which competed at GCF this year) and have an established track record of succeeding at Nationals. Led by head coach Sam Jahangir, we think that this team has a strong chance of placing well at the 2021 NCT. The thing that will determine their ceiling is if they can replace the sheer star power that Campbell brought to every single round.

11) UMBC A:
UMBC is led by the best attorney in AMTA right now: Sydney Gaskins. She’s won an award on both sides of the case at nearly every tournament she’s been to in the past two seasons—particularly an All-American award and a double 20-rank award at the Lancaster ORCS—and she competed in the 2020 TBC Final Round as the only non-senior competitor in the field. But UMBC isn’t just a one-woman show. While they are losing a standout opener in Ethan Hudson, the team is largely the same one that took 7 ballots in Lancaster this past March and came very close to the final round the year before. They retain three standout witnesses in GAMTI award-winner Thomas Kiley, All-National Witness Dominique Ross, and Natalie Murray. With the core of UMBC’s A team intact and a solid B team to pull from, coach Ben Garmoe should have little trouble bringing his program back to Nationals to challenge for a final round berth. And having the best player in the country certainly won’t hurt.

12) Stanford A:
Stanford is one of the major powerhouse teams on the West Coast. Led by coach Thom Scher, Stanford’s qualified a team to Nationals for the past 6 years and has done well at almost every single one. Stanford is known for their clean, consistent style and their creative theories. The star of Stanford’s A team will be Elizabeth Grant, who won both regional and ORCS awards this past year despite being a sophomore on a majority senior bench. One concern about Stanford is that they graduated 3/7 of their A team and their B team failed to advance to ORCS this year. While there is some concern there, we expect their B team members to step up and be one of the top teams on the West Coast once again.

13) UC Irvine A:
UC Irvine is returning most of their A team bench including Regionals and ORCS award winners Joseph Colarian and Carolyn Bousmail. UCI has had a roller coaster of results the past few years where they almost made the final round three years ago, then they barely missed out on nationals and then this year they earned their spot back at nationals earning first place at the Santa Monica ORCS. If this year is anything like last year, UCI will be at nationals fighting for their spot in the final round once again! The only concern is will this be more like last year, or more like 2019. Only time will tell.

14) Georgia Tech A:
Led by the now former AMTA President, Will Warihay, Georgia Tech has risen to and stayed in national prominence over the past few years. And the Yellow Jacket system has been shown to be successful in the online format as well, with the GT team making it all the way to the OLT final last month. Tech has had two consecutive years of graduating strong and important competitors, so we’ll be curious to see if their attrition ends up affecting their performance in any way during the 2020-21 season. Despite the potential for attrition to affect their performance, the return of strong competitors like Sanjay Sridhar and Elizabeth Phillips will help ensure that Georgia Tech continues to have strong performances.

15) Northwestern A:
Northwestern has a lot of talent this year. With All-Americans in short supply after the cancellation of the 2020 NCT, they have two: 2018 All-American Attorney Michael Zhou, and 2019 All-American Witness Olivia O’Brien. They also have rising junior Ruby Scanlon who was one of our most highly awarded individuals last year and earned a perfect 20 ranks at GCF. But this team’s track record suggests that having a lot of talented individuals doesn't solve everything. Last year they had the same talented individuals struggle at Invites for most of the season and then fail to get an NCT bid at ORCS. On the other hand, their B team did get an NCT bid--and has done so every year for the past three years. We expect those B team competitors to come into this year eager to arrest any questions about whether their ORCS triumph was a fluke; and returners on A with a drive to prove that they deserve to hold onto their top spots. On top of that, Northwestern has shown success putting together teams that make it to NCT even without this kind of talent in the past. If this talent pool pulls together it has the potential to be great, but the question for Northwestern is whether they can make that happen.

Individual Competitors to Watch 2020-21

We analyzed tab summaries from the past three seasons as well as compiled thoughts based on the rounds that each of our contributors have seen. From that analysis, we’ve crafted a list of accomplished individual competitors returning for the upcoming season that we think will perform particularly well. Some of these individuals made the list for taking an extraordinary number of awards this year, others may have taken fewer awards (particularly if they were overshadowed by someone who has now graduated), but based on our experiences with these individuals we think all of them will be stand outs this year. Please let us know who we’ve missed - we’re certain we don’t have every elite competitor in the country on this list!

NameSchoolYear (Rising)2019-20 AwardsRelevant extras
Carolyn BousmailUC IrvineSeniorRegionals, ORCS
Zoe ChangRutgersSeniorMumbo Jumbo, CUBAIT, Regionals x2, ORCS
Kynzie ClarkYaleJuniorBlack Squirrel2019 NCT Final, TBC Second Chair
Catherine ColeEmoryJuniorColonel Classic, Regionals x2TBC Alternate
Benjamin CrosbyPatrick HenryJuniorGCF x22019 All-American
Bennett DemskyTuftsJuniorMumbo Jumbo, Yale, Hilltop, Regionals, ORCSTBC Second Chair
Evan DonaldsonFordham LCSeniorBlack Squirrel, CUBAIT, Regionals, ORCS
Raahema DurraniVirginiaSeniorGCF, ORCS2020 GCF Final
Alexandra FarinaColumbiaSeniorMumbo Jumbo, Yale, RegionalsTBC Second Chair
Sydney GaskinsUMBCSeniorCharm City, Black Squirrel, CUBAIT, Regionals x2, ORCS x2TBC Final, TBC 2019
Elizabeth GrantStanfordJuniorRegionals, ORCSTBC Second Chair
Katelyn HuntMiamiSeniorCornshucker, GCFTBC Alternate
Tamara JosephOhio StateJuniorHappy Valley, ORCS
Riya LakkarajuEmoryJuniorClassic City, Carolina ClassicTBC Second Chair
Montana LoveYaleJuniorMumbo Jumbo, Yale
Indiyah MabryVirginiaJuniorWilliam & Mary, Black Squirel, GAMTI x2, GCF2020 GCF Final
Kathryn MachanicWesleyanJuniorYale, Regionals, ORCS2019 All-American
Clay OwensOhio StateSeniorORCSTBC Second Chair
Hannah PeralaSouth CarolinaJuniorHabbeus Hippopotomus, Peach Bowl, CUBAIT, Ramblin' Wreck, Regionals x22019 All American
Zophia Pittman-JonesCincinnatiJuniorHabbeus Hippopotomus, Scarlet & Grey, Ramblin' Wreck, ORCS
Will PorterTuftsSeniorMumbo Jumbo x22018 All-American, 2020 GCF Final
Ruby ScanlonNorthwesternJuniorSpartan, Black Squirrel, Yale, GCF
Audrey ShepardUCLAJuniorGAMTI, CUBAITGladiator winner
Gurbir SinghUC BerkeleySeniorGAMTI, GCF, Regionals
Olivia O'BrienNorthwesternSeniorNone at Top2019 All-American
Emil ZakarianDukeJuniorGAMTI, Regionals
Alex WilkersonWashington & LeeJuniorHappy Valley, ToRo, Soda City, Carolina Classic

Mock Analysis is My Drug Preseason Predictions

Below, we’ve included our predictions for how some major events will turn out in the 2020-21 season. These are the result of a lot of discussion and debate among our contributors. As you would expect, and appropriate of the inherent subjectivity of mock trial, we weren’t able to reach a consensus on any of the questions. But the predictions below represent the majority opinion of our group. We’re particularly excited to revisit this list at the end of the year and see how we did! If you have other predictions like these feel free to share them.            

NCT Champion: Virginia

NCT Final Teams: Virginia, Yale

Most Likely for B Team to Outplace A Team: Ohio State

Most Likely to be Undefeated Through Regionals and ORCS: Rhodes

Most Likely to Get Two Teams to NCT: Rhodes

GAMTI Champion: Virginia

GCF Champion: Chicago

Best Attorney: Sydney Gaskins, UMBC

Best Witness: Will Porter, Tufts
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