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2019 ORCS Analysis Empty 2019 ORCS Analysis

Tue Nov 19, 2019 11:26 pm
By The Numbers:

We begin by breaking down these fields by a couple of statistical categories. As usual we have given you the average TPR points and the average rank of the teams in each ORCS. This should give a sense of what the average difficulty of any round might be. We have also taken a look at the top 5 teams in each ORCS to see what the difficulty of the top rounds will look like and how much strength will have to be displaced in order for teams to get bids.

A warning though: this looks entirely at the TPR/Rank data based on previous years. There will be teams that overperform or underperform if they have improved significantly year over year or if they had heavy attrition. The overall numbers may be warped by a high number of low-ranked or unranked teams--that’s why we included the average rank of the top five teams and noted all the nationals returners in our analysis of each ORC.

2019 ORCS Analysis Maimdc12

By the numbers alone, Hamilton is the hardest ORCS in every category with a strong overall field and a strong top pack. Hamilton is closely followed by the two Northeastern ORCS (no surprise), Chestnut Hill and Central Islip.

Following the Northeast we have Richmond which is right at the median difficulty or slightly harder in every category, Santa Monica who is rated as above median difficulty for their overall field but has a weaker top 5 group, and Decatur which had a top 5 group just above the median but has a large collection of open bids brining the overall field down to one of the easiest rated on average.

We then have three ORCS that are consistently rated below the median in every category: Geneva, Cedar Rapids, and Memphis. Geneva is the most difficult of this group with ratings just below the median in each category, followed by Cedar Rapids tagging along just behind them. By far the easiest ORCS (by the numbers at least) this year is Memphis, which is consistently ranked as one of the easiest in every category.

Finally, an overall thought about this year’s ORCS: This year’s ORCS is the most difficult in history due to the addition of a 9th ORC. This means that there are more teams than ever competing for the same number of spots at the National Championship. With only 5 bids out of each tournament, the competition will be fierce, and even one misstep can cost a team a shot at the National Championship. It is even possible that we may even see a 6-2 team fail to earn a direct bid out of ORCS - that’s how brutal this year’s competition is. In fact, there were two ORCS last year where the 6th-place team earned a record of 6-2. In the new format, they would not have qualified. This change also means that for the first time in recent history, the Open Bid List for the National Championship will be relevant as a way for a very few 6-2 or 5.5-1.5  teams to qualify for the championship. With case changes, a short turnaround time, and the inherent randomness of mock trial, ORCS is an unpredictable tournament at the best of times. This year more than ever, we expect that many of our predictions will be proven wrong.

Cedar Rapids
7 Nationals Returners: Chicago A, Indiana A, Northwestern A, WUSTL A, Iowa A, Minnesota A, Northwestern B
Top 50 teams: 5
Top 100 teams: 12
Top 150 teams: 14
Top 200 teams: 16

First In:
Chicago A
Indiana A
Northwestern A

Cornell College A
Iowa A
Minnesota A
Chicago B
Northwestern B

Initial Thoughts:
TPR be damned, this is a hard ORC. Flush with historically strong programs trying to make a return to prominence (Iowa, WUSTL, Minnesota, Cornell College), superpowers who never dropped off (Chicago, Northwestern), and newcomers to the national scene who have shown dominance in recent years (Indiana) this ORC boasts the highest number of Nationals returners for any ORC in the country (seven). Illinois, too, boast nationals experience within the past three years (2017) and will look to shake off a wobbly Regionals performance for their A team (5-3, though their B went 7-1). While WUSTL, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois all have National Championship experience, their results at previous National Championships show that they still have their work cut out for them getting out of ORCS. Programs like Northwestern and Chicago are known for their depth and both qualified their B teams last year (Chicago A did not qualify last year, but competed at Nationals off their B team’s bid) and, although Chicago B failed to bid out of Regionals this year, their C and D teams picked up the slack to both secure bids and allay any concerns about the program’s depth.  We expect that this tournament will treat these top teams to some easy matchups in the early rounds, with the possibility for early heartbreak if a top team ends up on the wrong side of the bracket in rounds one or two. However these early rounds shake out, round three is going to hurt when some of these top teams match up--and round four is going to be a must-win for every team competing. We expect tears come Sunday afternoon and that some of these teams will have to pin their hopes on the three open bids to Nationals available this year.

Team to Watch: Northwestern A.

A success story from last year and perennial Nationals presence (discounting an errant performance in 2016-17), Northwestern is looking to build on their strong performance from the AMTA season in 2018. Despite a middling performance at a flight of top-tier invitationals this winter (4-4 at Yale, 5-3 at GCF, 2-6 at Downtown), they were one of only two teams in the entire country to have a perfect 8-0 record at ORCS last year (along with Stanford) and are on track to repeating their in-season success. They were one of only 7 programs in the country to have two teams qualify to the National Championship Tournament. And that success culminated in a top-10 finish at Nationals with three program All-Americans, two of whom returned to the program this year.

This team has lost some institutional strength after graduating three seniors, two of whom double-sided. The loss that probably smarts the most is that of captain, double closer, and current Harvard Law student Joy Holden. But despite the losses they’ve suffered, the Wildcats don’t seem to be slowing down. They went 8-0 at Regionals, and still boast strong competitors like Sarah Walther (an all-Regional and all-ORC witness), Olivia O’Brien (top-ranked witness at Lawrence Regionals), MTCBIAU celebrity Kate Hayner-Slattery, and All-American Nick Anderson. And we don’t know how exactly they’re filling the gaps left by the losses of Holden and her fellow seniors, but they have a pretty strong cast of competitors to choose from. One such option is Michael Zhou, who earned an All-American attorney award on the B team at Nats last year (the same B team that took a ballot off of UVA A on the side Zhou was an All-American). We’re eager to see how the Wildcats do at ORCS this upcoming weekend.

Central Islip
6 Nationals Returners: Cornell A, NYU A, Rutgers A, Cornell B, NYU B, Lafayette A
Top 50 teams: 8
Top 100 teams: 10
Top 150 teams: 13
Top 200 teams: 17

First In:
Cornell A

Rutgers A
Columbia A
Lafayette A
Richmond A
Fordham LC A

Initial Thoughts:
Up at the top of this field we have two programs who have dominated their ORCS field and done well at nationals in recent years: NYU and Cornell. Both managed to pull two teams through to nationals last year from Lancaster (last year’s hardest ORCS). We expect the A teams from these programs to do exceptionally well as this year’s ORCS as well, with any holes from last years roster being filled by people from their top performing B teams. These programs have both, however, shown difficulties with depth in recent weeks leading us not to put their B teams on the Bubble. NYU’s B team failed to even attend regionals, dropping out unexpectedly at the last minute, and their C team (the team actually represented by the B team spot at this ORCS) barely scraped a bid at regionals even while pulled along by their president, Lindsey China. The volatility in NYU’s program could certainly be seen as a weakness, but any team in Central Islip should underestimate them at their peril. Unlike NYU, Cornell’s B team did attend regionals. However, Cornell B failed to qualify for ORCS despite being at the National Championship less than a year ago - thankfully for Cornell, their C team scraped through to keep Cornell’s hopes of qualifying 2 teams to the NCT again alive. We still expect Cornell A to do very well here, led by Steven Torres, who has had a breakout season and been accepted to Trial by Combat. In fact, 3 of the 8 accepted competitors (Claudine Isaac, Steven Torres, and Mike Kleynman) will be competing in Central Islip, and we will be interested to see if any of these top competitors get a chance to go head-to-head before this summer’s competition.

Following our top two programs we have a whole collection of schools who sometimes make nationals but don’t always. Rutgers has made it the last couple of years but came off a dry spell of a few years before that. They have performed well at invites this year, so they should hope to pull through (particularly with their top competitor, double threat, and TBC alum Mike Kleynman). Columbia was riding a string of top performances up until last year, when despite a strong invite season they failed to qualify out of ORCS. This year they have again had solid performances at invites, but they have been missing some of the star power they once had with Nick Zurawski and Rachel Sommers both having graduated, and it showed in their 5-3 performance at the State College regionals where they dropped ballots to both NYU C and Penn State C. Lafayette made it to nationals last year and surprised us all by being in the top round against Miami by round 4 of the tournament. We admit that we underestimated them last year - we fully deserved the call out at last year’s NCT.  They will be hoping to make it back this year, but we will see if lightning can strike twice. Lancaster is a judging pool that is likely to favor them far more than Long Island, and Lafayette has struggled a bit to put up top performances in the invitational season. Richmond and Fordham both failed to make it to nationals last year after having made it for several years previously. Both have done reasonably well in the invite season and at regionals. Neither is likely to pack quite the star power of some of the other Northeastern teams on this list, but they both manage consistency which is something some of the other programs lack.

Team to Watch: Fordham LC A.

Fordham plays CLASSIC mock trial. They play the case theory you expect, how you would expect it to be played. There are very rarely any surprises or curveballs. Unlike may Northeastern teams, they win not with dynamism or tricks but with the slow, inexorable march of a well planned, well polished case. They also rigidly and zealously adhere to a strict reading of the rules which makes them an interesting contrast to a region that tends to push the boundaries. They qualified two teams out of regionals with clean 6.5 and 6 records respectively. Their A team only dropped their two ballots in round 1 to NYU A. They also performed well at invites, lead by top performers Jamie Haas and Amelia Browne with a 6-2 record at CUBAIT (ballots dropped to NYU and Miami), a 5-3 record at Mumbo Jumbo (ballots dropped to NYU and Cornell), a 5-2-1 record at Black Squirrel (Ballots dropped to Howard and Northwood), a 6-2 record at Quaker Classic (Ballots dropped to Wake Forest and Lafayette), and a 5-3 record at Yale (Ballots dropped to Columbia, Princeton, and Yale). This means they should be able to expect to hold their own at an ORCS field and help them get 5 to 6 ballots. The worry for them will be that there are a number of programs in this field who they have dropped ballots to (Most notably NYU who has done it multiple times). If they manage to hit more than one of these teams and drop multiple ballots they could be in trouble (particularly since a 5-3 record is unlikely to get out of ORCS this year).

5 Nationals Returners: Stanford A, Ohio State A, Arizona A, Wheaton A, Northwood A
Top 50 teams: 4
Top 100 teams: 10
Top 150 teams: 12
Top 200 teams: 18

First In:
Ohio State A
Stanford A

Arizona A
Northwood A
Wheaton A
Cincinnati A

Initial Thoughts:
Many posters on Mock Trial Confessions have labeled Geneva the most difficult ORCS tournament. It’s easy to see why. Not only is the tournament stacked with National Championship-level A teams, these top programs are all bringing along B teams. Wheaton, Stanford, Arizona, Northwood, and Cincinnati - all strong programs, are bringing two teams to Geneva. On one hand, the number of B teams could be seen as diluting the strength of the tournament. However, we think it is more likely that these strong B teams will make the tournament incredibly competitive.

At the top here are the two programs we would be shocked to see miss out on the National Championship: Stanford and Ohio State. While Ohio State lost superstar opener Eric Roytman, the core of this Ohio State team is experienced, poised, and talented. Stanford, meanwhile, always seems to fly under the radar before ORCS, competing at only a few tournaments. But, in the past three years, Stanford A has won 8, 7, and 7 ballots at ORCS - this is a team that knows how to succeed at ORCS, and they certainly expect to continue that tradition in Geneva.

We expect the teams on the bubble will perform well, especially if they can avoid Stanford or Ohio State. In this group, Northwood, Cincinnati, and Wheaton are interesting in that they each have a figurehead competitor who may be able to sway the round in their direction. Northwood’s Chris Grant, Cincinnati's Stephen Johnson, and Wheaton’s Mary Preston Austin are anchors for their respective teams, but don’t think that they are the end of the line. Competitors like Northwood’s Karli Zubeck and Wheaton’s Isaac Hendren are also making a name for themselves this year, and all of these programs have competitors with National Championship Tournament experience and strong institutional knowledge. The wild card of this tournament is Arizona - they qualified out of Geneva the last time they were here in 2017. Last year, Arizona B squeezed out of a difficult Islip ORCS while the A team missed out on a bid after a close loss to Yale B. Qualifying 2 teams to ORCS for the second year in a row speaks well to the depth of the program - it just remains to be seen if the team has the same strength that led them to a 5th-place divisional finish at last year’s National Championship. The dynamic brother-and-sister duo of Audrie and Adrian Ford, alongside GAMTI award winners Raad Syed and Sam Whitthorne, makes this Arizona team formidable, but a decent amount of A team turnover from last year’s senior class means this new group will have to prove themselves once again in Geneva.

And finally, just below the bubble, there are some teams with major upset potential in Geneva this year. Not only could any of the strong B teams compete for a bid (in fact, both Arizona and Ohio State qualified to the National Championship last year through their B teams), there are also some consistent ORCS qualifiers who are looking to step up to the next level. Notre Dame, Macalester, NIU, and Denver have all qualified for ORCS the past three years - this consistency means that these teams will be able to put up a fight here, and with strong preparation or good bracket luck any of them could push through to the National Championship.

Team to Watch: Carthage College.

In 2016, Carthage College surprised the AMTA world with their qualification to the National Championship (taking out Miami along the way). Since then, however, the program missed two ORCS in a row before returning in 2019. Although the Carthage College team has existed for years, they experienced a dramatic turnover rate between the last two seasons. All but one of the team’s current competitors are new to college mock trial this year - this was reflected by the program’s struggles at the beginning of the season. The fact that the team managed to qualify for ORCS, while taking awards and finishing 6-1-1 along the way, shows how far the young team has come in a year. Unfortunately for Carthage, the quick turnaround before ORCS tends to favor programs with strong experience and coaching. Additionally, Carthage is likely to face teams of a higher caliber than they have competed against this season at ORCS. It will take a lot of poise and preparation for Carthage to succeed in Geneva, but we are excited to see how their journey continues.

Chestnut Hill
5 Nationals Returners: Yale A, Harvard A, Tufts A, Yale B, Princeton A
Top 50 teams: 7
Top 100 teams: 10
Top 150 teams: 13
Top 200 teams: 19

First In:
Harvard A
Tufts A

Yale A
Yale B
Princeton A
Brown A
Wesleyan A
Boston University A

Initial Thoughts:
This field is fairly similar at the top to the Central Islip field from last year so we may expect some similar results to that one. Harvard, Princeton, and Tufts have all kep substantial portions of their A teams from last year and would be disappointed with anything less than a top placement here. That being said, they have been some important changes at the top of the field, so don’t just expect this to go down as per usual. First of all, moving into this pack we have Wesleyan, the only Bubble/First In team in this group to not compete with them at Central Islip last year. Wesleyan missed a bid last year from the bloodbath that was 2018 Lancaster and will presumably be hoping to return to their nationals success of 2017 after a solid invite and regional season this year. Moving out of the bid earning pack from last year’s Central Islip we have Arizona (who are probably thankful not to have to fly all the way across the country again). The other major change from the top of last year’s field is Yale. It may seem strange to place the #2 ranked team in the nation on the bubble (especially after a strong invite season), but the fact is we have no idea who will be on these two Yale teams. Based on Elizabeth’s Bays’ appearance on the Mock Review, it sounds like Yale A and Yale B are actually Yale B and Yale C. It remains to be seen if either or both of the teams have picked up competitors from the original Yale A (and if they have, we don’t know how they will be redesignating their team numbers). As a result Yale is a bit of a wildcard this year and both teams are sitting on our bubble. But remember that Yale has more final-round competitors on their teams than any other program in the country, and that Yale A won the Shutdown Showdown just a few short months ago. We aren’t saying to count them out - we just aren’t comfortable counting them in.

The middle of this field also gets pretty interesting. There are a number of teams here that have consistently made ORCS and have placed middle to bottom of the pack. If anything the number of sometimes-ORCS-sometimes-not teams has expanded this year as a result of some of the upsets in the New Haven Regional making way for a large collection of teams that have traditionally been forced out by programs like Yale and BU. Given their success at regionals, it would not be shocking to see a less experienced program do quite well at this ORCS this year, such as Colby or Quinnipiac. But the large collection of mid tier teams may also make for a lot of splits and some upsets if one of the traditional top teams is off their game. Under the direction of Michael D'ippolito, Brown could be a force to be reckoned with here. Boston College, as the hosts of the new Chestnut Hill ORCS, could enjoy a home-field advantage. The stress of ORCS is difficult for everyone, but being close to home can lessen the worries of competing. At the same time, it could be difficult to both help manage a tournament and perform well in it. But as solid as Boston College looked at regionals, their invitational results this year (including a 2-5-1 record at Mumbo Jumbo) have not exactly inspired confidence.

Team to Watch: Harvard.

This team has been quietly doing well together for the last couple years. Since their stand out performance winning the NCT in 2015, Harvard has not been able to rebuild the kind of absolutely top level success that they had in the Zach Fields era. Instead they have been solidly mid pack at top invitationals (4-4 at the Shutdown Showdown, as well as a number of 4-4 to 5-3 records for their unstacked teams in the fall). In other words they haven’t been shining stars of the invite season but they have shown that they can hold their own (even unstacked) in nationals packed fields (a good predictor for getting out or ORCS). They also went 8-0 at the New Rochelle regional as a stacked team which bodes well for their ORCs performance. This team also has the advantage of having competed together for a while. They lost no one from their 2018 national team to graduation, suggesting that they can put together a team mostly comprised of veterans who know how to work together. This year they seem to have a fairly balanced roster which trades off taking awards leading to their program taking a number of awards at top invites but no one individual consistently taking awards (as would be required for our top competitor list).  It should be pointed out, however, that this team contains Maria Mendoza (a multiple All-American) and Christian Navarette (who took the top D closer award at Shutdown Showdown and then awarded again at regionals).

5 Nationals Returners: Georgia Tech A, Emory A, Florida A, Furman A, Florida B
Top 50 teams: 6
Top 100 teams: 8
Top 150 teams: 11
Top 200 teams: 15

First In:
Georgia Tech A
Florida A

Emory A
Furman A
Florida State A
Florida State B
Duke A
Georgia Tech B

Initial Thoughts:
The showdown between all of the primary southeastern powers in AMTA. What this ORCS does is show the dominance of the few power schools in the southeast. Florida, Florida State, Emory, Duke, Furman, and Georgia Tech together comprise almost half of the field at this entire tournament. And collectively, these 6 schools comprise the entirety of both our “First In” and our “Bubble” allocations.

We expect Georgia Tech and Florida to break from this ORCS fairly easily, but for different reasons. Georgia Tech’s comes from star power - led by All Americans Sarah Stebbins and Megan Miller, the Yellow Jackets are about as solid as they come. Florida doesn’t have the same sheer star power of Georgia Tech, but the Gators boast strong competitors in all parts of their roster. In particular, look for Kaitlyn Salyer and Natalia Braga to make their mark in Decatur. Florida was one of the surprise programs last year to earn two bids to Nationals, and we expect them to follow that up with at least one bid here.

As we get into the bubble, it becomes a lot more difficult to dissect exactly which teams will advance on to Philadelphia. Both of Florida State’s teams had really strong showings at Regionals (a combined 15-1 record) but haven’t been true Nationals contenders in recent years. Furman is one of the most established programs in the country but failed to make it out of Regionals with a direct bid - although strong players like Top Performer Spencer Richardson and Katherine West should help them here. One real story to pay attention to is Duke - undoubtedly the biggest casualty of the Greenville ORCS last year. With an absolutely absurd CS of 23.5, Duke was held out of Nationals. Losing superstars like Madeline Matthys will be difficult to overcome, but Duke can still ride Tristan Malhotra and see how far they can get.

Team to Watch: Georgia Tech A.

What can be said that hasn’t already been about Sarah Stebbins? One of the most well-awarded players of all time, she’s definitely the anchor of this Georgia Tech team. But an interesting note is how the people around her have shifted over the past few years. Back in Greenville and Los Angeles, there was the experience of Sutton Birch and Troy Kleber and Ali Foreman - these were the Tech teams that almost made the final both years.

Between LA and Minneapolis, the composition of this team changed a lot. Now there are players like Carolyn Stanek and Harsha Sridhar forming the bulwark of this team. And under the leadership of AMTA president Will Warihay, Georgia Tech, like normal, should be a presence in the top 10 at Nationals. The tough question is whether or not this team can break to the fifth round this year after with so much roster consistency from their top 10 squad last year.

5 Nationals Returners: Miami A, Michigan A, Patrick Henry A, Rochester A, Xavier A
Top 50 teams: 6
Top 100 teams: 8
Top 150 teams: 16
Top 200 teams: 17

First In:
Miami A
Michigan A

Patrick Henry A
Hillsdale A
Miami B
Hillsdale B
Penn State A

Initial Thoughts:
Statistically the most difficult ORCS by a decent margin, Hamilton is the ORCS that most combines the power of the Top 5 teams with the caliber of the rest of the field. We start with the reigning champs - Miami University. Miami has been one of the most interesting case studies of this season. They won Nationals last year and boast one of the largest and most competent coaching staffs in the entire country, but they also graduated every single person who was competing on the team that won Nationals. Without the same star power as last year, this largely unproven group has their work cut out for them.  How Miami performs this year will be a huge indicator towards whether the players or the system is more important in determining a program’s success.

Then there’s the other TPR Top 5 Team here, the University of Michigan. There’s a really interesting contrast to view here between Michigan and Miami on how programs deal with losing driving forces. Michigan graduated its two All-American captains, Gabe Slater and Garrett Burton. Slater and Burton were known for coming up with wild case theories, most notably the “Morrison did it” defense. The Wolverines still have strong players around like Charlotte Gemma and Bianca Blanshine but it will be enlightening to see whether Michigan keeps doing mock in the same style with the same case theories, or if losing those driving forces in a student run program forces them to change.

As for the rest of the field, we have three other nationals returners in Patrick Henry, Rochester, and Xavier. TBC competitor Deisy Abarca-Espiritu is back and gunning for vengeance after Rochester didn’t get a direct bid from Regionals. Hillsdale wants to break to Nats after a bunch of strong invitational performances and an incredibly impressive showing at Regionals. We don’t know how Penn State is stacking after their D team went 8-0 at Regionals, but a program whose D team goes undefeated is going to be able to field some pretty talented teams. And of course, Miami B is around and kicking to try to earn their way to NCT to reestablish Miami as one of the deepest programs in AMTA too

Finally, our hearts go out to the students at Patrick Henry and to the family and friends of Dr. Frank Guliuzza. The fact that the Patrick Henry team is going to ORCS even after this sudden and terrible tragedy is a testament to the legacy of Frank Guliuzza and to the type of people he was helping to grow. Dr. Guliuzza dedicated his life to this activity and to making his students better speakers, better thinkers, and better people. He will be missed.

Team to Watch: Penn State.

Between Penn State’s four regionals teams, the program managed to stack up a combined +210 point differential against their competition. Not only did the program qualify 3 teams to ORCS, but each of the program’s teams managed to reach at least a 4-4 record. Penn State’s D team cruised to an impressive 8-0 record on their way to qualifying for ORCS, with their A team close behind at 7-1. At ORCS, Penn State has been incredibly consistent, with a team reaching at least 4-4 at ORCS stretching all the way back to 2013.

So far this season, Penn State A has been pretty consistently middle of the road in their invitational season. Through the 5 invitationals they attended (Charm City, Habeas Hippopotamus, Happy Valley, Michigan State, Tobacco Road), they won about 53% of their ballots. The best record they had was 5-3 but the worst record they had was 3-4-1. And they’ve had a number of different players win awards this year, but it doesn’t appear like any superstars are emerging on the team.

The unanswered question here is how, if at all, Penn State decides to restack after their D team’s stellar performance at Regionals. Obviously there was some reason that the teams ended up being constructed in the way they were for Regionals. And we don’t know what that reason was. But the Penn State leadership is now facing a tough choice about whether or not they need to take players from the D team onto one of the teams that will be competing at ORCS. And that decision could be pretty important in evaluating which teams from this ORCS will advance onto Nationals.

4 Nationals Returners: Rhodes A, Rhodes B, UT Chattanooga A, Alabama A
Top 50 teams: 4
Top 100 teams: 10
Top 150 teams: 16
Top 200 teams: 18

First In:
Rhodes A
Rhodes B

Baylor A
Georgia A
Alabama A
Tennessee, Chattanooga A
Vanderbilt A

Initial Thoughts:
Rhodes College in Tennessee hosts this ORCS every year. By far one of our statistically easiest ORCS, Memphis looks destined to provide two Nationals bids for Rhodes, as it typically does. Rhodes A is led by senior and captain Daniel Elliott, and boosted by other players like two-time All American Kelsey McClain. And Rhodes B is consistently in contention for the most successful B team in the country (main competition being Yale and UVA). Rhodes lost their long-time head coach Marcus Pohlmann last summer, but Anna Eldridge Smith is still around to coach and the results so far this year aren’t signaling that Rhodes has lost a step.

As you get into the rest of the field, this starts to look more like a high-level Regional (see Owings Mills) than it does an ORCS. Excluding Rhodes, this field only has two Nationals returners. And neither UTC or Alabama won more than 4 ballots out of 12 at Nationals last year. UTC’s superstar attorney, Trial by Combat competitor Zeke Starr, also graduated last summer. Vanderbilt was a real nationals contender a few years ago, but in recent years has taken a step back from the top tier of AMTA competition. But after an 8-0 performance at Regionals this year, Vanderbilt is gunning to get back to Nats after a couple off years. Georgia being moved to this ORCS seems to us like AMTA’s attempt to balance the power between the ORCS across the country. And the UGA style of mock could very well throw a wrench into the power balance and potentially give Rhodes a run for their money by bringing a creative style of mock to Memphis that Rhodes might not be prepared for.

Team to Watch: Georgia A

The unexpected power team in this ORCS, Georgia is probably thanking AMTA a bit that they don’t have to go to Decatur or Richmond. A few years ago, UGA was a blueblood of AMTA - a perennial power placing at or near the top of Nationals. After the graduation of players like Andrew Stoehr, Ryan Bolt, and Ryan Switzer, the Bulldogs went into a slump. They haven’t qualified to Nats for the past two years. But the thing that Georgia brings is a style of mock trial that’s different from the typical Southeast style, and that’s what makes them a wildcard in this field.

The stereotypical Southeastern style of mock trial is simple, straightforward, and likeable. A lot of the powers in the region don’t get their points with flash and dash - they run very easy to understand theories and play straightforward styles which, at their worst, come across as boring and robotic. But Georgia bucks that trend in the Southeast. They’re known for their creative case theories and the entertaining way in which they present it. This is probably the Southern team that most pushes the boundaries of AMTA’s rules about invention/plays the most Northeastern style of mock. Georgia is an interesting mix of the creativity and flash of the Northeast with the likeability of the Southeast.

We’ll be very interested to see how that unique style plays in Memphis. The teams that typically go to Memphis won’t be accustomed to seeing this style, and it could throw them for a loop, giving Georgia a big advantage. On the other hand, the judging pool here will be from Memphis, so if they aren’t fans of the UGA style or think that the creative theories could come across as too technical, then that could cut the other way as well and the slump may continue. After all, there’s a reason why teams in the South typically don’t play the creative style - perhaps it’s because judges in the area aren’t fans.

3 Nationals Returners: Virginia A, Howard A, William & Mary A
Top 50 teams: 5
Top 100 teams: 14
Top 150 teams: 14
Top 200 teams: 17

First In:
Virginia A
Howard A

Virginia B
William & Mary A
American A
Harvard B
Georgetown A

Initial Thoughts:
The characteristic feature of this ORCS is the humongous second tier/middle level of teams. This is obviously borne out in our statistical analysis, where Richmond is pretty much right at the median difficulty in every category. But it’s also shown in the size of the bubble here, as well as the 9 teams that are ranked between 50 and 100.

When you look at this field, the first program that sticks out is Virginia. The 2017 national champs, after some uncharacteristic struggles at 2018 Regionals (swept by Patrick Henry) and 2018 ORCS (dropping a ballot by 17 points to Rutgers), look to have righted the ship this year. After an 8-0 performance at Regionals where it doesn’t look like they were ever truly challenged, Virginia is looking to continue that dominance in Richmond. Virginia B fell victim to the Wilmington ORCS last year, but has won two invitationals of their own this year (Colonial Classic & Ramblin’ Wreck) so they look to be on a warpath to get back to Nats and reestablish themselves as one of the preeminent B teams in the country.

Then we get to the next level. Most of these teams have been to Nationals at least once in the past two years. UMBC has been pretty impressive - winning Hilltop this year with a record of 8-0. Howard is one of the most storied programs in AMTA and is consistently a very solid team to see. William & Mary broke out of the uber-difficult Wilmington ORCS last year, and American was the only 5.5 win team in the country who didn’t get a bid to Nats. All of that doesn’t even mention Harvard B who was brought down to Richmond with an open bid and will always be a tough out.

Team to Watch: University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Led by alum and podcast host extraordinaire, Ben Garmoe, UMBC broke out of one of the hardest Regionals in the country with an 7-0-1 record. And they were probably a bit relieved when AMTA moved them out of the Central Islip ORCS to come down to Richmond.

UMBC boasts a series of underrated competitors. Most notably, sophomore and double closer Sydney Gaskins is racking up awards left and right. Double sided award at Regionals? Check. Double sided award at Hilltop when team goes 8-0? Check. Attorney award at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country at GAMTI? Check. But flanking Gaskins are other strong competitors like program President Ethan Hudson, who earned his own attorney award at Regionals as well, and senior Nihir Nanavaty who competes as both an attorney as well as a witness, the latter of which he also received an award for at regionals.

UMBC is looking to break to Nats after failing to do so last year (another casualty of the great 2018 Lancaster bloodbath). And in service of that goal, they have to hope they don’t hit Virginia A (although their chances are at least better than their basketball team’s was, so maybe Virginia is the one dreading that matchup).

Santa Monica
6 Nationals Returners: UCLA A, UC Irvine A, UC Berkeley A, UC Irvine B, UC Santa Barbara A, UC San Diego A
Top 50 teams: 4
Top 100 teams: 13
Top 150 teams: 16
Top 200 teams: 18

First In:
Cal A

Oregon A
Fresno A

Initial Thoughts: If you’re from the West Coast then you know all the big names are here. Though AMTA spared this ORCS from Stanford’s destruction, that is probably a small consolation to the rest of the teams in this incredibly crowded field. UCLA, UCI, and Berkeley are the three big heavyweights here,capable of crushing just about everybody else in this field with a good performance. There isn’t much more to say about UCLA other than that they are a dynasty. With 4 championships in the 21st century and a streak of National Championship placements, UCLA looks to continue their legacy behind top competitors like Gabriel Marquez, Jonathan Kuang, and Megan Jones. Irvine’s coach Emily Shaw has worked hard to make the Anteaters as forces to be reckoned with, and they showed up on the biggest stage last year where they just barely missed out on the final round. Be on the lookout for Dev Madeka and his technical, high-energy performances as an attorney or his charismatic character witnessing. And of course teams on the Open Bid List can thank UC Berkeley for opening up spots as they qualified all four of their teams out of Regionals. As such, the program has a number of incredible competitors to choose from when constructing their ORCS teams here.

Just behind these programs we have UCSB, USC, and Oregon, who each cleaned up their respective regionals with 8-0 and 7-1 performances. Oregon in particular was a big surprise, qualifying three teams out of regionals in convincing fashion, after qualifying none only a year ago. Then there’s UCI B and UCSD A, two more Nationals returners, and a team that may show some promise in Fresno A. USC has shown recent signs of dominance and depth and should not be discounted. UCSB though only recently attending the Nationals stage, is poised to make a return after a strong invite performance and an undefeated regionals run. Oregon’s takeover in Seattle was one of the more impressive things to happen this regional season and we expect next weekend to be a hopeful one for putting the Pacific Northwest back on the Map. Though UCI B and UCSD A are both Nationals returners, their regional performances indicate that they may have a harder time making it out this year. Representing the Central Valley, Fresno State A returns to the ORCS scene after a year of absence. If Micaela Cisneros and Tanner Morgan both appear on the same team (which didn’t appear to be the case for regionals) then Fresno State may have enough firepower to fight their way out as well.

It’s also important to note that the gap in skill between these teams isn’t that wide. Cal A, UCSB A, UCSD A, and UCI B all had similar records at last year’s NCT. And there are NINE teams coming in with 8-0 or 7-1 regional records.

Team to Watch: USC

During the 2016 season, USC was considered for all intents and purposes just as good as UCLA or Berkeley. They made Nationals and won 3 All Americans that year in what would be one of their most successful seasons to date.

But they haven’t gone back since. 2017 their teams were significantly younger, even including high school early admits. They got crushed by Chicago A and eliminated by Northwestern B in Geneva. 2018 rolls by in Santa Monica with a more seasoned cast, but still no luck. Now it’s 2019, and they’re all grown up. We’ve seen a much more experienced and talented USC this season that makes them a team worth watching out for this weekend. Looking at the Tempe regionals results, their highlights include a split with Nationals returner UCI B, wiping out UCLA C, and 2 bids with 6-2 and 7-1 records. In Claremont, USC C split with UCI A and became the only team to take a ballot from them (losing the other by one point), as well as another split with UCLA B ultimately winning their program’s 3rd bid.

From these results, one thing is clear. They can stand in a round with the heavyweights and steal a ballot in doing so. They’re extremely well polished, aggressive when they need to, and relentless with their objections. Bearing in mind that this team has been in the making for years, this weekend bodes well for the Trojans of Southern California.
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