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2019 NCT Analysis Empty 2019 NCT Analysis

Tue Nov 19, 2019 11:38 pm
As we come to the end of another AMTA season, we just wanted to say how much fun it has been for us to write about the world of competitive-fake-lawyering that we all know and love. This is our second year of writing posts on Perjuries - since last year, we have written over 50,000 words in our posts and have received over 200,000 views on our Perjuries posts. Thank you to everyone who reads and comments. We hope that we have helped people learn a little bit more about the teams around the country, although we recognize that we can never give every team the amount of discussion and research that they deserve. After the National Championship, we will be looking for new contributors to help us expand our knowledge and keep writing about mock trial. Thank you to everyone who has made this year’s AMTA season great, and best of luck to all of the teams at the National Championship.

Dr. Frank Guliuzza Division

Final Round Favorites:

Expect to Place:
Cornell A
Miami A
Rhodes B

UC Berkeley
Patrick Henry
Georgia A
Fordham LC
Penn State

Initial Thoughts: At first glance, the Dr. Guliuzza division appears to the easier of the two divisions. This division is largely a combination of teams that have historically struggled with doing well at Nationals and teams that have had success at the top level in previous years, but have been struggling so far this year either due to surprises or loss of a lot of top competitors. No team exemplifies that latter category more than Yale University. After 4 consecutive years of appearing in the National Championship final, Yale has established itself as one of the preeminent programs in the country. But they’ve been performing in widely variable ways so far this year - with their A team winning the Shutdown Showdown and then just a couple weeks later failing to qualify out of Regionals. The Yale team competing at Nationals will be a mix of personnel from all three of the program’s stacked teams, making it incredibly difficult to predict how they will do.

This division has the defending national champions too, as well as a number of returning top-10 teams from Nationals last year. But all of those have been weakened in certain ways as well. Miami’s loss of their entire competing roster from Nats last year has been widely covered, and we’re interested to see if newer competitors like Maddie Witte and Katie Milders can compete at the same high level as players like Seeberg and Kunkel. Cornell graduated both of their captains and closers as well, and haven’t been performing up to the top level at invitationals so far this year. But led by super-sophomore Erik Szakiel and soon-to-be TBC participant Steven Torres, it’s certainly possible for the Big Red to cement their place at the very top of AMTA. Stanford has their own TBC participant as well (Jack Seigenthaler), but after their B team was the one that secured their lone bid, we don’t actually know whether it will be Stanford A, Stanford B, or some mix of the two that will be competing in Philadelphia. Rhodes B is coming off one of the most successful years for a B team in a while. Speaking of B teams, Rhodes B, Yale A, and Miami A all have the good fortune to be facing B teams in their first trials - and while the B teams at the National Championship are not to be overlooked (especially OSU B, a team that took 1st in Geneva while eliminating multiple teams from NCT contention), this could make a matchup between some top powers a real possibility for Round 2.

The other Round 1 pairings in the Guliuzza Division also spread out most of the power in the division fairly evenly. None of the teams that we expect to place in the division are facing each other in the first trial, although matchups like Cornell A v. Cincinnati, Stanford v.Georgetown, and Columbia v. Fordham could all be placement-determinative rounds. Columbia and Fordham, despite being on the other side of Central Park from one another, do not seem to have competed against each other this season (although Columbia did defeat Fordham B to qualify out of Central Islip). Watch out also for the West Coast rematch between UC Berkeley and UC Davis - not only is this a rematch of the third round of this year’s ORCS (where Berkeley took both ballots) and the second round of regionals (where the teams split), this is also a rematch of the first round of the 2017 National Championship (which ended, incredibly, in a triple tie between the two teams). Unlike last year, where Yale and UCLA faced off in an explosive first-round trial, this year’s pairings look unlikely to immediately sink the hopes of any championship contenders.

Team to Watch - UCLA

In their past 32 trials at the National Championship (dating back to 2011), UCLA has been swept exactly once. They have won at least one ballot against every other opponent they have faced for the past 8 years. In that same 8-year span, UCLA has lost the majority of ballots in only 4 of those 32 trials. In other words, UCLA is nearly impossible to beat at the National Championship. This has been reflected in UCLA’s incredible NCT history, with honorable mention, 3rd place, 4th place, 6th place, 1st place, 2nd place, 6th place, 1st place divisional finishes since 2011. Given the program’s long history of success at the National Championship, UCLA is long overdue for a NCT final round. They look poised to return this year. And while Dayton is not a program to be overlooked, UCLA must be satisfied with their first-round pairing. Not only is UCLA by far the more experienced team, but also UCLA has a style that sets them apart from many Midwestern teams (although this sometimes leads to splits between judges who have different views on mock trial).

This year’s UCLA A team brought 10 competitors to ORCS and finished with an 8-0 record. The fact that UCLA has been able to succeed with such a large roster speaks to the program’s depth of talent, and is also a good sign heading in to Philly. This year’s NCT case, with swing witnesses galore, could reward teams who are able to divide up the work among more competitors. Although Gabriel Marquez has been struggling this year (only taking home a measly seven individual awards this season), hopefully he can bounce back in Philadelphia.

Team to Watch - Georgetown

The Georgetown Hoyas return to the National Championship Tournament for the first time since going 5-5-2 at the 2014 NCT in Orlando. Through the invitational season, Georgetown did not have very strong performances. Most notably, at Haverford’s Black Squirrel Invitational - that was hosted at the Nats tournament site in Philadelphia - Georgetown finished with a record of 1-7. They were likely unstacked at the time, but going to the same site has to be at least somewhat worrisome. Outside of that, Georgetown was consistently middle of the road at the invitationals they attended, including a 3-5 finish at Elon’s Carolina Classic and 5-3 & 4-4 finishes at George Washington’s Habeas Hippopotamus Invitational.

But Georgetown turned that around as they hit their stride into the AMTA season. At ORCS they finished 7-1, with a CS of 16 (having played William & Mary B, Virginia B, Virginia A, and Washington & Lee). There are two ways to read into how Georgetown A finished at ORCS. The first way is to say that they went 7-1 with a decently high CS against high ORCS and Nats level competition - going 3-1 combined against the two UVA teams. But the other way to read these results, taken in conjunction with the invitational results, is that Georgetown would need to some luck to swing their way to continue their success. 7 of their 8 ballots at ORCS were decided by single digits. They started having a lot of success once they were able to polish their performance and iterate the case a number of times. But the early season invitational results, particularly the results from Black Squirrel, as well as Georgetown’s having never competed with the new Nationals case before, could be taken to mean that the Hoyas need a lot of time to get their stuff up to par and the short turnaround to get their case prepared for Empowermilk v Anderson will be particularly difficult. Led by captain Erik Zhao, we think that when it comes down to it, Georgetown will be competing for an Honorable Mention in this division.

Temple University School of Law Division

Final Round Favorites:
Rhodes A

Expect to Place:
Ohio State A
Emory A
Northwestern A
Georgia Tech

Cornell B
Wesleyan A
Miami B

Initial Thoughts:

To mock trial legend Iain Lampert, success takes ““authenticity, consistency, strategy, and luck.” There is also no escaping the element of chance, especially at the National Championship, where every lost ballot can make a huge difference. Additionally, an unlucky draw could spell disaster. Here, a tough bracket will make it difficult for any team, no matter how good, to push through to the final round.

Luck could also give us some incredibly interesting matchups as this bracket continues. Duke and North Carolina’s mock trial teams have now officially survived longer in the AMTA season than in March Madness - and with UNC qualifying to the National Championship, we could see this traditional basketball rivalry repeat in mock trial. All three Boston-area teams have also been stuffed into this division, so that Tufts, Boston College, and Boston University all have a chance of facing off of each other in another local matchup. There is also going to be intense competition for Spirit of AMTA in this division - Northwood, Minnesota, and North Carolina have each won SPAMTA this season. Hopefully this spirit of friendly competition continues throughout the tournament, as the stress of the National Championship wears on.

There are also a huge variety of potentially interesting individual attorney matchups in the division - an entirely non-exhaustive list of top attorneys in the division includes Chicago’s Regina Campbell, Northwood’s Christopher Grant, Tech’s Sarah Stebbins, Rhodes’ Daniel Elliot, Tufts’ Steven Becker, Rochester’s Deisy Abarca-Espiritu, Howard’s Rhyan Lake, Duke’s Tristan Malhotra, Wesleyan’s Heather Pincus, and Virginia’s Sabrina Grandhi. Some of the competitors in this division might be looking for an All-American to help boost their resume before Trial by Combat, while others could be able to get some experience against their future TBC opponents in Philadelphia (including the round one matchup between Elliot and Stebbins).

In this division, we have two incredibly difficult first-round matches here between Tufts and Ohio State and Rhodes and Georgia Tech. Both trials could easily have been 3rd- or 4th-round power matchups in the division, but instead the National Championship will begin with a test for all four of these teams. Now while losing ballots is never fun, the best place to do it at the National Championship is in the first round. A first-round loss or split drops a team lower in the pairings, meaning that for the next round or two they may be able to avoid some of the toughest teams at the tournament. In the past 3 National Championships, 19 teams have won all of their ballots in the first round. Not a single one has made the final round. Instead, the past 6 NCT finalists have lost or tied a ballot in round one, helping the team avoid the top-paired matchup in round 2. So while a difficult first pairing might seem like bad luck, an early lost ballot could actually be a saving grace for one of these teams.

Team to watch - Virginia

There are two national champions still competing in AMTA today - Deniz Tunceli and Sabrina Grandhi. Grandhi has managed to pick up an astounding eleven individual awards throughout the season as the top attorney on Virginia’s bench. Tunceli, meanwhile, has continued his reign of dominance as a witness. It is amazing that in the modern AMTA world where teams borrow from each others material to find out what works, nobody in AMTA has managed to replicate Tunceli’s charm as a witness. We expect to see him delivering the same charming Turkish-accented character that he has been bringing to the National Championship since 2016. Part of what makes Tunceli so compelling is that he uses his immense charisma to give his performance the spontaneous sense of charm, meaning his character never seems stale to judges even though he has been performing the role for so long. Tunceli is not the only Virginia witness who has succeeded this year: Natalia Heguaburo has also been topping awards lists for her portrayal of Danny Kosack this year. We expect to see her doing something similar in Philadelphia.

While, as one Mock Trial Confessions poster helpfully noted, “coaches can’t talk to anyone during the round,” we do think that Virginia’s coaching plays a huge role in their ability to succeed at the National Championship. While coaches can’t change the outcome of a trial once it has started, their influence in the preparation process can be a game changer - having someone like Toby Heytens, who argued in front of the Supreme Court less than a month ago, to train attorneys gives the Virginia competitors an edge. Not only that, but Virginia’s coaches help the team by scouting opponents and learning about how the NCT case is being tried. While all of these factors make Virginia a fearsome opponent in Philadelphia, UVA also comes into the NCT with the worst ORCS record of any team to qualify to the championship. As the only team with a 5-3 record to qualify, there is no other way to put it - Virginia got incredibly lucky to be in Philadelphia, highlighting the fact that even the best teams can struggle under pressure.

Team to watch - Tufts

Sitting at 26 in this year’s AMTA Team Power Rankings, you might not think that Tufts is one of the most threatening teams at this year’s National Championship. But this year’s Tufts team has everything they need to be a top team in Philadelphia. Tufts returns a horde of members from the team that took 6th place in their division last year in Minneapolis, and showed their strength as they stomped their way to a 7.5-ballot finish at ORCS. Steven Becker is looking to finish his AMTA awards sweep as he heads into Philadelphia, having picked up hardware at Regionals and ORCS. Watch out for his deep knowledge of the Rules of Evidence and smooth witness control on cross examination. Ashley Alphonse and Kaleigh Milano both picked up awards on the same side of the case at ORCS, displaying the dominance of the Tufts plaintiff bench. Milano’s precise and meticulous presence balances perfectly with Alphonse’s easygoing charm. Also watch out for a parade of talented, charming, and credible witnesses, many of whom will probably have accents. Tufts will have a chance to prove themselves in the first round against an incredibly tough Ohio State team, but if they stumble out of the gate Ohio State could easily overwhelm them.
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