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2021 NCT Analysis Empty 2021 NCT Analysis

Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:41 am
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 fourth year of writing posts. It's also our second season since the demise of Perjuries, our former home, and our second season on our replacement site Impeachments which is slowly starting to gain a user base and we hope will continue to be a community for mockers in coming years. 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.

Zeigler Division:

Final Round Favorites:
Virginia A
Tufts A
Miami A

Expect to Place:
Northwestern A
UC Berkeley A
Duke A

Ohio State A
Florida A
South Carolina A
Florida State A
Harvard A
Georgetown A
Wesleyan A

Initial Thoughts: Heavyweights. The Octagon. The Hunger Games. However you want to describe it, there is no debate about the fact that Division 1 is one of the hardest divisions in recent memory at Nationals. We won’t belabor the point, but there are legitimately 10+ teams in this division who have a real shot to make a run for the final round. Rounds 3 & 4 will be a bloodbath (but also great television for anyone who wants to watch).

Let’s start with the easy ones. First, you have both of the teams that qualified to the GCF final this year in UCLA A and UC Berkeley A. You have both of the teams who qualified to the GCF final last year in UVA A and Tufts. You have the winners of Beach Party in Northwestern, the pioneers of online mock in Duke, and the team who was just a few points away from the final round in 2019 in UMBC. That’s all without mentioning the reigning national champions in Miami University.

But the place this division really becomes scary is actually the mid level, making it so that even Round 2 (or an unlucky draw in Round 1) can be a dangerous matchup. A number of our bubble teams either crushed at ORCS or have been top 10 Nationals teams as recently as 2019 - most notably in Ohio State A, who showed in 2019 that they can place two teams in the top 5. But any of Florida, Florida State, South Carolina, Harvard, Georgetown, Wesleyan or the other 10+ good teams who we didn’t list here could take ballots from any top team that isn’t on their game. So much of the game theory of Nationals is figuring out how to sweep the teams in your early rounds, and there’s an argument that that’s nigh on impossible here given the quality of the middle tier in this division.

To give a ray of hope to the Division 1 teams with aspirations for a title, there is a way this division becomes a lot easier. Nationals is a different beast than any other tournament is, especially with the new case and having to prep it on such a short turnaround. And there are so few teams in the country who have figured out how to be a top tier competitor at Nationals even on that turnaround. The hope to pull from that is that teams who were superpowers in the main season might falter a bit here given the lack of time to prepare. Of course there’s no guarantee that’ll happen, but this is the perspective for anyone who is inclined to look for a silver lining.

Team to Watch - UC Berkeley
If you’re making a short list of the teams who are in prime position to be representing this division in the national championship round, Cal Berkeley has to be on the list. This program has seemed to figure out the online format faster and more comprehensively than almost any other program in the country, and that success lasted throughout the entire season, up to and including qualifying for the GCF final round with an undefeated record in the preliminary rounds. Berkeley runs an entertaining West Coast style combined with Mid-Atlantic cleanliness. We think this unique style has also translated uniquely well into the online format. Judges online have a harder time paying attention for entire trials, and mistakes/flubs are a lot more obvious when the camera is so close. Berkeley’s style is designed to counteract both of those things by maintaining interest while not making a lot of mistakes.

But it’s not just the style that makes this team dangerous. The individual players here are also capable of turning rounds on their own. Cal A runs a 6 person team, with a three witness bench made up of three seniors, all of whom have prior NCT experience and all of whom have the ability to win a round on their own. In particular, recent podcast guest Gurbir Singh has become one of, if not the most consistent witnesses in the country. And the attorney bench of this team is nothing to sneeze at either. In particular, Rebecca Steinberg has been racking up awards this year and is a dangerous force to face. UC Berkeley doesn’t have the historical top tier finishes at NCT, but if it is going to happen any year, then it will be this one.

Team to Watch - South Carolina
USC earned a bid to the NCT on razor-thin margins, having 3 of their 12 ballots end up as ties at ORCS. So three points ended up as the difference between USC competing this April and sitting at home watching the live streams. But don’t let that make you underestimate the Gamecocks at NCT. Back in 2019, we had South Carolina ranked 48th in our pre NCT rankings, and they completely proved us wrong by actually placing. This South Carolina team has NCT experience (which is not a given this year) as well as a lot of new young talent.

Strong senior competitors like Tanner Wise, Maegan Carter, and Jacob Smith lead the upperclassmen here. But the uniquely impressive thing about South Carolina is the strength of their sophomore class. Primarily, we’re talking about Bee Brawley and Ben “I’ve-Got-Big-Shoes-To-Fill” Wallace. Brawley brings precision and attack to everything she does, specializing in cutting down defendants and experts. Wallace brings charm and flash, engaging with characters and emotional witnesses, while still providing substance to back that up.  In between the seniors and sophomores sits the energetic Hannah Perala, one of our few returning All-American witnesses.

In short, USC is well placed to make a deep run into this tournament, and we would not want to be in their way.

Nelmark Division

Final Round Favorites:
Yale A
Chicago A
Patrick Henry A

Expect to Place:
Stanford A
Fordham Lincoln Center A
UC Irvine A
Cornell A

Emory A
Virginia B
Boston University A
Northwood A
Minnesota A

Initial Thoughts:
Pretty much everyone who watched the division draw came away with the conclusion that this was the easy division. We did after all rank all of the teams before the division draw and of those teams the top seven were in Division 1, leaving our number 8 pick, Yale at the top of this division. We have teams in our Final Round Favorites in this division that, in the other division would be on the bubble based on our original rankings. If you look at the standings for the most elite January invite (which are often a good proxy for the top placements at NCT), this year GCF, the top three teams in each GCF division are in Division 1, with only Yale, Chicago, and Michigan from this division even placing.

But that doesn’t mean this division is going to be a cake walk. If anything this division is characterized by a lot of wild cards. Of course any division with Yale at the top has a wild card (will they perform like 2018 and go 3-9 or win their division, who knows?), but it’s not just them. Cornell is coming back from a year off and had a really rough time at invites but then took 10.5 ballots at ORCS. They could also be great or terrible. Chicago just lost Regina Campbell and have been fairly consistently good but not great at invites. On the other hand, they generally over perform at NCT.  Will they be able to do it again? Patrick Henry has had a strong rise over the last few years, but the fact that they sent their lower teams to a lot of top invites makes it hard to predict their success off of invitational results. Northwood seems to make a lot of judges love them, but also have a knack for wild splits. This division also has multiple teams that will be restacking. Michigan will be sending their B team, which may or may not live up to Michigan’s usual NCT standards. Stanford will be restacking which has had mixed results for them in past seasons. In other words, this division could be a lot harder or a lot easier than it looks and we don’t know how that’s going to shake out.

Team to watch -  Chicago
One of the favorites in this division has to be the University of Chicago’s A team. It’s rare when a team is so defined by its star like Chicago was by Regina Campbell last year. But that actually did a disservice to the rest of the talent present here. For starters, we have A team returners in Sahil Nerurkar, Henry Hopcraft, and Davis Pessner anchoring down most of the attorney roles. All of them bring different styles to the table that complement each other well - Nerurkar is slow and charming, Hopcraft is precise and quick, and Pessner is substantive and engaging. And then that group has now been supplemented by newer additions to the team like emotional witness Libby Rohr and closer Anna Stoneman, both of whom have not missed a beat in being incorporated into the competition at the very top of AMTA.

Chicago plays a style that is clever and theatrical, trying to make it so that you believe the one aspect of the case that they hone in on as the central point of their theory. This has served them well in the past at NCT, earning a stunning 4 total All-Americans in 2018 and finishing 3rd in their division in 2019. With head coach Sam Jahangir at the helm, this team could be competing in the fifth round this weekend

Team to watch -  Stanford
Stanford is one of the most interesting cases coming into NCT, being one of the programs whose B teams qualified out of ORCS while their A team didn’t. Unfortunately, every program’s restack policy is not public so we aren’t actually able to know for sure what will be the precise composition of the Stanford team that we will see at the NCT. Obviously that also creates some pretty wide variation as to how this team could perform. Stanford has actually had a few instances in recent years where they have underperformed expectations at NCT, even with their full A team, so it’s not like the restack is going to make their range of outcomes more variable.

Stanford runs a style that prioritizes their attorneys winning the round for them, going at a slow and measured pace that would even make UVA want to speed things up. The superstar this year is Elizabeth Grant. She’s fresh off working with Josie Bianchi at TBC last year, and has been racking up the awards this year. We have to assume that whatever Stanford team goes to NCT will have Grant on it, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess and we are very excited to see what happens
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