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This Year's Regionals Upsets Weren't All That Surprising Empty This Year's Regionals Upsets Weren't All That Surprising

Thu Mar 09, 2023 5:35 pm
Message reputation : 100% (2 votes)
If you’ve been paying attention to Regionals results, you might have noticed there seem to be a lot of good teams that didn’t get direct bids out. It’s been showing up on Confessions and the Mock Analysis Instagram, and it got us wondering: is that normal? Before we get into our historical research, let’s start with the info we have this year. By our count, there are nine Nationals-level teams that didn’t get direct bids. That’s almost 20% of the Nationals field, felled before midterms even started (or whatever happens at the quarter system schools, we don’t go to one of those). By TPR:

PHC B (TPR 16) (see note)
BU A (TPR 17)
Tufts B (TPR 21)
UVA B (TPR 37)
Georgetown B (TPR 46)
Hamilton A (TPR 52)
Wisconsin Madison A (TPR 61)
Dillard A (TPR 80)

A lot of this, we believe, can be attributed to one of two things: natural B team inconsistency and up-and-comer inconsistency. Four of the nine teams are B teams from two-bid Nationals teams. And while B teams generally vacuum up talented underclassmen and promising C teamers, by the same coin they also export all their best performers at the end of each year. So top B teams have an inherent volatility because there are years when they’re cultivating the next superstar, and years when they just don’t have the star power. But also on our list are teams like Wisco and Dillard, who had breakout seasons last year and got to Nationals for the first time. Growing pains are sort of par for the course if you’re a program without a longstanding institutional memory of excellence.

At first glance that analysis makes us feel a little better about this number of Nationals teams going through Regionals without a bid. But we’re still kind of unnerved. We’re still losing Ben Garmoe’s UMBC A, consistent Nationals midfielder BU, and on top of all that we’re not sure a team with an 8-4 finish at GCF (Wisco) can really be described as a volatile up-and-comer. So we looked at Regionals results from 2022, 2020, and 2019 to see how many returning Nationals teams failed to bid (2021 was out, because of no Nationals the year before). We also calculated how the average TPR of those unlucky teams compares to this year’s. And in a futile attempt to show up Mock Analysis, we’ve even arranged the results in a table:

YearReturners Without Direct BidAvg TPRReturners Without Bid and TPR Under 50B Teams?

Our table is a lot smaller than Mock Analysis’ tables tend to be—a little embarrassing, we’ll admit– but size isn’t everything, and it gives us some good information.

The uproar on Confessions might have made it feel like this year is an outlier. But looking at the data, that’s just not true. Upper level teams tend to brush off Regionals as an easy step in the road to Nats, but the truth is that about 20% of returning Nationals teams consistently do not gain a direct bid out of Regionals. That’s not a number to ignore. Average TPR of those teams is comparable. The numbers don’t lie, and what they’re telling us is that this year, as odd is it may have felt, is just like the rest of them.

Teams who consider themselves among the top 48 teams in the country rarely approach Regionals with the attitude that they might not make it out. Some make their travel plans for ORCS before they’ve memorized their content for Regionals. But what the data tells us is Regionals is a tough nut to crack. And this year, despite the hullabaloo, is just like the rest of them.



Note: PHC B is an outlier among outliers. For the past two years, B has failed to bid from Regionals, and their C team bids and then goes on to Nationals. Well, this time both PHC C and B failed to bid, so whether you attribute their Nats placement last year to B or C, it goes on the list either way.

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