Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness- Something to Learn From


It's the NCAA division one basketball tournament. March Madness, as I am sure most of you know full well. Most of my readers are from North America and have their own brackets and pool predictions. (Note: My overseas readership is at the point that I may have to reach out for some articles as a way of saying thanks)

I personally love this part of the tournament, when unknown players and teams upset heavily favored stars. Players draft values will be heavily weighted based on a mere 1-4 performances on this tournament. Players like Sean May (pictured) can play/win their way into the first round of the NBA draft, despite the fact that they clearly lack the NBA body for their position. Likewise, good players can have a bad game and be tainted.

Back to ultimate, watching the Madness today I wonder the following:
  1. Why are upsets much more common in the NCAA than in CUC or UPAs? Maybe I need to do some research and might be way off, but it seems UNC or Memphis could fall a lot easier than GOAT or Furious
  2. Do you think that CUPA should set up non-betting bracket challenges for CUC and CUUC? Would you welcome this challenge and do you think it would be popular?


Taylor said...

While I would generally agree with the idea that upsets are less likely in ultimate, the exception to this was seen last year (south of the border). Many predicted an all-out slaughter by Sockeye at UPAs. However, upsets were the order of the weekend it seemed, with Sockeye falling to DW, Bravo to Ring, Bravo over Sockeye (debatable upset), Jam over Bravo, and Jam over Ironside (in my mind at least it was an upset, though I was loving the result). All I can say is it was exciting and also terrifying and confusing. Whether those results indicate greater parity at the highest level has yet to be seen. Even if that is the case there remains a marked difference between the top and bottom 8 teams at UPAs. In Canada the parity is even worse. Two benefits to leveling the playing field: 1) with increased level of competition we might see GOAT or Furious return to the Canadian scene and 2) it becomes more exciting when the outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Sorry, none of this is new, but I figured I'd be the one to say it.

Sport Management Steven said...

Last year at UPA finals was a nice change indeed Taylor. It's nice to have dominant teams like Sockeye, but also nice to know that the other top 15 teams could upset them in any given game.

I think it's pretty fair to say that the lack of parity between Furious and GOAT to the rest of the crowd is pretty evident at this time.. However, I'm not sure boycotting nationals and other major Canadian tournaments helps the other teams improve. It definitely won't help the Canadian game in the long run.

As the chair of the competition committee for CUPA, I really won't say more than that at this point. However, I will leave it for debate to you excellent posters.

T1000 said...

I think you could fill an essay in outlining the differences between NCAA basketball and championship ultimate. But I think the most obvious differences are in the volume and comparative uniformity of the talent pool at the NCAA level.

Almost like gas molecules in an empty room, there is a nonzero probability that the best players of the game will randomly converge at a single point to produce a dominant team. The chances of this happening are considerably greater when there are few players. Also, when you consider environmental factors, such as climate-dependence, post-secondary institutions, leagues, high school programmes, population density, and the condition that you need at least a threshold number of superstars to dominate, and we find there are relatively few "nucleation sites" (particularly in Canada) where highly experienced, athletic ultimate players are likely to converge into a powerhouse.

Thus, by virtue of a paucity of players, and a marked unevenness in the geographic popularity of the game, I would say that the calibre of ultimate is just a little more susceptible to random fluctuation than basketball-- a vastly popular, climate-independent game that is actively cultivated for talent all across the U.S.

Jeff said...

who is boycotting? goat has always gone to canadian nats when they were not going to something on the same weekend. but now that goat is stronger, and gets more invites to more lucrative tourneys, it just doesn't make economical sense to go (both in time and money).

unfortunately, canadian nats is about the same price and is no competition compared to:


"It definitely won't help the Canadian game in the long run."

making canada's best teams better is helping the canadian game more than making the other teams better. if lakers want to be a good team, kobe bryant should work on making kobe bryant better. who makes andrew bynum better then? kareem abdul-jabar and andrew bynum. why can kareem help? because when kareem was in the nba, kareem worked on making himself the best he could be and can pass that knowledge on. i took this analogy way too far but i stand by it.

jhaig said...

I don't think the answer for improving Canadian nationals should be for Furious and GOAT to attend. It would be naive to think that teams get significantly better by being blown out by Furious once a year. They get better by consistently playing teams that are of a similar, or slightly higher level to their own.

As mentioned by Jeff, Canadian Nationals is an extremely expensive tournament. Factor in the high team fee, CUPA membership and travel on top of a lack of parity and Nationals is prohibitively expensive. If you only count games against teams that are of a similar level, it's costing you hundreds of dollars per game, if not a thousand for the very best teams. It just doesn't make sense to chose CUC over tournaments that either have a lower cost or offer better competition.

Fixing the Canadian comp scene shouldn't be about begging Furious and GOAT to attend CUC, it should be about redesigning CUC to be a popular destination for high end teams. This should be accomplished by reducing the cost, shrinking the size of the tournament or both.

Jeff said...

for goat to want to go as a team a couple things would have to be different:

- cuc and regionals would have to not conflict with ECC, labour day, boston, cheasepeake.

one of:
- cheaper
- not a flight and/or lower player fee (honestly, >$100 per person on top of team fees?)
- a really fun town to visit (dumb maybe, but undeniable)
- all good canadian comp was going.

Don't get me wrong, I neither expect or believe top teams should be catered to for CUC. Only that people should not feel upset if they don't go.

If it did not conflict with another tourney, and none of the other requirements were met for goat to go as a full team, a lot of goat would still go only probably dispersed on various teams instead. The last couple of years this was the plan until it conflicted with ECC.

homrbush said...

Getting back to why there are rarely upsets in UPA/CUC compared to NCAA basketball, there are 2 simple reasons. One is a cap on roster sizes, and two is the "professional" nature of college basketball.

I'll start with point #2; once you commit to a school, except in rare circumstances (compare the number of circumstances to the number of players and is indeed rare), players are at that school until they are no longer player college basketball.

Such a commitment simply does not exist in Ultimate, especially south of the border. When people like Ron Kubalanza and Seth Wiggins can play on 3 Nationial level teams in 4 seasons, and ESPECIALLY when no talent is returned to their original teams, you are just going to have super teams that are near impossible to upset.

This also feeds into my 1st point (maybe I should have switched the order of my points :): roster sizes.

College ball teams are limited in the number of scholarships they can hand out (I believe it is 12 or 13), which effectively caps the amount of players they can have on their team. College football and Ultimate do not have these caps in place (football does have scholarship caps, but can carry as many walk-ons as they see fit), and therefore they can hoard talent and make it near impossible to be upset.

Teams are carrying 25-28 guys (and have heard of as many as 35 on a roster), but how many have significant playing time?

If we limited roster sizes to say, 18 (2 full starting lines plus 4 floaters sounds reasonable), or something like 20 players with 17 active for any given game/tournament, this forces those who wish to play high level ultimate to form more teams. This would not effect the top level teams (ie Sockeye or GOAT) as their 17 or 18 would be the same 17 or 18 they use on a regular basis now (do they even go that deep into their roster for big games?); however, this creates more "mid-major" type teams. The more of those there are, the more improved and balanced the 2nd tier of teams become, and the liklihood of upsets increases.

Decreasing the talent gap between the top tiers of teams would benefit Ultimate in many ways, including more entertaining National Championships (especially here in Canada).