Another four tournaments have occurred (Triton Winter (LOGIC), DNE (BLAST), SoCal States (IS #192), and NEGFIVE (IS #190)—I'm intentionally ignoring MWT at UCSD because it was a college tournament), and accordingly it's time to revisit the state of SoCal quiz bowl again.
First, I'm going to direct you to this analysis written by Nicholas Dai (Westview), which is an excellent complement to my analysis here:
https://grogerranks.com/2020/02/26/revi ... -analysis/
*Note that this was written before NEGFIVE.
Unlike when I last posted in this thread in November, the full capabilities of teams have become more clear. The primary reason for this is that all top-tier teams have now played at least one tournament with their presumptive A teams, although teams are still predictably somewhat inconsistent across tournaments, rendering it extremely difficult to make a definitive ranking.
That being said, I am again maintaining the tier system. The tiers are mostly based on NAQT, but unlike in November I'm placing much more relative emphasis on housewrites. I've also decided not to put the most recent Groger ranking next to teams' names because they're highly misleading (namely, because CCA did not receive a ranking, Santa Monica's ranking includes one of my solo performances that's dragging it down by a lot, and Arcadia is massively underranked).
Tier 1: [Potential] National Contenders
: Westview A
In what begins a trend, Westview A remains the only team in tier 1.
Westview added another win (BLAST) to its already impressive season, and finished tied for first before finals at its other two tournaments (LOGIC, losing a final to Arcadia, and IS #192, getting locked out of finals on a PPG tiebreak). Westview's HSNCT A team roster will most likely consist of Shahar, Junu, Daniel Shaw, and Gary (their roster on IS #188), although, as Nick wrote in his writeup, their final roster will likely not be determined until 2:55 PM ET on Saturday May 23rd. Accordingly, you can count on them to send different rosters to every tournament, and in spite of this you can also count on them to always finish near the top. This was embodied by their performance at states (IS #192), where a roster of Shahar, Rohan (both strong lit players), Andrew, and Pramod averaged 7.5 powers per game and 23.17 PPB while going 9-1. The team was not, however, hard-carried by Shahar, whose performance was relatively underwhelming (see in particular their round 8 win over Santa Monica, wherein Rohan, Andrew, and Pramod combined for all seven of their powers). This demonstrates the enormous depth of their squad, which has enabled them to field competitive B teams and wild card a C team to HSNCT (I'll talk more about these two teams in their respective sections). One notorious characteristic of Westview is their extremely high neg rate, the effects of which they are always able to neutralize with their high power rates and high PPB's. It's unclear, however, whether they can maintain this success at nationals, where they will face teams more suitable to take advantage of horrendous neg storms than most SoCal teams are. In spite of this, notice that I have now placed the "potential" tag in the heading for this tier in brackets.
: Arcadia A, Canyon Crest A, Del Norte A, Santa Monica A
In what continues a trend, these four teams remain in tier 2, with no changes whatsoever. Although several of these teams have been able to defeat Westview and/or win tournaments this year, their overall inconsistency is keeping them out of tier 1 (or keeping them from falling down to tier 3). Also notice that these four teams and Westview A have finished first and second at every tournament this year so far.
Arcadia has easily been the biggest surprise this year. They have been the only team to deny Westview a tournament victory, doing so at Triton Winter and SoCal states (the latter by virtue of locking them out of finals with a 400-195 win). Sophomore Amogh Kulkarni has clearly established himself as a top-three player in SoCal, filling the void left by last year's captain Andrew Hoagland. Interestingly, Arcadia's tournament wins (LOGIC, IS #192) have come while playing shorthanded (with rosters of sophomores Amogh, Ryan Sun, and Brian Lam), but their one tournament playing with a full A team (Amogh, Ryan, Bryan Hsu, Spencer Cheng) only resulted in a T-3rd place finish. It is solely because of this inconsistency that they are not with Westview in tier 1, despite being the only team able to regularly defeat Westview A. I'm not entirely sure what the cause of this inconsistency is, but it probably just has to do with the packets as they don't have a neg problem like Westview does. As a result this year's Arcadia has both the potential to make a deep run at HSNCT (top 20 or better) but also to get knocked out early because of (an) unfavorable packet(s). I will also note that this is one of the youngest teams in SoCal, and I am confident that by 2022 they will match or surpass their 2019 HSNCT team that finished T-8.
Canyon Crest A had enormous expectations going into the year, being ranked 4th in the Groger Ranks preseason poll. It's an understatement that they have not met those expectations and have the potential to be one of the biggest busts of the year. Their 2019 performances were uninspiring, with players openly declaring their lack of motivation for quiz bowl and deciding to meme instead of play. Everyone in Southern California was implicitly beginning to write them off, with the exception of CCA's own Raymond Song, who instead did so explicitly in the post preceding this one in this thread. In 2020 CCA has played all four tournaments, splitting their A team at LOGIC and BLAST and sending a full team except Wesley to IS #192. Their performances at those three tournaments were solid, although a far cry from being title caliber (including going 0-5 in playoffs at states). At NEGFIVE, however, they sent their full roster (Raymond, Wesley, Shreyank, Jonathan) for the first time this year, and showed why they were ranked highly to begin the year. They became the first team not from Westview or Arcadia to win a tournament this year, leading the field with 25.15 PPB, which was almost 2 points higher than the next highest team. Coupled with the sharp contrast between their anemic 0-5 playoff performance on IS #192 without Wesley and their victory on IS #190 with him, their individual PPG breakdown at NEGFIVE (each within 15 PPG) as well as their PPB show how balanced their team is. I can easily see them making a deep run at HSNCT and/or PACE this year, but, as with Westview, they have a neg problem that they will have to clean up.
Del Norte A has been "cursed with forever getting second place", doing so five times this year against three different opponents (most of whom they had beaten previously in earlier rounds). Comparing their playing style from last year to this year, they have shifted dramatically. Last year they were known for their cautious gameplay that made them a sleeper to win any game, but this year their power numbers have drastically increased, getting over 7 per game on IS #192, and not corresponding with an increase in neg rate (with the exception of IS #190, where they averaged 2.5 per game, but I'll write that off as a fluke). In November I wrote that packet-to-packet inconsistency would either greatly help or hurt them, and this has continued to show in 2020, as so-called "revenge games" have often yielded different results between prelims and playoffs (or playoffs and finals)—a major reason why they continue to be plagued with finishing second. At full strength, I believe Del Norte (expected roster of Kyle, Joshua, Manasvi, and Ajai) also has the potential to make a deep run at nationals, but their packet-based inconsistency makes them a team that could easily be knocked out early (and conversely, their low-neg playing style makes them a team that could knock some strong teams out early).
Santa Monica A is the final team in tier 2. Prior to NEGFIVE I was intending to demote us to a tier 2.5 of sorts, but our strong performance there has led me to keep us here. In 2020 "we" have also attended all four tournaments, although I soloed two of them, whose results I will promptly ignore because 1) I have basically no coverage of certain subjects which my teammates cover, and 2) they were housewrites, and I am significantly geared toward NAQT. Our A team roster will almost certainly center around history/geography/current events/philosophy/sports/literature specialist Josh Xu (yes, I am a lit player now, since I get the most lit points on our team; that means we suck at lit), science specialist Josh Kong, and fine arts/myth/trash/lit specialist Alexandra Raphling. The three of us had a solid performance on IS #192, defeating Canyon Crest A twice en route to a 4th place finish, and a two-man team of Josh Kong and me finished T-3rd at NEGFIVE after a huge statement win over Arcadia A, which is the sole reason why I am keeping us in tier 2 since it demonstrates that we have the potential to seriously compete with the other teams in this tier despite having weaker stats. IS #190 was an interesting set for us, as the 6.75 powers per game Josh K. and I put up broke a long-standing school record. We were also amazingly consistent, getting exactly 7 or 8 powers in each of our first six games, and I individually had either 5 or 6 powers in 7 of 8 games (normally my intra-tournament range spans from 2 to 8 powers in a game). As I have previously noted, while I am able to hard-carry my team very far and score over 80% of our tossup points (I had 117.5 PPG across the tournament; nobody else broke 110 points in any game; yes, I'm flexing), the ultimate factor in our success is my teammates, who often come through in the clutch—Josh K. did this in our prelim win over Del Norte A by powering two literature tossups. My teammates' contributions become much more apparent on bonuses—compare my solo 20 PPB on IS #188 with our three-person 22.59 PPB on IS #192 and our four-person 23.53 PPB on IS #186. As an aside, I think our 23.53 PPB at PPT came from luck, and our PPB at states is more indicative of our true abilities. But if Del Norte is cursed with placing second, we seem to be cursed with starting 6-0 and then going on a losing streak, which happened at both states and NEGFIVE (as well as NHBB yesterday). Like Del Norte, this packet-based inconsistency can greatly help or harm us, and this gives us both the potential to pull off upsets and be upset at HSNCT.
: Westview B
To further continue the trend, Westview B remains the only team in this tier.
There isn't much for me to say about Westview B, since its roster probably won't be determined until May 23rd. On a more serious note, their roster at LOGIC will likely be similar to their HSNCT roster, and if that ends up being the case this is a team that can pull off an enormous upset in the early rounds of playoffs. I will note that a B team of Rohan Venkateswaran, Connor Rankin, and Richard Lin did exceptionally well on IS #188 at ACE, but I will write that off as a fluke since power numbers on that set were so inflated.
Tier 4: Other Teams That Have Qualified for HSNCT; [Potential] Wild Cards
: Westview C, Santa Monica B, Arcadia B, Scripps Ranch, Canyon Crest B, Del Norte B, Troy A, Troy B, Van Nuys, Valencia, Segerstrom
(I think I got everyone. If I missed someone please let me know, I'll update this section.) This is a new tier, and I'm able to create it since it's become more evident which teams intend on seeking a wild card. SoCal is a very top-heavy circuit, meaning that qualification spots get snagged up by the same teams at every tournament, making it difficult-to-impossible for such lower-tier teams to qualify.
Westview C submitted the first successful wild card application from SoCal this year. According to Nick Dai, their roster at HSNCT will look like their B team's roster from IS #192, which destroyed CCA A (without Wesley) and played competitive matches against Del Norte and Santa Monica. But again, we won't know the composition of this team until 2:55 PM on May 23rd, so I won't spend much time talking about them.
Santa Monica is seeking to wild card a B team for the second time in three years. This B team will center around history/geography/current events/jazz/"Kubla Khan" (he powers that every time, and he doesn't get any other lit) specialist Kethan Raman, but beyond that the roster composition is uncertain because it will depend on who the fourth player on our A team will be. Either Teddy Berger or Matt Sasaki (whoever's not on the A team) will be on the B team, but beyond that is even more uncertain. We will probably take at least one player from our C team that ran away with the JV division at NEGFIVE. We may even use players who have never been to a tournament before. Anyway, moving beyond speculation. Our B team at NEGFIVE was composed of Kethan, Matt, and A team member Alexandra Raphling, who was holding down our two TBD spots. This team did incredibly well during prelims, but faltered during playoffs where they were clearly overmatched by top-tier teams. They did, however, have an excellent opportunity to upset Del Norte, which would have happened had they not vulched twice and made a couple terrible negs (as an aside, I'm particularly angry at our B team for losing that game since a Del Norte loss would have put our A team at T-2 instead of T-3). Nevertheless, in spite of their 2-6 record, I was extremely pleased with their results.
Arcadia B also appears to be seeking a wild card. They finished a solid sixth at NEGFIVE with a roster of Stephen Dai, Brian Lam, Michael Kwok, and Nathan Kuo (who from what I gather would be replaced by Vincent K. at HSNCT), but was sent to the bottom bracket after losing a stats tiebreak to Santa Monica B. I really don't know much about this team because Arcadia doesn't often send B teams to tournaments, but I will note that at NEGFIVE they only trailed us [Santa Monica A] by 5 at halftime before we pulled away in the second half. I believe that at HSNCT this team could be a sleeper.
Scripps Ranch has the distinction of being one of the first teams to qualify for HSNCT, having done so at JROTC nationals in June. This season, however, their full A team has not played together at all, so I have no clue what to expect out of them. Albert and Jeremy each had a valuable 10 PPG on their T-49th place A team last year, and Frederic O'Hara has had impressive individual performances this year, so they might be a sleeper team at HSNCT.
Canyon Crest has also expressed interest in sending a B team to nationals, but I have no idea who would play on it. Given how CCA A's attendance at tournaments has been very spotty this year, I'm not sure how serious they really are in getting a B team. I'm even less confident in how they would do at HSNCT. Last year, they were hard-carried by Alan Zhu to a mere 181st place, and he has since graduated. I haven't seen much to indicate that they've made up for losing him.
Del Norte qualified a B team by splitting its regular A team at PPT in October, but their actual B team will not look anything like the team that qualified. I have no clue who will play on this team, but their JV teams have done well this year. They have one of the largest squads in SoCal, so they definitely have many players to choose from.
Troy qualified for HSNCT through JROTC tournaments, but to my knowledge they haven't played any regular SoCal tournaments yet this year (EDIT: They played BLAST and did alright for a hard set). Accordingly I'm also not sure what to expect from them.
In addition to these teams that have already registered for HSNCT, there are several others who have qualified: Van Nuys, Valencia, and Segerstrom. Van Nuys and Valencia both qualified at JROTC nationals in June (as did Scripps Ranch), but neither is registered for HSNCT and neither has ever attended it (EDIT: It appears Valencia has registered now) (EDIT 3/6: They're no longer registered now). I have no idea what the state of these two schools' teams are, considering that JROTC nationals is the only tournament they ever attend. Van Nuys seems to have an NHBB team and has expressed interest in hosting before though. As for Segerstrom, they seem to dominate their Santa Ana Kiwanis circuit, but despite winning every tournament they have never been to HSNCT. It's been expressed that SoCal has a lot of untapped potential with these insular Orange County circuits that use NAQT questions, and they seem like good targets for outreach.
Another good target would be Academic League in San Diego, half of which uses NAQT questions. To my knowledge results have yet to come out, but many teams that participate, including many that have played regular SoCal tournaments, will qualify for HSNCT, but I predict that few or none will go.
There have been five JV tournaments this year (PPT, BONoBo, Triton Fall, DNE, and NEGFIVE), with varying results. The former two were somewhat competitive, with Westview and Del Norte emerging from loaded fields. The three subsequent tournaments, however, have seen one team completely dominate (Del Norte C, Oak Valley Middle A, and Santa Monica C, respectively). Despite having three teams registered, I doubt Westview will send many of its JV players to HSNCT (except maybe Daniel Jung) because of its deep varsity roster. On the other hand, I can easily see Del Norte bringing many of its top JV players to nationals on its B team, as some players (like Kumail Afshar) have already filled in for A team regulars. As for Santa Monica, a potential B team at HSNCT would most likely include at least one of the players on our C team roster at NEGFIVE. Finally, Oak Valley's dominant performance at DNE indicates that this circuit will remain strong beyond the graduation of present powerhouse A teams.
This season has arguably been the strongest in SoCal history, and it has also been extremely competitive with finals often coming down to the final tossup. It's excellent that we've had many new schools play, although the strength of the circuit unfortunately means that they invariably get blown out by top-tier teams. Still, teams like Serra and Mount Everest have had statistically solid performances while playing in consolation brackets. Many of these schools will qualify for HSNCT from Academic League, but I'm not sure whether any intend on actually going.
How will WAIT, CALISTO, RAFT, and BHSAT play out? Will Westview return to dominance and win the three they won't host? Will Arcadia move up into tier 1? Will Canyon Crest prove all of our doubts wrong and meet its top-four expectations? Or will their A team again go missing until HSNCT? Will Del Norte finally win a tournament and break its second-place curse? Will Santa Monica be able to translate its NAQT success to housewrites? Will Santa Monica even play any of these four tournaments? Will Santa Monica B, Arcadia B, and CCA B get wild cards to HSNCT? We'll have to wait and see!
EDIT: Also, I probably missed something important. If you notice something missing please plug in the holes below!