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2018 Pre-National Championship Tournament Analysis

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  • 2018 Pre-National Championship Tournament Analysis

    Sorry this is being posted quite literally the night before Nationals. We secretly hope that everyone reads this instead of last minute prep -- it's clearly more important.

    This is our penultimate post of the year, followed only by our post Nationals write-up. We want to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who read, responded, or shared our musings this year: your engagement made this endeavor tremendously meaningful.

    More later, but keep an eye out for an opportunity to hop on board our team next year. We will be looking for potential future analyzers to help propel us into the fall!

    - MAIMD



    Minneapolis:

    Possible Champs:
    Yale A
    UCLA

    Expect to place:
    UVA
    Miami
    Stanford
    OSU
    Florida A

    Bubble:
    Patrick Henry
    Chicago
    Cornell A
    Arizona
    Rhodes B
    NYU B
    Tufts

    Initial Thoughts:
    This division will be absolutely brutal at the top, with both of last year’s division champions, as well as traditional powers like UCLA and Miami as relatively newer programs that have done extraordinarily well on the invitational and/or AMTA circuits like Stanford and OSU. This is also the first time since 2015 that both division champions from the year before will be in the same division. We are, therefore, guaranteed not to have a rematch of last year’s final and at least one of Yale and UVA will be going home unhappy out of this division (perhaps to the relief of a final round audience who does not want to see exactly the same set of trial dynamics play out for a third year in a row).

    On the other hand, the bottom of this division seems less difficult than the St. Paul division. This may mean that it will be easier to break into the top 10 from the Minneapolis division than from the St. Paul division, but harder to make the final round. It also means that in this division we can expect to see some clean victories of strong teams over weaker teams followed by a battle in the last two rounds as the top programs duke it out for the final placements. Given how stratified this division is, AMTA’s decision to have a coin flip decide whether the defendant is called may introduce an extra element of luck into who hits who when. Many teams will have a strong preference between the two types of trials (defendant called vs defendant not called), particularly on defense. They will have to hope they hit their strong rounds when the coin flip is on their side.

    Team to Watch - Yale
    Yale A enters Nationals this year presenting seasoned returners from last year’s final round Byrnes, Bays, and Parker on their bench. Together this team has dominated this year’s invitational season, and coasted through the regional and ORCS season. Their strong performance at the Downtown makes this team our favorite to win this division.

    Even in years they struggle to make it out of ORCS, Yale’s creativity, flashiness, and clever script-writing have consistently served them best at Nationals, where their ability to build a unique and compelling case with only 26 days of prep lets them stand out.

    This year looks to be no exception, and Yale’s team seems to be stronger than ever. They’ve posted consistent winning records throughout the season at both invitationals and AMTA tournaments, placing second at every tournament they’ve attended since December (a step up from last year when they always seemed to wind up in sixth). Every member of this 7 person team has won at least one individual award this year. Collectively they have won over a dozen. They don’t just have standout attorneys carrying the team, they have a deep cast of compelling witnesses (Du, Chase, Nugent, and Young-Perez) and a seamless bench.

    After making the finals last year with an extraordinarily young team, Yale is undoubtedly hoping their extra year of experience can carry them to a championship. Even now they have only one competing senior: Michael Byrnes, who won a double sided award at ORCS and was named one of the best attorneys in last year’s final round.

    Team to Watch - Patrick Henry
    Patrick Henry College is the smallest school to make it to nationals, but don’t be deceived by their size, they are a force. Led by AMTA’s president, Frank Gulizza, PHC has been a force to be reckoned with this year. They bring southern charm to a whole new level and really lay it on with thick accents and extreme attention to formality and manners. Patrick Henry is a team which is never flustered, and they are one of the most cool, calm, collected teams in AMTA. Led by strong seniors like Shane Roberts and Brenna Bakke.

    Through Regionals and ORCS, their 15-1 record is one of the best we have seen. Their sole ballot drop this year was to Howard B. This is a really interesting ballot to drop. Patrick Henry has played and beaten many other teams, who we would have considered much stronger than Howard B. This coupled with their history of success at regionals and ORCS yet struggles at Nationals gives us reason to be skeptical. But, after sweeping UVA at regionals (only team to sweep any UVA team through regionals and ORCS), we have confidence that this may be a different team, one who can make a very serious Nationals run.



    St. Paul:

    Possible Champs:
    NYU
    Rhodes

    Expect to place:
    UC Berkeley
    GT
    Northwestern
    Harvard
    Michigan

    Bubble:
    Yale B
    Indiana
    Rutgers
    Emory
    Furman
    UC Irvine A

    Initial Thoughts:
    This division isn’t quite as scary at the top. It has two very clear front runners after the invitational season: Rhodes and NYU. But after that, the top teams in this division are not as strong as the ones in St. Paul. Harvard, Georgia Tech, and Michigan have all had rocky seasons with a lot of ups and downs this year, making the TPR top five from St. Paul a lot less intimidating than the top five from Minneapolis. Even looking at the top ten teams from this division, Indiana, Yale B, and Emory have all had their rough moments. This means that this division may be ripe for some new teams to break into the very top echelons. Adding to this, we have the fact that neither of last years returning division champions will be in this division so we will have a new face in the final coming out of this group.

    That being said this division isn’t a cake walk (if any NCT division can ever be said to be a cakewalk). Unlike the Minneapolis division, St Paul doesn’t have a quality drop off. Teams are pretty consistently good most of the way down the bracket. This means that if you drop ballots you can’t expect to pick them up later with a sweep of a lower ranked team.You have to be consistent all the way through the tournament.

    Team to watch - NYU
    This year’s NYU team is a seemingly magical combination of polish, style, and creativity. They avoid the pitfalls of many of the most polished and professional teams out there in that they are willing to adapt on the fly and respond to what is happening in trial real time. On the flip side, they avoid the pitfalls of many of the more adaptive teams in that they maintain a high level of professionalism and don’t make the little mistakes you often see from a team like Yale.

    They have the advantage of a very experienced bench. Ramos, Baratta, and Isaac are all seniors this year, and all of them have had pretty impressive careers in the last few years. They also manage to have some variation in style among the three attorneys which stops the jury from losing focus. Their witnesses tend to be slightly younger, but especially in a few cases, no less impressive. Linsey China may well be one of the most well awarding expert witnesses in the country and Papa Yaw Sencherey is nearly impossible to dislike.

    This is also a team that is not afraid to take risks (a trait that has proved useful for teams at Nationals in recent years). This is a team that was willing to commit to a BOLD defense theory all year that was able to knock teams off their feet who didn’t know how to respond. Teams that can’t adapt should be very, very afraid of hitting NYU at Nationals.

    If we have a concern about this team, it’s that Minneapolis may not be their optimal region to play in. NYU has done much better in areas where the judges really appreciate aggressive, bombastic attorneys and over the top witnesses. It is no surprise that they have done extremely well at Downtown in the last few years and then struggled when they had to leave home and play in other regions for Nationals. If this year’s Lancaster is anything to go by, not all judges love their style. If NYU gets the right judges though, they will be unstoppable.

    Team to watch - Furman
    Furman is another team with that exemplifies strong southern charm. They very rarely run complex or wild theories, although they have been known to be willing to try things other teams won’t (e.g. not calling the defendant in Bancroft/Covington). They run smooth polished cases that focus on a few key points. They have highly sympathetic and charismatic bench of veteran attorneys who very few judges can find serious faults with. This year Furman has the advantage of coming in hungry. Last year, for the first time in many years they failed to make the National Championship Tournament which must have been a shock to this otherwise well oiled system. They seem to have regrouped this year and for a solid performance at both regionals and ORCS.

    One of the major things Furman has going for them is a truly stellar infrastructure and coaching staff lead by Glen Halva-Neubauer. This is the program that managed to get five judge panels (an unprecedented feat) for Nationals two years ago. It’s also one of the few programs in the nation that offers full ride mock trial scholarships. While this may not have been enough to get them through to the final round in recent years, it means that they never fall down on the job either. Furman will always be a good team even in years when they are not great. We anticipate a strong performance from Furman this year.
    Last edited by MockAnalysisIsMyDrug; April 20th, 2018, 01:36 AM.

  • #2
    oof.

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    • #3
      I love your analyses, but yeesh, was that a weird NCT. I personally think the division rankings came as a surprise to many, many people.
      Last edited by shefram; April 24th, 2018, 03:13 PM.

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      • #4
        When can we expect a post Nationals analysis?

        Comment


        • #5
          Next week or two

          Comment


          • #6
            So where's that nationals analysis?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by NickRamMeDaddy View Post
              So where's that nationals analysis?
              MAIMD probably has finals, like the rest of us.

              Comment


              • #8
                St. Paul Division:

                Yale B*
                UC Irvine A*
                Rhodes A
                Cornell B**
                Michigan
                Howard**
                NYU
                Georgia Tech
                Northwestern A
                Indiana*
                ------
                Haverford**
                Harvard
                Furman*
                Emory*
                Rutgers*

                *in from “Bubble”
                **Unpredicted in

                Out from “Possible Champs”

                Out from “Expect to Place”
                UC Berkeley

                Thoughts:
                We want to focus on the surprising successes and surprising shortcomings, so we will start out with the two clear frontroners through R2, R3, & R4: UCI A and Yale B. Both teams were somewhat unexpected teams to be this highly ranked. But looking closer, UCI’s tied ballot with NYU A at UCLASSIC was an early indicator. After going 8-3 last year, Yale B on the other hand has had a rocky season this year. They failed to make it out of regionals and combined with their C team to barely scrape through ORCS. UCI was coming in from a 3-year slump, in which they pulled 4-4 records for three consecutive ORCS tournaments. This year, though, they managed to forge together a seasoned and talented lineup that include West Coast favorites such as Tristan Lim & Dev Madeka. These two teams with very different styles faced off in an epic R4 that as we all now know resulted in a ballot and a half for both teams and a 5th round for Yale B.

                As we also heard during Closing Ceremony the fourth round resulted in a new record for tie breakers in making the final. Never before has a team been 1 ballot from their opponent's opponent away from the Final Round. This year we found out that OCS actually does end up mattering. It's anyone's guess how different the Final Round would've been with Miami facing a much more flashy and theatrical UCI.

                While they weren’t talked about a lot, another team from this division that really surprised a lot of people was Cornell B. Cornell took a ballot off Yale B, something not many other teams did. They also managed to sweep Emory and took 2 against Furman. Again, this was Cornell’s B team, a team that many people were surprised to see making it out of ORCS. Cornell has become a Nationals regular who never tends to place until this year where they placed not one but two teams (and were another east coast program whose B team actually managed to out place their A team)!

                Howard used to be one of the strongest programs in AMTA, and they proved this year that they still are. After barely making it out of Regionals and ORCS, they showed up at Nationals. Routine powers are known for having close matches against other powers but taking care of business when they play a weaker team. Howard did just that, taking 5.5 ballots from William and Mary and UC Santa Barbara. Their other two rounds were against NYU and Indiana, both of which were in the top 10.

                There were also a couple teams who fell a little shorter than where we expected. Going into this tournament, NYU was by far the crowd favorite to win this division. With some of the most experienced attorneys and dynamic witnesses, this team has been incredibly hard to beat all year. They blew everyone out of the water at the Downtown and had several other strong invitationals performances. They qualified two teams out of ORCS despite an incredibly stacked Lancaster pool. But the bold arguments and aggressive demeanor they are known for didn’t work as well in Minneapolis as it has in New York, and NYU fell short of the final round with a crushing loss to Rhodes (whom they had already beaten in New York), and dropped ballots to Princeton and Howard. That being said, NYU still finished with 7 wins after an impressive sweep over UC Berkeley, another favored power.

                As just mentioned, UC Berkeley was also heavily favored going into nationals with a reputation of being one of the best teams from the West Coast. They too faired poorly and were outperformed by UCLA, Stanford, UCI A, UCI B, and UCSD, almost every team that was repping the West. They were crushed by NYU (even with NYU’s judging pool problems), and only took 1 ballot off an unimpressive 4-8 Minneota. The one bright spot for their weekend seems to have been their decisive victory over Princeton, but this was not the top level performance one might expect from a team with UC Berkeley’s reputation. The West Coast crown will be in Newport Beach for the year.


                Minneapolis Division:

                Miami
                UVA
                Stanford
                Rhodes B*
                Arizona*
                Tufts*
                Lafayette**
                Ohio State
                Cornell A*
                Chicago*
                ------
                UCLA
                Patrick Henry*
                Rochester**

                *in from “Bubble”
                **Unpredicted in

                Out from “Possible Champs”
                Yale A

                Out from “Expect to Place”
                Florida A

                Thoughts:

                As they said during the awards ceremony, Miami won this division and it wasn’t even close. They came out of this tournament with an 11-1 record against a strong schedule. There were two full ballots separating them from the next best team (a far cry from what happened in the other division) in a division that was otherwise highly compressed. And they didn’t have an easy schedule to push them forward. They beat both Ohio State and Chicago in the middle rounds on P, and they managed to pull 20+ point victories over Lafayette in the fourth round (a team that had already taken out the 9th place team, Cornell). In fact their only weak point seems to have been in the first round playing Defense in the trial where they couldn’t call the defendant (which must have been something of a blow to their defense theory, which relied heavily on the defendant’s invention that the woman in Exhibit 10 was employed by the security company).

                We also want to note the shocking development that was Lafayette College. For everyone who was at the opening ceremonies or watched it online, yes, we did not predict them to make it out of regionals, and yes, they were 7-2 going into the final round with Miami. They absolutely stunned us, and they deserve recognition for their exceptional nationals performance, they are absolutely a force to be reckoned with. Lafayette, unlike most north east teams, isn’t particularly aggressive, and instead plays a very straight up, polished type of mock trial which the judges really responded to. Lafayette had just gone 0-8 last year at ORCS and nobody thought that they would manage to turn things around to become a top contender the way that they were this year.

                We also wanted to shoutout both Arizona and Ohio State who only made nationals with their B teams. Both programs restacked and threw together a team that had many of the A members who failed to make it out of ORCS, and those teams both proved their tough ORCS schedules wrong by both placing solidly in the top 10. Arizona, in particular, with an impressive 8 wins.

                This was also, as mentioned above, a very compressed division. The difference between the third place team and the first honorable mention team was just one ballot. This was a division with a lot of splits and ties and a low number of clean vistories (15/48 rounds resulted in a 3-0). This may be attributable to the fact that the case this year was much simpler than the ones we have seen in previous years, and was, therefore, much harder to differentiate between the good and the truly great. Decisions with a case like this often come down to stylistic preference and that’s going to create a lot of splits and differences of opinion.

                As with the other division, there were some unexpected failures, particularly from the Northeast and the West Coast. Notably, as Yale’s B team soared in the other division, Yale A, who many (including us) had selected as the potential division champions, failed dramatically at this tournament. This was a team with six returning All-Americans on its roster. It was the team that had just made the Downtown final. It qualified without difficulty from ORCS. And, yet, Yale A ended up 2-8-2 as the second worst team in the division, the worst showing any team from Yale A,B, or C has had at an AMTA tournament in some time now (and the worst showing Yale A has had at any tournament in years). They took no more than one ballot per round and in their last two rounds they only took half a ballot. In other words, the style that has worked for Yale in the past just wasn’t this Minneapolis judging pool’s cup of tea.

                Similarly, the other team that could be said to have placed second at the Downtown (originally earning second and then ceding their place in the final to Yale for schedule reasons), UCLA underperformed (though not nearly as dramatically). They dropped from last year’s third place finish to an honorable mention placement at this year’s tournament. Their first honorable mention in some time. Many of their losses seemed to be in odd splits as well. In the second round, they beat Wheaton by convincing margins on two ballots and then dropped the third by just 3 points. Even more frustrating, they took two ballots from Irvine B by +21 and +14 and then dropped the third by -1. This screams again of stylistic issues with a judging pool that did not like their highly performative West Coast style.


                Season In Review
                This year felt surprising at times. We saw traditional powers like Columbia, Brown, Duke all fail to make an appearance to this year’s NCT, and we saw a lot of shake ups at ORCs resulting in B teams qualifying instead of their A teams. We saw the reemergence of UCI in the West and Lafayette become a new player on the Nationals field in the East. But as far as Nationals go, it seemed very reminiscent of what happened last time Nationals was held in Minneapolis. While the players weren’t all the same, the results for the most part were. If this year teaches us anything it is that you have to be willing to adapt to the judging pool.

                Going forward into next year it will be interesting to see whether these new powers stay on the rise and whether some of the older powers continue to fall or whether we see a return to the normal status quo. In many ways it’s too early to predict, but we will make some early guesses. With Yale’s B team having made the final round this year, we can expect their A team next year to be versatile and unstoppable (they will have 14 All-Americans to choose from in building their roster). Miami, however, is more unclear. With most of their team from the national final graduating they will have a brand new A team built out of members who are as of now on their B team (which has not fared as well in recent years). On the other hand, they have a strong foundation of coaches to mass produce talent and they certainly have a history of being able to replace losses and come back strong.

                It will also interesting to see the effect of moving the NCT site next year. Next year’s NCT will be in Philadelphia, so we can expect the judging pool to be entirely different from the one we saw this year in Minneapolis. As such, the winning strategy may have to be entirely different. It’s not entirely clear at this point how contemporary powers will fair in a region where traditional programs have maintained power. Many of the East Coast teams that struggled so much this year will be back on their home turf.

                MAIMD Review
                As many of you know, we wrote up a full pre-Nationals Power Ranking in which we ranked each of the 48 teams. We compared the final results both to our own Rankings and to AMTA’s TPR. The comparison showed that we were, on average, roughly 10.4 spots off, and TPR was 10.6 spots off. While 10 seems like a pretty wide margin to miss by, we wanted to note some of the major ‘misses’: Yale -43, Berkeley -26, Florida -24, Howard +20, Cornell B +33, Irvine A +23, and Lafayette +35. When compared to TPR our best changes were: 18 closer on Haverford, and 9 closer on UCI A. Our worst changes were: 10 worse on Princeton, and 9 worse on Howard.

                The reality is that Mock Trial is tough to predict, we do our best, but even we can’t always be right (although we are extremely impressed and proud of ourselves for doing a whopping .2 places better than AMTA!). We always encourage others to voice their disagreements on our analysis, and while we try to remain as objective as possible, sometimes, as seen, we are wrong! If anyone thinks that there is some metric or something that we should focus more on in our analysis, we would love to hear it and try to incorporate it in the future! We are glad so many people enjoyed reading our analysis, and we intend to continue with a Region focussed review of Nationals as well as a pre Trial by Combat write up soon!

                Last edited by MockAnalysisIsMyDrug; May 9th, 2018, 05:55 PM.

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