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2019 Pre-National Championship Thoughts

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  • #16
    ThugLyf someone commented them in a Facebook thread posted by AMTA (maybe the live stream link?) check there

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    • #17
      And so the season has come to a close! It was a wild ride, but we were happy to have shared it with all of you as we predicted and failed to predict what would happen at each tournament! As we did last year, we wanted to close with a break down of what happened at Nationals and a review of our accuracy over the course of the year. We hope you enjoy!

      Quick thing to note before jumping into the analysis - we know that there has been a lot of controversy and buzz about the impeachment that occurred during the final round. While it is a very interesting thing to discuss, given both AMTA’s statement about the process of these kinds of deliberations as well as the extensive nature of the perjuries thread on the topic, we’ve decided not to include any analysis here and will not be commenting on that subject until new information comes to light.

      Dr. Frank Guliuzza Division:

      Yale
      Miami A
      Cornell A
      Patrick Henry*
      Ohio State B**
      Columbia*
      UCLA A
      UMBC*
      UC Berkeley*
      South Carolina**
      ---------
      Georgetown*
      Georgia A*
      Rhodes B

      *in from “Bubble”
      **Unpredicted in

      Out from “Possible Champs”
      None

      Out from “Expect to Place”
      Stanford

      Thoughts:
      This was our less predictable division, although it was still a lot more predictable than most ORCS. The division winner was one of the predicted champions (although that was kind of a cheap prediction since they’ve made the final five years in a row now, so we can’t be too proud of ourselves). All but one of our top two categories ended up placing and only two teams who we did not predict ended up in the top 10.

      The big surprises for this division included Stanford, who after placing third last year ended up failing to place. It seems that their struggles from ORCS which, at the time just seemed like an out of place West Coast team in a Midwest ORCS having some bad luck with splits carried over to Nationals where the team was mostly comprised of their A team that just missed a bid with a few members of the B team that secured it. They also included South Carolina, our worst ranked team that ended up placing tenth (we seem to be cursed with picking a Cinderella team for our last pick), and Ohio State B, who matched their A team’s rank in the other division despite playing both the first and second place teams from this division (including sweeping Miami A).

      Yale continued their unbelievable streak of making the national final round, extending it to 5 consecutive years. There have now been two classes of Yale mockers who went through four years competing at Yale, while never once experiencing a year in which Yale was not competing in the final. Throughout their first four rounds at Nationals, Yale played Emory B, Cornell A, Ohio State B, and UMBC. Especially when compared to the schedules of top teams from the other division, this schedule is not the most difficult that one could construct. What remains to be truly remarkable about Yale is that not only do they consistently reach the top of the activity, but they do so in wild and crazy ways. In 2015, no one was expecting that team to make the final round, but then they stormed onto the scene and faced Harvard. In 2016, Yale ran back almost the same exact time and went through the year as the prohibitive favorites, closing it off with a final round win over Virginia. 2017 was when the turnover happened, losing their superstars Stern and Zhou. The 2017 roster was absurdly young but despite that, they fought through and made the final round again, this time losing to Virginia. In 2018, Yale A was able to have almost the same roster at the year before, but was one of the shocking failures at Nats in Minnesota finishing 2-8-2. Luckily for the Bulldogs, their B team bailed them out, winning an insane tiebreaker with UC Irvine and losing to Miami in the final. And finally in 2019, the Yale team that ended up winning NCT was a combination of players from their A, B, and C teams. We’d say it’s difficult to see Yale making it back here next year as they lose players like Elizabeth Bays and Adam Chase, but as the last 5 years have shown us, it’s never a smart bet if you’re betting against Yale.

      As was mentioned on the Podcast, the top of this division’s All American attorney rankings share the impressive distinction of all going to TBC this summer. Stephen Johnson, Jack Seigenthaler, Jonathan Kuang, Sydney Gaskins, Elizabeth Bays, and Steven Torres (the top 6 ranked All Americans) will all be in the TBC field. In terms of how tight this field is and how many top matchups there were, many of these people also hit each other on their way to the top, so nobody had an easy run through the ranks.

      In many ways this was a redemption division for teams that people have doubted all season. Yale A, as mentioned above, came off an extremely messy pre-Nationals season in which they missed a bid out of regionals at 5-3, restacked and incorporated half of their C team onto A, made it through ORCS on a very easy schedule, and then proved that once again, none of that matters at Nationals. Miami lost all of the competitors from their 2018 national championship, they struggled at early season invites, they got swept by a B team in round one, and then they came back strong winning every single ballot in rounds 2-4 on their way to a second place finish. Cornell, as we mentioned lost their captains to graduation and hadn’t had a stellar invite season but they proved that their B team’s success from last year was no fluke with their third place finish. Patrick Henry made it through a season in which their coach passed away and then made it to Nationals on the open bid list and took fifth. Ohio State B came in as a B team that has not gone to Nationals before and, as a B team did not have as many chances at top invites as other teams, and yet took sixth. Columbia came off a year where they missed out on nationals and then graduated All-Star Rachel Sommers, and still took seventh. All in all we suspect there was a lot of good feeling to go around at the top of this division.


      Temple School of Law Division:

      Rhodes A
      Virginia
      Chicago
      Duke*
      Ohio State A
      Emory A
      Boston University**
      Wesleyan A*
      Northwestern A
      Northwood*
      ---------
      Georgia Tech
      Tufts
      UCLA B*
      UNC**
      UC San Diego**

      *in from “Bubble”
      **Unpredicted in

      Out from “Possible Champs”
      None

      Out from “Expect to Place”
      Howard

      Thoughts:
      This division ended being the slightly more predictable one of the two, lining up pretty closely with what we expected coming in. Out of 15 teams that placed in the top 10 or got Honorable Mention, more than half of them had been in our Pre-NCT “Possible Champs” or “Expect to Place” categories. And only 3 of the 15 teams hadn’t at minimum been in our “Bubble” category.

      We want to start by giving a big kudos to the division champion, Rhodes College. There are years in which a team can make the final round with an easier schedule or with avoiding some of the other top tier teams in their division. But Rhodes fought through the gauntlet to get there - playing Georgia Tech in Round 1, nationals returner Rochester in Round 2, and then the teams that ended up finishing 3rd and 2nd in Rounds 3 and 4 (Chicago and Virginia). One of the best features of Nationals is that the pairing system sets up high-high rounds in Round 4. That showed here when Rhodes and Virginia met in a Round 4 showdown. Rhodes entered Round 4 with 11.5 wins and Virginia entered with 9.5 wins. So Virginia needed to take 3 or more ballots in order to make the final round, whereas Rhodes only needed to take 1.5 in order to secure their spot. As the tab summary shows, that round ended up being an incredibly close round. Each team won two ballots, and no ballot was decided by more than 5 points. One of Rhodes’ wins was a +1, which if it had swung the other way, would have earned Virginia a spot in the final. Every point matters, folks. Even at the top level in Round 4 of Nationals.

      We also want to shoutout Virginia, who pulled off the remarkable feat of earning 2nd place in the division and coming within 2 points of the final round while having the highest CS in the division with a CS of 40.5 (playing Northwood, Tufts, Duke, and Rhodes).

      Among the rest of the teams, there weren’t a ton of surprises. After failing to qualify to Nationals last year, Duke returned this year to a strong 4th place finish with a young team that’s returning a lot of talent for the 2019-20 season, including All-American Tristan Malhotra. Ohio State’s A team took 5th place, led by Mahmud Bari, the only double All-American attorney in either division. Emory came into Nats as sort of a shock by qualifying two teams, but their A team showed up here with a strong performance, as well as earning three total All-Americans (including the highest ranked witness, Julia Logan, and the attorney who tied for the most ranks, Carolyn Koehnke).

      The next 5 or so teams all share the interesting feature of being led by 1-2 really well awarded and/or well known players. Boston University has Natalie Garson, who was one of the less expected names to appear on the finalized Trial by Combat field. Wesleyan’s Heather Pincus came into Nats as one of the most underrated players in the entire country, while the rest of the team was comprised of sophomores and freshmen. Northwestern carries the most All-Americans among this group of teams, including returners Olivia O’Brien and Michael Zhou. Northwood (surprisingly upset for SPAMTA by Texas A&M) returned to the NCT top 10, led by Chris Grant and Simeon Lawrence. And a Georgia Tech team that mixed their A and B from ORCS took the first Honorable Mention, led by a (surprisingly) single-sided Sarah Stebbins. A couple teams overperformed their reputation by a bit (i.e. North Carolina earning an Honorable Mention). But in the vein of negative surprises, the biggest one is probably Howard going 7-9, barely missing out on an Honorable Mention.

      As individual awards go, the most notable things here are the names that don’t appear. None of Sarah Stebbins, Deniz Tunceli, or Sabrina Grandhi appear on the list (having earned 12 between them in the years before this). These AMTA stars not earning those awards this year is a testament to the increased parity at the top level, as well as the rise of a group of younger stars.

      Season In Review
      This season illustrated a lot of things that we’re coming to believe are based into the structure of how AMTA and the Regionals/ORCS/Nationals system operates. Coming out of Regionals and coming out of ORCS, the entire community was being blown away over and over again with the sheer volume of upsets and of traditionally elite teams that were failing to advance. And, yet, at nationals, the rankings were just about what you would expect them to be based on top invite performances and TPR. Notably, the cluster of teams who take the top four TPR spots next year will be exactly the same as they were this year, as well as being the four teams to comprise 1st and 2nd place in each Nationals division.

      In other words, ORCS and Regionals are at their best unpredictable and at their worst downright mind-boggling. They will continue to be crazy as long as we continue to have a system where the growing base of regional teams makes the percentage of teams getting to nationals shrink every year. This was exacerbated this year (and will probably continue to be exacerbated for the next few years) by the new and (in some circles) controversial 9 ORCS, 5 bids system. By the time of regionals and ORCS the season has been going for so long with the same case and everyone is so polished, practiced, and prepared, that anything can happen. Now on its face, it could pretty easily be argued that this kind of parity is a good thing and that if the top teams can’t beat teams at ORCS, then maybe they aren’t in fact the top teams. But when evaluated in conjunction with recent Nationals results, it shows that the top teams are still the top teams and our ORCS system, rather than exposing which teams are actually not that good, just limits the ability of those top teams to be able to demonstrate that they are in fact one of the best teams in the country.

      Since the new case for Nationals system was started, Nationals rankings have become pretty predictable. Yale and Virginia can struggle all year at regionals and ORCS, but it seems they will always be at the top of their divisions and Rhodes and Miami will usually be right there with them. In other words it seems that there are a few teams that have really put their finger on how to prep a case for Nationals in the 2-3 week turnaround and it shows.

      It will be interesting to see how AMTA responds to the upsets we have seen this year. Last year AMTA formed an ad hoc committee that was designated to evaluate and propose an alternative tournament structure that would address some of these issues and find a more effective way to incorporate the growing number of teams joining the mock trial community. Some may argue that the chance for more teams to advance from Regionals to ORCS is worth it, even if it makes advancement from ORCS to Nationals more uncertain, and others will argue that the level of unpredictability it has created simply is not fair to teams that have worked as hard as they have for months only to have randomness take it all away.

      For an illustration of that uncertainty, we will pick on Yale and Virginia here, since they have been consistently good enough to have placed in the top of their division over recent years and so nobody can plausibly argue that they shouldn’t advance to Nationals. Virginia made it out of ORCS with a record of 5-3 when there were three teams that did not make it to the NCT, but who competed at other ORCS, with records of 6-2. Put another way, Virginia was extraordinarily lucky that their ORCS was the only one in the country that had a 5-3 team make the top 5.

      Meanwhile at Chestnut Hill, Yale A made it through playing Colby, UMASS Amherst, Princeton B, and Williams, none of whom got a bid and none of whom were ranked better than #175 coming in. Brown, on the other hand missed advancing by a bit with a record of 4-2-1 and a CS of 22.5 after playing Princeton A, Boston University A, Tufts A, and Harvard A, all of whom are ranked #55 or better in the TPR, three of whom were at Nationals last year, and two of whom either earned an Honorable Mention or placed at this year’s Nationals. Such disparate schedules are possible for the most part as a result of two things: first, that the field of teams going to ORCS is much wider this year than it has been in previous years (more teams going to ORCS means a wider talent range), and second, that only having five bids messes with the fourth round pairings. Who knows whether Brown would have advanced if they had played Yale’s schedule? Who knows if Yale would have even been able to win Nationals if they had played Brown’s schedule?

      In terms of some of the regional stats we ran this summer, this year’s nationals ended up looking a lot more like 2016 and 2017 than 2018. This year the best performing region was the Southeast with an average of 4.125 ballots (when we normalize to an 8 ballot tournament) followed closely by the Northeast with 4.114 ballots. The West Coast had an average of 4.083 ballots and the Midwest ended with the lowest average of 3.838 ballots (the Southwest was too small for us to run stats on).

      MAIMD Review

      As we did last year we wrote up a pre-Nationals Power Ranking in which we ranked each of the 48 teams that competed at this year’s NCT. And as we did last year, we compared the final results both to our own Rankings and to AMTA’s TPR. This year, TPR was on average 10.2 places off in its predictions (an improvement over last years 10.6 places off). We were, on average 8.4 places off (an improvement, both on our rankings from last year and on this year’s TPR). We will try as the years go on to continue this trend of improved accuracy.

      The biggest surprises this year based on TPR were Ohio State B performing 30 places better than predicted, South Carolina performing 28 ranks better than predicted, UMBC performing 24 ranks better than predicted, Rochester performing 24 ranks worse than predicted, Florida performing 23 ranks worse than predicted, and Stanford performing 22 ranks worse than predicted.

      The biggest surprises based on our rankings were South Carolina performing 30 places better than predicted, Florida performing 25 places worse than predicted, and Stanford performing 23 ranks worse than predicted.

      In terms of where we got it better than TPR, our most impressive predictions were 18 places closer on UMBC and 17 places better on Ohio State B. We were also 9 places closer on both Rochester and Cornell B, and 7 places closer on UCLA B. Our worst deviations from TPR were 8 places farther off on Tufts, and 7 places farther off on Patrick Henry.

      We would also like to look back at our predictions from the very beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year we predicted Yale University as the comeback team of the year and as the National Champion, and on that we will say that we got it exactly right. We also predicted Rhodes College as the team most likely to get two teams through to Nationals and they did indeed do that. We predicted UVA as the GAMTI champs and they did win GAMTI.

      In terms of places where we were almost right, we predicted UVA as the second team in the NCT final and they very nearly made it. We predicted that Rhodes College would be the most likely to go undefeated through regionals and ORCs and they didn’t but they did pretty darn well. We predicted Rhodes as the most likely for their B team to outplace the A team and, while they didn’t their B team was the second closest to doing so (after OSU B who tied their A team).

      And, yet, we did also get some things wrong. We predicted UCLA and NYU in the Downtown final (with NYU winning) and there was no Downtown final, nor were they the top two teams at Shutdown Showdown though they both did well. We will claim the fact that Downtown was different this year as a defense. We also predicted that the top attorney and witness as Nick Ramos and Caleb Cole and neither of them ended up competing so we don’t know how they would have done had they returned.

      As we did at the end of last season, we want to end with an encouragement to others to voice their disagreements on our analysis. While we try to remain as objective as possible, sometimes, as seen above, 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! Yes, we have heard the complaints that we don’t have as many eyes on the southern regionals and ORCS as we do up north and we are working to fix that. We are glad so many people enjoyed reading our analysis, and we intend to continue with them into next year. We will have a Trial By Combat Competitor Analysis early this summer, and we will be trying out some other fun projects while we wait for the new case to come out. If you have any ideas or things you would like to see us analyze let us know.

      As a final note, we will be opening up applications to join for the 2019-2020 school year shortly so if you are interested in becoming a part of MAIMD then keep an eye out!

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