I’ve been away for the start of the school year, but with tournaments underway, I’d better get back in the saddle.
The 2018 season is going to be very talented. A lot of teams have been able to keep strong players who will now be entering their senior year, including the four national semifinalists from last year. Some highlights (from an Ottawa-centric view):
Locally (Ottawa), the starting point is the 2017 champs. Lisgar CI is losing almost everyone to graduation, except their Nationals MVP. However, that player will have less support and interest this coming year. I don’t think Lisgar is going to be in National contention this year, though they will still be good enough to continue their provincial qualification streak. Their main local threat will be Glebe CI, who see most players return. Interestingly, Glebe has reached Ontario playoffs each time they have qualified for provincials, so they should be kept on the radar. Beyond Lisgar and Glebe, I think there’s a drop-off with respect to Reach; Colonel By SS, however, will be a contender in other quiz events.
Provincially (Ontario), we seemed destined for a very deep playoff field. UTS is the early favourite – they have several players returning and have a full complement of supporting players in the younger grades to bolster the strength of the team. They will hope to do one better than their finals loss last season. The other National qualifier from last season, Martingrove CI, is another deep squad that always excels in the provincial tournament; they will probably take one of Ontario’s qualification spots again. The third Ontario spot (presuming the system remains the same) will be hotly contested. Lisgar and UCC will probably be weaker this year, but could survive the playoffs. London Central SS has been a mainstay since their 2007 run, and usually finds a way to at least the third round of playoffs. Royal St. George’s College has been on my radar for four years; they have proven themselves through UTS’ independent tournaments and History Bowls, but somehow always struggle at Provincials. If they can get that monkey off their back, they should be a team that breezes through the Nationals style of play. Westmount has been slowly getting better each year ever since their coach came to the program, and they should make playoffs, but I think they still have one more year to go before their big season. I don’t know enough about Assumption’s, PACE’s, Centennial’s or the Oakville teams’ composition to judge how they’ll do yet, but they round out the “usual suspects”.
Nationally, KVHS is the other team to watch out for. They are another deep team like UTS or Martingrove, and should win New Brunswick, if not sweep it altogether. Their advantage over any of the remaining national teams is their constant tournament participation. Ontario is miles ahead of the other provinces, not necessarily because of population, but because of the very active scene of independent tournaments held throughout the year. Development is much better against other teams on fresh material than sitting in a lunchroom with old questions you’ve heard before, and there appear to be gradual changes afoot at Reach that will favour teams that broaden their knowledge base. I know that there have been attempts at tournaments over the years in BC and Alberta, but the staying power in Ontario (and to a lesser extent, New Brunswick) is the factor that will keep certain provinces on top.
A major tournament has already been held, UTS’ fall tournament. It’s too early for me to have any details, but the four National semifinalist from last year were in attendance, and other contenders like Central, Westmount, UCC, and Assumption will make their early mark on the measuring stick. I’m not convinced that the format will do a good job of ranking teams, but I hope to eventually get the raw numbers for a deeper look.
Finally, do not be demoralized if I haven’t mentioned you. Lots of things get overlooked in the early season, and the picture doesn’t become clearer until as late as the provincial tournaments. If you’re an Ontario team, there are plenty of opportunities to gauge yourselves; if you are elsewhere, try to get an event going (2017 National attendees were offered the 2017 Lisgar tournament set for holding a local competition; though if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been spoiled on content from the earlier recordings…).
Best of luck for 2018!