2017 Nationals Results

Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Last weekend, UTS and the University of Toronto hosted the 49th* national championship of Reach for the Top. 16 teams from seven provinces had a full day of round-robin competition before vying for the title in the playoffs.

*Reach claimed it was the 51st, but only 49 championship seasons have occurred due to the stoppages after the CBC era.

The full results are uploaded here. Lisgar CI claimed their third national title in a close 460-410 final over the University of Toronto Schools; it was an anticipated clash of titans and a rematch of the provincial title which UTS won. My rundown of the teams, in order of rank (note: for this tournament, I broke standings ties by round-robin seed):

  • Auburn Drive (16th). Nova Scotia’s clubs were greatly hindered by job action this year; only five teams went to provincials. Let’s hope this year was only a blip and that teams can have more support next year. As for this particular team, I never saw them until their final consolation game. They kept close with SJHS in the first half and won an excruciatingly long shootout, but saw their tournament end there.
  • Rundle College (15th). Schedule quirkiness meant I saw Rundle for 9 of the 15 preliminary games and became their unintended fan club. As a surprise invite from their fourth-place finish in Alberta, expectations were not high. Their top player will return next year, so hopefully they can build from this experience for another shot at Nationals.
  • St. Paul’s (14th). I think there was a different line-up between provincials and nationals, because the Manitoba champs fell short of the other teams from their province. Hopefully this means the school has a large pool of players to choose from, and can re-assemble for another provincial title run next year.
  • Collingwood (13th). This rank will simply go down as “oops”. They temporarily disappeared after one of their consolation losses and defaulted a win to lower-seeded Saint John. They would have been in contention for the consolation bracket title otherwise.
  • Saint John (12th). They got a lucky break from Collingwood, but ended up fourth of the final four consolation teams. They will be in tough to qualify for nationals next year, because the competition for second in New Brunswick is very tight. Interestingly, I only ever saw them win: in the round-robin over Rundle and the playoffs over Auburn Drive.
  • Marianopolis (11th). This team was a bit weaker than some CEGEP teams of the past, but they pulled one of the few upsets in the playoffs with a second-round consolation win over Renert.
  • St. John’s-Ravenscourt (10th). Just getting to nationals was impressive: Horton’s drop-out meant that SJR organized a team trip from Winnipeg less than a week before the tournament. They didn’t show too much rust and even managed to beat their provincial champions in the round-robin!
  • Renert (9th). Renert & Co. did improve from last year. Their highlight was either almost defeating KV or getting the most games of any team by taking the long route to get to the consolation bracket title. A tournament MVP came from this team (I don’t mention names due to a blog-wide policy of keeping players anonymous).
  • Old Scona (8th). Unlike their provincial compatriots, Old Scona did pull off a win over KV, but fell back to eighth seed by the end of Saturday. Eighth seed unfortunately meant an early match with UTS, where even a 480-240 loss to them would be considered a good result.
  • Sir Winston Churchill (7th). They seemed, on paper at least, to be the strongest team from BC, even though Collingwood beat them in both the provincial final and the round-robin match (they won the play-in match over Collingwood, though). They led UTS going into the final snapout of their match, but couldn’t pull off what would have been the biggest upset of the tournament. Their mix of ups and downs averaged them out to the middle of the pack.
  • Templeton (6th). For a team’s first appearance at Nationals (either in a long while or ever – not sure), they did very well. They almost beat Martingrove in the round robin and finished as the highest-placing BC team. Considering that they were nowhere even on the provincial scene before this, they would certainly be the “most improved” team. A tournament MVP came from this team.
  • Kelvin (5th). R-values suggest the 5th-8th place teams have razor-thin differences in strength between them, but Kelvin got the wins. Kelvin was on my radar as the Manitoba runners-up, but I didn’t expect them to get as high as fifth. Well done, though I didn’t get to see them play. A tournament MVP came from this team.
  • Kennebecasis Valley (4th). I think that even before the tournament began, KV was destined for fourth: they weren’t quite up to the level of the Ontario teams but were definitely better than anyone else. They got within 30 points of Lisgar in the round-robin, but a loss to Old Scona almost cost them a playoff bye. The semifinal match against UTS was very impressive, though. They capitalized on UTS’ mistakes and frustrations to keep within 20 points late in the match, and nearly gave the favourites their first loss of the tournament. With good players returning, I would not be surprised to see a late-round rematch next year- perhaps even in the final for once!
  • Martingrove (3rd). Like KV, Martingrove seemed set for their final position as a step behind Lisgar and UTS. A mere 250-230 loss to UTS in the round-robin gave the Ontario champs a little scare, and they easily handled Templeton in the quarterfinal. The semifinal wasn’t pretty though: a poor run during the team scrambles sapped any momentum they had and allowed Lisgar’s MVP alone to earn more points than them. Nevertheless, they were part of the good camaraderie among the Ontario teams and hopefully they’ll show up at more tournaments next year in their quest to keep their Nationals attendance streak alive.
  • UTS (2nd). UTS was my pick as the strongest team on paper, despite what the R-value said. They swept the round-robin while rarely fielding their true A-team; it cost them a few extra points, but who needs points for seeding when you’re 15-0? Unfortunately, the team was mired in production difficulties in both of their final-day matches. They were not on top of their game and only narrowly beat KV before taking the loss in the final. I think the delays and frustrations ate away at them, but they also had to deal with Lisgar’s MVP getting a second wind on the last day. It was a very good final match, and they had a great season overall (including a 6-1 record across formats over Lisgar A). They should be just as strong next year, so best of luck for another title run!
  • Lisgar (1st). Best ever regional result. Best ever provincial (round-robin) result. 2nd best ever national (round-robin) result. Analytically, this title is not a surprise. Realistically, it was anything but. The team played sick (barely getting to the stage) and they entered the playoffs knowing they had taken nothing but losses to UTS all year. There was not a lot of optimism among them for the final morning. However, that semifinal was a much-needed boost in confidence and set them up for a stellar (minus the 25-minute delay) final. Who needs shootout wins anyway? While Lisgar’s MVP (also selected as a tournament MVP) returns, no one else does, so this was expected to be Lisgar’s last chance for a while. They got the title, and now they can go back to their regularly-scheduled programming of quizbowl.

A great tournament by all the teams. The matches I saw both in-room and on-stage were great to watch, even if I ended up rooting for the Rundle underdog half the time.

The tournament organization was pretty good. Logistics has never been a problem for Reach, and for their price tag, you expect the perks and efficiencies. Games were on time, staff were prepared, food was ready, and results were prompt. Sunday’s stage games were also well done, even if there was an audience of just me and the coaches at times.

Unfortunately, Monday was a mess. The small change from SchoolReach to Reach for the Top – filming the event – was a world of difference for the negative. Floodlights blew the breakers in the first game and wrecked a buzzer. The need to announce players on the replacement buzzers forced a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” scene where a person hid behind a banner to identify the light that went off. Pre-games became fidgety with ridiculous insert shots of buzzing, applause, and phony reactions. Games stopped twice when camera SD cards filled. Most notoriously, the delay of “reviewing the tapes” (rather than using a tried-and-tested method south of the border of leniency on vowel pronunciation) dragged the final into a 90-minute affair. UTS’ auditorium is not a television studio. Reach needs to either get back to a real TV production or start embracing less intrusive broadcast options, like Twitch or Youtube streaming. Disrupting players for the sake of pretty video (that will never come to light) shows a complete disregard for what should be the most important part of these tournaments – the academic performance of the players. UTS was definitely compromised by the production, and while I don’t dispute the title, I think we were robbed of an even better final. I know some changes will be underway at Reach, and I hope the Monday routine is part of that.

The final gala was good, though. Much more concise and meaningful than some of the provincial galas.

But I shouldn’t let my rambling detract from recognizing the most important things: the players who all showed excellent skill, teamwork, and friendliness; the coaches who coordinate not only the management of a strong team but the logistics of getting them to events; and the volunteer staff who keep the games going in a timely manner.

To those graduating, best wishes for your post-secondary pursuits (hey, try quizbowl). For those returning, good luck in your title run!

Finally, a blog note: this is, obviously, the end of the Reach season. For the off-season, my priorities are an explanation of the R-value (and follow-ups with old provincial analysis), a look at some historical games, and an updated Reach champion ranking, which I last did in 2015. Stay tuned!

2017 Ontario provincial results

Better late than never!

First off, apologies that this is late, but I’m back from travel now.

The 2017 SchoolReach Ontario provincial championships were held last week in Scarborough. 39 teams competed for ten playoff spots, and those teams then played their Monday rounds to determine the provincial champion and the three Nationals qualifiers.

The University of Toronto Schools won the tournament, with Lisgar CI and Martingrove CI claiming second and third. My results with R-values have been uploaded. Congratulations to both the winners and all the participating teams.

I’ll start with the pools, which can be gleaned from the results graphic Reach provided. There was better balance than some years, with the two extremes of pool B averaging 293.9 PPG and pool E averaging 261.5 PPG. Pool B’s high numbers weren’t just from Lisgar’s massive haul of points; the rest of the pool averaged 259.8 PPG and Lisgar had the toughest strength-of-schedule of any of the five pool winners. Pool E lacked any of my pre-tournament “tier 1” teams, though UCC was, in retrospect, worthy of assuming the “tier 1” role for that pool. Pool E also had a weaker midfield than the other pools. That being said, the variations of strength-of-schedule were not outlandish, and getting 2 playoff teams from each pool is usually the ideal scenario.

There were a few impressive “just-misses”. Pool B had the 12th, 13th, and 14th ranked teams (Oakville Trafalgar HS, Banting SS, and Neil McNeil HS), all of whom had R-values in the range of playoff teams. St. Joseph’s (of the Windsor variety) came from completely off my radar to one spot short of the playoffs.

The ten playoff teams were not too surprising. In fact, they all were listed on my top 15 preview, and all but one were in my top 10 (I went with Centennial CVI instead of Assumption CSS, which is how the head-to-head match, but not the final ranking, ended up). From final rank upward:

  • Merivale (10th). Considering the struggles this teams has had just to exist this year, a playoff appearance is a good finish.
  • RSGC (9th). Their “legit” team came this time, but their performance was surprising. Considering how well they did last year at UTS and also in History Bowl, this finish is a headscratcher. The good news for them is that the team returns next year, so they should improve.
  • Westmount (8th). Their prelim upset over UCC gave them a top seed, but R-value predicted a first-round loss to Assumption. Still, a good showing from the school and they have a solid intermediate group that will join the main team in the future.
  • PACE (7th). They survived Pool B with the R-value to show for it. In fact, their first-round match with London Central only had a 0.5% difference between the two – essentially a coin-flip.
  • Assumption (6th). Their prelim win over UTS was a shock, but they racked up the points throughout the day to justify their second-round appearance. They obviously improved since regionals; they lost to OTHS in the Burlington-Oakville title showdown in March.
  • London Central (5th). Amazingly, 5th would be considered an off-year for Central. Their R-value of 134% was 4th overall, but closer to the bubble teams than the top group.
  • UCC (4th). UCC lost four playoff games and finished 4th, thanks to the “highest-scoring loser” rule. This also happened to Massey in 2005 and St. Brother Andre in 2014. Nevertheless, they pulled off the highest losing score against UTS in the first round and Lisgar in the second; that’s what makes their feat more impressive.
  • Martingrove (3rd). Martingrove benefited from the easiest strength of schedule, but they knew they needed to pile on the points to get a strong seed. Unfortunately, UTS was just too strong in the semifinal, but they recovered to pick up third place and a Nationals spot. They will go deep in the Nationals playoffs as well.
  • Lisgar (2nd). Their raw R-value of 181% is the highest on record for a provincial tournament, and unlike other high R-values in history, they didn’t have a strength of schedule greater than 1. Lisgar just raked in points, including a 700 point game. Their 3730 prelim points are the most ever in the 7-game format, and their 533 PPG are behind only the 2001 and 2002 UTS teams, who had higher-scoring sets in their years. They cruised through the playoffs until they met only other team within striking distance of them. Once again, Lisgar has qualified for Nationals without winning a provincial title.
  • UTS (1st). That absence last year was a fluke. UTS is back and ready for a national title run. Their prelim R-value of 162% is also among the top 5 ever at a provincial tournament. UTS does need a clean run in the Nationals prelims, though, lest they take a strange loss (like they did against Assumption) and end up with a tough playoff road (each of last year’s top 4 as their four opponents).

And that’s how Ontario went. Midfield was a bit weak this year, but the top group are dominant. It would not surprise me to see Ontario 1-2-3 at Nationals this year.

But Nationals is another story. I’ll be back with a preview of the teams in time for next week’s final tournament.

2017 Ontario Provincials preview

Boosting the Scarborough economy since 2002!

It’s a Mother’s Day tradition: 40 teams from across Ontario assemble in Scarborough for the largest gathering of Reach players of the year. Some are there for the first time; others attended back in the Kingston or London days. Everyone is there for one purpose: to determine the 3 Ontario representatives at Nationals.

The tournament format has been roughly the same since 2005. Five pools of eight teams play a round-robin on Sunday. The pool winners take the first five seeds in the playoffs, while the next top five teams fill out the remainder for ten playoff teams in total. Teams are sorted first by wins, then by points earned. In the playoffs, there are five first-round games; the winners proceed and the highest-scoring loser is reprieved and faces the highest remaining seed in round 2. Six teams play in round 2, with three winners and another highest-scoring loser (although twice a single team has been the highest-scoring loser both times). The final four then have semifinals and finals to determine the top three teams.

Last year’s provincials (database entry here) was marred by unbalanced pools. It’s no secret that all this tracking of results and development of statistical rankings is a consequence of that bad tournament, and to that end, I have submitted projections for the top teams at this year’s tournament. I have no expectation that they will be followed exactly, but I set it up for flexibility because there are more considerations than just making a snake draft for pools (not having teams from the same region together; minimizing matchups from last year, accounting for drops, etc).

Here are my recommendations for the top three “tiers” of teams (15 teams in total). Within each tier, teams are listed alphabetically, not by my judgment of precise rank. Ideally, each pool would have one team from each tier, then sort the remaining teams for the geographic diversity.

Tier 1 (should win pool)

Lisgar CI

  • 2016 provincials result: 3rd
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2015)

Lisgar is the strongest team for which we have statistical evidence, thanks to an R-value of 216% at Regionals. They’ve been prepping through quizbowl events in Ontario and New York and writing the Lisgar independent tournament. The entire team that finished third at the 2016 Nationals will return for their senior year. They did have a reality check with only a 4th place finish at the single-subject History Bowl last month, though.

London Central SS

  • 2016 provincials result: 4th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2007, 2009, 2014)

I have no statistical information on Central this year. Unfortunately, I can only place them here based on their consistent track record of finishing highly at provincials.

Martingrove CI

  • 2016 provincials result: 1st
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2013, 2015-16)

Martingrove has been in the Ontario final for four straight years. What UTS was for this tournament in the 2000s, MCI has assumed for the 2010s. Their regional R-value of 190% is also very high, and they will definitely be a deep playoff threat.

Royal St. George’s College

  • 2016 provincials result: 26th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 14th (2015)

RSGC is the biggest leap of faith for me; I was burned last year when an unexpected team composition showed up to provincials. This year, the group of grade 11 students should be present, the group who last year finished third at UTS’ independent tournament behind UTS and KVHS and ahead of Nationals qualifiers UCC and Central. I saw this team back as grade 9 players at the first History Bowl, and predicted “the next Colonel By” (a single-year cohort that gels together for eventual dominance). I think they will do well in the round-robin, but could stumble from first-year jitters in the playoffs. It’s all a warm-up for 2018, though.

University of Toronto Schools

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2001-04, 2008, 2012)

UTS is coming hot off of History Bowl success, and their performance at Lisgar’s independent tournament showed they aren’t limited to one subject. This year, there were no surprises for them in the Toronto region, and they’re back at provincials to restart their attendance streak. A few players are still in grade 11, so expect fireworks to continue next year as well.

Tier 2 (should make playoffs)

The Academy for Gifted Children (PACE)

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2013)

PACE is a strange case: they don’t always qualify/attend, but when they do, they usually make playoffs. This could be a consequence of competing in the somewhat-strong York/Richmond Hill region. With regional winner Bayview not likely to attend, they will be the standard-bearer for the north Toronto suburbs.

Centennial CVI

  • 2016 provincials result: 9th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2011)

Centennial usually makes the playoffs, but they do it with relatively weak R-values. This can be a sign that they pull out wins by punching above their weight, so stronger teams should watch out for team. CCVI also has a great attendance streak stretching back to 2005.

Merivale HS

  • 2016 provincials result: 8th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2000)

Like PACE, Merivale is stuck in a tough region and just getting to provincials is usually a sign that they will make the playoffs. Their regional R-value of 148% should be enough background for a playoff appearance. Once in, they have been known for upsets…

Upper Canada College

  • 2016 provincials result: 2nd
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2016)

UCC is finally getting through the Toronto region regularly to reach provincials, with a second-round appearance in 2015 and a great run out of the tough pool to second place last year. They probably aren’t quite tier 1, but they should be a credible threat to knock off a top seed in the first round.

Westmount SS

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 7th (2004)

Westmount has been on the wrong side of the playoff bubble a few times, and their regional R-value of 130% may be pushing it to make the top 10 this year. However, they have a good quizbowl season behind them, and the slow shift to that kind of content in Reach questions could benefit them over other teams that still depend on reading old packs for practice material.

Tier 3 (could make playoffs)

Assumption CSS

  • 2016 provincials result: 29th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2010)

Assumption’s record at provincials is all over the map. They could go to Nationals one year and finish bottom half at provincials the next. It’s impossible to predict for this team, but good coaching makes them a serious-effort team, and writing a (middle school level) tournament is a good way to practice. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Michael Power – St. Joseph HS

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 15th (2013)

MPSJ’s regional R-value of 135% is higher than Tier 2 team Westmount, but I have them ranked lower for two reasons. 1: historically, they finish in the teens and haven’t made playoffs; and 2: the R-value benefited from finishing ahead of a stronger team (Bishop Allen). They could get their best-ever result this year, though.

Neil McNeil HS

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): no appearance

Woburn’s run at provincials has apparently ended, with Neil McNeil taking the Scarborough region that has usually been dominated by Woburn and Agincourt (who both regularly finish in the top half). I have no record of Neil McNeil at provincials in the modern era – in fact, I only know of their 1969 title!

The Oakville winner (possibly White Oaks SS or Oakville-Trafalgar HS)

  • 2016 provincials result: 15th (WOSS) or 13th (OTHS)
  • Best provincial result (on file): 11th (WOSS; 2015) or 4th (OTHS; 2003-04)

I don’t know who won Oakville, but White Oaks has decent results this year. I figure it will be either them or a team that performed better than them at regionals, maybe OTHS. Both teams have been in the teens in recent provincials.

Edited to add: as seen in the comments, OTHS has qualified for provincials.

Waterloo CI

  • 2016 provincials result: 5th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 5th (2016)

I’m actually only assuming Waterloo CI won their region (if they didn’t, I gave a note to elevate Peel winner Heart Lake SS). Waterloo had a good run the last few years, but graduations are taking their toll and they have lost ground to some other teams, as seen at McMaster’s quizbowl tournament. They should still be a top half team, though, especially with a background of quizbowl practice.

And there are my top 15. I have assumed no attendance for Bayview, CHAT, and appeals by other Scarborough/York/Ottawa/Toronto teams. There are still some potential surprises, though, thanks to my complete lack of knowledge on some teams and regions. Is first-time provincial attendee Monarch Park, runner-up to RSGC, a threat? How about Brampton or Pickering winners? All those Niagara peninsula reps? Can a Northern Ontario team make playoffs for the first time since Manitoulin in 2003? Does Kingston even exist? Will there still be traffic light trivia at the gala dinner? How many slices of pizza will players get at lunch? All these important questions and more will be answered next week at the 2017 Ontario SchoolReach provincial championship!

2017 Etobicoke Regionals results

Small but powerful

Thanks to Isaac’s contribution, I have the Etobicoke league results. I have uploaded them to the database, and have also updated the set PPG for the other regions, which slightly affects R-values.

Etobicoke is a small league, but it is the toughest so far with the highest average scores. This is partly attributed to Martingrove CI having a larger footprint than Lisgar CI in Ottawa or Westmount SS in Hamilton, but the other teams in Etobicoke also put up strong numbers. In the end, Martingrove won and Michael Power-St. Joseph HS finished second and qualified for provincials.

Martingrove’s R-value of 190% is pretty good. In a fair provincial tournament, it should be a Nationals-bound value, unless some other teams like UTS or London Central SS also put up amazing numbers. Martingrove is definitely within striking distance of Lisgar, and could beat them if they met in the playoffs (or heaven forbid, a pool).

Michael Power’s R-value of 129% is on par with about the lower limit of provincial qualifications that aren’t awarded simply by winning a region. It would be a struggle to make Ontario playoffs at that level, but if they get themselves in an easy pool with only one team stronger than them, they might get the needed 6-1 record. In recent history, they have finished with a rank in the teens.

A little bit of history: Michael Power occupies the building that used to house Vincent Massey CI. That was the team that won the title twice in the CBC era. Their first title was the first national season of Reach for the Top, and their second was in the 1978 national championship. The 1978 team played still-participating Richview CI in the first regional round, and that Richview team featured a young Stephen Harper.

Once again, thanks for the results, and I’ll be on the lookout for more!