2018-19 Preview

Do UTS titles come in pairs?

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Welcome to the 2018-19 season! 2018 was a very competitive year with several strong teams and players, and hopefully we’re in for another treat this year. I don’t have all the insights or predictions, but let’s take a look at the different regions of Canada.

British Columbia

I am still mostly in the dark about the west coast. I can rarely notice strong teams from there, yet they can still easily make quarterfinals or higher at Nationals. Last year, those teams gave a scare to the Ontario powerhouses, and if any of them have a good chunk of returning players, they might snap up a semifinal spot or two. The three most frequent competitors are St. George’s, Sir Winston Churchill, and Eric Hamber.

Alberta

The Renert School is the little school that could, pulling off the provincial title last year over Old Scona. Expect these two to be the front-runners again. Old Scona has made it as far as the national semifinals before, while Renert will hope to use their returning talent and crack the quarterfinals after three straight years of consolation runs.

Manitoba

Kelvin HS has carried the banner for Manitoba for several years, and another national playoff run should be in the cards. St. Paul and St. John-Ravenscourt are other regulars, but we may catch a surprise from some of the revived clubs from the CBC championship days (River East or Dakota, for example).

Ontario

Ontario will probably be UTS’ to lose, even after the graduation of talent. They had a strong group of junior players split amongst the “A”, “B”, and “C” teams at independent tournaments, and will surely coalesce into a strong senior squad this year. In London, Central is expected to yet again take the city crown, while Banting is probably going to drop off after their star player’s departure. In Hamilton, Westmount will easily take the city and assemble a good mix of returning players in an attempt to do better than their somewhat premature playoff exit last May. Whether it’s White Oaks, OTHS, Abbey Park, or Assumption, the Halton region will be solid contenders for provincial playoffs again and many of them will be on preview at independent events this year. In Toronto, UTS and Martingrove will continue to be national contenders, while RSGC will be in tough against local competitors after the departure of their cohort that gave four great years of growth. In Ottawa, both Lisgar and Glebe will return the majority of their players – they will surely lock the city finals and could both reach at least the second round of provincial playoffs. For the province on the whole, though, Ontario will probably not be as strong as in 2018. The representatives will all be in the mix for national semifinals, but they could be vulnerable to a strong squad from another province.

Quebec

Quebec is always impossible to predict. A CEGEP will likely claim the provincial title, but CEGEP team composition, by rule, changes every year. It’s hard to preview them during the year as well, because CEGEPs would be excluded from Montreal History Bowl and most events in other provinces.

New Brunswick

This is probably the easiest provincial title to pick. Kennebecasis Valley barely faced any other schools en route to their senior title last year, and while those other schools will have 2018 juniors come up to senior competition, so too will the KV club that picked up several junior division titles along the way. KV will be focusing on the out-of-province events to keep pace for their nationals run.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia was down to five teams last year, and I don’t think the prospects for improvement are very good for 2019. Nova Scotia (and to some extent, New Brunswick) did much better back when Dalhousie ran independent tournaments; now the university takes the role of sponsoring the official SchoolReach tournament with much less publicity and prizes. Any ambitious teams in the province should consider tapping into the New Brunswick “regular season” events that run separate from provincials.

As the season progresses, we’ll get a clearer picture of the contenders. UTS’ event in October and Lisgar’s event in February will be the big results haul. Teams would do well to try to play on these sets, either at the main site or a satellite tournament run in another region. UTS tends to be a good preview for Ontario Provincials, while Lisgar gives the Nationals snapshot (with its incredible coincidence of the runner-up school getting the national title). Not only are these independent events good tournament preparation, but for Ontario teams, the results can help your cause for better pool placements at provincials.

Good luck to all the teams this year, and don’t be too inflated or discouraged by this preview. The year has only just begun, and everything is still to be played for. Have a great season!

Old Ontario Scores

When Reach could be picked up with bunny ears

The 2006-2009 gap in Ontario provincial tournaments is now mostly filled up. Thank you to Joe for collecting and saving the results. Here are the pages:

Most notable in these years was deviation from a field size of 40. This forced crossover matches and incomplete round-robins within a pool, which led to some teams getting rather imbalanced schedules. However, top teams usually still found their way to the playoffs, which was a whole different beast with the TVO format.

There is still some missing information on a few pages, but the database now has Ontario tournaments from 1999 to the present. Back in 1999, none of the 2018 playoff teams even participated. Things have changed!

2018 Ontario provincial results

I should stop making Michael Power predictions.

38 teams gathered in Scarborough for the 2018 Ontario SchoolReach provincial championship. As mentioned in the previous post, the preliminary round-robin whittled the field down to ten, with playoffs the following day.

The University of Toronto Schools beat Martingrove CI 460-300 in the final. London Central SS took third place from Royal St. George’s College 430-350 in a concurrent match. The full results table is found here.

The three Nationals-bound teams were predictable. UTS has been dominant everywhere all year, and were the feared team of the tournament. Martingrove and Central each came in with an independent tournament win; they did not face each other during provincials, so it’s hard to say who is the better between the two.

I didn’t do as well with predicting other teams. A few teams like UCC and Nepean did not come, while Banting and Cameron Heights were oversights on my part. I wonder if my Banting omission led to their underestimation by UTS, but UTS won out in the playoff rematch.

The UTS loss also made the playoff bracket interesting. Their upset occurred in round 2 of the prelims, so teams easily became aware that UTS was going to be seeded lower than expected, likely as 5th or 6th, depending on if all pools had 7-0 winners. It would also mean that UTS would most likely enter the second playoff round facing the #2 seed (#1 seed would get the highest loser; UTS could have the worst seed among winners). Central remembered this from last year, and spent the afternoon scoring fewer points in an effort to drop to the #3 or #4 seed. It was all within rules, but it definitely made the bracket even stranger. If Lisgar had beaten RSGC, Central would have faced UTS, but it didn’t happen and Central got the playoff path they needed to earn the Nationals spot. A potential solution for this is to have the top seeds pick their opponent for the round; it always encourages teams to finish as highly as possible, and allows top teams to avoid out-of-place seeds if desired.

Another rare occurrence happened in the playoffs – a need to resolve a standings tie in points. RSGC and Lisgar both scored 240 points in a losing cause in the second round. This had previously occurred in the first round of 2008, and a similar case of teams being tied in wins and points after prelims occurred in 2005. Reach’s resolution was to have the captains face off on five questions. Why it was only the captains and not all 4 players makes no sense; in fact, with shootouts and assigned questions used to promote having a balanced team of four rather than a single generalist who can get points on anything, this tiebreaker flies in the face of a team-first mentality that Reach would probably want to encourage. The tiebreaker should have had all four players contributing.

Aside: if Central and Westmount had tied on PPG for the #2 seed after prelims, would both captains make no attempt to get points in the tiebreaker? Hmmm…

Sunday’s questions were an improvement over previous years. “Garbage” questions like wordplay, old pop culture, and math involving complicated numbers were essentially gone. Former quizbowlers are entering the editing pool, and I argue that the change is for the better; this year was the highest-scoring set since 2011, thanks to getting rid of questions most players don’t even buzz on. Monday playoffs were a relapse, though, but expect more “scholarly” topics come Nationals.

Speaking of Nationals, I will make a preview over the long weekend. Congratulations to all the teams that participated in Ontario provincials, and good luck to the representatives heading to the national championship!

2018 Ontario prelims

How I failed to predict properly.

I’m trying to get this done mostly on mobile, so bear with it.

Excuse the short-form team names, but the Ontario preliminary rankings are found here. Two pools had 7 teams, resulting in teams sorted by total losses rather than total wins.

The playoff teams:

  1. Martingrove (139%): Probably benefited from, once again, having the lowest SOS to accumulate a lot of points for the ranking tiebreaker after losses. Should be stronger than the R-value might suggest.
  2. Westmount (140%): Like Martingrove, Westmount had an easier pool for picking up more points. They may face a tough road to the semis with the playoff jumble, though.
  3. London Central (143%): Central is stronger than their R-value. They allegedly spent the afternoon scoring as few points as necessary after news of the UTS loss, so as to avoid a top seed that would have to face a “bottom” UTS in round 2 (which happened last year). This might backfire.
  4. RSGC (131%): RSGC squeaked by Glebe by 10 points en route to sweeping their pool. Unfortunately, their reward is to take a seed that has to face a strong loser.
  5. Banting (137%): The 13th place team from last year and regional runners-up to Central should have been noticed by me. They got the upset win over UTS, but will have to face them again in the playoffs.
  6. UTS (167%): The strongest team in the prelims didn’t substitute players well against Banting and, like last year, created a very unusual playoff situation. UTS is not going to have any easy games in their playoff run with a worse seed than expected.
  7. Lisgar (147%): Lisgar put up their best performance of the year. The opening-match loss to Central meant they had to spend the rest of the day getting as many points as possible. This is another out-of-place seed in the playoffs, but other teams vying for Nationals can keep in mind that Lisgar will decline any qualification they get.
  8. White Oaks (118%): After years of finishes in the teens, White Oaks gets their first playoff appearance. Barring any further minimalism from Central, White Oaks will probably take a first-round exit.
  9. Cameron Heights (117%): I actually dismissed them in my pre-tournament considerations. They were in a pool that didn’t have a clear second-tier team, but still put up the eleventh-best R-value overall. Not bad for a first provincial appearance. They get a rematch with Westmount in the first round.
  10. Abbey Park (135%): Another first-timer making the playoffs. Incredibly, the highest-scoring two-loss team came from a pool with a UTS steamroller (although this also happened in 2013). A 4% difference to Martingrove may look like upset potential, but I think the perennial contenders will be too much for the Oakville team. A good showing by the Halton region, nonetheless.

Playoffs commence later today.

2018 Ontario Provincials preview

Lisgar’s attendance streak is old enough to vote.

Roughly 40 teams from across Ontario will gather next week to determine the provincial SchoolReach champion. It is the most-attended Reach tournament of the year and is usually a springboard for the eventual national champions.

The format should still be similar to that of previous years. Five pools of eight teams will run a round robin to produce ten playoff teams. The pool winners will go through, followed by the best winning records and point totals. The ten playoff teams then play a modified elimination bracket to qualify the three Ontario teams heading to Nationals.

Like last year (see the 2017 preview post), I will give an assessment of the contenders. I group them into tiers of five; it is difficult to give a clear single rank to teams with most data unavailable, and the tiers would suggest that each pool should have one team from each tier. There is likely some bias towards teams that have reported results – I couldn’t predict the 11th place team from Windsor last year, for example.

Here are the contenders, listed only in alphabetical order within tiers:

Tier 1 (should win pool)

London Central SS

  • 2017 provincials result: 5th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2007, 2009, 2014)

Central has results from the UTS fall tournament (2nd, 149%) and a mirror of the Lisgar tournament (1st, 115%). They may have lost to Martingrove in the fall, but have handily got past any other contenders they have faced. They haven’t faced the main UTS team, though, and that will probably stop them from claiming another provincial title. They are in a good spot for a Nationals qualification.

Martingrove CI

  • 2017 provincials result: 3rd
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2013, 2015-16)

Martingrove will be vying for an incredible (for Ontario) sixth consecutive Nationals qualification. They won the “provincials preview” UTS tournament (1st, 123%) and breezed through their region (1st, 183%). Their underlying numbers are not as strong as some earlier years, though, and they may be vulnerable in the playoffs.

University of Toronto Schools

  • 2017 provincials result: 1st
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2001-04, 2008, 2012, 2017)

There’s no skirting around it, UTS is the favourite. In Reach and quizbowl, they haven’t lost to another school, and their only statistically measured result with the main team, the Lisgar tournament (1st, 144%), is miles ahead of anyone else. They will have a heavy dose of substitutions during the prelims and early playoffs, but the B team’s equally impressive results during the year will keep the wins coming.

Upper Canada College

  • 2017 provincials result: 4th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2016)

UCC has quietly grown to a semifinal lock in recent years. I only have their UTS tournament (17th, 144%), but I think they were victims of the very unbalanced morning pool situation – they got the points, but had to face all the contenders. Hopefully, the provincial pools will be more stable and give them another high seed.

Westmount SS

  • 2017 provincials result: 8th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 7th (2004)

Westmount has been the busiest team all year, playing any tournament they can find. They did well at the UTS tournament (4th, 179%) and regionals (1st, 184%) but got four losses to Central at the Lisgar mirror (2nd, 104%). In quizbowl, they were regularly second to UTS, but didn’t do well in History Bowl. Westmount will be hoping that all this practice makes perfect, and they have an outside chance of being the first Hamilton team at Nationals since the early 1990s.

Tier 2 (should make playoffs)

The Academy for Gifted Children (PACE)

  • 2017 provincials result: 7th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2013)

I actually don’t know if PACE qualified, and have no results for them. This is entirely a rank based on their reputation; the years they make provincials, they almost always make the playoffs. In the event that PACE didn’t qualify, the regional representative (such as Newmarket) would probably take their place in the tiers.

Glebe CI

  • 2017 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 8th (2015)

Glebe has never been eliminated in the provincial prelims, therefore, they will make playoffs. More seriously, they have been somewhat of a middling team all year, including at the Lisgar tournament (9th, 83%), but produced a surprise at regionals (1st, 192%) with the best R-value of the year that has been collected. Glebe’s other provincial runs were surprisingly good compared to their regular season performances, so perhaps they are attuned to pure SchoolReach format.

Lisgar CI

  • 2017 provincials result: 2nd
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2008, 2015, 2017)

Lisgar’s lineup is entirely different from last year’s national champions. They have been active this year as usual, but fall short to other busy contenders like UTS and Westmount. Their lineup appeared at UTS (7th, 135%) and regionals (2nd, 180%), but was split over the B and C teams at their hosted tournament. Lisgar has enough strength to get through the first day, but they will likely have to meet a team in the playoffs they have lost to earlier in the year.

Royal St. George’s College

  • 2017 provincials result: 9th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 9th (2017)

RSGC predictions always burn me. They have not yet been able to convert their dominance of History Bowl into Reach success. I’ve had them as potential national qualifiers in the past two years, but they only made playoffs once in that time. This year, I am putting them in the second tier range; they still have their best player, but a lot of his supporting cast from previous years have graduated. RSGC could also desperately use a provincials set that isn’t relying on recycled material from past years.

White Oaks SS

  • 2017 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 11th (2015)

White Oaks has never made provincial playoffs before, but they look like the best of the midfield. At the UTS tournament (13th, 120%), the only teams with better R-values than them are already higher on this list. They pulled off an impressive 390PPG during their regional playoffs, but I don’t count elimination playoffs in R-value calculations (it messes up strength of schedule – they would be listed at 221% otherwise!).

Tier 3 (could make playoffs)

Abbey Park HS

  • 2017 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): no appearance

Abbey Park beat OTHS to be the other Halton representative. They put up higher scores than White Oaks in the regional playoffs, but lost the final. Abbey Park has never been to provincials (the school is younger than my records), but the good regional run and some History Bowl preparation could lead to a nice provincial debut for the team.

Michael Power – St. Joseph HS

  • 2017 provincials result: 26th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 15th (2013)

MPSJ once again got through regionals (2nd, 131%) ahead of other teams with higher R-values, but their result at UTS (15th, 95%) still suggests they could pull off a top 15 finish. They haven’t made it to the playoffs before, however, so they will need to give their best performances of the year during the prelims to achieve that.

Nepean HS

  • 2017 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 23rd (2016)

Nepean should do better than their single previous appearance, when they were thrown into the 2016 pool of death. While they finished behind Glebe and Lisgar at regionals (3rd, 159%), they will still put up competitive numbers to justify Ottawa’s three qualification spots. Nepean was probably equal with Glebe up until the regional tournament, and could be a worthy opponent to a team in a higher tier.

The Scarborough winner

  • 2017 provincials result: N/A (Neil McNeil was 14th)
  • Best provincial result (on file): N/A

I don’t know who won Scarborough, but the region should produce a team in these tiers. Agincourt at UTS (10th, 102%) gives the best estimate of where a Scarborough team might finish.

Toronto Montessori Schools

  • 2017 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): no appearance

TMS is another first-timer that could make a good provincial debut. This team has grown quickly from an exploratory visit at Lisgar two years ago to a regional winner. They put up mid-tier numbers at UTS (11th, 82%) and the Lisgar set mirror (3rd, 84%), but winning the York region over traditional favourites like CHAT and Bayview should now put them on other teams’ radar. They have demonstrated an ability to get wins even with lower PPGs, but I don’t think they’ll make it to playoffs.


There is a fair bit of stability at the top, with the only teams from last year’s playoffs not mentioned being Assumption (did not qualify out of Halton) and Merivale (did not participate in Ottawa).

Some other teams I considered, but didn’t select, are Centennial CVI (12th and 77% at UTS), Glenforest SS (the Peel winner over teams like Heart Lake and Mayfield), Almonte DHS (10th and 69% at Lisgar), and teams from Waterloo or Niagara. I don’t want to place them in a fourth tier, though, because at that level you run into lots of teams with no results to use.

Overall, UTS, London Central, and Martingrove look like the contenders for the three Nationals spots. There could be a surprise playoff appearance by a team not on my radar, but as last year’s preview showed, provincial results are becoming more forecastable.

I will be at provincials this year without attachment to any team. This will give me some flexibility to find games I want to see. This blog will not be updated with any results until I return, but I will try to give some reports on my Twitter feed.

Good luck to all the provincial competitors!

Nationals qualifiers

Yukon didn’t make it.

While Ontario waits a little longer for its big provincial gala, the rest of the provinces are finishing off their SchoolReach season. Several provinces ran their championships this week.

Nova Scotia had six schools in attendance for their tournament. After their elimination playoffs, Cobequid EC defeated Auburn Drive HS in the final. Cobequid is a frequent Nationals attendee, but Auburn Drive qualified last year.

New Brunswick had only four schools in the senior division for provincials. Kennebecasis Valley HS swept the field and won the final over Fredericton HS. Between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, there should be three spots available. I don’t know who between Fredericton and Auburn Drive will get the last spot; the former because of NB getting 2 spots in recent years or the latter because of larger attendance.

Quebec has held their provincial tournament, but I don’t know who won.

Manitoba has three spots in advance this year, rather than the last-minute addition they got last year. I don’t know the finishing order, but alphabetically, Fort Richmond Collegiate, Kelvin HS, and St John Ravenscourt School have qualified. The former is a first-time qualifier in my records, while the latter two have qualified regularly, including last year.

Alberta finished last Saturday as well. Renert School, Old Scona Academic HS, and Webber Academy won their provincial spots. Renert and Old Scona attended last year, while Webber has had a few qualifications already this decade.

I have no information about British Columbia. Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan do not have provincial tournaments.

Update: St. George’s School, Eric Hamber HS, and Sir Winston Churchill SS will represent BC.

More than half of the Nationals field is set up, and the final piece will be the Ontario tournament in two weeks. Next week, I will preview the contenders for that province.

2018 Previews

Still waiting on Newfoundland.

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!