Friday, September 28, 2007

Power Rankings -- Week 5


Midway through the season, there have certainly been many surprises (as there always are I suppose) in this season of the USCL. More than a few teams are probably in a position right now that few expected them to be prior to the season, but for the most part nothing has really been firmly decided in the playoff races and nearly every team still has a chance to fulfill their dreams if they can get things to go their way in the second half of the season. Next week will likely be very defining for the playoffs as it is all inter-league play (the last inter-league play of the season), and teams which can win while their divisional counterparts do not, will gain a huge footing in the playoff races. This is the way things look to me right now.


1st: Boston Blitz (4.0 – 1.0) (+0 from last week). Boston, despite sitting out two of their top three performers Shmelov and Williams, still had a fairly comfortable draw against their likely biggest challengers (at least in my view) for the division crown, the Baltimore Kingfishers using a very tough lineup. Although Boston no longer outright holds the best record in the league, to me they are still clearly the team to beat. (Win Division: 48%, Make Playoffs: 95%)


2nd: Dallas Destiny (4.0 – 1.0) (+0). Dallas regained their half game lead in the West in defeating an impressive Miami lineup and confirming what I believed last week, that they are likely the best team in the West right now. That they have regained their lead despite sitting their biggest asset (again in my view) Stopa out for two consecutive weeks is again something that really to me speaks well of their chances. (33%, 83%)


3rd: Seattle Sluggers (3.5 – 1.5) (+0). Seattle had a tough draw this week against Carolina and lost a little ground to Dallas. It’s still hard to overlook the overall hot streak Seattle has been on since their Week 1 loss, and they still have to be considered a big threat to win their division. The consecutive matches in Weeks 7 and 8 with Dallas are likely to being a big determiner of whether that will happen. (30%, 77%)


4th: San Francisco Mechanics (3.0 – 2.0) (+0). After the Mechanics’ unbeaten streak ended a week earlier, more than a few doubters seemed to crop up wondering if they still had it in them to win the division or even make the playoffs. They definitely sent a resounding message in that regard with their sweep this week, despite being a bit shorthanded due to players being away in Miami, against a plucky Tennessee team who despite having a poor record had really been anything but easy to beat this season. (25%, 71%)


5th: Baltimore Kingfishers (3.0 – 2.0) (+0). Baltimore had a pretty respectable result this week on paper, drawing the top team in the league. In actuality though, I think it might be hard for them to look on that result too positively as this was a real chance to make a statement that they were going to give Boston a serious challenge for the division title and with Boston resting their two lower board stars, the Kingfishers really probably were looking to win this match. It remains to be seen if they are able to contend with the very best lineups of Boston. (24%, 73%)


6th: Carolina Cobras (3.0 – 2.0) (+0). Carolina continues to surprise, especially Schroer, who had not performed well in his few league outings prior to this season, but so far is undefeated in four games and is in contention for league MVP honors. With this kind of balance and overall strength, the Cobras seem like a real threat against whoever they play. Once again, I’m still skeptical if they can long term hope to score well against the very best lineups of the top teams which will make it hard for them to win the Championship, but making the playoffs seems more than likely at this stage. (12%, 64%)


7th: Philadelphia Inventors (3.0 – 2.0) (+1). The Inventors got back on track this week, beating a very strong Queens lineup. They now have solidly placed themselves back on the playoff track, but like the Kingfishers, it remains to be seen if they can really challenge the Blitz, especially when they use their best lineups. (18%, 62%)


8th: New Jersey Knockouts (2.5 – 2.5) (+2). New Jersey got their first notch in the win column, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time with their hopes for this season seeming to be on the verge of getting away from them. They still have a lot of work to do as they need to put together more performances like their most recent one to have a shot at the playoffs. (8%, 44%)


9th: Queens Pioneers (1.5 – 3.5) (-2). Unfortunately the Pioneers could not keep up their momentum from the previous week and now find their season slipping away. While they still have an outside shot, they have really no margin for error, and it’s likely time for them to hold nothing back if they really want to make it (i.e. perhaps time to bring out the double GM lineups). (2%, 17%)


10th: New York Knights (1.0 – 4.0) (-1). The Knights may have finally put themselves in a predicament from which they likely can’t escape as they will probably need a perfect second half of the season (or very close to perfect) to have any shot at the playoffs. Once again, they are likely a team which could do that, but given the overall parity in the league, it’s really not a position any team in the league can appreciate being in. I would like to make one statement about the Knights in reply to a comment made at the Boylston Blog: "When do you suppose that the qualitative rankers are going to come to terms with the fact that the Knights are not a very good team?" Of course the term "good" is somewhat relative, but I prefer to look at the Knights' poor season up to this point more as a validation of just how strong the league has become as a whole that such a strong team on paper can be doing so poorly. Even if it doesn't happen this season, I still can't see a team with such a roster not being seen as a fairly serious threat to win the League Championship at the beginning of any future season and for that reason they will always remain a good team in my book. (0%, 9%)


11th: Miami Sharks (1.0 – 4.0) (+0). The Sharks, like the Knights, might also have put themselves in an unrecoverable situation, trailing in the playoff race by a full two games. They will also likely need a perfect second half of the season to have a shot, but again, I don’t think any team can realistically expect that. (0%, 5%)


12th: Tennessee Tempo (0.5 – 4.5) (+0). A match this week that Tennessee should just try their best to forget about and move on to the next challenge. Though I’m sure enduring this crushing defeat isn’t a good feeling, they must remember how competitive they’ve been overall this season, prior to this match, and not let that get away from them. Though I’m virtually certain they can’t recover to make the playoffs this season, they should still look for more things to build on for the future. (0%, 0%)



2 comments:

DG said...

Arun-

I'm surprised that you don't differentiate more the concepts of good teams from good players. Of course, New York has very good players including the highest rated player in the league. However, for some reason they haven't been able to convert their "goodness" as players into match wins during the regular season. Over the past 1.5 seasons, they are now 5.5 out 15. To me, that's the definition of a team that is not playing well as a team regardless of how good their individual players are.

I don't know why they don't play well as a team. Hypotheses might include players with styles not conducive to the team format, players who don't take the matches as seriously as they should, players who just play too inconsistently, players who are uncortable with the technology or playing conditions, or some lack of camaraderie (or chemistry) that better teams have, that they don't. Beats the heck out me if its any of these things or something completely different.

By the way, I was interested to see that your qualitative rankings this week are identical to the Week 5 QPRs. Probably just a coincidence :)

Arun Sharma said...

DG:

While I agree with you to a certain extent about differentiating between "good team" and "good players", to me it's not quite as important a factor as you seem to be suggesting. Sure in sports like basketball and football having good players will get you nowhere if they don't play as a team, but in the USCL I don't think that's nearly as true. Certainly concepts you've mentioned like team preparation, camaraderie, etc. are a factor in the league (as I think I hinted at in my preseason article), but in the end you do wind up playing your own game individually during the match so it's just not quite the same thing in that regard as other team sports.

Like you, I don't know why New York has been doing poorly this season, but my guess for the biggest reasons would be, as I stated, the fact that the league is so strong overall plus that so many matches are so close that all it takes is a little fortune one way or the other to swing things against any team so it doesn't seem too hard for random variance to have put them in such a position. I suppose only time will tell for sure.

As for my Qualitative Rankings being the same as the QPRs, although that wasn't intentional, I can't say that surprises me too much. It seems natural as you move into the later stages of the season that Power Rankings in general will have to be based more upon a team's record rather than your "feel" about them so them matching what the actual numbers say doesn't shock me.

Arun