Saturday, April 11, 2009

Collegiate Rugby Bracket Challenge: Update & Thoughts

I just received an email that the original bracket posted on Rugby America was incorrect. For the updated, correct bracket, click the following link: Collegiate Rugby Bracket Challenge. And if you haven't had a chance to do so, check out the finalized brackets, make your picks, and cheer on the BYU Rugby team in their push for yet another final appearance.

Now for some thoughts...

First off, I was really looking forward to a Final Four match-up with #3-ranked St. Mary's... the updated bracket, however, shows them back in the mix with Cal like last year's tourney (i.e. they will most likely be eliminated by Cal before getting a chance to play BYU).

Besides St. Mary's, I don't know of any other team that can truly challenge BYU in the championship (excepting Cal of course). BYU has effectively buried every ranked team that they have played this season... and that's putting it gently in some cases.

Second, the only team in BYU's bracket that BYU has already played this season is Utah... uh... yeah... so... what should I say about that? According to American Rugby News' most recent Top 25, the team that BYU twice pummeled, by 44 and 46 points respectively, is still ranked #6 in the nation... #6 in the nation, folks! Call me crazy, but why shouldn't we expect for BYU to just blow everyone away all the way up to the Final Game???

The only other teams in the bracket to have played BYU previously, in last year's tournament, are #12 Dartmouth (lost to BYU in the round of 16, 48-22) and #4 San Diego State (lost 37-14 to BYU in the round of 8). Ask anyone, and they will tell you that Dartmouth showed very well, that the score doesn't reveal how close the two teams played; and San Diego State actually played less than their potential in a match that found both sides committing several errors.

Now San Diego State is looking to get to a Final Four spot... and I'm sure Dartmouth has similar aspirations... but are they really up to it this year? Are they better than they were last year? Heaven knows they will need to be, or else they will get steamrolled by BYU! This year is different!

Say what you want, but I'm betting that the deeper, more balanced, and more aggressive BYU Rugby team of today puts the hurt on the opposition in this year's National Championship, whatever the rankings say... anything else would be truly upsetting... and I don't just mean emotionally!


  1. Our quarter of the draw has us playing Dartmouth, then, if we win, the winner of Navy vs Arkansas State. My bracket has Arkansas State beating the higher-seeded Navy, so we would face them in the quarter-finals if we beat Dartmouth. Most analysts I have seen have BYU coming out of that quarter.

    The quarter that we would face in the semis has LSU, Utah, Bowling Green and San Diego State. It would be best for our union if Utah won that quarter, but I actually agree with the pollsters and have San Diego State coming through to the semis. So, SDSU actually CAN have a final 4 spot without affecting us.

    So, if it's Cal, St. Mary's, BYU and SDSU in the final 4, I believe we have the easier draw. Cal will play 10-12 of their 1st team players against St. Mary's, whilst we may rest 3-4 starters against SDSU, counting on our overall conditioning and superior back play to carry the day.

    The final against Cal (per my brackets, at least) would pit our first team against Cal's, with a slight advantage going to their forwards and a comparable edge to our backs.
    I have us winning by 6.

  2. Sounds good to me. In my bracket, Navy pulls out a close one winning by 7, Utah beats SDSU by 12, and BYU takes it by a nose over Cal by 5 points (just as long as we take it though, right?). Good insights; thanks for the comments.

    This will definitely be another fun and interesting championship... no doubt about it!

  3. Unfortunately for Cal, if St. Mary's makes it back to the Big 4 they will most definitely be starting their 1st XV. No way they take any chances after that match in March.

    Though St. Mary's has a pretty tough road with Army and then PSU in Atlanta.

    For BYU's sake I hope the players arent as confident as you. You can be as confident as you want as a fan. But if the team has matched this confidence I would not be shocked by an unexpected upset before the finals. If they havent then its going to be tough to keep them out of it.

  4. Jack,

    I read you... the only problem is that, throughout the whole season, I have been plenty realistic in my confidence and expectations... and then BYU has greatly exceeded such expectations by completely destroying teams that were labeled as legitimate competitors!

    Take Utah, for example... Over the last decade, they have almost always been neck and neck with BYU in the rankings and definitely so in match play. Even the awesome '05 BYU squad got snubbed by a relentless Utah side in the Final Four that year... It has always been a close match-up, guaranteed!

    But this year, it was not close at all (as proven two times over)! BYU is on a roll even when they don't play up to their potential, and I'm just saying that their competition will have to work extra hard to hope to beat an extra good BYU team.

    More thoughts forthcoming in my next post...

  5. If BYU plays up to its potential, this year's team is maybe 2 to 2.5 times as good as last year's squad. And, except at prop, the team is much deeper than last year. Last year, the team was populated by many "walking wounded" in the final: at least 2 broken noses, a broken thumb, several partially separated shoulders, at least 2 MCL sprains/tears, and Ra Lawrence wasn't active due to his ACL surgery.

    3 of last years backs have moved to forwards, making the team much faster overall. And the half backs have a year more experience playing in the BYU system.

    Along with BYU Rugby Forever, I don't believe that there is a team outside of Cal that can stay with BYU for 80 minutes.

    On the other hand, I hear that Dartmouth is much improved over last year, and so is Arkansas State. I think that those will both be very good games between excellent teams.

    If we come out victorious, I hope I am right in picking either SDSU or Utah to play in the semis. Either would provide us a good, strong, fast match.

  6. Wow, great comments; I am pleased to have people very aware of the championship and the competition (probably even more so than I) providing these insights.

    I will support CougarBlue's comments in my next post in more detail, but here I must simply say that perhaps the greatest differences I see in BYU this year are speed and assertiveness... and these strengths found in every player, all across the board.

    If anyone thinks that shutting down one or two "star" players will effectively cripple BYU, they are mistaken and ripe for defeat.

  7. Add a case of food poisoning to the "walking wounded" of last years final.

  8. you're pretty enthusiastic about byu's chances. agree w/ above comment about the necessity to not be overconfident, esp given that the last 3 yrs final game scores against cal have gone from 3 pts to 30 pts to 50+ pts. scariest team by a long shot i've seen in us college rugby is the 2006 byu team and even they couldn't beat Cal. lessons learned in each additional passing year: that physical talent (which BYU has had) aint enough - discipline and mental toughness are necessary ingredients to become the best. i have not seen byu exhibit those aspects of the game in quantity sufficient to mount any kind of a threat to Cal in the past 2 years. byu has been too quick to lose their cool when the game gets dicey...hopefully this year's model will be a different story. Cal has looked decent if not all-world beaters this year but they keep their heads, play to their strengths, let superior team fitness wear down opponents as the game goes on. here's hoping BYU gives the Bears a game if these two are the last two standing on the first saturday in May...

  9. when is the highlight film going to be finished?

  10. Sharp comments by the above Anonymous critic... yes I am enthusiastic about BYU when weighing them against other teams, but notice I am not making any rash conclusions about their potential for beating Cal.

    I think Cal's great strength lies in the fact that they are a team in a truer sense than many of the rest. They are well-balanced and tight in their execution on the whole; it doesn't seem that only some of them are more mentally tough or physically fit... rather, all of them appear to share the same discipline. BYU could definitely do better to improve team unity, discipline, interdependence, and accountability off the field as well as on the field in the future.

    As for the highlight film, it will hopefully be finished by early June. Editing all of the acquired footage will be a large, time-consuming task to be sure.


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