With the College 7’s Nationals this Friday and Saturday in College Station, Texas (the tournament will be available live on YouTube with the semi-finals and finals on ESPN3) it’s time to preview the tournament and make predictions. Today we tackle Pools A, B, and C.
Pool A: Life, Wisconsin, Colorado State, Northeastern
• Life is the heavy favorite in the pool having won the tournament last year. They seeming have a never ending array of talent from which to choose from, and although stalwart Cam Dolan is injured this year, the team still has the likes of Colton Cariaga and Joe Crowley. They are a legitimate threat on offense and possess a rugby IQ that other teams would dream of.
• Wisconsin qualified for the tournament by winning the Big Ten 7’s. They have a strong squad that did well in the Big Ten, but it isn’t known as the greatest rugby conference. They are led by some veteran players, including Tom Hemmings, who was named MVP of the Big Ten tournament.
• It may not have been the best year for Colorado State, but they are a traditional rugby school with a strong program. This year they have gone out and tested themselves against tough teams like Colorado, Air Force, Texas A&M, and Utah. That experience may pay off big time this tournament.
• Northeastern have had a good year but their conference isn’t the strongest. They have solid players but they’ll need someone to step up and be a star if they are going to make it out of this pool.
Prediction: Life is by far the best team in this pool and should qualify for the next round easily. To give a little background, Life and Wisconsin met last June at the Collegiate Rugby Championship and Life prevailed 36-12. There have been some changes to the teams since then, but overall Life is the strongest team in the pool. The real battle should be between Colorado State and Wisconsin. The Badgers have had a good run of form and have invested heavily in their program. However, unlike Colorado State, they haven’t had the most difficult of seasons. In the end, it will be the experience of Colorado State that carries them through.
Pool B: Cal, Arkansas State, North Carolina State, Middlebury
• Cal doesn’t need much introduction. Despite not winning one of the three major 7’s championships (7’s Nationals, CRC, and the Las Vegas Invitational), Cal is considered one of the best teams in the country. They are an extremely deep team that regularly puts two teams in tournaments who both end up either at the top, or near the top, of the standings. The team is led by Seamus Kelly, who might be the best player in the country. Players like Jake Anderson and Nike Boyer are legitimate stars in the making. Under Jack Clark the team has been focusing more on 7’s and this could be the tournament in which it all pays off. Cal prepped for the tournament by storming through an invitational tournament at Ohio State, the Stanford 7’s, and the Pac-12 qualifier.
• Arkansas State is right up there in terms of pedigree. The Red Wolves finished as DI-A runners-up last season and are consistently a strong team. They may not have played as much 7’s as other teams in the tournament, but they did finished third in last year’s tournament. The team is led by standouts Shaun Potgeiter, Zac Mizell, Pat Sullivan, and Dean Gericke.
• North Carolina State have plenty of experience having played in the CRC. Additionally, most of their team from last summer’s CRC also returns. However, that team struggled, losing all three of their matches.
• Middlebury were the last team invited to the tournament after Virginia Tech and UCLA dropped out. They don’t have a lot of 7’s experience and are projected to struggle at the tournament. Still, as a bit of an unknown, they could surprise a few people.
Prediction: With all due respect to both North Carolina State and Middlebury, the top two spots in this pool belong to Cal and Arkansas State. Their match-up should be one of the best of the tournament. Whoever wins that match will win the pool. We think it will be Cal. There are more experienced than Arkansas State at 7’s and that will help in a tight game.
Pool C: Central Washington, Kutztown, Texas, Virginia
• If any team in the country has shifted their program to focus on 7’s, it’s Central Washington. They have always been a good team, but with the help of Serevi Rugby, they have become a great team. Central Washington may have lost standout Tim Stanfill, but they still have three former Junior All-Americans on their team in Aladdin Schirmer, Tanner Barnes, and Patrick Blair. They are also one of the most experienced teams in the tournament and a legitimate contender for the title.
• Kutztown is another strong team that is red hot this fall. They aren’t the biggest school, but they have an excellent rugby program that consistently draws in top players. Led by Tim Acker, the team has the potential to surprise a few teams, despite their tradition. Kutztown finished fourth in last year’s tournament.
• Texas won’t have to travel far to participate in the tournament and that could be a big advantage over teams that have had to travel long-distances. The Longhorns have one of the biggest student bodies in the country to pull from and have a wide array of talent at their disposal. However, it has been difficult for them to put it all together in a big tournament.
• Virginia finished second to Virginia Tech in the ACRL 7’s, looking dangerous on offense. Still, they don’t have a lot of experience and stepping out into a big tournament such as this may be too much to ask for the Cavaliers.
Prediction: Kutztown could push Central Washington, but this is the Wildcats pool to lose. They are too strong, too deep, and too driven to lose. Texas is always a bit of a threat and if they are to make any noise, they will have to beat Kutztown. In the end, Kutztown is too strong.
Stay tuned for tomorrow where we’ll preview Pools D, E, and F.
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