It has been 11 years since St. John’s School won Texas’ only HSNCT title, way back in 2002. In recent years, LASA has often been a bridesmaid; it has an active streak of three consecutive top-three HSNCT finishes, but has not yet managed to break through in the biggest games. Could this be Texas’ year?
We have predicted that of the 22 TQBA teams playing this weekend, 10 will make it to Sunday’s playoffs (with at least a 6-4 preliminary record). Of those 10, we believe that five have some non-zero probability of being champion. Here are sets of pro-and-con arguments for each of those five.
LASA C (7-3 predicted preliminary record)
Why could they win? This squad includes the core of 2012 Middle School National Champion. Patty Hill has trained them well, they are young, and destined for great things perhaps sooner rather than later.
Why won’t they win? They are too young. They are solid players, but they lack extensive big-time experience. None of the four has played into the final rounds at HSNCT, and going through the pressure-cooker once or twice does help. They won’t win in 2013, but watch this crew carefully. This squad is capable of winning an HSNCT in 2014, 2015, or 2016.
Cistercian A (8-2 predicted preliminary record)
Why could they win? Most of them (3 of 4) have been here before. They are all seniors. This is an unpredictable year with no prohibitive favorite and someone has to win. Vimal Konduri generates a lot of points, and Collin Nadarajah has grown into a primary supporting role.
Why won’t they win? They lack top-flight practice. Cistercian was unavailable to participate in Texas Invitational or Bluebonnet. They have not had the opportunity to face the elite squads (e.g., Loyola, Northmont, Hunter, Dorman, Detroit Catholic Central, Bellarmine) that LASA and St. John’s have played (and beaten). That lack of experience is a significant disadvantage.
LASA A (8-2 predicted preliminary record)
Why could they win? On paper, this is the best unit in the whole field. Judging by 2012, they should win the tournament. They have the best balance of any national contender; all four can provide solid contributions. They have been here before, placing third last year. Allan Sadun can be dominant, and Nathan Weiser has significantly improved since last year.
Why won’t they win? This crew has very seldom played alongside each other, and have never won a tournament of consequence together. They have a knack for losing to their B team; this happened at Texas Invitational (twice) and Harvard Fall. They can beat anyone, but they also have a tendency to lose to underdogs, including Dorman, High Tech, and Chattahoochee at the 2012 HSNCT.
St. John’s (8-2 predicted preliminary record)
Why could they win? They won the NAQT part of Texas Invitational defeating Dorman, Northmont, Bellarmine (without Sameer Rai), DCC, LASA A, LASA B, and Max Schindler in the process. They have shown the ability to win the tough game — against LASA at the Texas Quiz Bowl Championship, they answered the last four tossups to pull out a close win, erasing a late 100-point deficit.
Why won’t they win?
This squad lacks Sunday HSNCT experience. A St. John’s team hasn’t had multiple HSNCT playoff wins since 2005. Carlos DeGuzman played, as a freshman, on an eighth-place Seven Lakes team in 2011; no other member has played in the HSNCT playoffs. This St. John’s team is young. They will return all players next year and have to be an early favorite for 2014.
LASA B (8-2 predicted preliminary record)
Why could they win? They almost won the NAQT part of Texas Invitational as a three-man team, defeating Dorman, Northmont, Bellarmine (without Sameer Rai), DCC, LASA A, and Max Schindler in the process. They have beaten LASA A three different times in the past year.
Why won’t they win? They lack experience, including playing together as a unit. There’s also not a real 50 PPG guy on this team. Jones and Sastry played on playoffs teams the past two years, but both exited early. Li and Freed have never played at HSNCT. Like St. John’s, this squad will all return in 2014 and should be an early favorite for next year.
To wrap-up our HSNCT preview series, we will reveal our pick for 2013 HSNCT Champion later Thursday.