WFTDA North Central Playoffs 2011: My Kind of Town

The playoffs? Yeah, I guess they’re worth talking about.

Monumental Mayhem is the last of the four smallish WFTDA Big 5 playoff weekends. Hosted by the Naptown Roller Girls, this event will be the last chance for teams to get their foot in the door at the WFTDA Championships in Denver.

I know a lot of things about Denver (chief among them: it’s cold there), but I don’t know that much about the city of Naptown. However, after some exhaustive research on my part, I have determined that Naptown is not the name of an actual place but is, in fact, a nickname for the city of Indianapolis, Ind. (That would have been much easier to figure out if they were called the Naptown Colts…actually, that would be a lot more appropriate this year, huh?)

Indy is my kind of town. I’m a huge racing fan, and the world knows of no more an iconic racing circuit than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s 100 years old, and still looks as beautiful as the day she was born. One of the things on my bucket list is to travel to this racing mecca and take in ‘The 500’ live and in person; a little roller derby on the side wouldn’t hurt, either.

Racing and roller derby. Two things I love, one town to see them in.

There’s a lot of derby to be played this weekend, and with a lot of teams in the North Central closer to each other in terms of relative skills and abilities, don’t expect an automatic 1-2-3 podium finish for the top three qualifiers heading into the tournament. While one team should get in pretty easily, once you start looking behind the leader you may find another upset run in the making…the question is, who might it come from this year?

See you in November

(1) Windy City

Ahhh, the Windy City. Now that’s my kind of town. (Do I really need to tell you why?) The derby team on Chicago’s south side, unsurprisingly, is just as good as its baseball team. Windy City has not lost in the North Central region since…well, ever. The closest they came was earlier this year against Detroit, who came within 19 points of winning the top seed in the region.

Windy City hasn’t paid much attention to their own region since then, preferring to stick to a strong schedule against teams from other regions. Among others, they had hard-fought wins over Texas, Montreal and Charm City, with their only two losses this year coming by the hands of (east region champs) Kansas City and Bay Area.

Though that Bay Area loss was pretty ugly—final score: BAD 116, WCR 49—it came out-of-region against a team clearly better than Windy City. But there are no such threats in-region. Without too many credible threats to their top ranking in the North this year (see below), Windy will leave Indy with an invite to Champs in Denver this November.

The Real Playoffs

(2) Detroit, (3) Minnesota, (4) Naptown

They make cars in Detroit. (That’s my kind of town.) The American auto industry has been making a comeback after a fall from grace due to the bumpy economy. The girls from the Motor City have been doing the same, ever since they bankrupted themselves out of the playoffs last year via a first-game upset by then-seventh seeded Minnesota.

But Detroit is making a comeback: They barely lost to Charm and Philly in back-to-back games, missing by a combined 7 points. They fell just short of Texas two months ago, losing to them by only 8 points. As previously mentioned, Detroit also got really close to beating Windy City.

Detroit should be able to handle the teams under them in the rankings…but they’d better keep an eye over their shoulders, just in case. (Photo credit: Paul Maljack)

However, I’m not confident enough in Detroit to write them in with an automatic invite to Championships. They played Windy City a second time the day after they played Texas, and lost by a larger margin than in their earlier meeting (56 points). If they can get out of their first game ahead this weekend, Detroit will face Minnesota for the first time this year in an all-important semi-final…we all know what happened to Detroit when they played Minnesota last year. And a potential third-place game opponent, Cincinnati, only lost to them by 45 points. If a potential trip to Championships is on the line there, that may be a little too close for comfort.

With how close together the middle of the North Central region is, Detroit had better not let its guard down. Minnesota took advantage of that last year, on their way to the 2010 Championships. The girls from the State of Hockey (now that’s my kind of…state) have since proven everyone’s Q2 2010 voting guesses incorrect, sustaining their true ranking with in-region wins against Naptown, Madison and Brewcity. They also have a scant 17 point defeat against Philly to hang their hat on.

The potential for a Detroit-Minnesota matchup in the semis is also what’s preventing Minnesota from an easy return trip to Championships this year. Should the seeding hold, Naptown will more than likely find themselves playing against one of those teams. The tournament hosts played both this year, losing to both teams: Detroit, 147-75; Minnesota, 111-95. That Minny loss was only 16 points, so should the two teams meet in the third place game, you can throw that result out the window considering Naptown will have the same home-court advantage that helped propel Rose City into the WFTDA finals.

We’re Just Happy to Be Here

(5) Cincinnati, (6) Madison, (7) Brewcity, (10) Ohio

Although the North Central has a lot of good teams near each other, because of the seeding, a lot of teams that would otherwise have a chance to get to the semis will find themselves facing—and likely losing to—an opponent that has easily beaten them earlier this year.
For starters: Cincinnati, Ohio. The City is first up against Naptown, who beat them by the score of 167-94. That’s probably the most comfortable points spread between the 4 and 5 seeds of any region. Plus, Cincinnati’s ranking may be overstated, considering that The (lower-ranked) State actually beat them by 26 points of them in a game just played a few weeks ago.

Ohio will be riding (round on both sides and) high (in the middle) going into regionals after that impressive showing. While they’re not going to go to Championships this year, as the #10 seed, there’s no where for Ohio to go but up in the rankings. As the lowest seed, the playoffs gives them three legitimate shots at a win. Don’t be surprised to see Ohio take advantage of at least one of those chances.

I hate to say it, but there’s nothing in Ohio or Cincinnati that makes it my kind of town.  (Well, maybe Cleveland…)

Brewcity will be up against Ohio first. The Bruisers have probably had the most nerve-wracking season of anyone in the WFTDA, with five of their games decided by 25 points or less (and another two decided by 40 or less), falling about 50/50 on either side of the result. They’re still a bit far away from the top to dream of the top three, though, since a win in their first game will put them up against a Detroit team who beat them by 150 points last year.

Brewcity’s beer-buddies in Madison (beer…now those are my kind of towns) is unlucky enough to face a Minnesota team that beat them earlier this year, 196-74. Not helping things is that Madison has only won one game this year, beating…Brewcity, the team directly behind them in the rankings. Unless Madison has got a few extra cold ones, they’re probably not going to improve their rankings this time around.

The Wild Cards

(8) Arch Rival, (9) Chicago Outfit

These wild cards are a bit different than the others I’ve previewed before. Regardless of who beats who in their opening round game against each other, neither team has a chance of beating Windy City later on Friday. However, both teams can play spoiler during the weekend…but in different ways.

The Second City’s second team kicked off their interleague season with an impressive 145-102 loss against Detroit, earning the right to call themselves “the team worse than Detroit that came the closest to beating them.” (All of Detroit’s losses this year were against Texas, Windy City, and all the powerhouses in the west and east.) Naptown, Madison, and Cincinnati all lost to Detroit by a larger margin than did the Outfit. The north-siders also beat Arch Rival three months ago. The Chicago Outfit may be this year’s bracket-spoiler in the North Central if everyone else down in the consolation bracket isn’t careful.

However, one of the Outfit’s losses this year was against…Arch Rival. The margins of victory in the two games between the two teams were virtually identical (129-72 Arch; 164-104 Outfit) so based on the results of regular season split alone, the outcome of their mutual opening game is a toss-up.

However, as the gateway to the west (requiring those who wish to pass through it solve a simple math equation—my kind of town), a lot of stuff that goes to the west coast has to pass through St. Louis. One of these things that may have caught the attention of Arch Rival was all of this “stopper derby” hullabaloo that seems to be causing quite stir over here, an easily-executed “strategy” that allows a team to (unfairly) stifle any natural athletic advantages their opponents may possess.

A lot of people may not remember it, or even realize that it happened, but before Rat City and Rocky Mountain decided to stand around for 25% of game time, Arch Rival tried their luck in a two-minute non-jam stare down against #N11 Grand Raggidy in a July game. There was a whole lot of spoiling going on during this jam:

I don’t know if Arch Rival will pull this card out of their deck this weekend, but note that while Grand Raggidy isn’t in the playoffs, they also had a good loss against Detroit (130-74) and actually beat #N7 Brewcity by 7 points two months ago, the team they were playing while they did this (and who cooperated with them to do it, let’s be honest) was no pushover. That kind of derby certainly helped Arch Rival beat Grand Raggidy handily (137-59)…could it help them beat some more teams this weekend?

So that’s why Arch and the Outfit are my wild cards. There’s no telling what either of these teams may do.

And that’s not exactly a good thing.