Weekend Preview 27-29 June, 2014: So Very Nearly Done

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There have been around 800 WFTDA sanctioned bouts this season, and it all comes down to this weekend with the final few percent of ranking points for the year to be awarded.

Qualification is all but settled for the top 60 eligible teams. Invites for playoffs are set to initially go down to #61 in the rankings this year as Florida’s Fort Myers Derby Girls have already been denied entry on administrative grounds; they are still a class C league as they did not fulfil the technical requirements to become class B in time.

There was a worry that Houston might not qualify either as it looked like they might not complete their gameplay requirements–they were expecting three D1/2 games at Beach Brawl but hadn’t counted on D3 Stockholm in their group–but have a game scheduled against Big Easy this weekend that will secure a playoff spot.

So, onto this weekend.

Pac Destruction

Angel City, VRDL, Rat City and Santa Cruz are all going to D1 playoffs. They all seem likely to finish inside the all-important top-24 too, although Santa Cruz could drop down on a particularly rough weekend.

The questions are exactly where these four will end up and what effect this will have on everyone else. Angel City are providing a stream of the event through their Justin.tv channel, so you should go and check out the full schedule and tune in over the weekend. We know there are connectivity and other issues streaming from ACDG’s warehouse, but are grateful that an effort is being made so that fans from around the world can try and see the action.

Angel City will almost certainly come out of this a #2 seed. Even the best of weekends couldn’t pull them up among the top seeds and it would take a meltdown beyond all reasonable possibility for them to slip down to #3. However, even if they did it wouldn’t matter–they would then only swap places with Denver in the seeding, with the two projected to meet in a playoff semifinal regardless of who is seeded higher.

The numbers tell us Angel are expected to go 3-0 this weekend. It is not outside the realms of possibility that VRDL could upset their party and take a #1 playoff seed for themselves in the process, but the odds are against that. It’s also arguably not in their best interests to shoot that high; if they simply meet expectation, the toughest opponent in their playoff would be the overranked London–move up and they would have to deal with the freshly augmented Rose City or Texas who may be ranked higher but could well provide a tougher test.

Angel’s formidable home record is not to be trifled with. They have a defence that this year has rapidly gained a reputation for force, strength and stability, and a jammer rotation that has deepened courtesy of ACDG veteran and bit-part 2013 skater Satan’s Little Helper stepping up into a bigger role in 2014–and taking home the Golden Bowl MVP prize this year for her trouble.

We’re yet to see VRDL this year against a team that’s likely to progress past the first round of playoffs–while Rat’s possible movement means we don’t know the exact combination, Montreal and Boston look set to face Philly and Rat in the first round, and both would be expected to lose either way. How Victoria will do against a top 20 defence in Rat is one question; how they deal with a top 10 one in Angel is another matter entirely. As we covered earlier in the week, their hyperaggressive style and high penalty count, for jammers in particular, could cause them to come a cropper against a top-drawer team. How their style suits the officiating on the West Coast–and indeed playoffs-style officiating later in the year–is also a question mark, especially given the general lack of consistency in the calling of multiplayer blocks and forearms across the derby world at the moment.

With a 3-0 weekend they could overhaul Texas and Rose to claim the #4 spot–with three very big wins there is a remote chance (a 10:1 shot at the very best) that they might overhaul London and take #3. Even if they lose to Angel they’re almost certain to end up ahead of them in the rankings at this point if their other games run close to what is expected of them.

Rat. They’ve not seen a huge amount of action in early 2014–but once Pac Destruction is taken into account, they’ll actually have had their busiest first half of a calendar year since 2011. Their results in 2013 haven’t told us much about their strength except that they seem likely to fall to VRDL based off the sides’ relative performances against Montreal; Rat City won 202-124 at home, compared to VRDL’s 246-66 at ECDX. Outside of that, the only data to draw on is a huge win over Sacred–who are heading to D2 playoffs this year–and a comfortable one over the rising Jet City, which collectively tell us very little.

With a better-than-expected weekend Rat could take the final #3 seed spot away from Philly for the likely privilege of a second consecutive playoff match-up with Boston rather than Montreal and a likely semifinal against the #5 team rather than the #4 team–likely Texas and Rose unless VRDL pass them.

Finally, we come to Santa Cruz. They’re expected to go 0-3 this weekend. They lost last year’s D2 title by a single point and have been climbing the D1 ranks ever since. Like Rat, they’ve played Sacred this year–and while their 213-107 win looked impressive at the time, it has been put into perspective by results since then for the Sacrificers, including the 444-58 hammering by Rat. They will be hoping for a #5 or #6 seeding at playoffs–to secure the former they’ll need to outperform expectations across the weekend. It also won’t make a huge amount of difference–teams in the #3 and #4 seed pool they have a decent chance of facing include Windy, Rocky, Philly and Denver, against all of whom a very similar result would be projected. Essentially, Santa Cruz can relax a little this weekend and focus on learning from the experience; results aren’t going to change their playoff chances as much as learning the right lessons from the weekend will.

Tampa Is Climbing A Mountain

The Tantrums of Tampa Roller Derby–no Derby Darlin’s here any more, thank you–are taking a trip to Denver at the death as they make a last-minute grab for the top 24 with two bouts in two days, against the Mile High Club and 5280 Fight Club.

With an FTS ranking inside the top 20 and a 13-5 record in the 2013/14 qualification season, they’ll be hoping to steal that last top 24 place away from Toronto–and we think a performance in line with FTS expectation in Denver would just about do it, though it will be touch-and-go.

Denver and Rocky are both locks for #3 seeding at playoffs; their bouts against Tampa will only determine the order. Denver are currently much more likely to come out ahead in that race, but with both teams in action this coming weekend that isn’t quite guaranteed–just very likely.

Arch Rival Goes West

There are some final points up for grabs in the PNW this weekend courtesy of some pink-and-black clad visitors from St Louis.

The Arch Rival Roller Girls play Jet City on Friday, Rose City on Saturday and Oly on Sunday.

Arch Rival and Jet are both going to land in the #27-#31 range and so go into playoffs as a #7 or #8 seed–but their chances of advancement out of the first round don’t really have much to do with who ends up ranked above the other; SoCal and Columbia–likely #10 seeds–are both rated above Houston, No Coast and New Hampshire–likely #9 seeds–with Arizona a likely #10 seed we think is still under-valued in the numerical rankings.

Texas’ faltering against Denver opened the door for Rose to climb above them without having to exceed FTS expectations here–but with Denver’s Rivas and Serelson likely to make WoJ debuts what feels like minutes after transferring, they’d be reasonably expected to exceed those mathematical expectations anyway.

Even with Oly’s Big O faltering, anything other than a comfortable win in a home game over ARRG is essentially unthinkable, although a lot does depend on which Oly team actually shows up–and for once, we mean that as much literally as figuratively.

Oly not going to playoffs last year does mean their ranking is particularly volatile–but thanks to the clustering of teams around them, if they perform near expectation they’re most likely to open against Charm City with it mattering not which of the two is a #4 seed and which is #5. They could conceivably hit Jacksonville if they underperform a little and stick Charm and Terminal together–but any other outcome isn’t very likely at all.

Take It (Big) Easy

Big Easy have visitors from Gainesville on Saturday and Houston on Sunday as they look to secure a top-61 place and a playoff invite with it. This is a match-up that Deadwards will cover in the B-Roll; it’s mostly of interest here as the second of those two will secure a D1 playoff invite for Houston, and rule out Blue Ridge in #41, certainly at the first time of asking.

Demolition City

There is the slimmest of chances that Demolition City could make it into D1 playoffs off the back of their games against Naptown (tonight) and St Chux (on Saturday). With only five games in the system (and an unsanctioned early-season win over Nashville) two big wins could drag them up a relatively long way–but it looks very unlikely those wins could be big enough to push the side all the way past Tri-City, who would be at #40 otherwise. Put the other way, it is possible that a big win for St Chux could be enough to catapult them past Tri City–but with 12 games across the season and a double-digit gap to make up, it would have to be a spectacularly unbalanced game between two teams who appear, on paper, to be quite evenly matched.

UPDATE: With Naptown’s 221-88 win over Demo, any remote hopes Demo might have had of D1 playoffs have essentially gone, though D2 hopes are still very much alive. The St. Chux game will determine if they make D2, and where St Chux end up seeded. There is the slimmest of chances St. Chux could make D1–but that would require an epic blowout of a Demolition City team they are projected to lose to.

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