Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Best in Show - 2006 LWV8 Spring Preseason Ranking

Fight in the Dog’s
Best in Show
2006 LWV8 Spring Preseason Ranking

1) Wisconsin
2) Princeton
3) Radcliffe
4) Georgetown
5) UCF
6) Stanford
7) Dayton
8) URI
9) MIT
10) Bucknell

At first glance, this ranking, which is heavily based on Fall results, looks pretty boring. The top four have been the top four for the last two years and that’s also pretty much the way the Fall season shook out. Despite the fact that it’s hard to find an objective reason to change that order, I would be surprised to see the year end exactly like that. Somewhere in there somebody shifts, I’m just not sure who it is. Wisconsin, with five rowers returning from last year’s national championship boat, was the top collegiate lightweight 8 in Boston, beating Princeton by 14 seconds. That was their only real appearance of the Fall and it was enough – the Badgers are fast. As the reigning national champions and the fastest boat in the Fall, they have to begin the season at Number 1.

Princeton, second in Boston, has only four rowers returning from last year’s silver medal boat. Despite that they still generated enough speed to beat Radcliffe, Georgetown, URI, and MIT in Boston and Radcliffe and Georgetown again at the Princeton Chase. To maintain their number 2 ranking, Princeton’s captain’s claim that the squad is as deep as it’s ever been needs to be true. If it is, though, they just may have the speed to catch Wisconsin.

Radcliffe had a bumpy Fall season, finishing third in Boston and then falling a miserable 52 seconds off the pace at the Princeton Chase to finish behind both Princeton and Georgetown. Boston is their hometown race, though, so I have to believe that the best boat raced there. I wish I knew what happened in Princeton. Radcliffe seems to be coming back strong (if you consider third in the nation weak) with a bigger squad this year than in past years. They’ll definitely challenge for the national title, I’m just not sure if it will be this year.

Georgetown has been working hard to break out of the fourth position and with a new coach brought in specifically for lightweights, it’s bound to happen. Like Radcliffe, it’s all a matter of how long it takes to step up the speed. The Hoyas knocked around St. Joe’s last week so at worst they are still in the top ranks of lightweights. As the season progresses they’ll get faster, but so will the competition. Although the next group of boats will be breathing down their neck, they won’t get caught from behind and should at least put a scare into some of those boats ahead.

The first change comes at 5, because I believe UCF will overtake Stanford. UCF has looked quite fast so far this Spring, although they didn’t really race in the Fall. Stanford, meanwhile, did not show a lot in the Fall as they skipped the Charles and raced T9s on the West coast. In addition, a couple of their better rowers are studying abroad this year. This also means that UCF is the first Dad Vail school in the ranking and so should be the favorite to win that regatta. Too bad they aren’t going. They should, however, be favored to win the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships (can an East Coast team win that title?). UCF, by the way, has all eight rowers coming back from last year, two of whom have been rowing in the heavyweight eight. [Update: Three are in the heavy eight.]

Places seven through ten are more of a crapshoot because only URI and MIT have raced each other recently. URI finished ahead of MIT in Boston (barely), so they rank ahead. But Dayton slips in ahead of URI on the strength of six returning rowers from a Dad Vail championship crew and a strong outing against Ohio State in the Fall. After MIT comes Bucknell, although with some hesitancy. I haven’t even heard of them race a lightweight boat this year! I may have them here more as a result of a strong lightweight recruiting class, rather than a strong group of upper classmen. Ohio State or Cal may deserve this spot more, but Bucknell has produced very fast lightweight eights in the past, they’re racing a schedule which suggests they think they have some speed (e.g. racing Princeton), and they’ve stated their intention to build the lightweight program.

Notable exceptions to this list are Ohio State, Cal, and Lehigh. We’ve seen OSU in one race this year (meaning school year) and they got knocked around by Dayton – that hurt. They do have five rowers back though, so they should improve. I’ve seen nothing of Lehigh and Cal seems to have a better four than eight this Spring as the four did well in Boston while the eight didn’t fare too well in some West Coast Fall regattas.

As the season goes on I’ll update this ranking, which I’ll place in the right hand sidebar. That serves two purposes – most importantly it doesn’t leave my inevitably erroneous judgment on display and secondly it allows us to always have a look at who stands where. As races occur that impact the standings, I’ll change them, sometimes based on hard results, sometimes based on judgment. Should I miss one, feel free to call it to my attention. Now, off we go to Windermere, after which these rankings may already be obsolete!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Three of UCF's lightweight rowers are in the heavy 8 :-)