Thank you to everyone for your patience while I put this together. I know it’s about a month later than usual. Getting licensed as a pharmacist required me to focus on two exams, which I’ve taken and have fortunately passed. I’m glad to be able to launch my next year of working on the rankings, which I’ve been doing since 2010.
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A huge amount of turnover in player leads to 8 of last year’s top 10 teams pre-nationals to fall out of the rankings for the preseason of the 2017-18 year.
The storied program Thomas Jefferson claims their first ever number one rankings in HSQBRank thanks to a strong performance at last season’s nationals. This is the highest preseason ranking of TJHSST since the 2010 rankings, when I had them placed ninth. They return everyone from some very deep playoff runs.
1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology A (Alexandria, VA) (pre-nationals rank last year: 21) – 26.41
Returning every player from a team that finished fourth at both PACE NSC and NAQT HSNCT last year, TJ is poised to be the odds-on favorite to win championships this year. One thing to note is that TJ regularly split their teams last year in attempts to qualify multiple teams for nationals. If they do the same this year, their performances until nationals could be diluted.
2. Canyon Crest Academy A (San Diego, CA) (28)- 25.56
This is CCA’s second time in the preseason rankings. They finished 13th at the PACE NSC last year. They return everyone from that roster, which includes a fearsome three-headed monster of Jeffrey Qiu, Daniel Wang, and Boopala Arul.
3. Richard Montgomery High School A (Rockville, MD) (15) – 25.37
Richard Montgomery returns to the preseason rankings for the first time since 2014, when they were fourth. They had a great regular season, even if their performances at the nationals weren’t quite up to expectations (losing Saam Zahedian for NSC and drawing strong Lexington and Ithaca teams back-to-back in the HSNCT playoffs can do that to you). They lose Zahedian this year, but had a strong B team to replace him with. But for this ranking to be accurate and for RM to be one of the top teams in the country, they have to hope they can play better without Zahedian than they did at NSC.
4. James E. Taylor High School A (Katy, TX) (7) – 25.35
Taylor was ranked number one preseason last year, a season in which they finished tied for fifth at HSNCT. They return rising junior dynamo William Golden, who was the 15th highest scoring player per game at the HSNCT. If Golden’s teammates can improve and replace Oishik Saha, they could be on the way to bringing a national championship home.
5. Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School A (Bethlehem, PA) (19) – 25.25
A team that’s newer to the world of quiz bowl, this will be Lehigh Valley’s second straight year in the preseason rankings. They were in 18th place entering the 2016-17 season. LVA is buyoed by the excellence of Alex Schmidt, an early contender for Player of the Year. Their weakness is that there’s little scoring for the team outside of Schmidt – his three teammates at HSNCT combined for 45 points in a cumulative 45 games, while at PACE NSC he ony had one teammate present. If they can form a full team that can contribute positively to Schmidt’s performances – or if they can find eve none player who’s wiling to fill in whatever gaps of knowledge Schmidt does have – they’ll be an even harder team to stop this year.
6. Wayzata High School A (Plymouth, MN) (33) – 25.19
Despite their historical strength, this is the first time Wayzata has been in the preseason rankings. They played well in the regular season, though they sent a diluted roster to NSC and at HSNCT they underperformed with a 6-4 record leading into an early playoff scenario. If they can avoid the same traps this time around, this regional power – they’re regularly one of, if not the
best team, in Minnesota – should have enough talent returning to do some real damage at season’s end.
7. duPont Manual High School A (Louisville, KY) (39) – 25.12
This is duPont Manual’s first time in the preseason rankings since 2014. They were placed 39th before nationals last year. They only attended HSNCT, finishing in a tie for 65th after a 1-1 record in the playoffs. Their failure to avoid being assigned an automatic loss after a 6-4 prelims record was a bit surprising, especially since they played with the majority of their roster from
their best performance last season at the University of Kentucky Fall Championship. They return the vast majority of their scoring from both their A & B teams. If they can combine their talent into a cohesive team, they appear likely to vastly out perform their HSNCT showing.
8. Homestead High School A (Cupertino, CA) (17) – 24.81
This is Homestead’s first ever time in the preseason rankings. They had a great regular season last season, and they managed to do even better at their national championships. They finished in a tie for ninth at HSNCT, defeating the likes of Mission San Jose and St. Mark’s, and 15th at PACE NSC above Ithaca and LASA. They do lose William Scott and Brandon Herren, but with strong B team performances during the season, they likely won’t miss a step.
9. Crystal Springs Uplands School A (Hillsborough, CA) (32) – 24.75
Another first time preseason rankings team. They peaked late in the season, with a great performance at the Evergreen Valley Pre-Nationals event. Despite their great play on the NAQT ICT D2 set, they didn’t perform quite as well at HSNCT (24.75 aPPB at Evergreen, 23.54 at HSNCT). Their HSNCT playoff elimination combined a bit of poor luck – their first playoff loss was to eventual champion Hunter – and an upset elimination loss to Strake Jesuit, a team they outplayed over the previous 12 rounds. That’s why you play the games, though. They return all of their scoring from last year’s A team, leaving them in a very strong position for the 2017-18 season.
10. Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School A (St. Louis, MO) (27) – 24.44
The third straight team to have never been in the preseason rankings. Alexander Donovan is the driving force of this team – at HSNCT, he scored 95% of MICDS’ tossup points. Despite a solid 41st place position at HSNCT, MICDS does appear to be more of a mACF team – their four highest aPPBs were all on non-NAQT sets. The absence of Michel Ge at HSNCT may have been enough to make at least one win into a loss – three of their four prelim losses were within the margins of a single tossup/bonus cycle. The question here is how much better will Donovan get, and if he can get any significant assistance from a teammate.
11. Chattahoochee High School A (Johns Creek, GA) (5) – 24.42
This is the third straight year Chattahoochee is in the preseason rankings; they were fourth before last season. And what a fantastic season – they finished tied for fifth at HSNCT and in eighth at PACE NSC. They lose the majority of the points from those teams, but their B team put on strong performances as well, going 45th at NSC and tying for 41st at HSNCT, both of which were all undergrad teams. These were very evenly distributed teams, and they also keep Kevin Huang, who was the #2 scorer on both national championship A teams. I think the more evenly distributed scoring than other teams above them – such as MICDS – could lead to Chattahoochee overtaking them.
12. Liberal Arts and Science Academy A (Austin, TX) (12) – 24.37
This is the eighth set of preseason rankings, and LASA has been in every set of rankings. The annual powerhouse had something of a down year after winning multiple national championships, “only” taking 16th at NSC and tying for 25th at HSNCT (though their B team surpassed them to tie for 15th). That B team finishing above the A team is a strong sign of the future, even if the luck of HSNCT playoff scheduling played a role as well (any team being eliminated in a 5 point loss has to be frustrated, even if it is a great team like St. John’s. If Graham Stockton, the sole returning LASA A teamer, melds well with 3 of the 4 returning players from LASA B, they’ll be in a great position.
13. Ladue Horton Watkins High School A (St. Louis, MO) (48) – 24.19
This is the first time Ladue has been in the preseason rankings since 2012, when they were number one entering the season. Ladue is following a similar path to LASA, making their placement next to each other a bit amusing. Ladue, after several years of being one of the very best teams in the country, had a couple of down years, where down means only being one of the top 100 or so teams in the country. But that Ladue was able to achieve so much with a group of sophomores is very impressive. If they continue to improve, then 2018-19 is going to be a year of contending for national championships. The only question is how close will they get this year.
14. Arcadia High School A (Arcadia, CA) (51) – 24.09
Arcadia was last in the preseason rankings in 2014, when they were 28th. Arcadia was a bit of an enigma last year. They had a great performance at the NAQT Southern California championship, but that performance was 1.45 aPPB better than any other tournament they played at last year. That gap is the same as the one between last year’s #100 Burnsville A and #155 Chatham Glenwood. And their performance at HSNCT, with the same roster, was even greater – 2.16 aPPB, or from #100 Burnsville to #192 Westlake A. If they can improve their consistency, this should be a great season for them.
15. The Miami Valley School A (Dayton, OH) (61) – 23.76
This will be Miami Valley’s first time in the preseason rankings. They had a great statistical performance at HSNCT, despite going 5-5 and finishing just 118th. They had the tournament’s 32nd best PPB overall, which came on a notably difficult set. Their performance at NSC was only 73rd, but they played without third wheel Max Mader. The Grogers, John John and William, are young – they’re entering the 10th and 9th grade, respectively – and have plenty of room to improve. But like Lehigh Valley above, they typically played with less than the max of four players. If they can get support for the Grogers to go with the easily assumed continued iprovement of the existing players, they should have a very bright future.
16. James Clemens High School A (Madison, AL) (58) – 23.74
This is Clemens’ debut in the preseason ranking and the first time an Alabama high school is in the preseason rankings since Hoover made #44 in 2014. While Clemens has historically been a solid team in Alabama, this is their first time making a major impact nationally, and that’s pushed by the great skills of team captain Sharath Narayan. Their 2016-17 season came to a strong conclusion with a tied for 25th finish at HSNCT, which may have been the best Alabama national performance in the past decade that wans’t by a Hoover team. As Sharath goes, so this team goes, but he did have an advantage that the likes of Alex Schmidt and John John and William Groger don’t: a solid supporting cast. They did lose his main support player in Daniel Vogler to graduation, which casts that advantage into question (and is why JCHS isn’t a top 10 school). Regardless, they’re poised for another great season in Alabama quiz bowl.
17. Auburn High School A (Rockford, IL) (47) – 23.73
Regularly a strong team, Auburn makes their return to the preseason rankings. They were last ranked in 2014 at number twelve. Allow me to use this entry to talk about the importance of support players. Senior William Jiang was easy to overlook – he tended to average 10-15 PPG – but he had an undeniable impact on the team. Their two best aPPBs came at tournaments with Jiang on the A team helped place them 47th in the pre-nationals rankings. If ranked off their performances without him, Auburn would have dropped to around 77th.
So, why are they 17th in these preseason rankings? Ethan Strombeck is back and he’s still one of the best players in the country. They were solid at the national championships – tied for 65th at HSNCT, 30th at NSC – and they return everyone from those teams. If they can maintain good support for Strombeck, they’ll be doing even better at HSNCT and NSC this year.
18. Beavercreek High School A (Beavercreek, OH) (35) – 23.60
This is Beavercreek’s first time in the preseason rankings. A team that showed a reasonably strong bias to NAQT in performance strength during the regular season, they managed to place higher at NSC (18th) than they did at HSNCT (tied for 41st). The combination of Hari Parameswaran and David Cohen and is a strong one-two punch that returns, but they’re another team with questionable depth for spots 3 & 4. I feel like this is common for the last few teams, but the development of a solid #3 and #4 will help them move even higher than this.
19. The Harker School A (San Jose, CA) (24) – 23.54
Harker first made the preseason rankings in last year’s preseason ranking at number 21. They were consistent all the way through, finishing 24th in the pre-nationals rankings and tying for 25th at HSNCT. That HSNCT finish came without Swapnil Garg, who will be returning this season and was one of their best players last year. This will ease the loss of Nikhil Manglik, one of their co-captains. Beyond Manglik, this was a very young team. They’re positioned for a great year with good national performances if everyone is available.
20. Northview High School A (Johns Creek, GA) (55) – 23.51
Northview is making their debut in the preseason rankings. They outperformed their pre-nationals position of 55th by tying for 15th at HSNCT and taking 32nd at NSC. They finished second in the JV portion fo the NSC as well.
They return everyone from a team made up entirely of sophomores and juniors, and each player at nationals averaged at least 0.8 tossups per game. This kind of team formation, fairly rare at this high of a level, makes them more resilient to team absences. They also have the advantage of having already spent a season fitting their knowledge together.
21. Dublin Scioto High School A (Dublin, OH) (20) – 23.26
This is Dublin Scioto’s second time in the preseason rankings, after being placed 22nd before the 2015-16 year. They finished fifth at NSC, a very solid and surprising performance but definitely their best of the season. While Clark Smith is a superstar, one of the best players in the country, they did get very solid play from Enoch Fu. Fu has sense graduated. That’s enough to drop them from a top 5 or 10 preseason team to 21st. If Enoch’s production is replaced, though, of course these concerns are mitigated.
22. Paul Laurence Dunbar High School A (Lexington, KY) (75) – 22.92
A perennial contender, Dunbar makes their sixth appearance in the preseason rankings. They were 11th before last year. Dunbar’s problem, per se, was that they had eight or so good players who never seemed to separate themselves into a notable stronger A team compared to their B team. Their A team finished 50th at NSC while their B team was 54th; at HSNCT, their B team actually outperformed their A team, taking 41st compared to varsity’s 65th. But they are a team with deep talent. If they can avoid the weaknesses of last year’s squad, the incongruity, they’ll easily have better national performances.
23. Saint Joseph High School A (Metuchen, NJ) (74) – 22.89
Despite a strong run of seasons, this is actually Saint Joseph’s first time in the preseason rankings. This is the first team in the preseason rankings to not attend either national championship last season.
They return their three top scorers from their best tournament – Columbia Spring – with only Chris Muniz graduating. If they can find someone from the B team to replace him, this team should easily be one of the very best in the New Jersey/New York area.
24. Hoover High School A (Hoover, AL) (45) – 22.88
In addition to this being Hoover’s second time in the preseason rankings, this is the first time the set of Alabama has ever had two representatives in the preseason rankings. They tied for 41st at HSNCT. They did this with a team lead primarily in scoring by Rishik Hombal, Andy Kong, and Addison Rees. Rees, along with captain Sophia Liu, graduated. They had some depth on, with Joseph Jun looking like he’ll fit in well in the third spot. The question of completing the team from the B team – a solid but not spectacular second squad – remains, but they’ll have enough talent where that’s only a question of if they could make top bracket at NSC rather than if they stand a chance of making the NSC playoffs.
25. William Fremd High School A (Palatine, IL) (40) – 22.80
This is the first time Fremd has made the preseason rankings since they were also 25th in 2014. Fremd, like Saint Joseph, did not attend either national last season. They were a great team in a particularly strong year for Illinois. The loss of Kevin Chen will hurt, but their scoring was well distributed between their other three A team members which will mitigate that loss. They did have a clear best player on their B team in Vikram Marmar who should be able to easily step into a fourth scorer role, assuming he can adjust from being his teams’ usual #1. If their talent melds particularly well, they could be the best team in Illinois.
Others to watch: Battle Ground Academy A (Franklin, TN), Central High School A (St. Joseph, MO), Darien High School A (Darien, CT), Detroit Catholic Central A (Novi, MI), Detroit Country Day School A (Beverly Hills, MI), East Chapel Hill High School A (Chapel Hill, NC), Hunter College High School A (New York, NY), Mission San Jose High School A (Fremont, CA), Montgomery Blair High School A (Silver Spring, MD), Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology B (Alexandria, VA), Torrey Pines High School A (San Diego, CA), The Westminster Schools A (Atlanta, GA), Woodford County High School A (Versailles, KY)
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