FaNCiful Analysis: Rootin' and Tootin' at Houston Champs

Recap

Two weekends ago (my bad, got busy. You discord people are so needy…), 32 teams of NC’s finest got together at Campbell University for the NC District Championships. 5190 Green Hope Falcons stormed out to an early lead in qualifications and did not let go with their 2-hatch sandstorm auto, seamlessly integrating vision with quintic hermite spline motion profiling. 1533 Triple Strange picked up where they left off, swerving around the defense to fill rockets and ranked 2nd. Unfortunately, they were never able to get their new vacuum climb working at this event.

Level 2 climbs became much more valuable overall at this event, with so many teams having another level 2 or level 3 capability. 4534 Wired Wizards and 587 Hedgehogs took 3rd and 4th, over many of the fast-cycling level 3 climb teams, in part due to their consistency at level 2 and ability to score in any location on the cargo ship and rocket. The top 8 featured many teams that have been at the top of the rankings in previous weeks, along with teams shooting up from former 2nd-pick territory in their district events.

It wouldn’t be a real NC event without some head-scratching alliance selections. 5190, as expected, sent it with 1533 to try and repeat as state champions. Past that, the next two seeds of 4534 and 587 picked good level 3 climbers. After this is where things get weird. 2655 The Flying Platypi, after winning two blue banners as the #1 pick, and still overall one of the fastest cyclers, level 2 climbers, and best around defense, managed to fall all the way to 9th pick. After the dust settled, the top seed of 5190, 1533, and 4290 Bots on Wheels stood head and shoulders above the field. This was a deep field, however, and there were multiple alliances that stood a reasonable (but low) chance of pulling the upset. In particular the 3rd seed alliance could outscore them on climb, cycled fast, and had an excellent defense/counter-defense bot in 6729. The 6 seed at peak performance also looked terrifying. 3229 Hawktimus Prime was one of the best rocket bots at the event, and both 4561 TerrorBytes and 3506 Yeti have demonstrated fast cycles and devastating defense. If there was an alliance that could pull off a triple-cycling upset, it was this one.

The 3 seed, captained by 587 Hedgehogs and joined by 5511 Cortechs and 6729 RobCobBots took down the #6 alliance, then proceeded to pull the upset over the #2 alliance of 4534 Wired Wizards, 3196 SPORK, and 4291 Astrobots, before losing in a 2-game set slightly marred by G20 cards to the top-seeded alliance.

Congratulations to both of the finalist alliances, along with 2682 Boneyard for their Chairman’s win, 5190 for their double cling bling EI win, 5854 for repeating their EI win, and 7443 for a well-deserved Rookie All-Star.

Takeaways and Observations

  • 5190 and 1533 repeating as NC District Champions is crazy. The level of consistency demonstrated by these two teams to win back-to-back championships, despite starting off relatively slow (by their standards) at their first district events, is incredible. In the 4 years since NC has moved to districts, 1533 has won 3 district championships, only missing it in 2017.
  • Poor cargo efficiency and not knowing where to score cost a lot of teams a lot of matches. There were so many hatches without balls behind them, and so often teams would try to hatch up an entire rocket without putting balls behind them, and just barely lose for it. Unless you’re pretty sure you’re going to get a full rocket (which may well happen often at champs), maximize your expected RPs, which is often (but not always) best done by maximizing your win percentage.
  • The field in NC is deep and getting deeper. We don’t quite yet have the consistent Einstein threat teams of other regions, but our top tier of teams is getting better and there is a rapidly expanding middle tier. This was by far the most competitive district championships we’ve had, and it seems like we keep saying that every year. Unless DCMP expands from 32 teams soon, there are going to be some pretty good teams that don’t make the cut.

In lieu of predictions, here’s a brief rundown of each of the NC teams going to Houston, sorted by division.

Carver

587 Hedgehogs: The Hedgehogs have been rapidly improving their cycling capabilities and made excellent use of their octocanum drivetrain at District Champs. Getting their level 2 climb to 100% and upping their cycle times will be necessary for them to proceed in eliminations. They’re a very versatile team, showing defense at their first event to captaining the finalist alliance at DCMP.

4290 Bots on Wheels: There will be a pretty large niche for good defense bots who can score in sandstorm and add a couple more game pieces when needed. The Bots on Wheels were the defensive second pick of the winning alliance and helped protect the cycles of the #1 alliances as needed, while slowing down the #2 alliance at times. They need to add consistency to their sandstorm ball and cycling in general to maximize their value in Houston.

4534 Wired Wizards: The Wired Wizards return to Champs on DRPs after winning EI in 2016 and 2017. The Wizards were one of the best cyclers in North Carolina, picking up their first blue banner in team history at Pembroke. They play around defense well and have a fast level two climb. However, they, like many NC teams, will need to improve their cycle times placing on the rocket, since the high levels of the rocket were by and large unimportant in the NC meta for the vast majority of teams.

4561 TerrorBytes: The TerrorBytes are one of two low bots to qualify for Houston off of points along with 2655. The TerrorBytes have slightly lower cycle times, but they make up for it with their level 3 climb. They are a very versatile team, occasionally surprising their opponents with some lockdown defense. Improving their hatch cycles, fixing technical issues that plagued them through their events, and improving their level 3 climb consistency will be what the TerrorBytes will need to succeed.

Galileo

2059 The HitchHikers: Returning for their fourth Championship in five years, the HitchHikers were strong in the district-level North Carolina meta for being able to fill up the cargo ship and climbing fast and consistently early. Their ball placement is precise and they appear to have fixed some of the robustness issues they faced earlier on (and got rid of their corner bumpers), but lack of hatch ability will hamper them.

5511 Cortechs Robotics: Cortechs looks to close out their best season yet strong. They ranked first at their first two district events and took home one blue banner and two finalist medals. Cortechs have a reliable climb and added cargo capabilities after their first event, allowing them to continue succeeding in NC. They’re going to need to speed up both of those cycles along with demonstrate some defensive capabilities as they begin to cap out more frequently at Houston.

Hopper

7443 Overhills Jag-Wires: 7443 is the lone representative of North Carolina in Hopper, winning a well-deserved Rookie All Star award. They run a STEM summer camp and are working to create FLL and FLL Jr. teams within their community. They will be also the sole representative of NC’s famed bucket brigade.

Newton

2682 Boneyard Robotics: Boneyard will be returning to Houston for the third straight year, winning their first Regional Chairman’s award for their work on creating more inclusive spaces for students on the autism spectrum and for spearheading the quiet room effort in NC (Thank you!). They are capable of scoring on every level of the rocket and showed some of the best rocket capabilities at their district event, but they had consistency issues at DCMP that they’ll need to resolve to advance to elims in an incredibly strong Newton division.

5854 GLITCH: GLITCH and their lovable mascot Enzo return to Houston, repeating as Regional EI winners for their work in the Asheville community, where they Boys and Girls club with Lego Robotics lessons, promote conservation efforts, and run STEM summer camps. Their robot is one of the few shooter bots in FRC, and that suffers accuracy issues. They have played defense in eliminations, swapping out their mecanum wheels for traction to help them do that.

Roebling

1533 Triple Strange: Triple Strange returns to Houston off the heels of a second consecutive District Championship win. They are hoping to improve upon an incredible run as the 8 seed to Einstein, but they might not be able to do that unless they get their vacuum climb working. They’re fast cyclers and nimble around defense, but a lot of it does hinge on that climb. With it, they go from a good team to a great team that can buddy climb with a lot of the field.

2642 Pitt Pirates: The Pitt Pirates have the pieces they need to make a deep run this year. They have had cargo and hatch capabilities since their first event and finally got their level 3 climb working (and sped it up significantly throughout DCMP). They continued to improve their cycle times, play under defense, and game piece retention, but they’ll need to get faster at rocket placement to get the RPs needed to rank high.

2655 The Flying Platypi: The Platypi return to Houston with two blue banners under their belt with a robot filling the same archetype as the one that they took to Einstein last year with 1533 - Lightning fast low-only. They are the fastest teleop cyclers in North Carolina with their cargo arm that doubles as a level 2 climb and “Baby Shark” hatch mechanism. Their 6-NEO drivetrain lets them zip around the defense and shove around opponent bots like nobody’s business. Although they let up on their defense after receiving multiple G20 cards at Asheville, expect to see them rapidly switching between defense, counter-defense, and scoring in Houston.

3737 Roto-Raptors: The Roto-Raptors have one of the cleanest-looking robots in NC this year, with their elegant polycarb hatch mechanism and their elevator driven on cylindrical tubes. They have improved their cycle times on balls and hatches. They’re one of the fastest hatch cyclers and attempted their climb for the first time at DCMP. If they can get at least a level 2 working and practice their ball scoring more, they can add value to a lot of alliances.

5190 Green Hope Falcons: Projected to rank as high as 3rd by some, it’s not hard to see what makes Green Hope the cream of the crop. Their 2-hatch sandstorm auto has accuracy on par with some of the top teams in the world, and their pass-through scoring with a hatch mechanism inspired by 1323 has helped them on their way to their 2nd straight District Championship. 5190’s ceiling at Houston will be determined by how effectively they can work around championship-level defense, whether they can start to fill rockets on their own, and who they can find that can buddy climb with them.

Turing

3196 Team SPORK: SPORK will unfortunately find themselves with a lack of local kinship in Turing as the only NC team. One of the most consistent teams through their three events, they will bring a fast level 3 climb and rocket scoring capabilities to Houston. One problem that they face, especially under defense, is hatch retention. Improving that and locking down their sandstorm hatch capabilities can help them go far.

Overall, the problem a lot of NC teams will face is a lack of experience scoring on the rocket, and therefore lower cycle times on that than the rest of the field. The NC meta this year was dominated by cargo ship scoring and climbs. Even at the state championships, there were only 5 completed rockets, significantly lower than any other district. What worked in NC won’t work as well in Houston, where just about everyone can fill the cargo ship. The teams that have the best chance of making it to Houston are the top cyclers with 1533 and 5190, and then some of the more versatile bots that can score effectively and play defense.

No hot takes this week, let’s just wrap up last week’s.

  • Bell Pepper Takes - No Final Four game will go to OT - Correct
    • The 1 seed will win the event - Correct
  • Banana Pepper Takes - Virginia will reach the title game - Correct
    • 2655 and 1533 will go head-to-head for the third time in eliminations - Correct (but wow, I don’t know that anyone thought that it would happen in quarters)
  • Jalapeño Takes - Michigan State will win the National Championship - Nope
    • The HAB docking RP percentage will be at least 60% - Correct
  • Habañero Takes - Cassius Winston will record another double double - Nope
    • The winning alliance will lose two games in eliminations - Nope
  • Carolina Reaper Takes - The margin of the national championship will be greater than 10 points - Nope
    • There will be at least 7 filled rockets - So close NC, we had 5

Basketball takes: 2/5

This week’s FRC takes: 3/5

Final FRC takes: 10/19

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