Top-to-bottom, Newton is perhaps the deepest division. Of the thirty-three teams that won regionals in the division, only 1625 won more than one. Smart driving, ball management, and accuracy will all be critical factors in winning qualification and elimination matches, and separating the good teams from the great teams. Even if the juggernaut teams seed high, this division should still have three or four alliances with the potential to take it all. Victory will hinge upon execution and strategy, even more than usual.
Gael Force was the very first FIRST champion, and 126 wants to capture another one. They knocked off the heavily favored alliance of 121, 694, and 173 in Hartford en route to the regional victory. Gael Force can score deceptively well, but their abilities are really maximized when they have a strong supporting cast around them.
The NC Gears really made their name in Ypsilanti during the Michigan State Championship. 1918 grabbed the #2 seed and captained their alliance to the finals. They’re capable of scoring large quantities of points at once, which makes them a factor in every match. 1918 should be a first-round selection, but they’ll need aid to seriously challenge in the eliminations.
1726 has their best bot to date, and it was clearly the top team in Arizona. They’re a quick shooting, turreted shooter with the capability to hang in there with almost anyone if they maintain their high level of play. They take a little longer to reload than some elite teams, and that will be a disadvantage when facing them head-to-head. With good driving and strategy, they could pull off an upset, but the finals seem a difficult goal.
The Warlocks captained an alliance to victory in Rochester, and had a strong event in Philadelphia. 1507 doesn’t have the fastest scoring mechanism, but they play smart and utilize the super cell very effectively. They have a very good chance at ranking in the top eight once again this season, but it will be difficult for them to hang in against the elite scoring machines.
1155 was another element of the winning alliance in Connecticut. The SciBorgs are a quick shooting power dumper who can empty their payload in a heartbeat. They are sometimes a little trigger happy, and that results in balls ending up on the ground, which could be a big disadvantage compared to other top level teams. Expect 1155 to be an early second-round selection.
With a higher winning% than 67, the Thunderhawks have had very little recognition. 1038 is 13-1 and won their only regional (Buckeye). An effective dumper that hasn’t taken the field since week 1, they’ll have to shake off the rust and get used to a very evolved game if they want to contend. They’ve been to Einstein before (2004) and they are the successors to a former FIRST Champion (144), so they know what it takes to do well in Atlanta.
You can’t count out a team that’s reached Einstein three straight years. 177 has a very similar bot to the Robowranglers, but weren’t at the same level during UTC. The Bobcats have made improbable runs to Einstein before (in 2007 and 2008 they were 2nd round selections). They have a lot of potential, experience, and can play multiple aspects of the game well. Considering they were once known for their defense, 177 should be a very dangerous and flexible team if they can find the right alliance.
Cyber Blue has played second fiddle to 45 in both DC and Purdue, but 234 is a very accomplished scoring machine, and they are very dangerous to the health of their opponent’s trailers. Their ability to score moon rocks is complimented by a usually lethal human player who specializes in super cells. 234 will be playing well past noon on Saturday.
1625 is one of the top scoring teams in Lunacy, and Winnovation is poised for another strong event in Atlanta after winning in Chicago and Milwaukee. Autonomous loading and rapid ground loading helps them refuel quicker than the average competitor, which will help give them a leg up. 1625 will be a very early selection, and while they will need some help, they have one of the best chances to reach Einstein.
The Robowranglers managed to carry their scoring load for their alliance in Dallas, but defense doomed them in Houston. 148 is incredibly dangerous, and a single opportunity for them can often sway the tides of a match. But they won’t be able to sneak out matches like they did in Dallas at Championship (and they couldn’t do it in Houston either). There will be far more teams able to give them support here, which will help them succeed.
The Rhode Warriors dominated BAE and were doing the same in Hartford until a series of unfortunate events plagued their alliance in the eliminations (ultimately resulting in their defeat in the semi-finals). 121 is very consistent and has the ability to score with anyone in FIRST without breaking a sweat. The Rhode Warriors will have the best shot at “controlling their destiny” (though if it really was destiny it couldn’t be controlled) and seeding high in the qualification rounds of all the top teams in the division. If they can get a second high-level scoring partner, they should at least earn a medal.