Predictions Week 2: March Madness

As “Selection Sunday” nears in NCAA Basketball, alliance captains will be selecting their own partners for the second week of FRC competition. And one of the biggest changes this weekend may be exactly who’s standing up there to make the selections. Expect the coopertition bridge to begin to take a bigger and bigger role in the coming weeks, as potential alliance captains realize the necessity of “four point matches” in seeding high.

Last weekend, 3528 and 716 ran through qualifications undefeated in Kansas City and New Hampshire, only to find themselves at the #2 and #3 seeds respectively because of coopertition points. 2337 rode a whopping 14 CP to the #1 seed in Kettering, despite having only having eight wins in twelve matches. We saw the evolution of seeding strategy begin after teams viewed the standings, especially after day one of events was complete. Expect a similar story this weekend, but with the power players making more early moves towards the center bridge to try and stay ahead in the standings.

But the middle bridge won’t be the only one being used more this weekend in qualifications. Expect an increased emphasis on bridge points, especially if the GDC’s modifications to the ball deflectors pays off. The limiting factor will often still be which teams can effectively manipulate and tilt the bridge on a consistent basis. Expect the beginning of a trend where “bridge handlers” tilt bridges for other teams to climb on, before venturing off or away from the bridge to continue playing the match (or climb onto the coopertition bridge). This will especially hold true if defensive play continues to be absent in qualifications or defensive efforts continue to result in a plethora of fouls.

Penalties traditionally fall to lower numbers as weeks go on, and I expect that to be the case in large part this year. However, if defensive efforts begin to pick up this week (as they certainly will at some point this season), it might not be the case. Eventually defenders will have to learn how to play without adding to their rivals’ score, but there will be bumps along that road. In week one the solution for most teams was to simply not play defense. If fender scoring remains a primary avenue of offense, expect more defensive ventures and fouls on both alliances.

Some mental nuggets for the week:

  • This week is an FRC geek’s dream. Week two contains the first event of many of the traditional powerhouses.
  • No alliance was more dominant than the #1 alliance in Hatboro-Horsham last week, which capped off their six consecutive elimination victories with a foul-free 90 point effort. The two scoring machines, 341
    and 1218, will both be back in action this week at the Chestnut Hill district, hosted by none other than 1218. Can Daisy remain undefeated on the season? Will they pair up again? - After and IRI victory and Einstein appearance without the Simbots, 2056
    really doesn’t have anything else to prove aside of winning an FRC Championship. But there’s the slight matter of the fact they’ve never lost a regional event, which puts the pressure squarely on Orchard Park’s shoulders. The Cheesy Poofs only made it until their 4th year before losing at Buckeye, while OP Robotics is gunning to make it their sixth year of straight golds. Can the most impressive streak in FIRST continue? - Some of Michigan’s biggest debuts this week will occur 500 miles away in Maryland. The Grandville High Trio (216
    , 244, 288) will join 27 and 217 in battling for a regional championship in the shadow of Camden Yards. - Lay-up machines provided mixed results in the opening weekend of Rebound Rumble. As most shooters struggled, they provided a somewhat more dependable form of scoring during qualifications, especially if they had a reliable autonomous. Concern arose from what happened when defense was applied, particularly in elimination matches. The highest profile of these machines in the pre-season is set to unbag in Finger Lakes. Can 340
    turn the tide? Or will their offense falter under the elimination pressure? - Some big names are also making their first MAR outing this weekend as well. 365
    , 222 and 816 will compete in the Philly burbs while 1676, 1279, and 56 will suit up in New Brunswick. All six should either be alliance captains or first round selections. - We only saw two triple balances all last weekend, one of which was engineered by the Robowranglers’ “secret weapon.” 179
    's strategy has been anything but secret this season, and it will hopefully lead to more 40 point bonuses. The real question remains if they’ll be able to build a full elimination alliance around what should be a highly coveted machine. Will an early captain opt for the over a better scoring machine? Will that trade-off pay off? Will they be a top seed themselves? - The Technowarriors will not be keen on relinquishing the Chesapeake crown they’ve won in two of the previous three years to anyone, least of all an out of town opponent. 768
    will lead the charge to keep their regional title in their home city. - 486
    and 357 will make the ten mile journey south of where they competed last week and hope to build on their success. Royal Assault toppled the Positronic Panthers in the semis in Hatboro, and both teams look prepped to contend once again. - The regional schedule will give Finger Lakes a little more of a homegrown feel this season, with only three participants from outside of New York. Several teams will have a realistic shot at captaining an alliance to gold. Look out for 1126
    , 191, 1507, and the Clarkson Twins (229/4124). - The new regional format didn’t stop two MAR powerhouses from making a familiar trip down to the Sunshine State. Raider Robotix and the Cybersonics will both unveil their scoring machines in Orlando this weekend, and the two teams will force opposing alliances to game plan around them. 25
    's human player feeding their turreted shooter in the key gives them a progressive weapon, while 103’s fender scoring ability will draw defense. - More often than not, the teams capable of finding a way to have three balls in their hopper each time they lined up to shoot were the teams that were successful. But given the amount of teams trying to fire and the quantity of balls on the field (and not stuck under ramps), those teams were rare. It will be interesting to see if most teams continue lining up to fire with only one or two balls this week, or if game planning will change to focus on getting balls to the best shooters on the alliance.
  • On the other end of the ball hoarding spectrum is one of the feel-good stories of 2012. After more than a decade away from FRC, team 23
    has returned. Plymouth North leaned towards single ball scoring in Suffield, but can hold a second in their collection mechanism while they line up to fire with their air cannon. Plymouth North can put up enough offense to draw the defense, but their success in the WPI eliminations will likely hinge on if their alliance partners are able to support them from the key. - If you traveled back in time to the mid-2000s with a picture of GUS’ machines from the past couple years, the inhabitants of the past would greet you with skepticism (and not just because you’re driving a DeLorean). 228
    has really taken their mechanical design to the next level in recent years. But they’ve only escaped the quarterfinals once in the past several years, though that lone advance did lead to a regional victory. This year seems promising for their on-the-field success to match their quality of machine. - Traverse City is one of the more open Michigan districts, lacking a clear favorite heading into the event. 107
    , 141, 201, 1243, and 3357 will all be factors in deciding who takes home the blue banners, but it will take a well-built alliance more than an individual effort to win on the banks of Grand Traverse Bay. - Waterford will play host to two of Michiagan’s heavyweights, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the rest of the field won’t impact the results. In particular, two of Michigan’s younger contenders will look to up the ante and take their teams to the next level. At least one of 3539
    and 2834 will be in the semi-finals, if not the finals, in Waterford. - Beyond the Ontario region, the FRC spotlight hadn’t shown on the Spartonics since the days of the NiagaraFIRST triplets. That changed with their Einstein run and regional victories in 2011. Simplicity remained the name of the game for 1503
    when designing their Rebound Rumble bot, and it produces fearsome looking results. They have their aim set on consecutive Pittsburgh victories, but will they be able to put up enough of a barrage to win without the likes of Simbotics or the Thunder Chickens by their side? - Pittsburgh is usually a brawl of a regional, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in a game that has, so far, been very offensively oriented. In recent years, the offensive play has picked up at the event. But many of the contenders won’t shy away from physical play and are willing to be “two-way” bots. 48
    , 1675, and 375 will be chief among them. - The explosion of growth in Minnesota over the past few years has been something to behold. But the majority of the top tier contenders this weekend in Lake Superior seem to be from outside of the state. 1625
    , 2826, 1714, 93, and 2062 will aim to hang a blue banner from the event in either Wisconsin or Illinois. - Minnesota’s best chances at keeping hardware in-state will likely belong to 2169
    , 2052, 1816, and 2518. - Oregon will be hosting a gargantuan 66 team event, edging out Lake Superior by one team as the largest of the weekend and tied with LA and NYC for the largest of the season. There’s more than double the 3000+ numbered teams as there are with numbers under 1000 attending, in what looks to be a wide open field. Expect a lot of teams to struggle to score consistently, but there should be enough teams that elimination matches should become interesting. Definitely an event where quality scouting crews will a necessity to winning.
  • Portland is surrounded by forests, so it’s not surprising that a pair of woodland creatures appear to be two of the top contenders. Skunkworks and Bear Metal will both be fierce competitors in Oregon. Watch for 1983
    and 2046 to at least reach the semi-finals. - The projection systems at many events often don’t present equal odds for both alliances’ drive crews to view the screen during a match. Many years this doesn’t really impact the strategy pursued, but this year is slightly different. Recycled game pieces mean the score isn’t obvious from looking at the field itself, and the evaluations of how many robots to place on each bridge varies greatly depending on score. How will this impact matches? Which events will this be an issue at?
  • It’s hard to characterize a district finals appearance as a disappointment, but when a team is coming off of an Einstein finals appearance and a season like 2016
    had in 2011, many expected a bit more from the Mighty Monkey Wrenches. Their machine has a ton of promise and they showed a lot of good things in the opening weekend, but their tele-op scoring was inconsistent and they simply couldn’t put up the same volume of shots as Daisy or Vulcan. Nit-picky details, but if they can improve on those areas they will be hard to stop. - After the Poofs nabbed their championship last year, 233
    is left as arguably the most successful team without an FRC championship. Despite the quantity of banners they’ve obtained from this regional, Pink hasn’t always had their best event in Orlando. Their success is driven by constant improvement and work, but hiccups and technical issues have plagued them in the past at their opening event. Can 233 come out of the gate roaring, or will they need time to get it into gear? - Qualification Match 118 at Michigan State Championship last year was the only time since the legendary Einstein finals of 2010 that 67
    and 469 lined up on opposite sides of the field. The FiM juggernauts will certainly see each other on the opposing alliance at least once this weekend. They’re the unquestioned favorites heading into Waterford, but it remains to be seen if both will live up to the hype their names and reputations carry. *]A number of powerhouse teams take their first action of the season this weekend. And no team will have the FRC community’s gaze more firmly fixed on it than the Simbotics. As soon as 1114 unbags Simbot Jordan they will become the instant favorite at GTR East. They haven’t lost an event on Canadian soil since 2005. But two thirds of the alliance that topped them in St. Louis last year will be at this event, and both 610 and 188 will not want anything less than gold.

Edit: Aha found them. Expected them to be mentioned in the Orlando bullet with 233. My bad…

179 is mentioned in the 7th bullet down on the very right side. I missed it the first time myself.

Great post.

I have to say, week 2 definitely has the largest number of high-profile debuts this year. It will definitely be a great weekend from a spectator standpoint.

This has got to be one of the best weekends to watch webcasts in a long time. Tons of legacies playing with a few week one power houses coming back it is sure to be a great weekend.

Thanks for the insight LF. Now I know who to look out for this weekend.

To be mentioned in the same sentence as 191, 1507 and 229 is a huge honor. We certainly hope to live up to expectations in our 10th FRC season!

Also good luck to our BFFF (Best FIRST Friends Forever ;)), 340! One of the three (that I know of) dumping teams at FLR! We hope to put on a great show with you guys, just like last year!

Good luck to all teams competing at Finger Lakes! Can’t wait to see everyone on the field again! :smiley:


First year that we are not attending Traverse City since FiM started. Kind of glad we aren’t so I can watch all the streams. 74 is a contender for Traverse City as well, being the alliance captain last year that upset 217, 469, and 201 at Michigan FRC State Championship.

I’m really pulling for my old team, 145 at FLR, they have been at their best ever since I joined FIRST. Some of my best high school memories where at FLR. I wish I could be there, good luck to everyone around FIRST this weekend, safe travels and show why robots are so awesome. Oh yeah and blue banner and shiny metal or not, have fun. As long as you have fun you will always be a winner!!!

Although not mentioned here, I can’t wait to see what some of the other Northwest teams pull out at Autodesk Oregon this weekend. Teams like 360, 2471, 1540 (ok, so I’m a little biased), 1510, 1983, 2046, 2471 and 2733 always put on a show. It’ll also be interesting to watch two veteran rookie teams, the revived 2898 (a 1510 twin if I’m not mistaken) and 2093 take part in what is usually a very even and unpredictable event. The large pool of teams should result in some very fun elimination matches. :smiley:

Relating to which regionals have biased screens–I know that FLR does. It gives the blue alliance an advantage, if the field is rotated the same way it was last year.

You are correct about the twins, and we look forward to seeing how this works in qualifications and eliminations.

What’s the advantage? How is it rotated?

We only saw two triple balances all last weekend, one of which was engineered by the Robowranglers’ “secret weapon.” 179’s strategy has been anything but secret this season, and it will hopefully lead to more 40 point bonuses. The real question remains if they’ll be able to build a full elimination alliance around what should be a highly coveted machine. Will an early captain opt for the over a better scoring machine? Will that trade-off pay off? Will they be a top seed themselves?

I watched three triple balances in San Diego although one was overturned because of the robot resting on the rail. That still leaves two in San Diego alone.

One team can see the score without turning around and the other can’t. It is an issue when the screen is on one of the ends of the field. This could be easily overcome by having a field side screen displaying only the score.

Odd. SVR is always with the screen to the side, so both teams can see. I always thought it was the same way everywhere.

Most are, but not all venues can accommodate this. I’ve seen it mostly in regionals that are held on convention center floors or large gyms, rather than in stadiums. Chesapeake in 2009 and DC in 2011 had the screen behind the Red alliance driver stations, in order to have enough room to put the field between two sets of bleachers and allow people to walk by. If I recall, Connecticut has done it this way in the past as well.

The advantage of the setup is that you get seating on either long side of the field, rather than just one side and seats behind both driver stations. It makes for a much better view for a larger portion of the audience, and more of the audience has a good view of the screen too, due to the viewing angle.

I have seen a small screen and projector setup at some events so that both driver stations have a score screen they can look at. Hopefully the events that are using this arrangement this year have taken that into account as well.

At FLR, the screen is behind the Red Alliance (so the Blue Alliance can look directly at it). However, to fix any advantages, in the last few years the corner stations of the Red Alliance station had LCD screens installed with the live feed to allow coaches to still view the real time scoring. I’d expect FLR to have those screens again this year.

Nothing argueable about it. They are overdue as the only team to go to Einstein 4 times and not have a Championship banner. After that its gets muddy with the 3 teams that have gone 3 times, but 968 has had the most success of late.