Predictions Week 4: Busted Brackets

Week three was not kind to the #1 seed. Only five of the top seeded alliances managed to come home with victories, down substantially from the 75% winning rate they had achieved during the first two weeks of play. At three events (Boilermaker, Peachtree, and Utah), the #1 alliance was bested in the quarter-finals. Part of this is the relative lack of dominant scoring machines that competed last weekend, and the elite level teams that did compete largely came away victorious. It takes an incredibly high level of tele-op execution to overcome deficits created in the hybrid and end-game, so in match-ups without an elite scoring machine, the third alliance member can often make a big difference. Even if they struggle as tele-op scoring machines, having a third bot that can add five or six points in autonomous and then balance reliably is a huge factor.

The triple balance remains a massive factor in eliminations, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Most notably, the winning alliances in New York and Indiana rode triple balances based on stacking (or more specifically, “wedging” in the case of 522) to gold. While “short” framed bots have been a majority of the triple balances (especially the quick and reliable triple balances), these alliances have helped to prove that “long” frames can add 40 bridge points to their alliances’ score as well. They weren’t the first (San Diego saw long bots balance in week 1), but they’ve been the most reliable at this tactic so far. More interestingly, though, is we saw the return of defense against the triple balance in New York, something that had been rare in week two. How teams attempt to deal with a disparity in bridge points in coming weeks is going to be interesting to follow.

Week four is a busier, and hopefully more competitive, weekend than the previous. More big names, including a few high profile debuts, are on the roster for this weekend.

Some thoughts:

  • The “three win club” doesn’t have the same historical significance it did four or five years ago, as numerous teams (especially since the introduction of the district sytem) have notched up three or more victories in a single season in the past few years. Despite this, it’s still an incredible accomplishment and Daisy aims to be the first to join it this season. 341
    will be without the aid of 1218 in Boston this weekend, but if they can remain consistent in qualifications should have no problem ranking high enough to pick a partner that gives them great odds to take home gold. - Winning a regional a year like clockwork would be a dream come true for almost every FRC team. Yet, when you have four world championship banners on your resume, it’s viewed as a slump for team 71
    . Team Hammond makes their debut this weekend and aims to kick-off a return to not only the Midwest winners circle, but to hang their first FRC championship banner since 2004. Five other teams have joined the elite group of teams with multiple championships, an honor that the Beatty Beast alone held from 2001 until 217 and 148 earned their second in 2008. With HOT and Wildstang nipping at their heels, can 71 return to their dominant form? - Both Pink and the NUTRONS walked away with gold draped around their necks after their first events, but both will have to up the ante to reclaim that honor in Boston. 125
    was part of an effective triple balancing maneuver in New York, while 233 played second fiddle to 1592 and balancing specialist in Orlando. Expect at least one of these two to go home early if they don’t raise the bar or pair with one of the top end teams like Daisy or an improved 78. - There are a few notable Canadian absences from Waterloo this week. 188
    and 1241 are at the Buckeye Regional, and 610 is in Arizona. It will be interesting to if these Canadian teams can emerge as champions at an event outside of Canada, much as 772 did in Knoxville. - With some of Canada’s best skipping Waterloo this year, will anyone be able to stand in the way of 1114
    and 2056? A number of teams, including 1503, 2809, and 781 displayed decent scoring ability at their first event. But it will take one of them ranking 1st to split up the powers, or some excellent fortune (and a triple balance), to dethrone the Canadian powerhouses. - Perhaps the third times the charm for Eagle Robotics. 399
    failed to capture gold in their previous two events of 2012. But last time they went to Denver they were upset by 2036 in the semi-finals. The Black Knights backed up that performance by another trip to the Colorado finals last year. Can Eagle Robotics finally emerge victorious, or will 2036 or another local force stop them? - At this regional last year, 842
    managed to remove themselves from an interesting category, Hall of Fame members without a regional championship (a title that had plagued 191 until 2005). Can Falcon Robotics follow up their success on the field with another title? Their effective fender scoring machine will certainly be a major factor at the event, but they’ll need some help from their alliance. - G.R.R. reached the finals at Finger Lakes as an alliance captain. GaCo was picked 2nd overall in Maryland, but was ousted in the quarterfinals. Will 340
    and 1629 be able to take their two-point, fender specialists to the next level at Buckeye? Or will they need to be able to back it up to the key like 1507 did at Finger Lakes? - The Hawai’i regional has come a long way since its early days. Unfortunately, this year it isn’t being bolstered by much out of town help, with only two teams attending from outside of Hawai’i. Will 359
    and 368 continue their dominance of the event? Or can another local, like 2439, 1056, or 2090 unseat them from their throne? - A number of teams from Peachtree last week are re-uniting across the border in South Carolina this week. 343
    and 1319 ran from the #8 alliance spot all the way to the finals in Georgia (the second silver on the year for Flash), and should be elimination contenders this weekend. - Two of the finalists from Kansas City will meet on the field in St. Louis this weekend. 1986
    and 1208 were both strong shooters, with Team Titanium having a notable edge over the Metool brigade. The two veterans look like the best odds at winning in St. Louis, and would be hard to stop if they can pair up at lunch on Saturday. - Seattle is hosting a pair of events this weekend. Neither one has a prohibitive favorite, but Cascade should play out a little more “open” than Olympic. Both events will require strong scouting and alliance selection to win more than a single competitor lighting it up.
  • Expect 488
    and 1983 to lead the field of shooters in Olympic. Both were bested by triple balancing opponents in the eliminations at their previous event, and both are hungry to up the ante. The X-Bots laid a prototype for defending against the triple balance (with the aid of some excellent scoring from the Robonauts), but were ultimately bested. It would be surprising if at least one of the two don’t reach the finals. - Seattle Cascade lacks a clear favorite, but should have at least a handful of legitimate competitors capable of taking home gold. If an alliance can triple balance reliably, much as 360
    and 3711 did in Oregon, they would be hard to stop. But effective shooters like 2046 and 2471 will have better ability to control their qualification destiny. - A few of the better Michigan teams will be making their district debuts this week, after taking their machines to regionals already this season. 27
    was an effective 2-point scoring machine in Maryland, and will join 245’s solid scoring machine in Niles. In Northville, 548 will attempt to build on their quarterfinal exit (at the hands of the 1114/2056/1219) in Toronto. All thee will be competitive, but will have to improve on prior efforts in order to take the next step. - 2054
    managed to overcome an opponent with a 20 point edge in the bridge bonus and win West Michigan, through the use of some accurate key shooter and a killer autonomous from their entire alliance. They’ll undoubtedly be one of the better teams at the Niles district this weekend, but they’ll need reliable partners once again to match their success. - It would be surprising to see anything less than first place for HOT this weekend. Between their high scoring autonomous, accurate tele-op scoring, and efficient and consistent bridge balancing, 67
    is destined to remain among the FRC elite all season long. It will take some cunning strategy and brilliant execution to deny them gold in Northville. - Lenape is filled with teams that demonstrated solid scoring potential earlier in the season, but weren’t able to put it all together. 103
    and 25 both competed in Florida, where the Cybersonics were an effective long range shooter while Raider Robotix struggled. 365 reached the semi-finals in Chestnut Hill with their turreted shooter. Event hosts, 1647, were knocked out early in Hatboro, but were a quality key shooter and an autonomous that reached the center bridge early. Expect at least one of these four to step up in Lenape. - 1714
    and 48 didn’t suffer a single loss in their previous events, winning Lake Superior and Pittsburgh respectively. Both MORE Robotics and Delphi Elite (who are taking a rare year off from Buckeye) will look to continue that streak in Wisconsin and have as good a shot as any team to take home a gold. But with more competitive scorers here than their previous events, it’s unlikely they’ll remain unscathed. - 2169
    , 2826, and 2062 were all competitive scorers in Lake Superior. Wave Robotics and CORE were stopped short, but displayed offensive abilities capable of being on a winning alliance. King TeC is one of the most accurate shooters around, and is prepped to dominate again after a victory in Minnesota. All three will be important players in Wisconsin. - Despite a much better field this year than the past two, the Midwest Regional is not the event it used to be. It still hosts a handful of top-tier competitors, but the depth at every level is much thinner than it was during its glory days. Still, it’s the regional to watch this weekend with five teams with Einstein on their resume, nine FRC championship banners, and two members of the hall of fame.
  • By their standards, 111
    has struggled in years following their previous two championship wins. They couldn’t get past the semi-finals at any event in 2004 or 2010. Their machine is once again an impressive beast of engineering, and should be absolutely capable of winning. But there’s enough quality competitors in the field that Wildstang could be forced to pack up early if the cards don’t fall right. - How will the experience of 16
    , 148, and 1625 aid them compared to the other power players in Chicago? All three of those teams have already competed this season, but only the Bomb Squad walked away as victors. The Robowranglers’ triple balance gives them a distinct weapon that could make them a very attractive alliance partner even if they can’t improve their scoring. But being able to nail three pointers from the key is a must if 148 wants to control its own destiny during alliance selection. All three teams should have no trouble being very early selections, but the Bomb Squad has the best odds of taking home a banner.

This looks like an incredibly exciting week to watch! Thanks for the predictions, LF!

Is there any type of “looking backwards” done by a impartial observer? I would be interested to see more in depth analysis of play that has already been seen. Although LF does touch upon it as a way to predict the coming week, I think we could use some regular analysis free from the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” that tends to come from teams following regionals.

Just so you know, you said Seattle Olympic twice. The first instance is correct, the second instance should be Cascade.

Watch for 11 at Palmetto this weekend.

With their adjusted hood and intake they should be doing fairly well. (Hopefully :p)

Also check out 3008 at Hawaii to make a splash

^We will be watching Palmetto. I hope no one locks into watching just one event this weekend when there are so many great competitions! We’re spoiled.

Very cool to see 548 in a Looking Forward post. The field was set up last night, while the drive team was out at our practice field. We’ve made improvements, maybe we can pair up with 67 for the gold!