Predictions Week 5: Pass, Shoot, Repeat

For all the criticism of Aerial Assist out there, one thing’s for sure. It can sure produce some enthralling elimination matches and tournaments. The see-saw matches between two even alliances are tons of fun to watch, and the last second heroics in close matches are every bit as fun as most end games. Like most games, it all depends on the level of play of the teams involved. Aerial Assist is stale and confusing when teams are struggling, but when the capable scoring machines on well coordinated alliances stare at each other across the glass, it’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

The absolute best teams tend to push the tempo as much as possible. Lesser alliances can’t play with precision at the same speed that the elite teams do. It’s incredibly difficult to fluidly transition from offense to defense in an uptempo game, and teams that bite off too much risk being out of position for one responsibility or another. It takes an experienced and skilled drive crew commanding an excellent drivetrain to rapidly switch between defense and participating in an assist cycle without missing a beat. Many lower alliances fall victim to trying to hang with the big boys, and end up being forced into sloppy play. Others end up over-committing to defense at the expense of their own scoring. As the adage goes, the best defense is a good offense.

Week 5 ushers in the busiest weekend in FIRST history with 20 events. After some high scoring events in Week 4, it will be interesting to see if teams adjust their strategy to score as many assist points as possible and pad their scores.

  • Bridgewater-Raritan is the biggest district event of the season with 45 teams registered at the event. With no MAR events in week 6, it’s the final chance to earn a spot at Lehigh University for Mid-Atlantic teams, but oddly enough that won’t be a huge factor for a large contingent of participants. Many teams will be playing for pride and awards though, with a sizable contingent (most notably 193
    and 1676) making their third district outing of the season. After a win in Richmond last weekend, 2607 joins Hall of Famers 103 and 365 as already having their ticket punched for St. Louis.
  • There are plenty of teams attending Peachtree this weekend with untapped potential. Even 1261
    , who won in Myrtle Beach, can make gains in terms of their two-ball autonomous, pick-up, and tele-op accuracy. 2283, 2974, and 79 were also members of alliances that played in the finals earlier this season, with Panteras taking home gold from Mexico City. 2415 didn’t meet the lofty expectations they set after captaining a #1 alliance to the Archimedes finals last year with their spot on the #8 alliance and QF exit in Dallas. With a ten rookies, almost half the field numbering over 4000, and a number of veterans playing Aerial Assist for the first time (including 108), it’s up to these teams to step up in order for high scores to be put on the board. This event is ripe for the taking.
  • With a large majority of teams competing for the first time this weekend, expect a lot of hiccups as teams figure out their machines in Long Island. 870
    has been the traditional powerhouse at the event, and paired up with 358 in Troy to form a defense-minded alliance. 263 and 533 were playing past noon on Saturday in Ohio last weekend, but neither could reach the semi-finals.
  • 2883
    , 3206, and 3928 were each bounced from their previous event in the quarter-finals, but with some moderate improvement they stand to be effective goal scoring machines with a shot at long tournaments at Minnesota North Star. Neutrino has the most upside of the trio, but all three stand behind the more proven and dynamic firepower of 967 and 2175. The Fighting Calculators can also bring a nasty defensive game when the situation calls for it, and should figure prominently into alliance selection and the elimination tournament.
  • 3313
    captained the #1 alliance to the finals at Lake Superior, but their strategic flexibility is limited to the inbound and truss role by their ball acquisition, and they will likely need the support of a skilled finisher once again if they hope to advance at 10,000 Lakes. 2052 was one of the teams that beat them in Lake Superior, but KnightKrawler has room for improvement as well if they want to be a top-tier finisher in Minneapolis. With only a handful of rookies in the 63 team field, and no clear favorite, 10,000 Lakes is likely to come down to assists and defense.
  • Most of the top competitors in Cincinatti will be taking the field for the second or third time this season, and many will be trying to punch their ticket to Championship. 234
    , 868, and 1024 had strong performances at previous events, but weren’t able to secure gold and will have one last shot at earning a spot in St. Louis in Queen City. 2016 finds themselves far enough back in the MAR standings that they’ll likely be in the same boat, even though they have an outside chance at qualifying via a terrific performance at MAR champs. 16, 3138, and 3301 don’t have that concern, as each of them are already guaranteed an opportunity to compete at the Championship event. The Bomb Squad is the most likely to generate a wild card spot, but one of the Indiana trio of Cyber Blue, the TechHounds, and the Kil-A-Bytes should be good enough to earn their way without needing it.
  • Several of Ontario’s big names will be emerging from a long lay-off in North Bay this weekend. 610
    and 1310 paired up to top 188 back in week one, and those three will again be favorites this weekend. Blizzard has the best tele-op game of the bunch, but the Coyotes’ proven 2-ball autonomous is a crucial weapon. 3710 and 2013 will push the favorites to the limit, as both bring an effective two-way game and will be dangerous in eliminations.
  • The Finger Lakes Regional has grown in size and competition quality since it started in 2005. This year is set to be the most competitive yet where redemption and resourcefulness will be the name of the game. With a long list of quality teams, anyone can rise to the top or fall back for good third round picks. This event may come down to who best takes advantage of the serpentine draft.
  • 20
    and 1126 took home gold together at Tech Valley and are looking for their second blue banner. 341 has a single district event win under their belt and will be hungry to prove their offensive potential with a win outside of MAR. Last week The Poofs left the warmth of California to brave the frigid north at Waterloo and came home with a blue banner. 801 and 1592 hope some of this cold weather luck rubs off on them as they leave the sunshine state to compete in Rochester. The Bionic Tigers had an impressive regional win in Orlando while Horsepower did not leave qualifications. How will the twins play with others? 340 regrouped after a disappointing robot performance in their first regional. They look to bounce back strong with some robot and strategy changes. The Warlocks had a surprising early exit in the Buckeye Regional eliminations after an impressive pre-bag scrimmage. 1507 will bounce back with some strategy and drive team regrouping.
  • Managing to select a team with a two ball autonomous with the third to last selection is a pretty rare feat, but that’s exactly what 1775
    managed to do when they picked 935 in Kansas City. There’s essentially no chance that RaileRobotics last that long again in Oklahoma City this weekend.
  • Goaltenders have essentially been a non-factor thus far in Aerial Assist. More often that not, even teams that were designed as goalies have been more effective playing defense in the open field. It will be interesting to see if a truly purpose-built goaltender can change that this weekend, as 1710
    takes the field for their only event in Oklahoma City.
  • Pittsburgh has more high end talent in 2014 than usual. 1501
    went undefeated in qualifications at the St. Louis regional, then captained the #1 seed to victory. Defending champs 1503 had a strong performance in Toronto, and their catching ability will help them stand out from the crowd. 836 was the top selection and finalist in North Carolina, and is very effective at scoring from in front of the one-point goals. 337 clinched the #1 seed at Boilermaker, but were eliminated in the semi-finals. 1218 captained the #2 alliance at the Chestnut Hill district, and is likely the best high goal finisher at the event. Vulcan Robotics and Team THRUST are the most dangerous teams heading into the event, but despite the pool of top talent being deeper than usual, the event may come down to who can find the best contributors in the second half of the serpentine. It’s unlikely that a team like 48 will be left out of the eliminations again.
  • The DC regional will be moving into its new home this year, and plenty of teams will be trying out their new robots for the first time. Usual contenders 888
    , 1885, and 2377 will be unbagging their machines for the first time this season, and competing against some teams that have already led alliances deep into elimination tournaments, namely 56, 225, 1418, and 1731. TechFire is the favorite heading in, and will look to join the long line of out of town teams taking home banners from the event, but it won’t be an easy victory.
  • The island state of Hawaii will host 39 teams looking to bring home a blue banner this weekend. 359
    is the favorite heading in to the event, already taking home two gold medals in Aerial Assist. 11 is making quite the journey from New Jersey. MORT has a solid machine but has had early exits in quarters and semis in their first two events. Look for them to come out swinging. 368 is coming back after a year off an has entered a swerving, catching, 2 ball autonomous robot. If any of these teams can pair together, look for them to go far. Also, both 359 and 3008 can provide wildcard slots to CMP should they earn any of the championship qualifying awards.
  • With almost half the teams competing having numbers higher than 4000, the Smoky Mountains Regional is full of teams looking to make a name for themselves. Sitting atop the bunch is 3824
    who seeded first and took home gold at Palmetto. Also ready to play is 931. Perpetual Chaos captained an alliance from the 7 spot at St. Louis where they made an exit in semis.
  • The district system tends to let teams get more experience and there is a slew of teams entering their third event competing in Auburn. Expect 360
    , 948, 1318, 2046 and 4911 to hit the ground running. In week 1, 3393 made it to the finals and put up numbers that rivaled the best in Aerial Assist. Expect their smart and strategic execution to help them stay competitive. 2907 took home Auburn Mountainview and is on the hunt for a second district win. There are several teams with a lot to prove this weekend. 1983 has shown a quality machine, but has yet to reach their full potential. If they can fix their robot related issues, expect them to go deep into eliminations. 2147 has a unique loading and shooting design similar to The Poofs, but still have work to do if they want to be in the finals at Auburn.
  • 4125
    seeded first and picked 4061 for the win at Eastern. If either of them are at the top again this week at Central, we could definitely see a repeat event. They will see some stiff competition and some heavy defense in eliminations this time around. With 6 CIM shifting along with some smart driving, 1595 has proven they are by far the best defensive robot in PNW this year. If they can add a little more power to their shot they will likely be in the finals this week. Watch out for 3711 and the rookie star 4980 to round off some strong alliances.
  • After a decade of hosting the Beantown Blitz, Northeastern University is holding an official district event. Many of the competing teams are looking to make the big points push and punch their ticket to NECMP. Every team is walking into NU with an event already under their belts. 125
    is coming off a win in Rhode Island and is competing for the 2nd time in what is likely to be 4 consecutive weeks. Expect the NUTRONs to be a top contender in their own house. 4761 has continued their bright young existence by taking home the gold with the NUTRONs down in RI. They will be in the mix for elims again at NU. One of the hottest teams in the NE FRC scene is 3467. Look for them to continue their ascent to NE greatness after a double blue banner performance in New Hampshire a few weeks ago. 2877 is walking in to NU with a blue banner from WPI already in hand and is looking to come home with even more hardware. 237 used their Black Magic to secure a silver medal at the brutal Groton district event, but as the game has evolved and offensive teams have learned to play through defense, their fate may rest on their luck in alliance selections. Keep an eye out for perennial favorites in 126, 1058 and 1761 after their early quarterfinals exits at previous district events.
  • The Hartford district event is bringing together some of Connecticut’s best. While some have already played in 2 events, most teams are still looking to punch their ticket to the NECMP. 558
    took home two blue banners last weekend, winning both the Chairman’s award and the eliminations tournament at Southington. With their nimble drive base, quick launcher, and experienced drive coach, look for them to go far. Hot on their heels is 177 who won an event all the way back in week 1. They had some issues with their ball shooter but in true Bobcat fashion mixed last minute pit crew heroics with smart play to win the event. They are always a force and should not be taken lightly. Buzz is always in the mix in Connecticut. Expect 175 to try and repeat their high ranking from Southington. While these teams aren’t quite as powerful as the previously mentioned machines, it takes two (or three) to tango, so expect 716, 176, 230, and 228 to make some noise Sunday afternoon.
  • The Waterford district event promises to be the most high flying Michigan event of the weekend. 67
    and 469 teamed up to win the Howell district and most expect them to try and duo again to take this event home. With an accurate truss shot, 469 makes a great partner for 67’s quick cycle ending machine. Standing in their way is 68. T^3 took home gold at their first district event and will be looking to stop the 67/469 juggernaut. After seeding 4th at Southfield, look for 573 to try and seize the top of the rankings.
  • Livonia may not have the top tier firepower of Waterford, but there are plenty of teams who can score quickly and efficiently. 815
    made a finals run at Center Line and are ready to make another run. 548 had a great first event, taking home a DCA and finalist medal (where they fell to the 67/469 alliance). Look for the Robostangs to come out in full force. While this team hasn’t had a ton of success this year, 503 always plays smart and can make their way deep in to eliminations.
  • Rounding out the FiM events this week is St. Joseph. 2337
    may be the favorite going in to this event with a solid robot and blue banner already under their belt. 27 has a well designed machine that is certainly not lacking in the looks department. They have made early exits in semis and finals so far this year, but are on an upward trajectory. Expect them to be firing on all cylinders as they gear up for District Champs. 2474 may be able to make some noise. They already have been to finals this year and may make a great alliance partner for the rather shallow field at this event.

Thanks for the shout out for 1058! Hopefully the first of many for us. It feels good being called a perennial favorite!

I would definitely look out for 3008 to be a strong offensive bot as well. It seemed like they were having shooter problems at Alamo, but their drive team knew how to play this game well throughout qualifications and eliminations. Combined with their great intake and fast drivetrain, the Falcons are sure to be looking great, especially if that catapult gets up and running.

Also standing in their way: 302, 3rd seed at Midland. 1718, 2nd seed at Centerline. 2137, 1st seed at Midland. 3539, 2013 MSC champion.

Let’s just say that Waterford is stacked.

Don’t forget 525 is already holding a blue banner from Central Illinois this year. They’re attending the Queen City Event in Cincinnati and certainly want to help generate a “Wild Card” slot.

This.

Waterford is THE event to watch this week, in my opinion.

I can’t believe these teams were left out. 67/469 vs 2137/3539? That would be a sight to see.

Let’s also not forget at Livonia there is team 314 Big MOE who is coming off of their Kettering District win with 2337.

Auburn District is going to be crazy. All the teams mentioned as well as 4450 and 3663 already have great offensive potential, 4060 is a great blocker and I’m sure other teams have been working and are really going to surprise us. I can’t wait to get this started :slight_smile:

Plus 308 and 4362, very much contenders at Livonia. Lots of missing teams. But mentioning just the recognizable numbers is fine too.

We got a mention! Sweeeeet!

Not to be a bugger but… We can absolutely be a finisher on an alliance. During Qualies at Lake Superior, we were always the finishing robot. I don’t have the exact stats in front of me but we were definitely 90+% on finishing 10pt goals on the first shot.

We adjusted our strategy during elims so we could truss to the human player who could then feed it to 706. So if a person only watched elims, they would think we can’t finish when we actually could.

Anyway, I love these posts. It’s so cool to read about FRC in other areas of the country.

The Looking Foward YouTube series is always required viewing. Great analysis!

I wouldn’t have a problem seeing this (or some version of it) in the finals!

I for one, really want to see 237 do their “linear assist” again. Just sayin.

Hartford will be the one you wished you saw. It is going to be a great one.

Same here, that would be a heck of a showdown.