BY KEVIN WHITAKER
Sports Editor Emeritus
Ninety-four teams will enter the 2013 Dodgeball Tournament on Thursday night, and 93 will leave as losers. Can football regain the magic it rode to championships in 2007 and 2011? Will there be a surprise like Hawaii Club in 2010? If you’re stuck while filling out your bracket, the ‘Prince’ is here to help. Here are 10 things to watch tonight:
1. An open crown
Dating back to the tournament’s inception in 2005, there has never been a back-to-back champion — and that won’t change in 2013. Unless a late addition is made to the bracket, 2012 winner Men’s Lacrosse will not compete this year, likely because it has an actual lacrosse game against Harvard the following evening. (Someone’s priorities are out of line…) Without the defending champions, the event’s only two-time winners — Cap & Gown (2005, ’08) and Football (2007, ’11) — are among the favorites.
2. New rivalries
For the past several years, the ‘huge’ bracket has always had the same first-round pairings, with residential colleges and eating clubs arranged in alphabetical order. But the old Charter-Cloister and Wilson-Whitman ‘rivalries’ are no more, as the selection committee shuffled its pairings this season. Cloister is perhaps the biggest loser in this shift, drawing perennial powerhouse Tiger Inn in Round 1, while Terrace avoids T.I. for once — but draws Cottage instead.
3. Perks of being a national champion
Fencing couldn’t have asked for a better draw — not only is it one of only two teams to receive a first-round bye, but it should face a very beatable opponent in the small-bracket Sweet 16 as well. But the committee didn’t give all NCAA champions so much respect — Tiger Field Hockey didn’t get any byes and has a tougher road (though they could meet Fencing in the quarterfinals).
4. Bracket (im)balance
Most of the brackets are relatively well-balanced, but some medium-bracket teams have a right to complain about their draws. Men’s Club Soccer and Delta Airlines, arguably two of the top four teams in the group, face each other in the opening round, and the bottom quadrant is even more stacked — Basketball and Sprint Football, last year’s medium-bracket finalists, should meet in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the lack of balance will help some new teams reach the semis (maybe even the ‘Prince’?).
5. Running late
The Thursday night tournament has always stretched well into Friday morning, but this year’s event is projected to go slightly later than past editions. Despite the fact that the semifinals will run concurrently for the first time in recent memory, a champion won’t be crowned until nearly 2:30 a.m., even if the tournament runs on schedule.
6. New names
Say goodbye to Figure Drawing Club and the other traditional pseudonyms for Greek organizations, because most such groups have changed their team names or withdrawn. Figuring out which obscure club names are real and which have been adopted by outsiders is always a fun part of the early rounds, though it seems ‘Delta Airlines’ has made this game easier.
7. T.I. troubles
Few teams can claim a longer history of dodgeball success than Tiger Inn, but somehow the Street’s most debauchery-filled club has yet to take home a championship. T.I. has reached the overall finals in three of the last four years (sandwiching a shocking upset to Wilson College in 2011), but it lost to Basketball in 2009, Hawaii Club in 2010 and Men’s Lacrosse last spring. Is this the year T.I. finally breaks through?
8. Trends to watch
Last year’s tournament was ruled by sports teams, as five of the six bracket finalists in the small, medium and large divisions were comprised of athletes. Will the jocks dominate again this year? And in the huge bracket, eating clubs had a major resurgence, filling all four semifinal spots in 2012 after three residential colleges displaced them in 2011. Expect this year to fall in between, with one res college sneaking through — most likely Wilson or Whitman, which avoid the top eating clubs early on.
9. First-round fun
There are a few neat opening-round matchups, including Fuzzy Dice vs. Quipfire, in which the participants will surely hurl more one-liners than dodgeballs at each other. But none is more interesting than Pehchaan (the Pakistani students group) vs. Naacho (the Indian dance company). (And we see you, USG, pulling some strings to face the ‘Prince’ in the first round. Microsoft’s money won’t help you win this one…)
10. The predictions
I’ve got Men’s Club Volleyball out of the small bracket, Basketball from the medium, Football in the large and T.I. winning the huge bracket. T.I. finally slays its championship-game demons, beating Basketball in the final to win it all. Disagree? Make your picks in the comments.