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The R7CC and May Madness CRC: Let's Compare

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The R7CC and May Madness CRC: Let's Compare

Photos Alex Goff.

This is an Opinion Column by GRR Editor Alex Goff—I fielded the question about which of the major 7s tournaments was quote-unquote better several times over the past 10 days or so and though I would look at it more closely.

The thing is, it's actually kind of hard to differentiate the two events in part because, while I can talk to players and coaches about it, I can't really experience the event as a player or a coach. I can make some observations as to the level of the competition, and some stuff about the venue, and I thought I'd compare the two.

So below is a table comparing them, but I wanted to add some stats I tracked regarding the competition level. 

Elite Level Women and Men

In the Men's Gold (R7CC) and the Men's Premier (CRC), I looked at the percentage of games that were decided by 7 points or less, between 8 and 14 points, between 15 and 21 points, and more than 21 points.The numbers are fascinating to me because they are so imilar:

Close Games: R7CC 38%, CRC 39.5%
Moderately Close Games: R7CC 15%, CRC 18.4%
Lopsided Games: R7CC 15.5%, CRC 15.8%
Blowouts: R7CC 26.4%, CRC 26.3%

Wow. Really there was no different between the numbers. Now, part of this is because the different formats of the tournaments end up achieving the same thing: funneling like-level teams toward each other. At the same time, you had some teams kind of struggle late because of fatigue or injuries. So I got to thinking that maybe we should be looking at the very top—how competitive were the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. The R7CC Men's Gold had three close games, two moderately close games, and one each Lopsided and Blowout. The CRC had four close games and three blowouts, and neither in between. 

What that told me is that maybe ... maybe ... at the very top the CRC didn't quite have eight teams of roughly the same competitive level.

On the women's side, there was a really weird result. When looking at all the games it seemed like the CRC was a bit more competitive:

Close Games: R7CC 17.8%, CRC 26.7%
Moderately Close Games: R7CC 25%, CRC 10%
Lopsided Games: R7CC 17.8%, CRC 20%
Blowouts: R7CC 39%, CRC 40%

Although ... the biggest difference was in the games that were decided by 8 to 14 points (within two tries).  There the R7CC had fully one quarter of their games in that range. But I wanted to see the knockout rounds here, too, because a close game doesn't always mean a good game. I saw some very close games that were tough to watch.

But, I figured, the eight best teams in the competition could compete, right? Well here we have a problem in that Lindenwood dominated in both tournaments. Save the CRC final every score was almost identical: 31-0, 36-0, 47-0, 34-0, 27-7, 32-0, 38-0, 33-0, 27-0, 19-7. Lindenwood, then, produced five of the 11 blowouts in the R7CC, and three of the 13 in the CRC.

In the quarterfinals/semifinals/finals, there were only two Close Games in the R7CC, two blowouts (both Lindenwood), two Moderately Close games (25-12 and 24-14), and one Lopsided game (Lindenwood). In the CRC the numbers are a bit more sobering, with one Close Game, one Moderately Close, and five blowout shutouts.

So my observations at the time seem to be borne out: the Women's Gold level was more competitive at the top end in the R7CC, and really most of the CRC Women's Premier was a step below (see my Women's College 7s rankings, which reflect that). The Men's Gold and Men's Premier events were much closer, especially at the top end. But the first round produced blowouts in half the games, which isn't what anyone wants. I get why the CRC wanted five rounds of competition in their bracket, but there weren't five rounds' worth of competitive teams.

Men's 2nd Level

My comment to anyone who asked about the Men's Red and the Men's D1 Club in the two tournaments was that we didn't have enough depth of competition to have two national tournaments for this level. This is borne out in the stats. The CRC was pretty close until you got to the bottom of the bracket. This division only had seven teams because some teams that clearly were D1 Club were in the Premier filling out that list of 32. 

But things were weird in Atlanta, too. You saw the distribution of the winning margins in the top level above; you'd expect something similar in the Men's Red. Nope, sorry. Of the 33 games played, 13 were Close Games (which is a lot, 39%), and 12 were Blowouts (which is also a lot, at 36%). There were no games decided by 15-21 points, and eight that were moderately close. So either the teams were very evenly matched, or someone in the game was completely over-matched. So could we take the CRC D1 Club and the R7CC Men's Red, mush them together and get a better tournament? Yes we could.

Women's 2nd Level

The Women's D1 Club in the CRC was much, much more competitive than the Women's Red in the R7CC. The breakdown of Close to Blowout in percentages was as follows (with rounding):

Close: R7CC 26%, CRC 38%
Moderately Close: R7CC 16%, CRC 29%
Lopsided: R7CC 11%, CRC 6%
Blowout: R7CC 47%, CRC 26%

So almost half the R7CC games were blowouts. Almost all of those games were wins by the finalists, Davenport and Navy. Once again, though, it shows that maybe we don't have enough consistency of level of play to split this event. It's worth pointing out that Davenport and Navy will be in the Gold event next year and that could change the profile of both divisions.

Men's DII and Small College

There's no contest here: The CRC, as it should, given that almost all of these teams play under NCR in 15s, had a much stronger competition. This didn't quite show up in the numbers, however, as Blowouts were the most common outcome, happening 36% of the time. But Close Games (25.5%) and Moderately Close (27.6%) were the majority if you combined them.

Blowouts were also the most common outcome in Small College (35%), but at 28% Close Games was nearby. The way I figure it here, this was a case of the CRC thinking "if less is more, just think how much more MORE would be!" Twenty-eight teams was too much; 24 or 20 would have been better.

National Championships

I was asked straight-out by NCR to call their CRC winners National Champions, but I didn't ... at least not every time. How could I? There are two competitions for most of these brackets. Getting caught up in calling a winner the National Champion is a branding firefight I'm not interested in. I will say it's pretty clear that New Mexico Tech is the Men's Small-College National Champion, University of Chicago the Women's Small-College National Champion (decided in a separate tournament), and Coast Guard is as close as you'll get for a Women's DII National Champion (taking the ACRA tournament May 1). IUP is clearly the Men's DII National Champion because almost everyone in that division who was good was in New Orleans.

After that it can get pretty hazy. Is Roger Williams the Women's D1 champion or Davenport? I know, looking at both teams and both competitions, who I'd pick, but more than that, it's unfair to tell a team they're not really a champion, and also unfair to just throw that title around with no basis. The Men's D1 Club championships had San Diego winning the R7CC and Sam Houston State not winning a game in Atlanta, only to win it all in New Orleans. Does that mean the Atlanta tournament is way tougher, or did SHSU figure some things out?

Lindenwood is clearly the Women's National Champion at the top level because they won both tournaments. But the Men have two separate winners and, if you look at GRR's rankings, we couldn't pick one over the other.

Pushing a National Champion label on either is understandable, but really, in the end, not helpful.

Observations Side-by-Side

Now to the side-by-side comparisons.

Topic R7CC CRC
Stadium Nice. Carefully built. Interesting to look at. Opposite side a bit of an afterthought. Nice. A bit cavernous for the event but not massively so. Very fan-friendly.
Other Fields We didn't get to all of the outer fields so can't really comment on those. Field #3 in Atlanta was excellent. Field #2 was turf and tough to play on, but the surrounding area was nice. Field #1 was OK but not blow-you-away nice. 

Fields 2-5 held up well after a ton of rain and the shade afforded teams around the edges was nice. New Orleans seems to grow a wide-bladed grass that grows in little clumps.
Trappings-Fans A kids area that was fun. Concessions at stadium professionally run. Festival area for alternative stuff. Concessions professionally run and a nice food truck / beer garden at main outer field area. Field #1 was kind of "oh well since you're here ..."
Trappings-Players Locker rooms, professional run-on at Stadium. Areas to hang out between games, but players also able to go back to nearby dorms.

Food universally reported as very good.
Locker rooms, professional run-on at Stadium. Areas to hang out between games.

Food plans left up to the teams but small cool-down and seating area post-game had water and a place to just chill.
TV Coverage TV, Stream, additional streaming partner. Not every field. TV, Stream, additional streaming partner. Not every field.
Competition Level-Elite Men: Pretty good, with almost 60% of games decided by 14 points or less, and Cup knockout games generally quite close. Overall objective quality of play was quite high.

Women: At the top end it was very good, but faded relatively quickly. Knockout games not involving Lindenwood were close.
Men: Pretty good, with almost 60% of games decided by 14 points or less, and four of the seven Cup knockout very close—three others not so close. Overall objective quality of play was good but struggled to get consistently high.

Women: Two very strong teams and then a really big gap. Of the seven QF, SF, and Finals, five were shutouts and all won by at least four tries. 
Competition Level-Mid-Level Solid. Women's Red was good at the top. Men's Red was quite competitive, well played, and exciting. Women's Club was, overall, not especially well-played. It was competitive mostly because teams didn't quite understand how to score.

Men's Club was interesting at times but unsophisticated. The winner, Sam Houston State, had failed to win a game in Atlanta.
Competition Level-Lower Divisions Not heavily attended and not diverse in skill or types of teams. Very good to excellent. Entertaining games, smart teams, and lots of them. Can't differentiate between the Men's Small College and Men's DII—both were good.
Setup Teams prepaid and could sell tickets to cover costs. That prepayment then went to ground transportation, accommodations, and food. As mentioned above, the food was universally praised. Accommodations were dorms, stated by several players as much nicer than the dorms they stay in at their school. Transportation was useful but not always available (and really it seemed a team needs to rent at least a car or minivan for some flexibility). Teams paid for their own upkeep, but that allowed them some flexibility. Main tournament hotel was in New Orleans proper, which isn't easy to get to but a very nice hotel. Other places were more convenient and less swanky. Some opted for an AirBnB large enough to house a team. (A house for $500 a night is still cheaper than 6 hotel rooms a night.)
Organization Overall games started on time and teams knew what they were playing for. Overall games started in time and teams (generally) knew what they were playing for.


What I Think and What I'd Like to See

So you see I think that both tournaments have something to offer, and they are not so very different from each other that one "wins" and one "loses." It's possible that such healthy competition ensures that both tournaments are well-run—if you screw that part up, the teams will go somewhere else. 

As I have said to several people, in in-field competition terms, Atlanta was an Elite tournament that also wanted to be a tournament for Everyone, and didn't reach that second goal. New Orleans was a tournament for Everyone and also wanted to be an Elite tournament, and didn't reach that second goal. Should they then give up that goal? Probably won't happen. But I do think that the D1 Club-level brackets, on the men's side and the women's side, in both events need to be combined. 

CRC's Bracket format is intriguing but didn't have enough competitive heft from #1 to #32. R7CC's pre-pay, sell tickets, and get part of on-ground expenses covered is a pretty cool approach and seemed to work. CRC's volume of teams was impressive. R7CC's Men's Gold Final 8 was really strong.