Over / Under


Questions: Ben Weisel

Commentary: Ben Weisel, Michael Weidenbruch, and Elliott Portillo


The postseason is fast approaching and things are about to get busy. There are a variety of debates that the TSR team has commented on below. Do you agree? Let us know...


50: The amount of points NAU scores at nationals

Ben Weisel: Over

Northern Arizona has been dominant in every race they have run including the Cardinal race at Pre-Nats. With that said, 50 points though might be out of NAU’s reach as BYU looked just as dominant in the White race. NAU’s top trio of Day, Baxter, and Lomong should score about about 20 points. That leaves Luis Grijalva and Blaise Ferro to score 30 or less points. With the depth in the top twenty this year, I don’t see that happening. However, the fact that we are even having this discussion shows how dominant NAU has been this year.


Michael Weidenbruch: Under

I think NAU can get three guys in the top 10 and possibly all five in the top 20. If Day and Baxter pull their weight and have a finish like last year, I think NAU can score under 50 points. They have so much firepower and run incredibly well as a pack, so I think a tight finish plays into their strategy. The national title is NAU’s to lose, and this year will be all about how much they can win by.


Elliott Portillo: Under

Right now, this team is shaping up to look like one of the most dominant XC dynasties ever. So far, nobody has been able to match the ridiculous depth and spread this team brings to the table. The Jacks are well adjusted to the Zimmer Course in Madison, having scored 46 points at Nuttycombe and 41 at Pre-Nationals, while putting their top seven within the top 21 finishers. They know how to run this course, and that experience will show when they toe the line in November.


6.5: Mountain region teams who qualify for Nationals

Ben Weisel: Over

The Mountain region is deeper than ever. Along with NAU and BYU headlining the region, the region adds Wyoming as another top-ranked team after their impressive performance at Pre-Nationals. We had seen how competitive Southern Utah, Colorado, Air Force, and Colorado State were after Nuttycombe, but we weren’t sure how legit Wyoming’s 2nd place finish at Notre Dame was. They proved the doubters wrong with their 5th place finish in the Cardinal race. With Colorado State and Air Force projected to have seven Kolas points (and Colorado six), there is a good chance that teams like Wyoming and Southern Utah could find a spot at Nationals.


Michael Weidenbruch: OverI think seven teams will qualify from the Mountain region with those being: NAU, BYU, Colorado, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, and Southern Utah. Southern Utah is sort of on the cusp, but right now it looks like they’ll have enough points to qualify. The Mountain region is always one of the deepest, and this year is no exception.


Elliott Portillo: Over

I truly believe up to seven teams could make it to Nationals out of the Mountain region. Although Southern Utah slipped in the most recent national polls, they are still a dangerous team that, with a good finish at their regional meet, could slip back into the qualifying conversation. Wyoming was very impressive at Pre-Nationals last weekend. As a result, the Cowboys shot up in the regional rankings and achieved national recognition for the first time in program history. They look like a sure-shot team to qualify if they can hold their momentum through the most important stretches of the season. This may bode well for teams like Southern Utah and Air Force at regionals. If they can defeat Wyoming, they'll likely not have to worry about being blocked from qualifying or forced to wait for a "push" scenario. The Mountain region is as stacked as ever, and it looks like that won’t be changing any time soon.


2.5: Iona's finish in the Northeast region

Ben Weisel: Over

Iona is an interesting team that has shown flashes of potential and of disaster. A team that usually makes Nationals, Iona could be sitting this year out. After an impressive performance at Nuttycombe that saw the team beat Michigan State and Georgetown, Iona followed that performance with a dud at the Penn State National Open where they finished 13th behind Georgia Tech and Kentucky. At Nuttycombe, Iona was led by three of the Dee brothers (Liam, Jamie, and Elliot), but only Liam raced at Penn State. This raises an interesting question: Are Jamie and Elliot hurt? If they are, then Iona will have little chance of qualifying automatically. If they are healthy and run like they do at Nuttycombe, then they have a chance. However, based off their latest performance, Nationals does not seem likely.


Michael Weidenbruch: Over

Syracuse will win the region barring a total disaster, and Army West Point is shaping up to be a solid pick for the number two spot. In my opinion, Iona’s best possible finish is 3rd, and aside from the aforementioned top two, Harvard, Stony Brook, and Dartmouth are all looking strong and capable of beating Iona on a good day. Iona likely won’t have enough points to get an at-large bid even if they do finish 3rd. With that being said, Iona hasn't run a full squad at any meet they've competed in this season I’m not totally counting out a strong performance as they attempt to grab the second auto spot to Nationals.


Elliott Portillo: Over

This is a tricky one. I have not seen enough of Iona this year to make a sure-fire prediction on this. They only finished middle of the pack at Nuttycombe and elected to not run Pre-Nats, instead opting for Penn State, where they didn’t run a full squad. With the trajectory that Syracuse is on, the Orangemen are a lock to secure another regional title. After that, it gets tricky. I definitely think the Gaels will be challenged. Up starts like Harvard, Army, and Stony Brook are definitely hungry teams (as well as Dartmouth). In a region that isn’t as deep as the West or Mountain, Iona will have little room for error when they race these teams.


6.5: Number of points that Matthew Baxter and Tyler Day combine to score at Nationals

Ben Weisel: Under

The dynamic duo of Baxter and Day finished 2nd and 3rd to Grant Fisher in the Cardinal race. I expect them to keep up their excellent form at Nationals. Adding Morgan McDonald, James Sugira, and Edwin Kurgat, will give the NAU boys plenty of competition, but I am confident that they will have a scoring combination that will keep them under seven points. A 2nd and 4th place finish, 1st and 5th, or 2nd and 3rd are all in the cards for these two. Looking at Nationals, they will have something that none of the other favorites have: a teammate to run with. No matter how the race goes out, Baxter and Day will be racing side-by-side, giving them an advantage when they head back to Wisconsin a few weeks from now.


Michael Weidenbruch: Over

But not by much...Matthew Baxter and Tyler Day are undoubtedly two of the best athletes in the NCAA, but that list keeps on growing. The national field is looking incredibly deep this year and I’m not sure that these two have another finish as great as last year’s in them. The pair finished almost in sync at Pre Nats behind Grant Fisher, but that was a 2-3 finish in what was essentially half of the field for NCAA's. When you factor in the BYU contingent along with Morgan McDonald, there is a lot more potential variability in this year’s championship. I think NCAA's may be the race where we finally see these two broken up, and while it won’t spell disaster for NAU as a team, their finish just might not be as dominant as last year.


Elliott Portillo: UnderMatthew Baxter and Tyler Day have shown themselves to be the best low-stick duo in the NCAA. They proved this with their finish at Pre-Nats, finishing just milliseconds behind Grant Fisher, who should, by all means, be vying for an individual title this year. If all goes well, I see Baxter and Day finishing two and three to score five points. If things go even better, they very well could score three or four points combined.


2.5: Finish at the BIG 10 Championships for Indiana

Ben Weisel: Over

Indiana has been impressive even without their star Ben Veatch, finishing just behind Purdue in the White race and right behind Michigan at Nuttycombe. Kyle Mau has been a steady number one and freshman Dustin Horter has come in and made an immediate impact as their number two. With that said, Wisconsin looks like the clear favorites to win the Big Ten Championship. Purdue and Michigan have both looked solid while Michigan State has quietly posted respectable performances. Unless Veatch comes back to the squad, I don’t think Indiana has the firepower to finish 2nd in a very deep and talented conference.


Michael Weidenbruch: Over

I think Indiana will finish 3rd at the BIG 10 meet behind Wisconsin and Purdue. However, this is a pick I’m not super confident in as Indiana seems to get hot when it matters. They finished right behind Purdue at Pre-Nats, and while there was a 60 point gap between them, that could easily be closed in a conference setting with fewer teams. I’m not counting them out, but I don’t think Indiana will be able to catch the Boilermakers.


Elliott Portillo: Over

I think it comes as no surprise to anyone that Wisconsin is officially back. They look to be a fairly secure lock to win BIG 10's, as well as the Great Lakes regional. After that, the team battle gets very interesting. Purdue outscored Indiana at Pre-Nats by 64 points. The two won’t have another chance to square off until conference. As of right now, it looks like the Boilermakers hold the advantage going into the championships. They have a lot of momentum coming off of their highest finish in program history at Pre-Nationals. Indiana has a lot of work to do if they are to match their strength at the back end. Michigan and Michigan State are also lurking just a couple spots back in the regional rankings. They could very easily take advantage of the Hoosiers if they have a bad day.


4.5: Number of BYU All-Americans at Nationals

Ben Weisel: Over

Maybe this is an overreaction to their 29 point performance in the White race at Pre-Nationals, but I was super impressed by BYU. Last year, all of the talk was about BYU and NAU competing for the title, which eventually led to BYU losing to NAU by a considerable amount at Nationals. This year, the discussion from BYU and from the rest of the media has been tamer. The lowering of expectations has overshadowed the amount of talent that is on this BYU team. Rory Linkletter, Connor Mantz, Clayson Shumway, Connor McMillan, and Clayton Young all seemed to be in position to win the race at some point at Pre-Nats. These five would all be disappointed leaving Wisconsin next time without earning All-American honors. This is hopefully the year when BYU shows the amount of talent they have and gives NAU a run for their money.


Michael Weidenbruch: Over

I think BYU could have five All-Americans in Rory Linkletter, Conner Mantz, Clayson Shumway, Connor McMillan, and Clayton Young. If one of them has an off race, it’s possible we could see Daniel Carney sneak in there too. It is no secret that BYU has one of the deepest teams in the country, and if they have a perfect race, they could give NAU a run for their money. Last year, BYU had three All-Americans, but now Casey Clinger is on a two-year mission trip and that takes him out of the picture. I think BYU is a stronger team than they were last year, and they underperformed at last year’s championship. Five All-Americans is a very real possibility for BYU.


Elliott Portillo: Over

BYU’s performance last weekend further solidified their number two ranking. They bring one of the deepest squads in the country. With a good day along with a rare NAU bad day, they could very well rise to the top of the podium. Rory Linkletter is a bonified superstar and may be a candidate to contend for the individual national title in the eyes of some. Connor Mantz, Clayson Shumway, and Connor McMillan finished just seconds behind Linkletter. They are also viable All-American candidates. It gets interesting when you get to the Cougar’s fifth man. Clayton Young ran 24:03 and finished 12th in the Pre-Nats White race, about nine seconds behind from Linkletter. If Young can replicate this performance and close hard at Nationals, we could very well see up to five Cougars with All-American honors.


3.5: Southeast teams who make it to Nationals

Ben Weisel: Under

With Virginia Tech laying an egg at Penn State, it appears that there are three teams who have good chances at earning an at-large spot. Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and Furman all performed well last week with Furman being the main surprise after an underwhelming performance at Joe Piane. Outside of these three teams, it is hard to imagine another team slipping into Nationals. Teams like North Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest have looked solid so far, but none have accumulated many Kolas points, and it is tough to imagine them beating any of the top three to earn an automatic qualifying spot.


Michael Weidenbruch: Under

Based on our current Kolas projections, this number may be as low as two. Campbell has fallen off the map and Furman is just on the bubble now. Unless Furman can take down Eastern Kentucky or Virginia, there might not be any at-large teams from the Southeast. Virginia is looking incredibly strong, and Eastern Kentucky isn’t far behind. Furman’s best chance is to beat EKU who looks to have enough points to get an at-large bid should they not auto-qualify, but that will be a tall order. Virginia Tech may be able to get in the mix, but they’re in the same situation as Furman where they would need to beat a current top two team to make it in.


Elliott Portillo: Under

Thus far, the Southeast region has been underwhelming in terms of depth. Furman hasn’t quite matched their expectations (yet). In the last TSR Kolas Projections, the Paladins were the First Team Out. They definitely have some work to do if they are to guarantee themselves a spot to Wisconsin. This puts a lot of pressure on a surging North Carolina team who is currently ranked 4th in the region. The Tar Heels must defeat Furman if they want any chance of qualifying for NCAA's as at-large picks will be hard to come by thanks to the West and Mountain regions. Teams like NC State and Virginia Tech, who saw themselves fall heavily in the most recent regional rankings, will have to find a way to match up as well. Unless Virginia or Eastern Kentucky blow up, it appears that only three teams (max) may come out of the Southeast.