I learned a lot of things at Mardi Gras. Some about life, some about weather, and some about ultimate. Since this is about the Ozark Conference I will not be boring you with what I learned about life or the weather — save the fact that lightening will postpone a tournament even when the city says it is alright to play on fields soaked with rain.
Arkansas — It ended up being a long weekend for Arkansas. They, much like most of the teams, did not get to play on Saturday. On Sunday they got the luck of the draw and had the pleasure of playing Iowa first. Just like last week Arkansas started out slow and fell behind. Even though they began to put things together at the end of the Iowa game they let that funk affect their game against Chicago.
Chicago is a good team, but I do not think the Arkansas that beat Kansas loses to Chicago. In fact, the team that beat Kansas can probably beat most teams in the South Central Region.
Right now Ludicrous Speed is in a mental free fall. They have the players, who while young, know how to win. I am not sure what it will take for Arkansas to get out of their lack of focus, but they need to figure it out with Centex two weeks away.
Missouri State — The Bears have definitely improved from last year. But they are still a young group who needs to learn how to put teams away. However, unlike at Hendrix Ultimate Experience — where they lost to Harding 14-16 — this team won the close games. Beating Chicago 13-10 and Mississippi State 13-12 is a step in the right direction. They still have a way to go if they want to contend for the Conference crown, but they are closer now than they were last month.
Props to Missouri State captain Dave Woods who almost had a Callahan in the Chicago game and threw three assists plus one sliding d in the final three points of the Mississippi State game.
Oklahoma — Mike Rice is a beast. An Ape of Wrath if you will. Besides being pretty good at morphing into the main character of one of the best cheers in the country, the guy can play. It was well-known the Rice could play before this weekend, but Oklahoma needed something extra coming into the weekend and he provided it.
It will be interesting to see if Rice will be the catalyst going into Centex or if someone else will step up into that roll. Regardless, Oklahoma will need to keep up the intensity late in games, since they tend to let teams come back when they get a comfortable lead.
The semi-finals of Mardi Gras had Indiana vs. Minnesota on one side and Luther vs. Iowa in the other. These four teams are all very good but have different ways of achieving their high level. Minnesota makes very few errors as a team; while Indiana is more of a power oriented team. Luther makes a few mistakes, but is able to force other teams into errors of their own. And Iowa is an all-around balanced team who has a dynamic offense, allowing them to attack in many different ways.
All are solid ways to win games and I am glad to see the different solutions to ultimate. The USAU series this year should be very interesting.