Another month has gone by, and with that the winter invitational has officially drawn to a close. It’s been an exciting tournament, and has given us some sort of benchmark to determine how the spring playoffs might turn out. There were a few upsets, and some teams came out as dark horses in the tournament and proved they were a force to be reckoned with. So, let’s dive into the winter invitational and see how the tournament shaped up.
The first round of the winter invitational is where we saw some of the early round upsets, with some teams exiting the tournament a lot sooner than expected. McMaster Academy dropped out of the tournament after a 2-1 series loss the UNT Eagles. I had high hopes for McMaster coming into the tournament, and I haven’t given up hope for them to do well in the spring playoffs. Another team that was disappointing was Rutgers Team A. Rutgers ended up winning the CLOL preseason, and their JV team was looking solid until they suffered 2 series losses at the end of the season and subsequently dropped out of the tournament to Purdue LOL Academy. For the most part however, most series went the way I expected them to go. Some early frontrunners I expected to take the tournament at this stage included SFU Racoons A, WA Esports - B, and Johns Hopkins University.
The tournament really started taking shape during this next round, and the Round of 32 revealed the real contenders and the underdogs who were looking to prove themselves in the spotlight. One of the biggest upsets in the tournament was when SFU Racoons A fell to Mcgill University in a stunning 2-0 series. Another close series that defied my expectations was U of MB taking down Colorado State University in a tight 2-1. On the upper side of the bracket, one of my favorites coming into the tournament, University of Houston White, were taken down by a very strong Oregon team, who looked poised to challenge for the title. Additionally, UDEM Esports took a surprising tumble and fell to UCF Gaming Knights B in a very close 2-1 set. After all was said and done, a lot of blood was spilled during this round of the tournament. Many favorites remained in prime position to take the title, but many contenders dropped out, and the many upsets saw new teams enter the spotlight hoping for a chance at the title.
Round of 16 was a tightly contested round, with even fiercer competition. One of the teams I thought could make a big impact, Oregon, fell to UCF, a team who also managed to take out UDEM in the last round. Another big win came when UB League Team B overcame Ryerson University in a close 2-1 set. While neither of these series were necessarily major upsets, both were close series that showed just how many good teams there are in JV this year. One of my favorite series came in this round as well, which saw the battle of California between UCLA and UC Berkeley. In the end, Berkeley came out on top in a 2-0 set.
With only 8 teams left, these teams had already proven how good they were. On the top half of the playoffs, UCF Gaming Knights B and UB League Team B took 2-0 series over their counterparts Illinois and Arizona State. On the bottom half, Johns Hopkins rolled over UC Berkeley and proved themselves to be a frontrunner in the tournament. The biggest upset of the round came when U of MB took down RMU CSL JV in a close 2-1 series. A very well-played series allowed Manitoba to make their way to the semis.
The finals pitted UCF vs UB. This series featured 2 teams many didn’t think would make it this far, and both were ready to prove their worth. In the end, UB ended up defeating UCF 2-0 and made their way to the finals in a spectacular fashion. On the other side of the bracket, Johns Hopkins absolutely blasted their way through underdog Manitoba and met UB in the finals. In the end, the undisputed best team in JV, Johns Hopkins secured the victory, winning the winter invitational.