You are here
USA Rugby's College 7s National Championships take place this weekend at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. There are 40 teams across three divisions vying for a title. Here my breakdown of the men's DI competition, picking the winners pool by pool.
The quarterfinal pairings haven't been unveiled, so it's tough to read past pool play, but there are three top contenders in this tournament: 2016 champion St. Mary's, 2015 champion Lindenwood and Davenport. It's likely two of them will end up on the same side of the bracket, so the one which doesn't will probably have the best shot at going all the way.
Ultimately, St. Mary's is fresh off a draining 15s national championship game last weekend, while Davenport and Lindenwood have had nothing but 7s on the mind for a bit longer. The Lions are maybe the deepest team in the competition, so they're the pick to win it all.
St. Mary’s is the odds-on favorite. Given the Gaels are also competing in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship a week later, they could approach this tournament two different ways – either they’re going with full guns blazing to win it and get reps for what they think is their top side, or they can use selections to find out who their best 12 is. If they do the former, they should win this pool going away. If they do the latter, it could open up.
Bowling Green has some very talented backs, like Mitch Sora and Adam Regini. The Falcons won the MAC 7s title, but against limited competition. The Louisville team they beat in the final had been battered a bit in other tournaments this spring. James Madison played in five Chesapeake Conference tournaments, winning only the last one. The Dukes won when it counted, but the Chesapeake isn’t the most competitive 7s league around. Fordham is a bit of a wildcard. The Rams won the Empire Conference 7s title, but did so facing some questionable competition. They’ll be up against their best competition yet, by some margin, in this pool.
Winner: St. Mary’s
Runner-up: Bowling Green
Lindenwood is in a similar situation to St. Mary’s. If the Lions play their best 12 regularly, they should cruise. If they tinker, they could open themselves up to some close games. The Lions are extremely talented and deep. They have a seemingly endless roster of quick, smart, skilled playmakers. There’s legitimate question whether or not a single player from any other team in this pool would crack Lindenwood’s top 12.
Grand Canyon might be the second-most talented team in the group. The Lopes went 6-4 against really good competition in the fall, but in their only showing this year, they finished ninth at the Las Vegas Invitational. GCU has talent, probably not enough to knock off Lindenwood, but certainly enough to reach the quarterfinals. Wyoming did well to win the Rocky Mountain 7s, a smaller but very competitive tournament, and reached the quarterfinals of the Heart of America. The Cowboys can contend for second in this pool, but probably not much more. Stanford finished seventh at the PAC 7s in the fall but won a weakened conference tournament this spring. The Cardinal are likely to finish last in this pool.
Runner-up: Grand Canyon
This one is up for grabs, with four teams capable of taking the group. Ohio State has been extremely busy this spring, winning the Big Ten, Mooseman 7s and Hogan Memorial 7s. They have a great playmaker in Jamie Barlow, who creates for others and can finish on his own.
Arkansas is also really tough. The Razorbacks reached the semifinals of the Heart of America Classic and won the Red River championship this spring. Corey Jones is a lethal weapon in the restarts and Jack Casey is an all-around playmaker. Alex Rees is the other half of a fantastic kickoff tandem. All three have significant men’s club 7s experience.
Santa Clara has also been pretty competitive this spring. The Broncos won the Jesuit Cup, which they hosted, beating Boston College in the final. And earlier in the spring they reached the quarterfinals of the Las Vegas Invitational. Unfortunately, they lost their most explosive ball carrier for the season in that event.
Florida International boasts an eclectic lineup, with several Argentine players in the squad. The Panthers are very well coached, skilled and have been dominant at times over the last couple of years in the South Independent’s conference series, which they won this season. Look for FIU to compete well in this very tumultuous pool.
Runner-up: Ohio State
Like A and B, Pool D should be run away with by the top team. Davenport is a very talented, athletic side that was close to winning a CRC berth at the Heart of America Classic in March. The Panthers have shown flashes of real quality, but they’ve also struggled to put inferior teams to the sword. Domonique Bailey is a physical specimen who supplies the team’s attitude, and Brady Gent is a skilled playmaker.
Texas A&M is a wildcard, as the Aggies didn’t play much notable 7s this spring, but they did give Arkansas a run for its money in the Red River final. Utah, like A&M, is a traditional power, but the Utes have had very little 7s this year, too. Kansas State is a scrappy group, but the Wildcats would need to play out of their skin to advance from this pool.