6th Annual Carolina Classic Preview
For the Triangle Curling Club, this is the most exciting week of the year: Carolina Classic week. Can't wait!
Now, when we've discussing bonspiels (curling tournaments) before, we've ignored the on-ice events and talked about what curlers do between games. But here, we're going to do just the opposite. Everyone is bound to have a good time off the ice this weekend, and that is (we think) the main reason people keep coming back year after year. But on the other hand, we thought it'd be fun to try and write up a good "Carolina Classic Preview" that focuses strictly on the on-ice action. ESPN.com isn't going to cover the events of the Carolina Classic, so we may as well do it ourselves. Because, I mean, the Carolina Classic is a really important curling event!
So, who are the favorites this weekend?
(Disclaimer: Our handicapping of the field basically amounts to focusing on teams that have done well in past Classics. Until Nate Silver develops a model for predicting the outcomes of bonspiels, past performance is all we really have to go on. Meteorologists would call this a "persistence forecast". Example: if the weather was dark and stormy yesterday, then we think it'll be dark and stormy today, too! And on that note...)
Let's start with team "Dark and Stormy" from Detroit, skipped by Mark McElwee. "Dark and Stormy" is the only team to have won the Carolina Classic twice, having taken the top prize in 2010 and 2011 (although not with the exact same lineup as this year, it should be noted). After missing last year's Classic, they're back in 2013 to go for the three-peat...sort of. Another title this weekend would mean that they will have won three consecutive Classics in which they have entered. That begs the question: does it count as "three consecutive titles" even if there's a "Did Not Enter" in the middle of the streak? (Editor's note: No. Sorry.)
The next team to watch is the defending champions, Rich Ashford's team from Pittsburgh. Team Ashford took Dark and Stormy to the wire in the 2011 final, in a thrilling game that Detroit won on the very last shot. If Team Ashford is still looking for revenge two years later (and why wouldn't they be?), they'll have that opportunity: the draw was configured so that Dark and Stormy and Team Ashford could meet up in the final again this weekend.
So, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that we'll see Dark and Stormy and Team Ashford in the 1st Event Final on Sunday, right? … Of course not! There are plenty of other good teams here at the Classic. Many have put in solid performances in past Classics, and are perfectly capable of pulling an "upset" (if you can call it that) against either of the favorites early in the tournament. Those teams include, but are not limited to, "Lord of the Rings"/Knoxville (2012 runner-up), and "Whitney's Sampler"/Potomac (semifinalists each of the last two years). (Those two teams are both on the "Dark and Stormy" side of the bracket, it should be noted.) In addition to the usual favorites, there are also some teams who will be participating in their very first Classic this year from some well established curling clubs, you know, "up north". Those teams are the wildcards in all of this.
Err...aren't you forgetting someone? Ah, yes...the home teams. Well, here's the thing: while we think our Triangle curlers are pretty awesome (and they are), this week it's all about our out-of-town guests. We're not the title favorites; you are. We insist! But really, though, it's kind of hard to define what a "Triangle" team is in this year's Classic. Several Triangle curlers have joined forces with curlers from other clubs this weekend, such that while there are only two all-Triangle teams participating this weekend (in which all four curlers on the team are from our club), there are actually eight - that's one-third of the field - with at least one Triangle curler. So, odds are pretty good that you'll see at least one Triangle curler in Sunday's 1st Event Final. But we insist that we're not the favorites. … And, there's also the fact an all Triangle team hasn't won the Classic since 2009, and hasn't appeared in a final since 2010.)
The hot curling action begins this Friday at 11 AM at the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest, with the finals on Sunday at 11:15 AM. Hope to see you there! We'll post updates on Facebook/Twitter throughout the weekend, as well as do our best to keep the draw updated.