College Dance Team Central

Friday, January 12, 2007

UDA College Nationals Preview - Division IA

With the UDA College Nationals upon us, College Dance Team Central previews the upcoming weekend with predictions from Dave Sanchez from the Dance Team Competitions Yahoo! Group. As moderator of one of the longest running sites devoted to all levels of dance competition, Dave takes a look at the Division IA Dance and Hip-Hop squads below.

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The premier dance division at UDA College Nationals. This year there are thirteen finalists and eight semifinalists returning to compete. The rest of the teams competing (with the possible exception of Louisiana-Monroe) have all competed before although none of them have made finals since 2000. It is a great field though and making it to the final round will be very tough.

1. Minnesota (Pictured): Don't know how you can pick against them. They had some program changes last year but they made it through that without too much of a wobble. To be honest, I haven't heard raves about their routine this year but they have been so far ahead of the pack for the last few years that it is going to take a drop by Minnesota and a big move by another team to knock them off. Could it happen? Yes, of course. But, I think Minnesota is going to end up doing all it can to defend the Dance title.

2. Tennessee: They didn't really thrill me last year and I sort of reluctantly accepted them as the 2nd place team. Just like in Hip-Hop though – they seem to strike a nerve with the judges/audience and seem to be on point stylistically – which is big. They were a very very easy 2nd place last year and that gives them a lot of cushion to hold off challengers from below while still chasing Minnesota. I don't think they can catch Minnesota this year though – I think they need at least one more year.

3. Cincinnati: I picked them 3rd last year and they barely slipped into 6th place. They had moving along just fine with their musical numbers and last year they jumped onto a new track which I do believe will take them to new heights in the rankings. That switch in style is tough to make in one year but, from all I have heard, they have their legs solidly under them in 2007. They were over 100 points behind Minnesota last year and about 80 behind Tennesee – I think we will see a big charge from Cincy this year – but it may be too much ground to make up in one year.

4. Florida State: I didn't like them quite as much as everyone else did last year (same in 2005) but they seem to have a ton of momentum – they had a bad draw in finals last year as well.

5. Wisconsin-Madison: They have been in the Top Four now for four years and they have followed up their 4th place finishes with a 2nd place finish each time. I don't know – I don't feel like they are making the right changes to climb the rankings – they just seem to be doing the same thing. A couple of teams are going to slip by them this year unless they have addressed the issues that have kept them from the top spot.

6. Kansas: Oh, I know Kansas is going to make me pay for this – they have been in the Top Five for the last four years and they were pretty far ahead of Florida State. I also thought they had a much more coherent routine in 2006 than they had in any of the previous years – so I feel like they are making a lot of the right moves. These low taping scores bother me a little bit though – I just don't sense a hunger to match the talent.

7. Louisiana: Even though they actually dropped in the rankings last year from 2005 – I felt like they made a solid move and it turns out they were a mere 3 points from 6th place in 2006. Ouch.= They have everything working for them and certainly could break into the Top Five – they just need to believe that they belong at the very top and dance with more confidence.

8. Central Florida (Pictured): Central Florida has been MONEY in the middle of the pack at Nationals. I feel like they have made a lot of good adjustments to their approach but they are not "moving with the times" as quickly as some other teams. Always a good show from UCF.

9. Memphis: I am hedging my bets a little bit on Memphis. I am not prepared to write them off in the Dance division – particularly after their third place finish in 2005. I don't know though – unless they shore up that technique – they are going to continue to drop like a stone down the dance rankings.

10. Illinois: Illinois reminds me a little bit of Kansas without quite the record of success. Lots and lots of talent but somehow they haven't done much better lately than slip into finals.

11. LSU: 2005 was the only year they missed finals in the last six – a consistent presence in the finals.

12. Michigan State: Still sliding down the rankings. I thought they would reverse that slide in 2006 but they didn't – missing finals. I am going to give them another chance.

13. Oklahoma: They keep slipping into the finals – why not this year.

14. Alabama: They finally dropped out of finals after a long run – I think they will be back in finals in 2007.

15. South Florida: They keep getting better – breaking into finals in 2006.


16. New Mexico: They will not take last place. Actually, they have a great coaching staff and a great choreographer and some pretty talented dancers although I know they can't hang with a lot of the teams here. Unfortunately they don't always pick up the very best talent in the state because they seem to run tryouts more like a sorority rush than a dance tryout – but I think they have a decent shot at finals – because they have some hunger and some smart coaches. So . . . Go Lobos! Actually the dance team is called the Chaparrals so . . . Go Chaparrals!

17. Iowa: They do have a ton of talent and I am sort of hoping that the routine they did at Iowa State was not their Nationals routine. Nothing wrong with it actually – it just didn't inspire. But, if they cleaned it up and hold their power through the end – they could definitely be in finals.

18. Nebraska: I didn't really like them that much last year and they have a terrible draw but they do have a lot of potential.

19. Auburn: Great walk-on last year – seriously – then it kind of went downhill.

20. Texas Tech: I might put them in finals if Bobby Knight was coaching them. Pretty good taping score though.

21. Mississippi: They always did well at NDA.

22. Colorado State: Tons of potential – but they haven't been in finals since 2004.

23. Kent State: They weren't bad last year and Ohio has been more of a presence in the dance world.

24. Northwestern: They had one of my lowest scores in semis last year – and none of the teams they beat on my score sheet are back this year.

25. Louisiana-Monroe: Big longshot.

26. Middle Tennesee State: Bigger longshot.

27. Nevada-Reno: Just like in Hip-Hop – the biggest longshot in the field. Feeling lucky??? They were in semis in 2001 though – so – yeah – big big longshots.


Twelve returning finalists, four returning semifinalists, one former finalist and four newcomers will all vie for the 2007 UDA College Nationals Division 1A Hip-Hop title.

1. Minnesota: I went around mouthing off all of last week that Florida would win the BCS Championship by double digits and so I am not going to back down from another bold prediction here. If Minnesota wins this though -- my next stop is Vegas. But seriously, I do think that Minnesota had the strongest overall performance in 2006 in Hip-Hop. Their music selection has been endlessly discussed but I think the more valid criticism was the comparative lack of difficulty. However, these days you don't (and shouldn't) get points merely for ATTEMPTING difficulty. If Minnesota is as rock solid as they were last year – and from all I have heard they will be – they will be 2007 Division 1A Hip-Hop Champions.

2. Cincinnati (Pictured): Cincinnati continues to dominate Division 1A Hip- Hop with a style that blends athleticism and rhythm. I still think Cincinnati (notice I am actually spelling it correctly this year -- which could be a bad omen for Cincy) sets itself apart with good routine pacing as well – sprinkling crowd-pleasing tricks and choreography throughout the routine. In term of having the right style for this competition – they don't miss a beat – and their dancing – while not as strong as Minnesota's – continues to provide a very strong base for everything else they do right. They could easily grab a fourth title – I have heard nothing but good things about this routine and it was their hip-hop dancing that got them first place in taping. That is pretty impressive.

3. Louisiana: They were 4th in prelims last year and then Tennessee just slipped by them in finals but all of these scores were very close. I said a few days ago that I thought Minnesota had the easiest problems to fix from last year but I think Louisiana had the next easiest problem to fix. The Ragin' Jazz had, in my opinion, the best rhythm last year – these girls can MOVE and they are smoooooth – hitting a lot of detail in the music. My only concerns with Louisiana are that they needed to show off a little more athleticism and dance with more confidence. To me – those were pretty easy fixes to make. The only other thing is – do better in finals than in prelims – they have had their better showing in prelims in Hip-Hop – last year they lost over 20 points to Tennessee. I expect Louisiana to be in the Top Five and I think they have a decent shot to win it all. Last year's move from 6th to 5th was significant though – Louisiana and Minnesota were the only finalists from 2005 to move up the rankings in 2006 – so I feel like they have momentum.

4. Memphis: It is scary to have Memphis in 4th place. Despite dropping from 2nd in 2005 to 3rd last year – I actually thought Memphis had a very well-crafted routine last year. They added a lot of those tentpole (high point) moments in their routine that were missing in 2005 but the only thing they didn't do – was hit with the same attack in finals that they had in 2005. I hesitate a little more with Memphis (and put them in 4th in my predictions) than with the teams I have ranked 1-3 because I have heard some mixed reviews on them this year but I KNOW that they have what it takes to win this Hip-Hop division and I would be surprised at all if they walk away with first place this weekend.

5. Tennessee: They burst on the scene in Hip-Hop last year all the way in 4th place but I have to confess – I don't really remember their routine that well. I think, other than perhaps Cincinnati, Tennessee seems to have the hip-hop style that more of the 20-somethings want to see. That is not a bad thing but I have to say it did leave me a little cold – I think it was a routine that was more for the dancers than the audience. Still, more raves for Tennessee going into Nationals and it is scary to rank them this low. I feel like if they don't end up in 5th place -- it is much more likely that they will finish higher, rather than lower and they definitely are another team with the potential to win it all.

6. Louisiana State: This Hip-Hop division is tough – especially when the best you can do for LSU is put them in 6th place. They blinked a little bit last year and haven't quite kept up with the increasingly tough competition in this division. A return to the Top Three would be a big move for LSU.

7. Florida State: I think the "jazz" teams have actually done quite well in Hip-Hop and the two disciplines have not been nearly as mutually exclusive as some people speculated they might be back when the Hip-Hop division started. With all of the hype – Florida State could easily be in the Top Five.

8. Central Florida: I agree with what people have been saying – UCF seems like a natural fit for this category – they should do well.

9. Vanderbilt: They had a great breakthrough performance last yearand, once again, they are only doing Hip-Hop. The teams I have ranked above them have such great talent though – and I felt like there was a such a big gap between the Top Six last year and the rest of the pack.

10.Kansas: They were only 11th place last year but, again, I have to vote for talent. I think this team is too good not to at least make finals.


11. Wisconsin-Madison: I don't know what happened to them last year but I think they have a very good chance to be back in the mix in Hip-Hop. Everyone loved them in 2005.

12. South Florida: Nice breakthrough performance last year but it is going to be tough to match in 2007.

13. Michigan St: They were 8th in 2005 so they certainly have what it takes.

14. New Mexico: I think they have a great shot of making the finals and the Top Ten – I did think only a bad draw kept them out of finals last year. However, their draw isn't that much better this year and they are doing two dances.

15. UNLV: Go Mountain West! Can't put them ahead of New Mexico though . . . I just can't.

16. Nebraska: Great program – if they had made finals in Dance last year I would have been much more inclined to put them in the Top Ten.

17. Illinois: Momentum is going the wrong way but – they certainly have Top Ten potential.

18. Oklahoma: Ditto – just like Illinois they are heading in the wrong direction in the rankings but, a program this strong, they certainly have Top Ten potential.

19. Iowa: I am pretty sure they are not doing the routine they did at the Iowa State Championships here. If they are – well, they better hope their judging panel REALLY liked Minnesota's music last year.

20. Alabama: Shocking – but they really haven't shown much potential in this category.

21. Nevada-Reno: I think Nevada-Reno is the only true longshot here – all of these other teams have shown Top Ten or finalist potential at some time or another.


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