Where Your Dreams Become Reality
2007 LetsRun.com NCAA Cross Country Preview: Oregon Not the Favorite
If betting were allowed on college xc (thankfully it isn't), Vin Lananna's Oregon Ducks would be heavy, heavy favorites in the betting. The Ducks are ranked #1 and huge favorites according to the Letsrun.com polls and a unanimous #1 in the coaches' poll.
But since we at LetsRun.com are smarter than all of the coaches and even smarter than our esteemed readers at LetsRun.com, we have to disagree and say by no stretch of the imagination should the Ducks be viewed as the heavy favorites.. It's the LetsRun.com's official view that if there is an overwhelming favorite at nationals on the men's side, it's definitely not Oregon. We think far too many people have read one too many Steve Prefontaine books.
If the Ducks were listed as even money favorites, we'd put all our money on teams in the top 5 besides Oregon
We can understand why people are voting for the Ducks to win, but to make them a unanimous #1? You've got to be kidding. What have the Ducks done all year to justify their unanimous #1 ranking? Nothing besides duck all serious competition at the PreNats and win some meaningless early season meet at home.
Yes, they did win the Pac 10s. But big deal, the next best team is 13th ranked Stanford. Beating Stanford doesn't prove anything this year.
At Pac 10s, Stanford's #3 finished ahead of Oregon's #3. That doesn't bode well for the Ducks even if they were perhaps resting some ridiculously good recruit that we aren't aware of. Hell, Cal, which had never made an NCAA meet until this year (hard to believe isn't it), put 3 in before Oregon did. Stanford's top two for most of the year have been Russell Brown and Hari Mix two guys who didn't even run NCAA xc last year. Assuming the 2006 NCAA runner-up Nef Araia, who has been rapidly improving since Pre-nats, is Stanford's top guy at NCAAs, that puts Mix or Brown as Stanford's #3. Mix was 23rd at Pre-NCAAs.
Iona's #4 at Pre-NCAAs finished in 18th place. (They were without their #5 Matthew Kiplagat who was suspended from the team early in the season)
And if one looks at the Region results, well one had really better hope that Oregon was jogging it there. At Regionals, Oregon's third was behind both Cal and Portland's third.
We can't figure out any reason as to why Oregon is the unanimous #1 team in the country. Many people might claim that Oregon appears to have the best one-two punch in the country in Galen Rupp the favorite for the individual crown, and Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott. Our response is: Maybe (People forget Kiptoo was a disaster at NCAAs last year) But even if it's true, they will need it as the rest of their team on paper does not stack up well versus the top 5 of some of the other teams. Seriously, it's likely Oregon will need to be scoring 3 against everyone else's 5 to win on Monday.
And yet everyone expects them to win handily as more than two times as many people have picked them to win as the rest of the field combined.
It makes no sense. In our mind, the easiest way to score the next year's meet is to remove all the seniors and non-scorers from the previous year's meet whether it be NCAAs or conferences and rescore. While the next year's results won't match it perfectly (one does need to sort of artificially put in the ridiculous transfers/freshmen coming in), it works pretty well.
Proven, big time-talent wins championships. Rojo will be the first to admit that talent trumps good coaching. If you don't believe us, ask yourself the following questions, How man national titles did Mark Wetmore win at Seton Hall?
Iona the Favorite
Yes, take the individuals and seniors out and Iona CRUSHES Oregon 109 to 206.
Now , we know some of you are saying that Kiptoo ran terrible last year. We agree. We even moved him up to #1 instead of being the 44th returner. It's still Iona in a rout - 108 to 163.
Yes, Oregon did get a lot of studly freshmen this year as Vin Lananna can somehow convince every sub 9 guy in the country to go to wherever he is coaching whether it's Stanford or Oregon or even Dartmouth (we never understand how they don't realize they won't get to run as freshman or maybe ever) but from what we can tell none of the studly freshmen will be running this year no Centro, no Hall.
But let's assume they get a great new guy and give them the benefit of the doubt (ignoring the fact that true freshmen rarely do big things at NCAAs- the Ducks Diego Mercado was the top true frosh last year at 49th 29th team scoring) and therefore only score the top 4 returnees from last year.
How does it look now? It's a little closer but Iona still wins. Iona 74, Wisco 97, Oregon 130. Even if we move, Kiptoo from 44 to 1st. It's still Iona 74, Wisco 97, Oregon 87.
So there you have it- Iona is the favorite. Yes, there is one huge question mark associated with the Gaels - they are only 5 deep. If any of there top 5 screw up, they are done. But they are very experienced (in contrast to Oregon which didn't even run the course this year). Also they always seem to run their best at Nationals (in 2005, they were 8th at Pre-NCAAs but on the podium at NCAAs), so the fact that they were #2 at Pre-NCAAs, that ought to scare people.
Our only question with them is do they have any low sticks? Normally there are a lot of random top individuals in the top 20 so it doesn't really matter if you are 20th or 30th for the team scoring. This year, more than most, most of the top guys are on top teams.
If Iona doesn't come through, Wisconsin very well could do it. They certainly proven over the last few years that it's very hard to run as the favorite at NCAAs, which is another reason why we don't think Oregon will win, as Wisco has coughed it up quite a few titles the last few years (someone please tell us how it was possible for Chris Solinsky to finish 73rd last year?). We think they'll find it much easier to run as the underdogs. They have a ton of depth and appear to be the 2nd best team on paper. Probably more upside than Iona and certainly way, way more depth.
Wisco put 5 in the top 10 at Big 10s. Sick. But if they couldn't win last year with Eagon, Nelson, Withrow and Solinsky, why would we pick them this year? They have a big 1-2 punch like Oregon's and there depth is a lot better. They have a very good chance.
Colorado? Who knows. They often steal the title from more talented teams and seem to be rounding into form nicely. At Pre-Nats, they were 2nd but only because they didn't have a fifth. Harkrader didn't run but he has been coming on nicely since then. 16th at Big 12s, 12th at the regional. His improvement gives them a real shot.
Arkansas? We'd love to see McDonnell win it and he says this team reminds him of his 2000 championship team. The only problem is best teams of the teams in 2007 would kill the best teams from 2000.
Official LetsRun.com Predictions Iona, Wisco, Colorado, Oregon, NAU, UTEP. (We're not really even focused on giving you our actual predictions. We just believe Iona, Wisco and maybe even Colorado are more likely to win than Oregon. It could be real tight and we could see any of the top 6 winning it or finishing 6th).
Individually? We're going with our main man Lopez Lomong of Northern Arizona. If you are talking about the long awaited American phenom, he is it. He's got the total package needed to boost the sport's popularity - speed, endurance and charisma. The guy loves the limelight and was born with star charisma. Just watching him stand up on stage at the banquet on Saturday night was striking. He looks like a winner.
His has the personality of a champion. He will win as well.
Rupp is a phenomenal competitor but he rarely wins. Josh McDougal has won everything in site but never an NCAA title. So we'll stick with Lomong. (And the voters in the LetsRun.com prediction contest, agree with us as well as Lopez got a lot of late votes and is the favorite in the prediction contest polls)
What about the women's race? Well there is no need to give you an elaborate analysis. Stanford and Sally Kipyego are rightfully heavy, heavy favorites.
Scoring last year's meet taking out the guys who graduated
Top 4 Returnees
Individual Place Last Year | Team Score Last Year 5k split \ 8k split \ 10k split Score This Year With Seniors Taken Out
More Opinions: Excellent Analysis on the Message Boards From Terminator X He looks at Oregon's spread, gives Rupp 1st place, Kiptoo 10th, and still has the Ducks coming up short.