Ok, let’s get into it.
Psyche, lol. You probably thought I was going to rank the teams and start a huge flame war. Not today! I am going to do something different.
Here’s the thing. I like debaters in all stages of development. I like the novice who is diving in because they don’t know what they have gotten themselves into and how great it is going to be. I like the kids who have decided varsity debate is for them and they are out here scrapping. I like people who are finally breaking through with arguments they have researched on their own. I like the programs that are setting new peaks for themselves or are successfully undergoing a reboot. There is a lot to love.
I enjoy first round bid teams and applicants a lot. They are the best of the best. They push your own teams to be the best. They are out here innovating. Most of the time they are the oldest members of a class so you have the most memories of them. Debate would be so incredibly boring without this back and forth at the top, both as a coach and as a lover and observer of the game.
This week is not fun for a handful of teams. Being on the bubble is brutal. I can speak from personal experience as a debater (#18, wtf, #thanksDallas #thanksOmar) and as a coach (UK has gotten the #16 twice in three seasons (#goCats)). So I think it is important in this stressful time to take a step back, appreciate the journey and for people to know the season was fun and the post season tournaments can be funner still.
My thoughts on the first round applicant teams, in tabroom order:
1. Baylor RW
Very impressive for a sophomore/junior combo. Can definitely punch above their weight. They take speaking in paragraphs to a whole new level (flow-ability be damned!). I love any team that can resort to Baudrillard in a pinch. I like it when they talk about Afro-pessimism too because they are really attempting to push the bounds of how that argument is articulated. I often hear a new angle that I hadn’t really thought of before. Historically similar to the way Marquis Ard used to debate which I enjoyed. I also enjoy their commitment to research. You wouldn’t think all their cards need to be from 2017 and 18, but I love a team always looking for card upgrades.
2. Baylor TZ
This might be Zoda-centric because I have judged him a million times and I do not believe I have had the pleasure of meeting Jonas Thraser-Evers yet. I love semiocapitalism and Robin James cards. I love “gz” at the end of cards and am still mad I gave up the practice of initialing evidence. I love all the schools of thought this team dabbles in, very flexible. Love the commitment to trying to be as specific as possible. Their wiki practices=bad, but of course I get and enjoy the docs regardless. You knew someone had to be the “affective investments in the presidency” team before the year started and I am glad this team followed through.
3. Binghamton AY
Got off to a bit of a slow start, but a really strong 2nd semester. Another very flexible team on the Neg. I am here for any team that will 1NC Robin James, Shannon Walsh and Ingrid Hoofd. That’s NICE. Also on the Aff they say “Counter-Interpretation – the Aff can either Affirm or Negate the resolution” with a card which is pretty funny and really makes you think. I am not aware of any Binghamton first round teams in the past so this is potentially one of those new peaks for a program, and for a deserving team.
4. Dartmouth ET
Keeping the reps K alive, love it. Saying psychoanalysis bad, love it. PIC’ing out of random stuff K Affs say, love it. This arms sales Aff looks cool. Two wins at the Dartmouth RR as sophs, legit. The return of Dartmouth debate seems to be in strong, capable and very slow-speaking hands. Also I have to issue a formal apology. I never understood (and still don’t) what the OFAC Aff is. I just wanted to be edgy.
5. Emory GS
First thing that popped into my head: they do this thing where they functionally drop stuff early, but pull it together in the 1AR and 2AR. Which is pretty annoying, but also pretty effective. They read a lot of Affs. That’s great. They are pretty fast. That’s fun. They read the Romney DA. That wasn’t great. They have an affinity for NAFTA-based args. I respect it. Their first 2NR this year was C02 ag, lol. They take UK cards so their reading comprehension is very good (#goCats).
6. Harvard CM
Very good against new Affs. Strong abuser of conditionality. Impact turning stuff and CP’ing out of it all=rude but awesome. Managed to read two Affs so my preseason bet “under 1.5 Affs before the NDT” didn’t pay out (in before they say they read 3 because NFU and NFU to China are different Affs). Sophomore getting called up to debate with a badass senior is serious business but former debater of mine John Cooper has held his own well. Must be because I taught him everything he knows. I love how they fiated disarm. Like hey, no corner cutting, read movement cards like everybody else.
7. Indiana AD
I believe Harry has debated with four different people in four years. I absolutely love when a program is reaching a new level of success (which I have said many times, I know). If there was a Most Improved Debater award (and there obviously should be), Harry would definitely win it. This guy is just a machine, debates with a level of ruthless efficiency you don’t usually see.
I am not erasing Cameron either. I am acutely aware of when a young debater is thrown in to debate with a much more experienced senior. It is a heavy and unique burden. Cameron has made huge strides when I’ve seen them debate on Monday. Always takes two debaters to get those W’s and very happy for the regular season success Indiana has achieved.
8. Liberty HT
I think Liberty is a very strategic team. Focusing debates more often on issues of accessibility rather than abstractions makes them difficult to debate. De-emphasizing evidence forces opponents onto unfamiliar ground. Debaters take for granted how much time slinging cards fill up and the difficulty of having to be articulate for 6 to 9 minutes. Well coached and prepared. Another pair of debaters in a long line of Liberty debaters that didn’t debate in high school who were a ballot away from winning a national tournament. You love to see it.
9. Northwestern JW
Former labbie Gabe and former corn shucker Joey have come a long way. I have not seen them debate for literal months. I like how NU is all “ugh single payer is so boring, we have to read ACA and public option” and this year it’s all “ugh, NFU is so boring we have to like fiat whatever we want about the nuclear arsenal.” But as far as I am aware no one successfully called them on it so to the victor goes the spoils. Neg highlight is obviously linking teams to dedev and then winning. It’s like those lessons you learn on the mean streets of the Iowa debate circuit don’t become outdated. Scrappy beginnings to a team that won a major tournament. Great stuff.
10. Oklahoma JS
Volatile team, but clearly capable of beating anyone. I always have respect for a team this proficient in going for psychoanalysis (debate from Dartmouth is a pretty good example of this). They dabble in going for topicality. Love keeping people honest. I like what they bring to debates about settler colonialism on the Aff and Neg. Always trying to find some new angles. I think in general there has been less of an arms race over settler colonialism and answering it as other K subjects and OU is certainly reaping the rewards being so well versed.
11. Oklahoma PW
They have not crossed my path very often this year. They don’t have a wiki to surf L. They seem to be one of the strongest teams in terms of K vs K debates. Kind of team that feels underrated and could win CEDA and make it to the NDT semi’s or better.
12. Rutgers AH
If I am correct this team is a sophomore and frosh. And the frosh did LD in high school. And they won a major tournament this year. Woah. That’s incredible. Another team that hasn’t crossed my path as much as I would like. I am sure to get briefed before post season tournaments. Against BT at Northwestern they said “The affirmative must advocate for a restriction that is tied to and dependent on the bodies and voices of the speakers. Grounded activism makes performance political” which I find to be a very challenging and rewarding type of argument to engage with. I always like it when D7 debate is strong and thriving.
13. UNLV HS
Kudos to whoever pushed the sanctions Aff idea. Very unique angle to attack the topic. I wonder how many people can say they landed on a very novel and strategic approach to a given topic. In the octas of Northwestern they read the courts, esr, treaties and concon CP’s! It’s that commitment to negative fiat I find endearing. They reached new heights last year as a squad and are sustaining it this year. That shows their squad and process is on the right track and bigger than a given debater. That’s awesome.
14. UC Berkeley FG
Very good 1AC’s. New and precise cards. Carefully crafted. They have an affinity for laundry list type cards that I am not sure about, but it is working for them. Conflict of interest Aff was fun and creative. Like the hardline approaches they take in K debates. Somebody has to be that team. Just another form of keeping folks honest.
15. UC Berkeley NR
Their Neg wiki is really cool. They are both sophomores I believe. Proven to be a very a tough out already. Sky is the limit. Some very impressive wins on the resume.
16. UGA AR
To this day the biggest mystery of the topic is UGA AR breaking a nondel Aff in the octas of Gonzaga. Nobody from UGA has told me why that happened. They read single payer for an entire year. They read NSA’s for an entire year minus one debate??? But why???? I love how on the one hand even they had to concede politics was bad and start going for other stuff. On the other I like how there is not a number of 2AC arguments that can deter them from going for court capital (see Dartmouth RR for proof). Being flashy is fun, but being consistent and just beating people on stuff they know is coming demonstrates some real mastery of the craft. I taught Advait how to flow and now he is part of one of the best teams in the country. Cool.
17. UGA RS
Ah, a real UGA team who just reads the same Aff every round. Thank you! The NSA’s + Sabotage Aff combo has proven remarkably durable. A good amount has been thrown at this NSA’s Aff and it is still standing. Just two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I think people are still underrating them. They are SO good. They are my pick for some kind of epic 7 judge throwdown in the quarters of the NDT that takes like 4 hours. Will it be on the NSA Aff?? Time will tell!
18. Kansas HM
South Korean auto tariffs. Was that when it became clear this topic was a free for all? Kansas HM knows what’s up on the Neg. Assurance DA? Good. Saudi Oil DA? Good on every topic. I just love debaters from Kansas. I love them in lab, my team and at tournaments. They make this unsavory business so wholesome.
19. Kentucky BT
They are fine. Next.
20. Louisville BY
I believe this is a sophomore/frosh pairing once again. Could be wrong on that. Wish I knew more about this team. I only saw their GSU doubles debate many moons ago. Going to have to do my homework going into the NDT. Results speak for themselves. Young duo who focus the debate on the core issues they want to engage in who are going to make a lot of noise this year and the ones to follow.
21. Michigan GW
They read a lot of Affs, which I enjoy. They have respect for the Adv CP which I myself respect. I like watching them in clash debates. That is high praise because clash debates are not necessarily must see TV, but I like Michigan’s approach and execution. Michigan GW also some of the nicest people you could meet. They seem to be good shepherds of the Michigan program. Big team, seem to have fun and enjoy each other. They drew me into a flame war that I really don’t think would have happened if people knew they were joking, but w/e. All is forgiven.
22. Wake EF
I have never seen Wake EF debate on the Neg so my comments are Aff-centric. First, they do ins and outs. Old school tactic. It’s awesome. Second, their approach to answering framework is very thorough. Some teams do really well with having 2-4 big conceptual things clash with framework. Wake EF has that sort of thing going on built into the 1AC, but they also don’t cede any ground. They make arguments from all the angles. They engage in more of a theory debate paired with a more substantive turn debate. Very interesting and hard to counter. I am still too dumb to really get what was going on with the story Aff after seeing it in action like three times. I like how there is a Bricker card in every 2AC though, that’s funny.
23. Honorable Mention--Iowa GL
Not eligible to apply, but a very strong contender for a first round if they could. Two hard workers with a love of the game who get deep inito the lit. Nothing but respect. Sorry for the circumstances that prevent your NDT participation.
Thank you to all the teams for caring as much as you do and trying as hard as you do to force your opponents and arguments to new heights. Regardless of what happens on Monday, all the teams are immensely talented and the NDT is sure to be a bloodbath as usual.
I am Lincoln, retired debate coach . This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.