College Championship Round of 32 Preview: Matches to Watch
The last four teams finally slotted into place, the 2021 Collegiate League of Legends Championship bracket is locked in. 32 teams, from the ever-strong North Conference to the traditional roots of the Big East, makeup CLoL’s largest Championship bracket ever. Title favorites, conference champions and upstart contenders all play with their backs against the wall starting this Saturday, May 1st.
Here’s a preview of potential electrifying matchups to watch in the Round of 32:
#14 NORTHEASTERN VS #19 GEORGE MASON
SAT 11AM PST/2PM EST ─ UpsurgeEsports
First year in a new conference? No problem for Northeastern, who finished the season as the Esports Collegiate Conference Champion. The Huskies locked in their College Championship spot with a 2-1 series win over Buffalo after defeating fellow ESC frontrunner Miami, 2-1, in the semifinals.
Northeastern, who missed the playoffs the year previous in the East, buckled down this season to improve.
“The players have really put in the work this year,” said “x B R A V O x,” the Northeastern team manager. “We’ve collectively built a really positive environment for growth.”
Part of that growth involved role swapping. Former toplaner “Stale Bagel” switched to jungle, with former jungler “ask 4 soundcloud” switching to support. x B R A V O x mentioned the swap built upon the players’ strong dynamic and formed a synchronized jungle-support relationship.
“Ryan [ask 4 soundcloud] had mentioned he felt he could contribute a lot more to the team as a support player. He was like, ‘Hey man, if you can figure this whole jungle thing out, I think we could be really, really good.’”
“Toby [Stale Bagel] put in a lot of effort in the past one and a half years to make that difficult transition into the jungle role and I think he’s really stepped up.”
The improvements show for Northeastern as a whole, who bring an underrated amount of firepower into the Collegiate Championship.
“I think people should expect a scrappiness and a desire to win,” x B R A V O x said of Northeastern. “Everybody is peaking at the right time.”
If you’re looking for a good example of resilience as a team and strong mental game, look no further than the South Conference’s third seed. George Mason went down 2-0 in their third place series against NC State, before falling behind six kills and 2,000 gold in game three. GMU battled back, winning game three and reverse sweeping to clinch their spot in the College Championship.
“Let’s forget about what happened in the previous games and just play our own game,” GMU botlaner “Enrique” said. “We got momentum and just ran with it.”
Their win is no fluke. George Mason’s core of jungler “Amar Int,” Enrique and support “Lefasa” flow seamlessly together to power the squad’s synergy. Early game movements and pressure flourished during the series, something Enrique credits to the trio’s high level experience from UPL Winter this season.
A school-focused semester kept solo laners “pe9qgr3qr97qganz” and “jinx gf” from getting as much practice as the rest of the team. What they lack in practice however, is buoyed by unique champion pools and raw talent.
Despite minimal scrim hours and coordinated team practice, GMU presents a dangerous challenge: they have yet to peak.
“We’re five better players, we will just outlane you and win the game,” Enrique said of their original approach in matches. “We’re starting to grasp the idea of playing mid-game macro beyond just if we don’t win lane, we lose the game.”
“We can guide them as we play with them,” Enrique said in regards to integrating their solo lanes. “We want to be able to give them the game plan and have them just follow up.”
A team constantly improving and adapting mixed with an immense mental fortitude? Don’t be surprised if George Mason gives anyone a run for their money.
“Last year got cancelled so we never got to show off what we had,” Enrique said. “Maybe this year we will show something.”
#16 TORONTO VS #17 BOISE STATE
SUN 2PM PST/5PM EST ─ Academy
A week five loss to York gave Toronto the jumpstart they needed right before the playoffs. The team ramped up their vod reviews and scrims just before playoffs, where they swept Stony Brook in the first round. After losing to Harrisburg, York faced them again with a College Championship spot on the line. Toronto swept them, clinching a berth on the national stage.
“We were awakened,” Toronto botlaner “Siekomode” said, referring to their first match against York. “We realized that we really needed to practice.”
Improvement came easy for Toronto, who developed powerful bonds over the last two seasons.
“They’ve become really close friends,” Toronto team manager “Eluulu” said. “Stuff like that has really helped their communication and teamwork.”
“We always trust in each other and can always improve,” Siekomode said. “We always learn from our losses and get better from it.”
Toronto returns to the College Championship for the first time since 2017, where they finished second behind Maryville. Siekomode credits the return to their individual skill and adaptability.
“We don’t just stick to one style,” Siekomode said. “It’s one of our strengths because of how adaptable our players are and also how strong each of us are individually.”
Midlaner “DeafRef” and support “LittleFrosty” showcased that adaptability first hand. In the York playoff series, DeafRef flexed his Swain to bot, while LittleFrosty took the midlane on his signature Twisted Fate.
“It makes our draft really threatening,” Siekomode said. DeafRef’s unique champion pool only adds to Toronto’s unorthodox and aggressive play. Don’t be surprised if someone isn’t playing where─or what─you expect.
“It’s almost like a rag-tag group of friends,” said Eluulu. “They’ll pick whichever champions they’re comfortable on and make it work.”
One of the most experienced teams in the College Championship, Boise State touts a roster at the forefront of the Mountain West Conference every single year. Three straight perfect regular seasons serve to illustrate how dominant BSU continues to be.
The teams have come a long way, according to Boise State Assistant Coach “NotKoba,” who said the program started playing in Head Coach Dr. Chris Haskell’s office. They upgraded to labs and an arena.
“They’ve all been around seeing just how much our program has adapted,” NotKoba said of the Boise State players.
Jungler “Red Hots,” toplaner “Goblin” and support “Deañ” all bring three plus years of collegiate experience to the table. Newcomers in midlaner “Ascent” and jungler “eThug” contain a wealth of amateur practice. NotKoba emphasized how everyone’s knowledge creates a powerful team.
“It gives a different perspective,” NotKoba said. “The more things you’ve played in the more experience you have, the more play styles you’ve seen. What works well with this team isn’t always gonna be what’s best for our team.”
“It lets you adapt to whatever your strong suit is.”
Adapting clearly presented itself this season for Boise State. A multi-role swap occurred in week four of the regular season, with eThug transferring from jungle to bot. Goblin switched to top and Red Hots found his place in the jungle. By loading up their botlane, the team felt it gave BSU the best chance to win in the Mountain West.
After another perfect regular season, Boise State came up short to Colorado State, 2-0, in the finals. Still qualifying for the College Championship, NotKoba remains far from concerned about the squad’s performance.
“I don’t think it fully influences how we’re going into this national stage,” NotKoba said. “We’re looking forward to competing at the highest level.”
Part of his confidence comes from the additions made on the coaching staff this season. Former CLoL standout “Wujin,” along with Dr. Haskell and NotKoba himself make it rather easy for the players to simply play. Boise State is prepared for anything this College Championship.
“It’s a combination of everyone working together,” NotKoba said. “[It’s] given the players a lot more opportunities to focus on their play.”
“We’re looking to come in swinging.”
#15 GRAND VIEW VS #18 UC RIVERSIDE
SUN 5PM PST/8PM EST ─ UpsurgeEsports
A shrunken conference did little to slow down Grand View in the 2021 season. GVU dominated the competition on the way to their first Midwest Esports Conference Championship. A perfect regular season capped with a 2-0 win over Illinois College in the finals saw Grand View capture a College Championship bid without ever dropping a game.
GVU found multiple ways to stay engaged this season, which included only five teams in their conference after multiple dropouts. They played in over five different tournaments, including UPL, RCL and Stacked Spring Invitational.
“Most of our players want to play more than the bare minimum,” GVU jungler “Kolthro” said. “Going into the year we planned on playing in as many tournaments as we could get into.”
Grand View brings an almost unmatchable dedication to getting in quality practice and improvement. Any scrims scheduled or additional tournaments all come from the players.
“We’re basically all player-ran,” GVU botlaner “Azog” said. “We have a student staff that helps as a player, but we have no actual coaching staff.
Azog, along with toplaner “P1atypus,” midlaner “Koskinen” and support “Chookies” brought amatuer experience to a GVU team who barely missed playoffs in the North prior to swapping conferences. Azog played previously at Columbia College; P1atypus at Harrisburg; Koskinen at RMU. Chemistry grew over two seasons of play to form a highly-knowledgeable and highly-skilled squad.
“It’s pretty easy to understand where everyone is coming from and to get on board with certain ideas,” Kolthro said. “We’re all just on the same page.”
“I think it’s night and day when you compare GVU from two years ago to today.”
Although they fell a game short of a West Conference title, 2021 proved to be the best UC Riverside season of all time. Arizona State got the better of the Highlanders in both the regular season and the finals, but a close series and College Championship berth showcased major improvement.
UCR jungler “DAMLOSS GAMING,” mentioned the team is the best it’s ever been mechanically. A strong cohesion ties together the micro-gifted players to create a synchronized beast.
“We all have similar ideologies on how to play the game,” DAMLOSS GAMING said. “If the support calls a fight we’re always ready to turn or engage.”
“When we’re all united in that mindset that’s what makes us strong.”
UC Riverside proved their strength on more than one occasion. They took both the regular and postseason series from the West Conference third seed UC Berkeley. Perennial West Conference contender UBC also fell to the Highlanders in the playoffs.
“Our strong suit is playing around each other and knowing what to do at all times,” DAMLOSS GAMING said. Knowledge is key for DAMLOSS GAMING, who role swapped from midlane and dabbled as support. His multi-role experience shaped how he communicates with teammates, specifically veterans in toplaner “SSJ2GohanTop” and midlaner “asianknight.”
“I rely on them to first give me the insight as to how collegiate teams usually play,” DAMLOSS GAMING said. “Then I can put that into my own play and give my perspective.”
“I know how the lane states are so I try to play around that.”
The gameplay is entirely unified for UCR, who you never can count out according to DAMLOSS GAMING.
“Even if we fall behind in the early game, we always find a way to comeback in the teamfights.”
OTHER NOTABLE TEAMS IN ACTION
After dropping a series in Week Five of the regular season to Houston, 2-0, Winthrop kicked it up a notch. The Eagles swept three series in a row against UCF, George Mason and Houston enroute to a South Conference Championship. Former National Champion Botlaner “Saskio” leads Winthrop into action against Marist at 2 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST on the Academy Twitch channel, Saturday.
Maryville midlaner “Wolfe” (above) is the only returning member of the 2019 National Champions (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)
The 2019 Collegiate National Champions looked poised to repeat in 2020 before unfortunate pandemic circumstances ended the CLoL season. Maryville didn’t miss a beat in 2021. They finished the regular season undefeated, before rattling off playoff wins against fellow CLoL Championship teams in Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois State. Despite losing top-jungle duo of “Niles” and “Iconic” to the LCS, “Chippys” and “TheOddOrange” slotted in seamlessly for the North Conference Champions. MU’s first matchup against Montana State begins at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST on Academy, Saturday.
East Conference Champions Western redeemed themselves with a 3-1 series win against Harrisburg after falling short in the regular season. Canada’s top team returns to the big stage without multiple members from their 2019 Championship berth. A new and improved Western will look to make a deep run starting with RPI, who they faceoff against at 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST on Academy, Sunday.
A perfect season spoiled by Maryville, Illinois State stormed onto the scene in a big way. The Redbirds dealt losses to both Illinois and Illinois Wesleyan to reign supreme over the midwest state. Botlaner “Disconnector” brings immense collegiate experience to a strong contender from the North Conference. Illinois State plays at 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST on the UnifiedEA Twitch channel, Sunday, against Farmingdale.
Arizona State finished as kings of the West Conference for the first time in program history after sweeping meetings against UC San Diego and UC Riverside. A seamless transition to midlane for “CatOnThyRoof” finds ASU primed to make a deep championship run. NYIT meets them in the first round at 2 p.m. PST/5 p.m. EST on the UpsurgeEsports Twitch channel, Sunday.
The entirety of the Round of 32 will take place on May 1st and 2nd. The full schedule can be found here. Winners of matches this weekend move on to the Round of 16, which begins on May 8th and concludes on the 9th. The official schedule will be released on Monday, May 3rd here.
If you’re interested in how teams qualified for this year’s College Championship, you can check the official College Championship Rules here, along with the Selection Committee results and seedings here.
Follow me on Twitter (@wtlangan) and Collegiate Esports News (@cen_gg) to stay up-to-date with the CLoL Championship and all things collegiate esports!