TUCSON, AZ — The grandmommy of them all returns to Tucson this weekend as the fourth iteration of the venerable Dust Devil tournament goes off on Saturday and Sunday. Headlined by top seeds Carolina and Tucson, the results of this weekend’s action will go a long way towards determining the bottom seeds in the fall’s West Region tournament.
DNN brings you whistle-to-whistle coverage of Dust Devil 2011 all weekend long. Action starts at 9am Pacific on Saturday April 2, with the last game starting at 6:45pm; Sunday action starts at 10:00am with the championship bout at 5pm.
In February 2006, Tucson was arguably the site of the modern birth of national roller derby competition when it played host to the first flat-track tournament, the Dust Devil. Texas claimed that one with a win over Tucson and in so doing became the first unofficial national champions. The Dust Devil returned in February 2007 as the Western Regional tournament, with Rat City beating Tucson in that final. The tournament went dormant for 2008 and 2009 before returning as an invitational multi-bout event in April 2010.
This weekend, the tournament returns to an elimination format featuring 10 WFTDA West region teams and one visitor each from the South Central (Assassination City) and from the East (Carolina). The top four seeds — #1 Carolina, #2 Tucson, #3 Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, CO) and #4 Angel City (Los Angeles, CA) — each receive an opening-round bye.
Though the tournament doesn’t feature any of the top teams of the West region, it is likely to have some ramifications for the WFTDA West Region tournament in the fall. At #9 and #10 in the region respectively, Tucson and Pikes Peak essentially represent the gatekeepers for invites to the ten-team regional — any West team that can knock one or both off at least puts themselves solidly in the mix for an invite, and a first place finish at this tournament would all but guarantee a ticket.
The regional picture is also colored a bit by the incipient departure of previous West region team Duke City (Albuquerque, NM), who was moved to the South Central region at the end of the 2010 season but is still officially ranked #11 in the West. When their status finally officially changes in the next ranking period, it’ll move current West #12 Angel City and West #13 Arizona one spot up, slotting them directly behind Tucson and Pikes Peak on the other side of the ten-team divide.
There are a couple of peculiar seeding choices that may lead to on-paper upsets in the first round. Arizona is the #5 seed in this tournament, but is unlikely to have an easy walk over bottom seed #12 Santa Cruz (10:45am Saturday) — Santa Cruz narrowly beat Arizona at last year’s Dust Devil, 97-84. The winner there gets Angel City (2:15 Saturday), a team that went winless in 2010, meaning that bottom seed Santa Cruz might have a path all the way to the semifinals if they play well — however, should they get that far, they will probably find the going a lot harder against top seed Carolina.
Likewise, #6 seed Assassination City (Dallas, TX), winless in 2011 with losses to long-struggling teams in Big Easy and Oklahoma City, goes up against a #11 seed in Silicon Valley (10am Saturday) that is on a 6 game winning streak that includes two close wins over #7 seed Bellingham and a 135-point blowout of #8 seed Sin City (Las Vegas, NV). The winner will get a tough followup when they take on Pikes Peak next, though (1:30pm Saturday).
The matchup between #8 seed Sin City and #9 seed Pacific (9am Saturday) is an interesting rubber match; each team represents the other’s only victory in the midst of long losing streaks. Pacific beat Sin City by 18 at the 2010 Wild West Showdown for their only WFTDA sanctioned victory ever (they’re 1-7 all-time) but Sin City got revenge in a 37 point win three months ago in January. That game marked Sin City’s first WFTDA win in three and a half years, but they’re still a dismal 1-19 in sanctioned play since mid-2007. Whoever gets out of this one probably won’t go any further as they face top seed Carolina next (12:30pm Saturday).
Finally, #10 seed FoCo (Fort Collins, CO) is playing for respect this weekend after going winless in both 2010 and 2011, with 2010 seeing two enormous losses of 352 and 377 points to Pikes Peak and Denver; they get #7 seed Bellingham in the first round (11:45am Saturday), with the winner facing #2 seed Tucson (3:15pm Saturday).