The 2021 ACL Cornhole Mania is here, the second ACL National of the season. Looking back at the first ACL National, there are plenty of lessons to be learned and players to noted. You all should know me by now, I am a firm believer in "who's hot, stays hot". Therefore, you should expect my predictions and expectations to mimic the results we saw in Florida.....for the most part. Before we dive in, let's talk details. The 2021 ACL Cornhole Mania will take place on campus at Wichita State University in Wichita, KS. The bulk of tournament play will take place in the Heskett Center, with the featured broadcast court delivering the highest-staked matches being located in the Charles Koch Arena, home of the Wichita State Shockers basketball team. Three days of non-stop cornhole action will deliver us National champions, following in the footsteps of Daymon Dennis and Jordan Camba and James Baldwin, who emerged as champions in Pro Singles and Pro Doubles, respectively, at the 2021 ACL Kickoff Battle.
Players that Need No Introduction
If Daymon Dennis earned anything at the Kickoff Battle, it's the privilege to be the first person named in this section. Dennis did everything right in Florida. The craziest stat to me has to be his unbelievable 1.07 Differential-Per-Round (DPR), meaning every round he threw in singles was valued above 1 point towards his score. For reference, the difference between 1st place DPR in Pro Singles in Florida and 2nd place DPR was 0.30. What place would 0.30 below 2nd place get you at a value of 0.47? 21st place. Folks, 1st and 2nd place had the same gap in average round differential as 2nd and 21st place. Digest that for a minute. If that tells you anything, it's that not only was Dennis good, he was brilliant. Being the #1 seed in Kansas will certainly benefit him, but the biggest question will be "can he do it again?" I've heard some rumblings about Dennis' bracket to get the victory, and to an extent, they are correct. In fact, Dennis did not have to play a single top 10 Pro Singles player from the 2019-2020 season on the way to his victory. However, you can't argue the #1 in PPR and #1 in DPR, and for that reason alone, Dennis should be right back near the top.
I then have to look at doubles partners Matt Guy and Jamie Graham. The funny thing about these two is that they came in 3rd in Pro Doubles and 5th and 9th, respectively, in Pro Singles and their event was viewed as a disappointment. That should be more of a testament to how good they really are than anything. Both Graham and Guy left the Kickoff Battle and subsequently took down their own conference singles events in dominating fashion. All the talk about adjusting to new bags should be done, as they've shown they can handle the Fire bags just fine. Graham is 9th in Total PPR and 5th in Total DPR, whereas Guy sits at #2 in both categories. Both players averaged a 9.00 PPR in the last game they played together, which really wasn't that bad. They just ran into a deadly Camba and Baldwin. Guy and Graham will be there at the end again.
Three doubles teams right now seem to be living at the forefront of my mind: Jimmy McGuffin/Greg Geary, James Baldwin/Jordan Camba, and Noah Wooten/Matthew Sorrells. The reason that they all interest me is because not only are they top 10 teams in Pro Doubles, I am high on all six of these players to compete well in Pro Singles. Wooten has started an incredible MVP resume season, matching Cody Henderson as the only player to make the final four playoff in both Pro Singles and Pro Doubles in Florida. His partner on the other end, Sorrells, had a subpar start to his season by his standards, but I like his bracket path in Singles and he is the type of player that you need to avoid getting hot, after all he is a former World Champion and made a singles final four just over a year ago. McGuffin and Geary finished 2019-2020 as the Team of the Year and are in decent position at 9th to make another run with some stronger finishes in the middle of the season. McGuffin in particular in singles has been of interest to me, who recently came in 2nd at the Mid-South Conference event (losing to Matt Guy), and sits 6th in DPR in the Pro Division. Finally, I have to mention Camba and Baldwin because I absolutely wrote them off going into Florida. They are not beginning of the season type players, they had not been practicing and finishing consistently high, and had not done anything to indicate they could come through and win a Pro Doubles National. But guess what? They did. And they did so by both players finishing top 4 in PPR in Pro Doubles, meaning they were putting bag after bag in the hole, not relying on the airmail and block game...which makes their win even more puzzling to me. Because I can't explain their win in Florida, I expect them to at least come close to doing it all again. Why not?
Two wild card teams that are actually not wild cards at all are Adam Hissner/Cody Henderson and Dalton Mcklem/Kyle Malone. Hissner and Henderson were dominant until the semifinals, but their style of play always opens the door for up-and-down performances. Henderson was obviously amazing in Florida, but the puzzling stat for me was that across both divisions he was only 18th in DPR, meaning almost every game he played was close. So yes, he has the beginning of an MVP season, but you can't continuously win close games all the time, odds eventually take over. Mcklem and Malone swept both Nationals last season, and this is the first time we will see the pair this season, with Mcklem missing the first National. These two are coming off of a 2nd place finish in Tier 1 Doubles at the Jacksonville Open, the only wild card on this team is if Mcklem is season-ready.
On the Women's Side, Cheyenne Renner and Sarah Cassidy are giving me 2019 Christine Papcke and Stacia Pugh vibes. They are the best team in the division for the year, and you almost find yourself asking "will they win every event this year?". I feel like I've tweeted out Renner's statistics a hundred times, but she is unbelievable. Allison Peters and Maya Cupp seem to be the best candidate for taking them down this season, but I also think that Samantha Finley and Rosie Streker are now in prime position for a comeback. I hyped them up so much for Florida and I just don't think Streker had quite yet scraped the rust off her game. After a Tier 2 Singles and Doubles win at the Jacksonville Open, I expect Finley and Streker to put up a stronger fight in Wichita. Christine Papcke and Courtney Coy are surprisingly the wild card in this division. Even though both are highly decorated in the ACL, they have been so hit or miss recently. For now, the crowns belong to Renner and Cassidy, the question is for how long.
Players that Will Introduce (or Re-Introduce) Themselves
I personally belong to the AJ Sims fan club, and have said numerous times that my expectations for Sims are through the roof this year. In Florida, Sims lost a heartbreaker to Matthew Stout (who finished 2nd in PPR in Singles, only falling short to Dennis) and then a head-scratcher to Nick Schafer. But, Sims followed that up by winning his stack bracket, taking down Eddie Grinderslev and Devon Harbaugh in the process. Although 65th in the rankings isn't pretty, I'm expecting a reintroduction. Bret Guy is another player that is always overlooked because of his relation to Matt Guy. Bret Guy was 4th in Singles PPR in Florida. After losing his first to Cheyenne Renner, Guy rattled off a few wins before meeting "The Robot" Trey Burchfield in the loser's bracket to put him out. Don't overlook Bret, the stats don't lie.
Mike Harvey also has to be on this list because of the wild differential between his singles and doubles ranking. Harvey currently sits 5th in Pro Doubles and 133rd in Pro Singles. No offense at all to James Washington, but I promise you it's not as if Washington single-handedly carried the team in doubles all tournament long. The singles hangover for Harvey I am chalking up to a lack of experience in National play. With one event under the belt, I expect Harvey to be more mentally focused and to play a more well-balanced game across both divisions. Time will tell if he can fully live up to his doubles performance, where he led all Pros in Doubles in PPR. The last player I think that is poised for a breakout is Jacob Beamer. You heard me earlier praise Matthew Sorrells for how great he is, well Beamer made quick work of Sorrells back in Florida...TWICE. The Ohio kid can straight sling it. His only two losses? Matt Guy and Tyler Poythress, who met in an intense duel in their bracket finals. Not a bad start to the season for the young gun. Bet on Beamer.
Players that Need to be Introduced
I could take this section to rub some salt in the wounds of players who definitely underperformed, but instead I'll focus on those that I think will rebound the strongest. First has to be Lester Price. At #195 in Pro Singles and #41 in Pro Doubles, Price can only go up from here, and absolutely will. Price, as a former World Doubles Champion, is simply just too good to be ranked where he is. Tom Gustafson, Haseeb Habiban, and Kaleb Batson are all in a similar boat. They all had a decent to great start to the season in Doubles, but need to follow up a 100+ finish in Florida with a significantly stronger one. Timothy Pitcher, Jay Dotson, and Derrick King all finished outside the top 100 in Pro Singles, and are absolutely top 100 players. Because of their low seeding, they are going to have to play well in their very first matchup. So, look to know very early which of those three are best poised to make a resurging run in their bracket.
1st - Jimmy McGuffin
2nd - Matt Guy
t-3rd - Jamie Graham
t-3rd - Matthew Sorrells
1st - Wooten/Sorrells
2nd - McGuffin/Geary
t-3rd - Malone/Mcklem
t-3rd - Guy/Graham
Pro Women's Doubles
1st - Renner/Cassidy
2nd - Peters/Cupp
3rd - Streker/Finley
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