In small room on the second floor of the K-State Student Union, 10 club members sit, buzzers in hand, attempting to answer questions ranging from history to philosophy to math. The questions and answers form a frame of reference for these Kansas State Quiz Bowl Club members that may come in handy when they travel to Chicago to compete in their first national tournament.
The club will compete at the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament, hosted by the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC., this Saturday. Zach Arnberger, senior in history; Jason Beets, senior in journalism and mass communications; Ben Detrixhe, a 2013 alumnus; Brian Hampel, senior in architecture; and Trevor Steiner, club president and senior in biology, will represent K-State while contesting for the national championship.
Last year, the team narrowly missed the at-large bid (an invitation to attend the tournament) which is determined by the intensity of a club’s competition schedule and average points earned per game. With a stronger schedule, two strong wins over top teams and an higher points-per-game average than last year, the team comfortably received their first invitation and qualified for the Division II part of the tournament of 32 teams this year. To be ranked as Division I, at least one team member must have received an invitation to a national tournament.
Teams compete by answering toss-up questions on topics such as history, literature, science, fine arts, current events, sports and popular culture. Each round consists of 20 questions. The sports and popular culture categories are commonly called “trash” and account for an average of one question per game.
“So you’ll be going along and have some famous novel, or some history concept, and then they’ll have a question on something totally random,” Detrixhe, former club president and member of the national team, said.
Team members can buzz in and answer on their own, without talking to the other group members. In addition, either team can buzz in and have a chance to answer three-part bonus questions that they confer about as a team.
One question Beets said he remembers dealt with misleading phrasing that required identifying a fictional monster based on given character traits.
“You think it’s this (monster from a) really deep, deep self-reflective novel or something, and it turns out that the monster was like Cookie Monster,” Beets said.
Intercollegiate Championship Tournament
At the tournament this weekend, teams will compete round-robin style in a pool of eight teams. After seven rounds, the teams will be re-pooled and play six more rounds against different teams. From there, the two teams with the best records will advance to the finals. The team estimates they’ll win 30-40 percent of their games, but said since they don’t know who they’re playing, they won’t know for sure.
“Not knowing the field, the best thing you can do is if you’re going to go down, throw some bombs (upsets) before you do,” Kenneth Uphoff, adviser and former club member, said.
Detrixhe said that while the team hopes to pull a couple of upsets and blow out a couple of teams, they know it will not be easy.
“It’s kind of hard to pull an upset because you’re not going to know something that you didn’t (know) going in to the round,” Detrixhe said. “It’s not like basketball where it goes up and oh, it went in.”
‘You know it or you don’t’
Most of the players said they do not study outside of practice, but instead use the knowledge they learn from classes.
“Our philosophy is more like, ‘it’s either you know it or you don’t,'” Detrixhe said. “If it interests us, we’ll look up more about it. But if it doesn’t interest us, then we won’t try to beat our brains out learning it.”
The team said practice isn’t about memorizing facts, but practicing how to pick up on the obscure clues at the beginning of the question, as opposed to the general ones at the end. A competitor can buzz in and answer while the question is still being read if they can determine where the question is going.
“I’ve found practice is really good for improving
how quickly you get certain answers, not so much whether (or not) you get them,” Beets said.
Each member has a subject or two that they don’t tend to know the answer to.
“Anything to do with calculus … I pretty much just rested my eyelids,” Uphoff said. “It’s
not necessarily about being here from the beginning, it’s not necessarily about
having your best people, like all five of your top scorers. But if you can get
say, Zach, who is big on history, Ben who’s big on geography and literature,
Jessica who’s big on math, Katie and Trevor who are big on science, you can
cover so many bases that way. So it’s good to have the balance.”