The Crystal Ball is back to try to guess the banzuke before the real thing is released a week from today. I took a look at some of the key points in crafting the July banzuke right after the May tournament concluded; here I post my forecast for all the top-division rankings.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the only changes in the named ranks should be some reshuffles. May champion Terunofuji will continue to be the sole Yokozuna, the Ozeki order will change to Takakeisho, Mitakeumi, Shodai based on the May results, East Sekiwake Wakatakakage and East Komusubi Hoshoryu will keep their ranks, while West Sekiwake Abi and West Komusubi Daieisho will trade spots.
Despite the logjam at the top of the maegashira ranks, I am not predicting the creation of any extra san’yaku slots. Although these are frequently speculated about by fans, they have been used very sparingly post-2006, when the shimpan department seems to have changed its approach. Extra Komusubi slots have been used on just two occasions, involving a 9-6 M1e and a 13-2 M1w with nowhere else to go, while extra Sekiwake slots have been given either to demoted Ozeki or to Komusubi with 11+ wins.
The maegashira rankings actually arrange themselves fairly clearly this time except near the top and near the bottom. Here’s my guess; scroll down for my take on those two problem areas below.
The first question is what to do with the top 4 rikishi. Kiribayama, Takanosho, and Kotonowaka all need to be promoted, and they should be ranked in that order based on their performances. The only way to accomplish this is to move Ichinojo, who sat out the basho due to COVID protocols, down a rank. Such a demotion is unprecedented in Makuuchi, but it has been used in Juryo to deal with a logjam near the top of the rankings, and Isegahama has said in the past that the rank freeze is not a hard-and-fast rule and COVID kyujo would be handled on a case-by-case basis to ensure fairness. This seems like just such an occasion. The other solution is to flip Takanosho and Ichinojo; this would place Takanosho behind Kotonowaka and give him only a 2-rank promotion as a reward for an 11-4 record, but something almost as unfair happened to Onosho just two basho ago.
After that, the rankings largely fall into place down to M14e, aside from potential half-rank swaps. I’ve given the aforementioned Onosho (2-4-9 at M5e) the M14w slot, despite Ishiura receiving harsher treatment in a very similar situation last time. After that, I have the top promotion candidate from Juryo, Tsurugisho, followed by the last barely surviving incumbents, Oho and Yutakayama. I’ve placed my remaining predicted promotion candidates—Chiyomaru, Daiamami, and Nishikifuji—in the final 3 slots. I had Daiamami and Nishikifuji in Makuuchi, with Hidenoumi and Ryuden narrowly missing out, even before Herouth’s tip that Nishikifuji is listed in the top division on the Isegahama beya wall. Of course, it’s still possible that one or both of Hidenoumi and Ryuden could make it, either in place of Daiamami or by forcing down Yutakayama and possibly Oho. Really, nothing in this section of the banzuke would surprise me.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and come back in a week to see how the Crystal Ball fares compared to what the banzuke committee has cooked up.