Finishing up the content team’s predictions, here’s my top 10 to this point of the season.
Senior Content Writer Sean Smith:
1. Grand Valley State: 20-0
It’s hard to put Grand Valley anywhere other than #1. The games the Lakers have played in this year have been closer than they were last year, but nobody has managed to knock GV off of their perch. As usual I haven’t been able to see them up to this point in the season, but from what I’ve heard the team just keeps moving on and moving over other opponents. However, I do think that at some point this season somebody is going to knock off Grand Valley. Util that happens though I will continue to put them at the top of the league.
2. Central Michigan: 18-6
I preface this by saying that I think CMU, JMU and MSU are all right next to each other but I was forced to pick a spot for each. Normally, I would have JMU at this spot because I play them all the time and get beaten by them all the time, but that’s the problem. While they’re busy playing schools like me, CMU is playing what could reasonably be described as stiffer competition. With most of their games coming against the Michigan schools, and their recent successes against Michigan State, I thought the Chippewas were the best team to put at #2 for the time being. That being said, CMU will need to develop a few more arms if they want to be the #2 team (or possibly #1) by the end of the season.
3. James Madison: 8-0
I know I just said the Dukes haven’t played outside of the East Coast yet but I don’t think this can be held against them as much anymore. I want to see them play other schools, and I’m sure they will get the opportunity at BEAST IV. I think JMU and CMU would be a fantastic matchup to watch, strong throwing vs. strong catching, but until the Dukes play the Chips or another team from Michigan I find it hard to put them at #2 at this point. In my honest opinion though, I think JMU will end up as either #2 or #1 at the end of the season, and the only way I don’t see them making the championship game is if they run into GVSU in the semifinals and get bumped out there, or run into CMU or MSU and either of those teams have the best performance they have all year long.
4. Michigan State: 12-9
MSU might be the least deserving #4 in NCDA history. Not because they aren’t good enough for it, but because they could be higher, there just isn’t more space for them. Had they won the last couple matches against CMU I probably would have flipped the two of them, but this is where I have them at the current moment. I don’t know much about the Spartans, as they are one of three teams I have never been on the court against (GVSU and BGSU being the other two), but I’ve heard some good things from them. I think MSU has the potential to be a better team, but based on the results of their matches to this point I have them behind CMU and JMU.
5. Saginaw Valley State: 2-2
I haven’t seen or heard much about Saginaw this year but I have heard that they are lower in numbers. That being said, I’ve also heard they still have a good amount of talent, just no depth. While they did beat CMU and MSU earlier in the season, I think the lack of games played has probably hurt their development in comparison to CMU and MSU so I have to put SVSU down here for the time being. I’m not sure how much of a change there will be next semester with Max Siler taking the reins back as Captain, but right now I have only thing I need the Cardinals to do in order to consider moving them higher: play more games!
6. Maryland: 6-3
Warning, East Coast bias is about to be shown! UMD has clearly taken their experience from Nationals last year and brought it over to this year. The Terps have a great strategy, with catching being their best quality in my mind. Do I think they’re ready to jump to the elite level yet? No. But I think once you get done with JMU and the main 4 Michigan schools UMD truly deserves to be the next team up. They play very strongly together but are capable of a few breaks in the system which can ultimately lead to their downfall. Much like I’d love to see a catching v. throwing matchup in CMU v. JMU, I would love to see UMD play a heavy throwing team like OSU to see what happens.
7. Ohio State: 6-5
I may not have had the Buckeyes here originally but I think they deserve to be here at this point in the season. I know they lost their last match to Kent, but it did go into overtime which means it was probably a match that could have gone either way. Could Kent easily be 7 and OSU 8, sure. For now though, I’ll have the Buckeye’s here and Kent at 8. Having played Ohio State last year though, and knowing what I’ve been told about them this year, they will need to develop a lot more catching if they want to move any higher. Until then their arms will only be able to carry them but so far.
8. Kent State: 5-10
I’m still not 100% sure what to say about Kent, really only knowing a few of their current players. I really want to see them play so I can get a better sense of what they’re about, but for now I have them neck and neck with OSU. If I were to make a prediction as to where I’d have Kent at the end of the season, I would definitely say ahead of the Buckeyes, but for now I’ll keep them at 8. If the team can have rosters that are closer to their full 20 on a more consistent basis then I’ve heard talk they could create a lot of noise this season. Much like a team like Saginaw though, I will need to see what happens when the whole team can travel on a more consistent basis before I make my final judgement on Kent.
9. Towson: 3-5
I REALLY wish I could put my team higher than where I have them right now. I think if we have beaten UMD at least once, we would have a more legit claim to a #8 or #7 spot, but we haven’t been able to put that together yet. In terms of chemistry, this is the best Towson has ever been since our first match four years ago, but there’s still a lot of work for us to do. Unlike Maryland, we haven’t developed a knack for making timely or consistent catches. If we can do that, we could certainly make a lot of noise. We were not able to bring our big gun Joe Tobin to our last tournament, where we lost to UMD after we took a 1-0 lead, which I think was the difference between the actual result, and what could have been. As most know we rely heavily on Tobin in moments where we need one person to take over with their arm, and not having him was a big loss. Should he be able to make all of our spring tournaments we will definitely see what happens.
10. University of Wisconsin-Plateville 2-0
I could have a lot teams here at #10. I considered WKU and UK as well but ended up selecting UWP. I haven’t seen much from either of the three teams, but based on what I’ve heard Wisconsin has another solid collection of arms, but need to work on being more an overall team. They give the top tier teams a good run every match they play in, but need to figure out how to put all of the pieces together. Maybe they could move up further later in the year, but I struggle to put them any higher than #10 with the first two teams they’ve played being Nebraska and North Texas which haven’t been known for frequenting many tournaments.