BEAST IX Preview

            This Saturday, we have the Ninth Edition of JMU’s BEAST, which could be more appropriately named the “Maryland vs. Virginia Tournament”. Fortunately, each team will have a chance to play each other, so we’ll have a great chance to see how the East Coast stands coming into the new semester. None of these teams have played at all in the new year, so we’ll likely see some teams knock off the rust. Below is the schedule:

James Madison

Evan Eschenburg (center) will be relied on heavily in their home event

Opponents (in order): VCU, Towson, UVA, UMD

            Coming in at #4 in our Gonzalez rankings are the hosts, JMU. They’ll have a difficult start to the day, as they’ll start out with VCU, who most recently knocked them off in an overtime game back in November. They’ll look to get some revenge and reclaim their dominance over VCU. They can’t afford to have a slow start to the day, as they turn right around to take on Towson. The two split last semester’s matchups, going 1-1 to open the season at Towson. After a break, they take on Virginia and Maryland, who will be a change of pace for the Dukes. From what I hear, they’re looking forward to playing more games, since some people knocked them for not playing enough for one of the top teams in the country. Additionally, as the home team, they’ll likely have their full team there, bringing the firepower as always and will potentially be debuting some mid-season pickups.

Maryland

Maryland has an opportunity to get some upsets and improve their rank

Opponents: Towson, UVA, VCU, JMU

            Maryland starts the day off with an interstate matchup against rival Towson. They only saw each other once this past semester, which resulted in a win for Towson. I can only imagine that Maryland will come out firing, attempting to make a statement and get an early statement win. Next, they’ll have a matchup with UVA, who they dominated 5-0 to open up the season back in September. In their third straight game, they’ll face off with VCU, who they split games with in the fall, each going 1-1. Lastly, we’ll get to see the Terps play JMU, who they’ve only played once this season, falling 4-2. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here, as JMU most recently lost to VCU, VCU most recently lost to UMD, and UMD most recently lost to JMU. Hopefully this weekend will shed better light on how these teams stack up. Although they aren’t bringing a full 18, key players have made some massive strides so we’ll hopefully see some massive improvement.

Towson

Towson is looking for a strong second semester to defend their title

Opponents: UMD, JMU, VCU, UVA

            As stated before, Towson starts the day off against Maryland, in a game which they’ll likely be heavy favorites. Assuming they can hold off the Terps, we’ll be set up for a #2 vs. #4 matchup in the second timeslot. Having the best 3 loss resume in the NCDA, Towson only comes in with losses against #1 GVSU, #3 Ohio, and #4 JMU, by a combined 5 points. You can expect this game to be close and full of energy, as there’s a lot of bad blood between these two squads. Next on the agenda, we have a matchup against VCU. Towson has had their number, but I wouldn’t expect VCU to just roll over. To end the day, they square off against UVA, which will likely be another W in the books. Towson is about as well rounded as it gets, so they’ll have that advantage on Saturday. We’ll probably see Towson’s stellar rookie class make strides in this tournament, hopefully making names for themselves out of the East.

Virginia

Jeremy Shaw (center) is one of UVA’s most experienced players and will play an important role in guiding the team through a tough schedule

Opponents: UMD, JMU, VCU, Towson

            A bit of an odd-ball among this group of top 10 East Coast teams, UVA comes in at #24 Gonzalez Rankings. They don’t have a win over any of these teams this year, so they’re still searching for that signature win. They start the day off against Maryland, who they’ve swapped games with in the past, but was blown out, 5-0 in their only meeting this year. After a break, they have JMU, in their first matchup of the season. Surprisingly, these teams that are only an hour away from each other haven’t played since September of 2018. Next, UVA will get a shot at VCU, who they haven’t had luck against in two meetings this year. Lastly, they’ll test their luck against Towson. You can make your own assumptions of what will happen here. In an interesting development, UVA will be travelling with more than 12 to this tournament, which will provide a good change of pace for the Hoos.

Virginia Commonwealth

Ike Fleckenstein is looking to pick up a second consecutive win over in-state rival JMU

Opponents: JMU, UMD, Towson, UVA

            Lastly, we have #8 VCU (I put these in alphabetical order, chill). They’ll start their day out against JMU, who they recently knocked off in an OT match, as I mentioned earlier. They’ll be hoping for the same result here, as they could try to make a case for being the #2 team in the East. Next up, UMD. Although they swapped games in the fall, UMD had the upper hand in the most recent meeting in the neutral site of WVU. Both teams will have to travel near-equal distance to JMU, so this will be a great test for these two teams. In one of the closer matchups of the day, this will be a #8 vs. #10 showdown. They’ll move on to Towson, where they could potentially have another statement win. If their catching holds up, there’s always a chance here for a massive upset. Lastly, they’ll finish the day against VCU. I’d be shocked to see UVA pull this one off, but crazier things have happened. They’ll be dealing with the losses of Wayne Shortt and RJ Morgan, two VCU greats. However, this team has some of the best catchers on the East Coast, so they’ll hang in with every team at the tournament.

As always, we’ll have everybody’s favorite commentator, Shadeed Drakeford, calling the games, rotating between courts for the prime game of each time-slot. You’ll be able to find games on our Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch sites as the day goes on. I can’t think of a better way to spend your Saturday, especially since there isn’t anything else significant going on around the league.

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