BEAST VI Loaded with Talent

We are still in the beginning stages of the Spring Semester, but we will be off to an exciting start.  Let’s just say, this field is loaded.

This is definitely one of the toughest tournaments you’ll see in the NCDA this season.  The sixth installment of the BEAST will feature 5 of the current top 10 teams in the NCDA per Gonzalez standings, and is sure to stir the pot of the NCDA.  Every team will play 4 games each, so this will be a marathon to see who can outlast each other down the stretch.  Given all of the talent that will be on display this weekend, it would be tough to say any team has a true advantage.

To further illustrate the point, JMU, MSU, OSU, Towson, UK, and VCU have a combined record of 45-23-4, with 12 of those losses coming from playing each other this year.  Like I said, a very strong group of teams coming together in Harrisonburg, VA.

MSU

Schedule: VCU, Towson, JMU, OSU

Let’s start with the #2 team in the country.  The Core Four of MSU will be available this weekend which includes Colin O’Brien, Lucas Salinas, Alex Zajac, and Wes Peters.  Wes has already started to establish himself as a potential MVP candidate this year, and this will be a great opportunity for him to solidify his candidacy.  This group is certainly capable of going 4-0 on the weekend, and their tough competition in the Michigan region will prove to be important when competing against East Coast teams.

The biggest issue facing this team will be their depth.  They will only be traveling with 13 total players.  Four matches in one day is tough with a full squad, let alone being down two players against every opponent.  With such a top heavy lineup, it may be very difficult for this team to get back into games if they get down early.

MSU’s toughest opponents have to be Towson and JMU.  The two East Coast Powers have looked strong this year, and benefit from either little or no travel.  I’m sure the Spartans will want revenge from their overtime defeat to JMU last season, so expect that to be one of the biggest moments of the day.  That being said, MSU would be smart not to overlook VCU and OSU, who will be out to prove something this weekend.

UK

Schedule: Towson, JMU, OSU, VCU

There is no team that is hotter than the Wildcats.  This team has not lost since October 15th in an overtime defeat against a talented but inconsistent Kent State team.  What does that look like in numbers?  10 straight victories, and outscoring opponents 46-7 over that stretch…wow.  That is absolutely insane to think about.  However, don’t expect this team to walk out of the BEAST VI without any troubles.

In one of the many highly anticipated matchups this weekend, they will have the first crack at Towson.  This game will be a rematch of the First Round of the 2016 Nationals, resulting in a 3-2 win for UK.  Their matchup with JMU might be their biggest test of the year though.  It would be another signature win for this program to prove they belong in the upper echelon of the league.

UK will be traveling with 16 players, most notably captains Brandon Engelman, Colin Hiatt, and Ricardo Menchaca.  Other players to watch out for include Drew Greenwalt and Zach Parise.  If this team is able to walk out of BEAST VI undefeated, then I’d say there is no reason they can’t win a national championship this year.

JMU

Schedule: OSU, UK, MSU, Towson

This event could prove to be a wakeup call to the rest of the league that the Dukes of JMU are for real.  They want to prove that they are as good as anyone in the country, so they scheduled some of the best teams in the NCDA.  JMU has made it to the Final Four on multiple occasions, but they were unable to get past the second round last year after losing to MSU.  This will be their chance to make up for that loss.

Even though it might be hard to tell, this might be JMU’s most experienced lineup in their program’s history.  This team boasts tons of Seniors on their roster.  That experience will be invaluable in order to compete with some of the teams visiting this weekend.  On top of that, their home court presence and fan base provides as big of an advantage as anyone’s in the country.

Aside from just experience, this team is as talented as anyone in the country.  Doug Schilling has had his name thrown out a lot, and for good reason.  Tanner Weaver will be making his return for the Dukes as well, so expect him to be a difference maker on the court.  The rest of this team is very talented, and they will be looking for a lot of young players to step up big.

Towson

Schedule: UK, MSU, JMU, VCU

Perhaps no team feels like they have more to prove this weekend than the Towson Tigers.  Despite holding an 11-3 record on the year, there are still plenty of people that doubt their ability.  Part of this is a result of the competition they’ve played.  In terms of “quality losses,” they’ve got that covered with close defeats against JMU and GV.  However, their only “quality win” has been against VCU, simply because they’ve been stuck on the East Coast thus far.  It’s an unfinished resume which they are hoping to beef up following this weekend.

The Tigers have some pretty underrated talent when compared to the rest of the league.  True, Mike Hinely and Jon Shaw have been recognized for their efforts, but there’s still a lot of unsung heroes on this team.  Jeremy Brown, Jonathan Soward, and Nick Cerdeira are good all-around players who also play vital roles for this team.  If Tim Wells is healthy for this weekend, you can expect him to make a big impact throughout the day.  There will also be some other athletes returning to Towson for the upcoming semester.  While I won’t disclose any names, let’s just say, “The Eagle has landed.”

This team probably won’t be satisfied unless they go at least 2-2 on the day.  A lot of their success overall will depend on how they perform in the first match against UK.  With a win there, they will likely be able to carry that momentum throughout the rest of the day.  However, a loss could put them in a funk just as equally.  Expect their matchups with MSU, JMU, and VCU to be competitive as well.

OSU

Schedule: JMU, VCU, UK, MSU

This has definitely been a bit of a rebuilding year for the Buckeyes.  While carrying a 6-4-1 record doesn’t come off as anything disappointing, this team is far from the caliber of their Final Four team from last season.  The departure of Josh Conner has been tough, and would be tough for any team to replace.  OSU has also not played in a tournament since mid-November, so expect this team to be shaking off a little bit of rust.  Despite being the underdogs in most of their games this weekend, don’t expect them to back down from anyone.

OSU has already played MSU and UK this season, but has yet to play JMU or VCU since previous seasons.  Their last encounter with VCU was a 2-1 win at last year’s Nationals, and against JMU it was a 3-2 OT loss at Nationals 2015.  This will be the team’s first trip to the East Coast in over 5 years, so expect them to be excited about the opportunity to play some new competition.

People should get to know Freshmen Ben Johnson sooner rather than later.  He has become an important piece very quickly for the Buckeyes.  Jeff “Patrick” Starr will also need to big for OSU.  A strong all-around player, he is also one of the leaders of this young team.  There will be some strong players missing for this team but they have enough talent to go around to compensate.  Expect every game for this team to be competitive.

VCU

Schedule: MSU, OSU, UK, Towson

This is without a doubt the toughest stretch of games VCU has ever had in their program’s history.  Luckily for the Rams, they have experience against all of them within the past two seasons.  Additionally, this is the best team the Rams have ever had in their program’s history, with a 12-8 record so far on the season.  VCU will be looking at the BEAST as an opportunity to break out of the middle of the league and continue to move upward.

VCU hasn’t been winless in a tournament this year for the first time ever, but they have yet to ever beat any of the teams attending.  Something’s gotta give.  This team is also still looking for a true signature win to add to their resume.  A win over any of the teams at BEAST VI will be sure to do just that.

Given that VCU has only recently found success as a team, a lot of their players have been under the radar for a long time.  Matt Bosco, Torao Ota, and Wayne Shortt will all have to be big if the Rams want to pull off any major upsets.  Kelvonte’ Nesmith should also have an impact.  A soccer player by trade, he is a good athlete that has proven to be an effective catcher with a sneakily good throw to compliment.

Gonzalez Exchanges

Time High Seed Low Seed Rating Rating Predicted Exchange Exchange if Upset
9:30 JMU OSU 47.808 44.747 0.694 1.306
9:30 UK Towson 48.250 45.176 0.693 1.307
10:50 UK JMU 48.942 48.502 0.956 1.044
10:50 MSU VCU 50.051 42.086 0.203 1.797
12:10 MSU Towson 50.255 44.484 0.423 1.577
12:10 OSU VCU 44.053 41.883 0.783 1.217
1:30 MSU JMU 50.678 47.546 0.687 1.313
1:30 UK OSU 49.898 44.836 0.494 1.506
2:50 JMU Towson 46.859 44.061 0.720 1.280
2:50 UK VCU 50.392 41.100 0.071 1.929
4:10 MSU OSU 51.365 44.342 0.298 1.702
4:10 Towson VCU 43.341 41.029 0.769 1.231

Zigmas: Good chance for a little bit of everything to happen.  The Average Rating gap for all these matches is quite low, at just 4.342. So many of these matches will result in a good weight for their participants, and this reinforces that this year’s BEAST is one to watch. There’s even a chance for a top tier upset towards the end of the day. Based on the current upset count, look for Upsets in two of these twelve matches.

Predictions

JMU (home) vs OSU

Zigmas: JMU holds the higher seed over OSU in the first match of the day, and is currently in the middle to damage each of their competitor’s ratings throughout the day. An OSU upset would be in the 63rd percentile, so nothing solid for JMU.

Leski: Hard for me to see this one being close. JMU is going to play all year long with a chip on their shoulder based off last years performance. Down year for OSU. Expect a blow out win for JMU.

Felix: 3-1 JMU

Kevin: 3-1 JMU

Sean Smith:  I don’t know much about OSU other than its a rebuilding year. If this were Vegas I’d say take JMU but take the points with OSU. Dukes won’t want to waste all their energy with a long day ahead

UK vs Towson

Zigmas: I like the current story behind this matchup, and I love to see it at the beginning of the day. It’s a fair chunk of weight for either team’s rating in any given particular match, and with a Towson upset in the 63th percentile, not guaranteed to either team. Maybe Towson’s shorter drive will give them the unseen edge:
– TU to JMU: 171 mi
– UK to JMU 413 mi

Leski: This game was an NCDA classic last year at Nationals. Towson went up 2-0 going into half in the first round and lost to UK 3-2 in OT. Wish I could have seen more of it. This is a game to watch.

Felix: 3-2 Towson OT

Kevin: 3-2 UK (OT)

SS: This a pick solely based on what I wish I could do if I was still playing. I’d want revenge so I’m picking TU for the Revenge win.

UK at JMU

Zigmas: Even in the second round, the first round’s results will have an influence. Should Towson upset, it will leave JMU as the the higher seed when UK faces a JMU home court squad. This match could go either way, with the upset exchange in just the 11th percentile and much more common. Strong weight for either team, and the shallowest rating gap in the whole schedule.

Leski: I expect this game to be weird to watch. They have polar opposite strategies and polar opposite skill sets. If UK travels well and gets JMU to play to their strengths they will win. However, with JMU’s homecourt advantage I see them winning this game with a strong push in the second half.

Felix: 2-1 UK OT

Kevin: 2-1 JMU

SS: I think UK will put up a valiant effort but one unmistakable advantage is JMUs home court. Probably the best and also mossy obnoxious fans in our league get inside UKs heads and JMU makes more clutch plays to pull it out.

MSU vs VCU

Zigmas: I think MSU has the advantage here being #2 vs #12 and a large rating gap of nearly 8 points. A VCU upset would be in 97th percentile. That said, it’s pretty remarkable on VCU’s part because this will be the closest gap on a Michigan team in VCU’s history of playing each current MI team. 0.105 vs SVSU at Nationals 2016, 0.010 vs MSU in 2016 MVEC, and 0.010 vs CMU & GVSU at Nationals 2015. I think that’s pretty neat.

Leski: MSU is only bringing thirteen knuckleheads to BEAST. However I see them having little trouble disposing of the Rams.

Felix: 3-1 MSU

Kevin: 3-1 MSU

SS: MSU def VCU much closer than people would expext. MSU has a long drive, no subs and down an extra 2 players for only 13. Give MSU the win but take the points with VCU.

MSU vs Towson

Zigmas: Towson faces a tough opponent in MSU, and should be a good test of either team with the favor in MSU. As the lower seed, it would be best for Towson to take MSU into OT if they can’t beat MSU in regulation. A Towson upset would be in the 92nd percentile.

Leski: If Towson cannot defeat MSU in regulation then they will lose in OT. MSU is bringing a great top 6, but falls off greatly after that.

Felix: 2-1 Towson

Kevin: 3-2 MSU (OT)

SS: I’ve learned most teams don’t like having a break, but I feel VCU will give MSU some good competition to get them a little gassed beforehand. The return of defensive specialist Marc, “Bald Eagle” Sayan could prove the difference in a knock down drag ’em out kind of match.

OSU vs VCU

Zigmas: With VCU’s steady climb and OSU’s steady fall this season, I wouldn’t look over a 48th percentile upset for VCU. Further, the .783 predicted exchange is super close to the 0.731 mean predicted exchange of historical upsets. Best chance of the day for an upset.

Leski: The Rams have a great opportunity to beat a historic team. I have little doubt that is exactly what they will do.

Felix: 3-2 OSU (OT)

Kevin: 3-2 OSU (OT)

SS: I wanted to pick and upset somewhere and this is where I think it happens. While VCU has improved and OSU is rebuilding as previously mentioned, VCU still needs a signature victory to claim their arrival into being a true mid level team, not just lower midlevel. Seeing non-EC competition usually gives EC teams fits, and OSU is a long tenured program in the league. That being said give me VCU to give them a victory they cab build for the future on.

MSU at JMU

Zigmas: There’s a good history between JMU and MSU spanning many years. This rating gap is about smack in the middle of their shared history. A JMU upset in the 64th percentile is nothing to sneeze at and would be a solid win to take home for JMU.

Leski: Similar to Towson’s situation, if JMU can outplay the Spartans in regulation they will win. However OT would go to the Spartans. I expect JMU to take this game in regulation.

Felix: 2-1 JMU

Kevin: 2-1 MSU

SS: State recovers well and makes this a very tough match, but JMUs numbers give them the advantage. JMU def. MSU 2-1

UK vs OSU

Zigmas: UK has been winning this year and they have the favor here, with the potential to gain about half a rating point in the win. An OSU upset is in the hefty 84th percentile. This game is the bread and butter, middle of the road match the NCDA sees so often.

Leski: UK wins this one easily. Too much talent on their side. Big rebuilding year for the Buckeyes.

Felix: 2-1 UK

Kevin: 3-1 UK

JMU vs Towson

Zigmas: One of the potential upset matches of the day, this matchup has a shared history with Towson being… the less favored. However, ratings change and Towson has climbed to a good situation. I would be excited to see their 47th percentile upset, but I tend to hold out for the home team. Weights could easily change for this match, depending on early round results.

Leski: Great match-up right here. This better be filmed. This will be too close of a match-up to call, but I expect this one to go to the Dukes.

Felix: 3-1 JMU

Kevin: 3-2 JMU (OT)

SS: Towson took a couple Ls last year before finally cracking the code to JMU and getting their first victory. I’m looking for the same thing to happen this year.

UK vs VCU

Leski: UK will win this one easily. Credit to the Rams great season so far.

ZM: The largest gap is towards the end of the day, UK vs VCU at 9.292, giving a potential upset exchange of 1.929. Should VCU pull some wins earlier in the day, this gap could shrink, and it doesn’t help UK being a long rider. Should VCU upset, it will be the 2nd biggest upset in the new historical records.
– Current #1: 1.950: UMD def JMU 2-1 at the 2013-11-16 UMD Invite
– Current #2: 1.925: SVSU def GVSU 3-2 OT at the 2016-10-29 Battle of the Valleys

Felix: 3-2 VCU

Kevin: 3-1 UK

SS: A very upset and disappointed Wildcat squad takes their frustrations out on VCU. The Rams do their best but have a let down after their upset over OSU.

MSU vs OSU

Zigmas: A battle of Founding Members in the first expansion region. MSU holds favor by a larger margin in one of the larger rating gaps of the day. But in the last round of a long day, nothing is as certain and the previous rounds will influlence the predicted strength of this matchup. 96th percentile upset potential for OSU.

Leski: The Buckeyes have had a great past against the Spartans, winning most of their recent matches against them. However I do not see that happening here. But expect the unexpected.

Felix: 4-3 OSU

Kevin: 3-0 MSU

SS: MSU is wiped due to numbers. OSU is down from losing to VCU. I’ll take MSU just from being a better pure team.

Towson vs VCU

Zigmas: By the end of the day, we’ll see the endurance of both VCU and Towson, something important for Nationals. VCU has the chance to gain points and continue their rating climb if they manage a reachable 52nd percentile upset. We haven’t really seen VCU/Towson be so close in ratings. The time is now.

Leski: Going to be a close game in my opinion. However I expect Towson to pull away in this one, but look for Hunter Ford and company to make this a close game.

Felix: 3-1 Towson

Kevin: 3-1 Towson

SS: Much closer than the Tigers would like, but after a long day both teams will be exhausted, make a lot of mistakes and play what I would imagine to be a very sloppy game. Towson wins just on talent.

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