There have been a lot of major developments in the league just within this past semester. We have seen the appearance of some brand new teams, the emergence of teams who were once pushovers but now look like legitimate contenders, and some new players have stepped into the spotlight. Overall, this was a very successful semester in the NCDA, in large part thanks to leadership from across all teams in the league.
Now is where things start to intensify. We are inching closer and closer to Nationals, and there are a lot of teams and people to watch out for this upcoming semester. In order to stir the pot and get people thinking, I wanted to throw out some of what I consider to be bold predictions. Feel free to ridicule me in the comments below.
Kentucky Will Be in the National Championship
But I’m not quite bold enough to say they’ll win it. The Wildcats are currently riding on a 7 game win streak, are the 4th best team in the country according to the Gonzalez Standings, and they will have home court advantage all weekend at Nationals. Honestly, what’s not to love about this team? They have good athletes such as Zach Parise and Mario Siliceo, they have strong throwers in Brandon Engelman and Colin Hiatt, and they have arguably one of the more underrated players in the league in Ricardo Menchaca. And did I mention they’ll be getting Drew Greenwalt back? Yes, the All-American member who was one of the best catchers in the league last year will be returning. If this doesn’t sound like a formula for success, then I don’t know what is.
We Will Have the First MVP from a Non-Michigan School
Since the MVP award became fully recognized in 2012, every winner has come from a Michigan team: 2012 – Spencer Jardine (SVSU), 2013 – Mark Trippiedi (GVSU), and 2014, 2015, and 2016 – Kevin Bailey (GVSU). Now unless the ghost of Kevin comes back (and here’s my bold prediction that he will still somehow get an All-American vote) there is no clear front-runner for MVP this year. In terms of my potential candidates here is who I have: Doug Schilling (JMU), Michael Hinely (Towson), Brandon Engelman (UK), and Michael Riley (CMU). Full disclosure, I haven’t been able to witness or play against players from each team this season so this has a lot to do with who I have seen play. That being said, this year’s decision doesn’t seem as obvious as in year’s past, and I believe that will play a big part in how teams decide who to vote for. Overall, there is more talent spread throughout the league this year than in most, and that will also be a factor when teams vote for their All-Americans.
Three East Coast Teams Will Make it to the Second Round
Traditionally speaking, the Michigan schools have always been the most dominant throughout the league’s history, that can not be disputed. However, it has generally been a toss-up between the Ohio teams and East Coast for who was next best. The East Coast ends up in this discussion mostly because of the efforts of JMU, who has been a traditional powerhouse ever since they entered the league. This year though, there are more competitive teams in that region, and with a couple favorable plays and improvement, we could see this region sending three teams to the second round for the first time ever. The obvious one is JMU, and I don’t think anyone would scoff at the idea of Towson reaching it again for the first time since 2015. However, the new interesting team in the mix is VCU. Not a lot of people would’ve forseen this team being where they are now, and they have demonstrated the ability to beat teams outside of what might be considered bottom-tier. Time will tell I suppose, but I look forward to some variety on Sunday like we’ve never seen before.
UVA and Ohio Will Get Their First Wins Over Established Teams
The Cavaliers and Bobcats entered their first year in the NCDA last season. UVA was only able to attend one tournament that season, and thus far has only played in one tournament this season as well. But this group, made up almost entirely of Freshmen and Sophomores, plays with a lot of energy and athleticism that generally works in their favor. At the moment, they have never won an official league match in their program’s history, but they will have a very good opportunity when they go to VCU next semester. Marty Knauf and AJ Getter are two young but very talented players who lead this team in many ways. They will finally be able to get everything in place next semester to get their first win.
As for Ohio, there are a lot of reasons to feel this way. They are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last season, and they have come so close on many occassions this year with five overtime losses. As far as who they will beat I can’t be certain. Most likely it will be between BGSU and Akron, but they have the potential to beat both. One thing I am certain about though is Caleb Arnold is leading his team in the right direction. Along with him, Kyle Smart and Nate Sexauer have been instrumental in improving the program, and I genuinely do believe they will be able to finally pull off a big victory next semester.
MSU Will Win Nationals 2017
The Spartans have never been National Champions but they have come close before. I really don’t know why I feel this way, but I just do. They have solid talent with players like Noe Galaviz and Lucas Salinas, and word on the street is Colin O’Brien will be making a reappearance. Their only losses this year have come from GVSU and UK, and they even beat GVSU on their home court to open up the season. Like I said, this is going more off a hunch rather than a solid foundation, but sometimes it’s necessary to trust your gut.
Will I get all of these predictions right? Probably not. Will some people be a little upset about this post? Hopefully. Will I stop answering my own questions? Never. I wish I was even more bold in my thoughts, however, these are predictions that I believe are unpopular, but very possible. I look forward to looking back on the season and seeing how I did overall on these predictions.