The Michigan Dodgeball Cup is the premier annual tournament of the Michigan region. Hosted every February by Michigan State, these matches are often previews of the semi-finals and final matches of Nationals. MSU and SVSU have played great matches at each of the last two Nationals, with each winner going on to lose to GVSU in the championship. This year, the MDC is the most competitive and wide open that it has been in my three years in the league. Even with an undefeated Grand Valley State team, each team has the talent and potential to take home the cup.
They’re 24-0, two-time defending national champions. But the last time they lost a match was in IM West in East Lansing, Michigan. I think GVSU will be as hungry for wins as an undefeated two-time reigning national champion team can possibly be. The loss to SVSU at the MDC last year was the lone blemish on their otherwise perfect record. I know Kevin Bailey and company will want to add another trophy to sit next to the national championship trophy. But that is the big question mark for this team going into the tournament. Will Kevin Bailey play (it appears now that he will) and how effective can he be if he does play. He is recovering from a torn labrum injury to his throwing shoulder. Initially, it looked like he would be unable to play until the CMU Showdown in late March. However, things have gone well for his rehab and the outlook has improved for him to play on Saturday. Grand Valley is so deep that it can field fifteen great players even without Kevin. But no team can replace a Nationals MVP. I played against GVSU without Bailey in January. He still helped direct and coach from the sidelines, but not having a top player makes Grand Valley that much more vulnerable. Alright, I have to stop complimenting Kevin before his head explodes.
GVSU has other players besides Bailey as well. I wrote about Trevor Nordberg in my OT 6 article, but I think he is one of the best players in the league. Austin Morley, in my mind, is one of the most underrated players in the league. I always expect him to go for a drop catch if I throw at him when he has a ball. And he’ll usually catch it if a throw comes. Dylan Fettig has been around and an impact player for seemingly ever and Ben Newhouse made one of the most ridiculous catches I have ever seen against me back in January. So this team will be fine whether or not Kevin Bailey is at his best. I think the greatest asset of GVSU is that they do not beat themselves. They limit their mistakes and force the other team to beat them.
The pronounced catching team of the league, CMU often has quite a few throwers in their ranks. The Chips got Michael Riley back this semester, which is a huge addition to their already stout roster. Ian Thomas is a great young player with a strong arm and Shane Willette has a sneaky good throw as well. Brett Hadwin is well known for his overall ability, including a strong throw. Although many players will not try to light someone up with a throw, they make good, accurate, and smart throws. Now that being said, they are known as a catching team for a reason. Earlier in the season when I was trying to kill a point, I looked across their back line trying to determine who to throw at to kill the shot clock. I can honestly say I did not know who to throw at, because I thought every one of them had the potential to catch me. And again as I mentioned in my OT 6 article, Wes Peters is one of the best tactical thinkers in the league, in addition to his catching and overall ability. If they are to win the MDC, they will need their minds, arms and of course their hands to come up big.
Of their eleven losses, the Spartans have seven to GVSU. There are three types to those losses. There are the blowouts, of which there are three with a total score of 16-1. Then there are the games in which MSU was in position to take the game to overtime. There are two of those games, both times Grand Valley was able to either run out the clock or take the point themselves to hold off MSU. And then there are two games that I absolutely dread thinking about. Two games that were tied 1-1 late in the second half as we had the Lakers on a ten second shot clock before inexplicably falling apart and blowing the point. CMU may have taken GVSU into overtime, but I would argue, and I think several Lakers would agree, that these two games have been the closest they’ve been to losing all year. Michigan State has never beaten Grand Valley in the history of the two clubs. I think Ian Childs told me he lost his first game to GVSU something like 13-0. So I think it’s fair to say the gap has closed since that day. But until the Spartans can get the monkey off our back and beat GVSU, these agonizing losses will continue to haunt me. The four games MSU has faced CMU this year have an even split of 2-2. SVSU pushed past the Spartans in OT early in the year. So outside of the three blowouts, Michigan State has played the three other teams as close to even as possible.
This will only be the second tournament of the year the MSU has a full 20-man roster (not surprisingly, both have been home tournaments). The depth and strength of this roster should set Michigan State up for a strong performance. Look for MSU to have a better balance of throwing and catching than in the past tournaments of the season. And I would bet that all three games will be close to the end for the Spartans.
I have only seen SVSU once this season. Our game early in the season against them ended with a Saginaw win in OT after a 1-1 tie after 50 minutes. I think the team we will see on Saturday will be much better than the team we saw back in September. I assume they will run the same style that they always run, blocking the corners well and having catchers in the middle. But I really do not know what to expect from them. They have lost a lot of their more recognizable players from years past, but still present a formidable team that has only lost to GVSU this year and has wins over MSU and CMU. Ultimately, I think their lack of in-game experience will hurt them in the MDC, as the three other teams have each played well over 20 matches.
Under the Radar Players to Watch
The “I can turn a game with a couple clutch catches” Division
Ben Newhouse (GVSU), Jalen Gardner (GVSU), Kevin Greig (CMU), Scott La Valley (CMU), Kameron Caldwell (MSU), James Schneider (MSU), Kyle Foster (SVSU), Gregory Gaskin Jr. (SVSU)
The “Don’t be surprised if my throw catches you off guard” Division
Tyler Kowalk (GVSU), Shane Willette (CMU), Kosta Vergos (MSU), Cody Putnam (SVSU)
I think the MDC has potential to be one of the greatest tournaments outside of Nationals in a long time. I have never seen a tournament where each team was so competitive and nearly equal in ability. I wouldn’t be surprised to have multiple instant classic games on Saturday. And I think we just might see a team upset Grand Valley and take the MDC, I just hope that the team to do it is Michigan State.
Finally, I don’t know how many people listen to the B.S. Report, but I am a fan. Every year before the Super Bowl, Bill Simmons and his buddy Cousin Sal talk about the prop bets for the game. They are the odds for certain things to happen during the Super Bowl. I thought that it would be fun to make prop bets for the MDC. So here are the “Vegas lines” for the prop bets for the Michigan Dodgeball Cup.
If you don’t follow sports betting, (+150) would mean for every $100 you bet, you would win $150. Likewise, (-250) means for every $250 you bet, you would win $100. Over/Under bets are for even money. Call your bookie to place your bets.
Will there be at least 5 headshots throughout the MDC
Number of times the refs convene to discuss a call
Will Kevin Bailey play all three games?
Number of noncompeting players and fans brought by SVSU
Number of times Wes Peters criticizes one of my referee decisions during gameplay
Color of Brett Hadwin’s bandana
Highest point total for one team in a game
Will a team score a point in less than five minutes?
Will a team score with less than a minute left in a half?
Number of former NCDA players in attendance
Number of shot clock violations in tournament
Lowest number of players left on a team to end a half
Will a game go to overtime?
First point of tournament ends in a…
Win the MDC