This past weekend MSU opened up the 2017-18 NCDA season with the EA tournament in East Lansing, MI. There were certainly some interesting surprises, but the main point is that dodgeball is back! Now, it is the first chance for some East Coast schools to show what they’re all about.
This Saturday, Towson University has the pleasure of hosting the first event of the season which will also include Stevenson University and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Towson comes in as the top rated team after having their best season ever last year followed by VCU and Stevenson. This will be their opportunity to flex their muscle against some familiar opponents and start the year strong. That being said, Stevenson and VCU won’t make it easy, and are each looking for a statement win. Let’s take a look at some things to watch with each team, from the good to the bad, and even the ugly.
The Good: Depth
Towson will definitely have the deepest team at this tournament in both quantity and quality. With both a full Varsity and JV team ready to play, it’s apparent they have numbers this year. Additionally, they have retained a large majority of their squad from a season ago who proved to be successful. What stood out about this team last year was their ability to place players from the 16-20 spots of their team in tough situations and they were still able to make plays. This season with a change to 12 v 12 and 4 subs, they’ll still be expected to see contributions from all players.
The main players to take note of are captains Michael Hinely, Andrew Kerr, and David Guare, but I expect some other pieces to shine as well. Two fairly under the radar players I expect to put in big performances this weekend are Tyler Schmitz and Colin Sporer. Both players are rising Juniors this season who have seen time on Varsity for quite some time now. They will be able to get kills and catches if too much focus is placed on other players.
The Bad: Power Throwers
Towson lost arguably two of their strongest throwers this off season in Jonathan Shaw and Jeremy Brown. On top of that, Tim Wells will not be active this semester. Since it is the first tournament for this team, we have yet to see if anyone will step up to replace those individuals in terms of providing kill shots. However, based on the returning pieces there are only a few consistently hard throwers remaining. I mentioned two previously in Michael Hinely and Tyler Schmitz. This is not to say Towson doesn’t have other good throwers. That’s far from the truth. They just don’t have players with the same raw power as the players they lost. Luckily for Towson, they build their play style around catching and teamwork instead of hard throwers, so this shouldn’t hurt this team’s chance too much.
The Ugly: Leadership
This might be a stretch to say but I’ll run with it. Jonathan Shaw was definitely a unifying force for the Tigers during his time with team so his presence as a player and leader will be missed. It’s tough to say who will step up and be that guy. The most obvious choice would be Michael Hinely, but he hasn’t had the same experience of the guy everyone centers around for the team. Let’s see who steps up this weekend.
The Good: Top Player Experience
Stevenson was able to pull together a team to play in Elite during the NCDA offseason, and even got some experience playing in the Ultimate Dodgeball Championship in Chicago. That experience should prove valuable for their team. Players like Kris DeJesus, CJ Kilpatrick, and Kyle Rudman who all had good skillsets already got the chance to improve upon those skills. As players who help guide this team on and off the court, being able to improve their skills will be crucial for this team to find success this season.
The Bad: 7 – 16
Despite having some good top players on this team, overall this team has struggled in past seasons from depth issues. It’s hard to say it will be any different for them at the start of this season. Another issue specific to this weekend is that they will be missing 3 of their top 6 players. They could have some diamonds that emerge from their recruiting class, but for a small school like Stevenson that usually proves to be difficult.
The Ugly: Finding a Winning Edge
Stevenson has been in the NCDA since the 2014-15 season and has yet to secure their first victory. Getting over that hump can be a difficult thing, especially while missing some of your top players. Overall, captain Kris DeJesus thinks there will be a learning curve for his team this weekend, but believes his team is better prepared for long term success this season.
The Good: Experience
Since the 2014-15 season, this team has only lost 3 consistent varsity players. That leaves a team with a lot of upperclassmen this season who are ready to make a big push. In total, this team is made up of 5 Seniors/Grad Students and 6 Juniors. Having 11 out of 12 starters with multiple years of NCDA experience is a pleasure this team hasn’t been able to enjoy in their program’s history. This will prove very valuable against top opponents and in late game situations.
The Bad: Attendance
“The Good” listed above will be important in most tournaments. The problem though, VCU will be very short handed at their first tournament, contrary to last season. The Rams will be traveling with only 14 players total to Towson, and 5 starters for this team will not be present. Luckily this is a small tournament, so it won’t be as necessary for this team to go deep into their bench. This has opened up an opportunity for some freshmen, including Ike Fleckenstein and Garrett Couell who will be called upon early in their careers.
The Ugly: Injuries
As indicated in a previous article, the Rams faced a ton of injuries last year. Many of those players are still recovering from those injuries at the start of this season but will be playing in this tournament. This can hamper their team’s chances of an upset win over Towson, and will cause problems against Stevenson as well. This won’t stop VCU from competing, it’ll just be another roadblock for a team trying to prove it belongs at the top of the league.
In summation, it’s fair to say this is Towson’s tournament to lose. They have home court advantage, experience, and the talent get some decisive wins this weekend. They likely won’t benefit much in terms of gaining traction in Gonzalez points, but a couple wins will help them gain some momentum for future tournaments. VCU and Stevenson won’t make it easy for them, but with both squads missing some important pieces, it is hard to imagine either team pulling off a big upset.
Towson (45.910+1) vs. VCU (41.336)
Colby Briceland: Since the start of the season proved that the 12v12 contributes to higher scoring, I’m estimating a 4-2 score in favor of Towson.
Kevin Bailey: This is easily the most anticipated game this weekend in my opinion. Towson should win big, even if they failed to get matching shorts to go with their new white jerseys… Prediction: 4-1 Towson
Zigmas Maloni: Towson gets a +1 for being on home court, giving them a rating gap of 5.574 over VCU. That’s a 0.443 predicted exchange in favor of Towson. An upset for VCU would be in the 89th percentile, ranking about 25th in historical upsets.
VCU (41.336) vs. Stevenson (36.337)
CB: I’m giving depth and experience the “W” here and predicting the Rams will come out on top, with a score of 3-1.
KB: Stevenson’s lack of overall depth and experience is going to cost them this game. But how good is VCU without Hunter Ford running their offense? We will certainly find out more about them this weekend. Prediction: 5-2 VCU.
ZM: Stevenson hasn’t played much over the years, but it’s good to see them out here. The stakes for this match are slightly higher with a Rating Gap of 4.556 (if VCU loses the first match), and a predicted exchange of 0.544. SU’s potential first win would rank as a #52 upset in the 78th percentile.
Towson (45.910+1) vs. Stevenson (36.337)
CB: I saw Mike Hinely at Elite this summer and he is at the top of his game. With him at the helm of the Tigers, they’re going to put the ! in WHAM! (Rest in Peace George Michael) 5-0 Towson.
KB: For the record, I messed up when I didn’t put Kris DeJesus in my article on MVP candidates. He might end up being the most skilled player in the league this year. But he alone won’t be enough to beat the Tigers. Towson has a few star players of their own, including another MVP level player: Mike Hinely. Prediction: 5-1 Towson.
ZM: Towson has the clear advantage on ratings, but the system is made to be adaptive. If SU bests them, they’ll get a max boost of 2 rating points, claiming the greatest upset in history. The current largest upset had a Rating Gap of 9.504, this match falls around 9.559-11.559 depending on earlier results.