3-26. My career record against Grand Valley State University is 3-26. So I know pretty well how easy it is to lose to GVSU. And I also know just how hard it is to beat them. That’s why I am so impressed with what Towson was able to accomplish last Sunday. To beat GV is no small feat. To beat a previously undefeated GV in the National Championship on their home court is almost unfathomable. Towson was able to take home the championship trophy with an outstanding gameplan, incredible execution, and a little bit of luck.
Towson was the best team all weekend long at Nationals. That was due in large part to an incredible gameplan. Towson lived in the neutral zone. In the first half of their game against MSU, I think Michigan State crossed midcourt under ten times. The Tigers forced their opponents to be on the baseline every game. The only other time I’ve ever seen Grand Valley spend so much time on their baseline was at Nationals in 2013 when JMU essentially invented the wall ball strategy. But Towson was able to do this without the benefit of a wall to bounce back their throws. Living in the neutral zone and forcing the Lakers on the baseline meant every one of Towson’s throws were from 30 feet or less, while a majority of Grand Valley’s throws were from 30+ feet. This discrepancy resulted in a limited number of thrown catches for Towson and an increase in the number of throws caught by the Tigers. Simple enough, it’s easier to catch the longer the throws. When they weren’t picking people off on the baseline, Towson made some very smart counter throws to hit wide open GV players.
One of the most important things to do against Grand Valley is maintain ball control. When GV gets the advantage in ball possession, they’re incredibly difficult to beat. Grand Valley rarely gives away ball control, so when a team is able to take that advantage away from them, it is imperative to hold onto it. Towson did just that. They seldom fell below five balls in their possession throughout their championship game comeback. This discipline allowed them to dominate the neutral zone and all the advantages that brings with it outlined above. In the last point, when GV was furiously trying to come back, the Lakers ran out of balls and were unable to throw as the last seconds ticked away.
One of the biggest matchups of the championship was the MVP-hopefuls showdown between Brandon Meisel of GVSU and Jordan Watt of Towson. When he was on the court, Meisel did a terrific job of keeping Watt in check with consistent pressure. However, Meisel is also the best offensive weapon for the Lakers. He devoted so much effort to prevent Watt from running wild offensively that he did not have his normal offensive output for GVSU. Meisel’s preoccupation with Watt also led to him hitting the outline earlier than he would have liked throughout the comeback. In Towson’s first point, a Meisel counter on Watt sailed high and into the waiting arms of a Towson player for a catch. In Towson’s third point, Watt moved to the side opposite of Meisel to relieve a bit of the pressure he had applied throughout the game. Brandon again tried to take Watt out, throwing a counter cross after a Watt throw. Towson immediately countered Meisel and eliminated him with a perfect throw on his foot. In the final point, Brandon made a successful suicide throw on Watt, but in doing so eliminated himself. The force that was Jordan Watt prevented Grand Valley’s best player from contributing his normal offensive output for GVSU. When Meisel was off the court, Watt shined like he did all weekend, eliminating player after player on the baseline. The MVP candidates kept each other in check when both on the court, but once Meisel was eliminated, Watt was able to excel.
To beat a great team like Grand Valley, a little bit of luck is often needed. Even with their excellent gameplan and execution, Towson still made a couple throws into the chest of the opposition. But fortunately for the national champions, normally sound GV veterans were unable to haul in the catches. But perhaps the greatest examples of their fortuity was Towson had not one, but two catches that caromed off of one of their player’s feet directly into the air. The first occurred when they were down 2-1 with only two players remaining. The catch changed the trajectory of the point and helped them tie the game up at two. The second occurred in the following point early on. Incredibly enough, both of these catches were thrown by Aaron Krafft, one of Grand Valley’s best players. It’s one thing to have two catches that hit off someone’s’ foot right into the air. It’s another for them to both be thrown by one of the best players in the NCDA. In any game between two evenly matched teams, a little bit of luck goes a long way in determining the outcome. Fortunately for Towson, Lady Luck was on their side on Sunday.
Towson played incredibly en route to their first ever
Final Four, National Championship Game, National Championship. They had an incredible gameplan, excellent execution, and a little bit of luck. The thing that stuck out most to me from this Towson team was how well every single player knew their role on the team. The throwers knew what their duty was for the team, and everyone else knew to keep them armed at all times. They covered and blocked for each other every time they went up to throw. They made timely catches and dominated the neutral zone. All in all, they out Grand Valley-ed Grand Valley and because of that they are National Champions.