With most schools starting up their seasons already, or in the next week or so, it seems like now is the best time to preview the upcoming season. Since teams don’t know much about themselves or each other, there are a ton of questions that can be asked about this season.
1. Will Grand Valley complete the three-peat? While this seems like a fairly benign question based on the past success of the Lakers, this is certainly easier said than done. GV hasn’t lost a ton of talent, and always seems to find a way to replace what they no longer have but they aren’t the only team with a lot of talent around the league. Just within their own region they have perennial power Saginaw Valley, a heavily improved Michigan State squad, and a dark horse in Central Michigan. Outside of the state, JMU has a huge talent pool that they can pull from, Ohio State has just about everybody coming back and is sure to get better, and the rest of the league will certainly improve from last year as well.
2. Who has the best chance to unseat Grand Valley should they go down this year? There are a lot of options here, but I’ll simply make my prediction of the best two teams capable of knocking off GV: Saginaw Valley, and James Madison.
3. How do we keep teams from falling out? I was really hoping this wouldn’t be a question this year but with Miami (OH) unable to put a team together this year, this seems to be a more pressing matter every new season. While they may still be a part o the league, teams like Miami, VCU, or Penn State haven’t been as active as I’m sure everyone would like them to be. Is there a way for other teams in the league to support these teams and help them stay engaged? Or is this simply internal matters that cannot be helped?
4. Will a non-Michigan region please stand up? Though I know the Michigan people love being the NCDA version of the SEC of recent, it’s time for a second region as a whole to challenge these teams. The SEC has the Pac-12 now, and the Murder Mitten should have some sort of outside rivalry. It’s great to have teams like JMU or Kent who have been able to challenge them in the past, but it’d be good for the league as a whole for the playing field to get more level.
5. Will Nationals at WKU help more teams attend? I must preface this saying I’m still slightly bitter and biased that UMD didn’t win the Nationals bid for travel purposes, but I move on. Western is a very solid, central location for a lot of teams to get to. Will this help new school like St. Ambrose, Davenport, Siena Heights, or even brand new member Georgia Southern, to attend. Will a school like Nebraska or UNT be able to bring a full squad? Hopefully this will help out a lot of teams, but if not then we must ask what solutions the league could possibly offer in the next year.
6. Who will be this year’s dark horse? Here are my top 3 predictions in order (non-Michigan teams for obvious reasons): Ohio State, Towson, UMD. I reserve the right to throw WKU in the mix due to their home-court advantage this year.
7. Finally, will the league be able to replace the hall of fame type class of players that the league graduated last year? We lost a lot of great players this past season, and it will be tough to come up with another group of individuals who receive the same sort of name recognition this class had. Hopefully we will be able to, because I believe having players like that is good for overall retention around the league.
It should be a fun year with a lot of games, a lot of bruises, and a lot of Michigan v. The World based smack talk. Hopefully the questions get answered, but even if they do, the NCDA will surely come up with a way to create new ones. Since it is the start of the year, I will leave saying I wish everyone luck in finding the best recruiting class possible for they teams.