In case you haven’t paid attention to anything the past few days, the Michigan Dodgeball Cup takes place this Sunday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. #3 Michigan State will host #1 Grand Valley State, #2 Central Michigan, and #7 Saginaw Valley State in an epic late-winter showdown.
I will be continuing the trend of preview articles for this much anticipated tournament. My article will be filled with predictions for everything from tournament winners, to what each team’s strengths and weaknesses will be on Sunday, to who is most likely to get a red-card. Lots to discuss.
Before I go any further, I think it is only right for me to address all of the complaints from people saying there has been too much coverage for this event compared to other NCDA tournaments. I’ll try to be as polite as possible, but no promises.
First off, anyone who thinks there should be more coverage for their region is more than welcome to join the NCDA’s Content Team, and provide some of that coverage yourself. Some regions get less recognition because there is only one person from that part of the country who has volunteered to assist with content for the NCDA. Quick shoutout to Colby Briceland from Akron and Erik Zander from Wisconsin Platteville. These guys hold it down for an entire region by themselves.
Also, I’m sure people are going to jump on my next statement and dispute it but here’s another truth for you: Sean Smith is an unsung hero for the East Coast Region. When they were just starting out and there was absolutely no buzz about dodgeball out east, Sean volunteered his time to work as a member of the content team for the NCDA.
Sean’s articles brought much more visibility to the East Coast, and the region got the recognition it deserved. This helped generate excitement for the teams in the east. I’m confident in saying that it indirectly helped the region develop. Now, look where we are. The East Coast is the second best region in the NCDA arguably. Sean and VCU’s Hunter Ford both contribute to the NCDA’s Content Team, and we get a lot of coverage up on the website for teams out east.
Five current/former Michigan Region players are part of the content team, so it is no surprise that based purely on numbers the MDC will be more thoroughly discussed.
As President Felix Perrone stated: “Ask not what the NCDA can do for you, ask what you can do for the NCDA.” He didn’t actually say that, but he would agree with it. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in writing articles for the NCDA, we would love to get more perspectives!
Anyway, that is the polite reasoning, if you aren’t convinced yet, well, here is the bitter and painful truth:
Folks, why are we all so enamored by the MDC? Listen. The last 10 NCDA National Champions have been teams from the Great Lakes State. The last four years the National Title Game has been between two schools from Michigan. The year before that Kentucky got to the finals and forfeited at halftime… Yep, that actually happened.
Bottom line is, the Michigan Region has been the best region in the country for over a decade. And, for over a decade, the best regular season tournament in the league has been the Michigan Dodgeball Cup.
I’m not saying it will stay this way forever. The East Coast has a lot of momentum right now. Heck, the Ohio Dodgeball Cup is about to have 9 teams! Most of them within their first few years as a program. I CAN’T WAIT to see what that region looks like a few years down the road. Lot’s of potential! Lot’s of enthusiastic dodgeballers on those regions.
With that said, there really hasn’t been a time over the past decade where another region has been able to match the amount of enthusiasm that the teams in Michigan have for the sport of dodgeball. And MDC is the one regular season tournament that those schools look to every season. A chance to create their legacy.
I was talking with MSU’s Colin O’Brien earlier this week, and he explained it pretty well: “I don’t think (other regions) get how much the four Michigan schools look forward to MDC every year.” He’s right.
The MDC is basically a holiday for everyone who plays dodgeball in Michigan. Bragging rights are on the line in this one. Every team brings their best roster, no excuses. We have a trophy that’s older than most teams in the league… seriously!
Players put their heart on the line at MDC. Those games are no normal regular season matchups. They mean much, much more than that. Having the opportunity to get your team’s name engraved on that trophy is something Michigan dodgeballers look forward to and prepare for from the start of the school year in August. I hate to say it, but Colin is spot on. Other regions just don’t understand the significance of the MDC to the schools in Michigan.
The Michigan Dodgeball Cup gets the attention and coverage that it deserves. Plain and simple. All four of these teams are National Title contenders. Feel free to argue that statement in the comments section, I’ll enjoy laughing at you.
Well, now that I’ve alienated half my readers… here is my MDC Preview:
This Tournament is going to be epic. Below I have team by team predictions for the MDC. Teams are listed in order of their current place in the NCDA’s Standings.
Team: GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
National Rank: 1
Biggest Strength: Their Preparation. I know for a fact that Grand Valley will enter the MDC more prepared than they have been all year. So, if I had to pinpoint one thing that will be their strength at MDC, it isn’t their throwing or catching skills. Or their impressive team depth. It is simply their preparation.
Most Glaring Weakness: Inconsistency. Odd for me to call a team on a 4-year title run inconsistent. Odd that I am calling a team that is still ranked #1 in the country inconsistent. But, GVSU is a team with few noticeable weaknesses. They have only lost 3 games this year, and all three of those games GVSU just was not consistent in their approach and their strategy. When GVSU’s whole roster plays together for the full 50 minutes, they don’t lose. But at times, when GVSU is in a tight game, they become inconsistent and don’t play their game. They falter and play into another team’s strengths rather than their own. That can’t happen at MDC if they want to come away with the cup!
Top Performer Prediction: Aaron Krafft. This could’ve gone to a number of players, but I’ll take Krafft. After my rant on GVSU’s consistency, I will pick Krafft because I think he will be one of the more consistent players on GVSU’s team. Only a sophomore, Aaron has a bright future ahead of him, but this weekend he is tasked with leading the Lakers to their third MDC Title in a row.
X-Factor: Ray Franklin. When Ray (also a sophomore) is on his game, he is the best player on the court. But, when Ray is off his game he is no help at all for the Lakers. Ray gets the nod as X-Factor for GVSU because if he has a good day, and plays smart the whole tournament, I doubt anybody comes close to beating GVSU. If Ray doesn’t play disciplined, and leaves himself as an easy target to get hit, then GVSU may struggle to rack up three wins on Sunday.
Most likely to stop the game to go hug a player after hitting them in the face: Logan Rohloff. Team President. Senior Playing in his final MDC. Super competitive guy. But also just a genuinely nice person. Easy choice here…
Most likely to get a red card: Hmm… I’ll give the nod to Ray Franklin on this one too. He isn’t a jerk by any means, but he likes to slam the ball on the ground or smack the floor when he gets out sometimes. I just anticipate some situation where he hits the ground too hard and the wood floor cracks. The game would have to be stopped, and the ref would be so upset at him they’d give him a red card.
My Final Thoughts: GVSU comes into this one ranked #1, and they have an opportunity to solidify that spot with a 3-0 performance. I know the team well, and I know what they are capable of. There is too much talent on this team for them to not play well. I expect big things from Captain Brandon Meisel (injured knee, potentially out for the next few tournaments) and his squad.
National Rank: 2
Biggest Strength: Team Depth. Whether Mike Riley and Peter Broe rejoin the team for this one or not (I predict they will both play), CMU’s depth is impressive.
Most Glaring Weakness: Those uniforms. Seriously people, don’t tell me you guys are keeping those all season. Send those to wherever they send the “Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl Champions” shirts…
Top Performer Prediction: Shane Willette. Let’s just leave Mike Riley’s name out of this for a minute, because if he isn’t playing then I shouldn’t have even mentioned his name once in this article. If Riley is playing, he is obviously someone to consider for this title though. Anyway, I’ll give my top performer prediction to Shane because he is still an extremely underrated player. I just think people are forgetting how good CMU is, especially their top guys. I look forward to seeing what Shane does on Sunday, I predict it’ll be a performance that gets him more recognition and eventually helps earn him an All-American spot this spring.
X-Factor: Zach Bachner. You know those DirecTV commericals with Rob Lowe? Where there are two version of him, DirecTV Rob Lowe and Cable Rob Lowe. And the DirecTV Rob Lowe is just a way better version of himself than Rob Lowe with cable. This is how I see Zach Bachner. When he is playing well he is an unbelievable player. But when he isn’t playing well it isn’t good news for his team. Zach can be one of the best catchers in the league, and one of the smartest all around players. He can be a guy that always finds a way to stay in the game until the end of a point. A guy that has a knack for making big plays in big situations. I hope we see that version of Zach on Sunday. I hope we see DirecTV Zach Bachner.
Most likely to stop the game to go hug a player after hitting them in the face: Peter Broe, if he is still playing. I can picture him doing this right now though. Just another nice gentleman from the Michigan Region…
Most likely to get a red card: Jacob Leski, as a fan of CMU. Yep, I said it. I think Central’s team will behave themselves, but I look forward to Jake getting his first card as a spectator when he does a little too much heckling. This is why we film dodgeball games… for situations like this. Leski, behave yourself on Sunday, please.
My Final Thoughts: The Chips will be playing with a chip on their shoulder… Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Had to say it. But really, this team is far better than their record indicates. They have a lot to prove at MDC, and it could be a huge springboard for them heading into the season’s final stretch. I expect them to compete very well at this tournament. They have what it takes to beat any team in the country.
National Rank: 3
Biggest Strength: Strategy. Michigan State plays smart. They understand what their strengths and weaknesses are and they play accordingly. If they play smart dodgeball on Sunday, I give them a chance to win it all.
Most Glaring Weakness: Lack of depth. It is no secret that this team relies heavily on their top players, and with good reason.
Top Performer Prediction: Colin O’Brien. MSU has a lot of good players, but I’ll give the nod to O’Brien here. Let’s just ignore that fiasco at BEAST for a moment. Colin started out the semester with a clutch 1 v 2 overtime comeback against GVSU. Will he have similar heroics on Sunday? Maybe. He is blessed with this thing I call the clutch gene. He often makes big plays when his team needs it. His team will need him to do so on Sunday.
X-Factor: Tony Stumpo. The graduate student for MSU who is also a member of Elite Dodgeball’s Grand Rapids Kraken has unfortunately been absent the last few tourneys. He will be back on Sunday though. Tony is a veteran presence for MSU. I expect he plays a big role for the Spartans at MDC. In my opinion he is a top 6 guy on their roster, so he will be counted on to perform. If MSU is to get out of their MDC slump, Tony will be a big reason why.
Most likely to stop the game to go hug a player after hitting them in the face: Noe Galaviz. Not sure if he will be in attendance at MDC, but he is a guy who will go as hard as possible on the court and try to hit you in the mouth, but will be right there to help you off the ground if you get hurt. Nice guy. GVSU guys used to refer to him as Trevor Nordberg’s twin, because they have a lot of similarities. One of those similarities is their competitiveness on the court, and their kind demeanor off it.
Most likely to get a red card: Tough call. I’m gonna call a tie here and give the nod to both Wes Peters and Anuj Vyas. Both of them are hot heads. Both of them will probably dispute a few calls this weekend. Both of them keep it 100, and I respect them for that.
My Final Thoughts: I’ll give you a moment to digest this real quick: If Michigan State ever is to break through and win an MDC title again, this is their year. This is the last semester of dodgeball for some all-time greats at MSU: Colin O’Brien, Wes Peters, & Alex Zajac. Their time is now.
National Rank: 7
Biggest Strength: They will be overlooked. Once again SVSU will enter MDC as a team picked to lose. Once again they will use that as motivation. I don’t think SVSU will win MDC, and most people don’t. But that is a comfortable place for them. They do well when people doubt them, especially at this tournament. Seems like the stars have aligned for another epic performance by the Cardinals…
Most Glaring Weakness: Inconsistency. Yeah I’ll use this as a weakness for SVSU too. They have games where they play great. i.e. wins over GVSU and CMU in overtime. But they also have games where they just can’t hang. I’m interested in seeing how they do at MDC. Will they bring their A-game, or will they play poorly and lose control of the game.
Top Performer Prediction: Nick Hazergian. One of the hardest throwers in the league. This guy will be leaned on heavily for SVSU. He has been in the discussion for Baller of the Month a few times. A great performance at MDC and he may just win it after all.
X-Factor: Cody Putnam. We all know what Cody is capable of. He is one of the more talented guys in the league. If he is playing well, SVSU is going to be a tough out for any opponent.
Most likely to stop the game to go hug a player after hitting them in the face: Cody Putnam again. Very competitive guy, but also down to earth and respectful.
Most likely to get a red card: Really want to also give Cody this nod, but I’ll throw a different name out there… Kenny Mize. Kenny talks a big game, and cares a lot about winning, and I don’t actually see him getting a red card. I do enjoy the thought of him getting kicked out of a game. It would be entertaining. I’d be cheering really loudly in the stands…
My Final Thoughts: Saginaw has us right where they want us… These guys will come into MDC overlooked once again! When will we learn that Saginaw always brings it at MDC? Or maybe this is the year that comes to an end and they fall flat? I guess we will have to wait until Sunday to find out!
Alright people, call me crazy, but I am gonna pick CMU to get 2nd place! My sources tell me Ian Ryan, Mike Riley, and Peter Broe will be in attendance, and that will give CMU the boost they need. MSU is still a great team, but they have had a rough time at MDC, so I will say history repeats itself there. Here are my picks:
KEVIN BAILEY’S PREDICTIONS:
GVSU def CMU 2-0
CMU def SVSU 2-1
GVSU def MSU 2-0
GVSU def SVSU 3-1
CMU def MSU 2-1 OT
MSU def SVSU 2-0
FELIX PERRONE’S PREDICTIONS:
MSU 3-2 GVSU OT
SVSU 3-1 CMU
GVSU 2-1 SVSU
MSU 3-2 CMU OT
SVSU 3-2 MSU OT
GVSU 3-1 CMU
Colin O’Brien’s Vegas Spreads (when regulation ends, no overtime in these spreads)
GVSU -.5 vs. CMU
CMU -1 vs. SVSU
GVSU -.5 MSU
GVSU -1.5 vs. SVSU
CMU (pick) vs. MSU
MSU -1 vs. SVSU
Also, Zigmas Maloni provided me with some statistics for the MDC:
|Exchange if Upset
Lastly, make sure to tune in tomorrow for the LIVE PREGAME SHOW!