Well folks, we are at the halfway point in the NCDA season. Schools are off for the holidays, and no NCDA matches will be played until mid January. This is one of the many constants in college dodgeball, a time at mid-season for teams to reflect on what transpired in the fall semester, and what is still to come in the winter/spring.
Following up on a fantastic article by Hunter Ford on his bold predictions, I will briefly reflect on the fall semester and give some predictions for the rest of the season. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend as many tournaments as I would have liked in the fall, so maybe you will trust Hunter’s predictions over mine. But I have seen enough to be confident in the statements I am about to make. Here are some of my thoughts at the halfway point in yet another exciting season of collegiate dodgeball:
Best Team: Grand Valley State
For a second consecutive season GVSU starts the year with an underwhelming performance against MSU. For a second straight year GVSU proves to be as resilient as any team in the country. Sitting at 13-2 at the midway point is better than the Lakers were a year ago. GVSU is still the team to beat in my opinion, despite the graduation of two tremendous players this fall: Austin Morley and Anthony Incrocci. Just like last year, you should expect to see GVSU’s young talent develop dramatically in the winter and position the Lakers for a possible 5th straight national title.
Most Surprising Team: North Georgia / Western Kentucky / Virginia Commonwealth
This is a three-way tie because all of these teams deserve some props for what they have done. Let’s start with Western Kentucky. Wow. Just wow. This squad is 7-1 right now! I remember when WKU hosted Nationals back in the spring of 2015 and they were not even competitive in most matches. Huge shoutout to the leaders of this team for putting together a group of players that can go out there an win big games. I am really excited to see the Hilltoppers in person next semester!
North Georgia! I’m telling you right now, this team (and the one I will mention next) has the most forward momentum of any dodgeball program out there right now. Kyle Dattelbaum and Liam Bartlett know what they are doing. I can’t wait to see this team at Nationals.
Biggest Disappointment: Central Michigan
Actually, the biggest disappointment is CMU’s uniforms. Come on man! But for real, the Chips are 3-6 right now, not what I expected from a team returning almost everyone from a National Title appearance. CMU players, hold on before you write a nasty comment… read the next section:
Nationals Dark Horse: Central Michigan / Kentucky / Towson
Yep, CMU is easily in the National Title discussion in my opinion. Despite having a .333 win percentage, these boys know how to play ball. Don’t be surprised when they are battling it out in their third straight NCDA title game on a beautiful mid-April Sunday afternoon in Lexington, Kentucky.
Also on my dark horse list is UK. This team host Nationals. Last time they hosted Nationals they held a lead over eventual champs GVSU in a Final Four game. UK brings it when they host the big tourney. I expect nothing less in 2017.
Towson is a dark horse too. Just as they have been for a few years now. But lets be real here, the Tigers are an impressive 11-3 this year, and I know they have a tendency to improve dramatically as the season wears on. TU is going to make some noise at Nationals this year.
Mid-season NCDA MVP: Wes Peters
I might get a lot of hate for this one, but hear me out folks. There are a lot of very talented players in the league. There is still a lot of dodgeball to play, and yes the winter / spring is when the money is earned. But people listen… through the first four months of the NCDA season I will confidently give my MVP endorsement to Wes Peters of MSU.
Wes has been around for quite a while, but let me tell you right now, he played the best dodgeball of his career in the fall. Numerous clutch performances including last man standing wins against GVSU and CMU (in overtime) have helped Wes make a strong case for the mid-season MVP. Argue if you must, but based solely on individual performance this past semester he is in the lead in the race for MVP.
Now, with that said, I do expect it to be a tight race. There are a number of other players who will have the opportunity to make state their case. Mike Hinely of Towson for MVP? I have to say, I like the sound of that. He would have to lead Towson deep into the NCDA tourney to be considered in my opinion. We all know Doug Schilling can play some big-time dodgeball. If he comes up clutch in the spring his name will certainly be in the discussion.
Colin O’Brien happens to be good at dodgeball, and he is back for MSU in the spring. Is one semester enough for him to grab some MVP votes? I guess we will see what the captains decide. My preseason endorsement went to Mike Riley of CMU. While the Chippewas had a poor fall semester, I won’t rule out his name (or other players on his team like Zach Bachner or Shane Willette) because if Central show up next semester and storms their way to a National Championship then those guys will undoubtedly be in the discussion as well.
And lastly, we can not overlook the players on Grand Valley’s team. Aaron Krafft has been mentioned as one of the top all around players in college dodgeball this year, so he will be one to remember. Brandon Meisel happens to be the captain for GVSU. Captain of the National Champs has took home the MVP crown each of the past 5 seasons, keep that in mind. And hey, who knows, maybe Drew Greenawalt adds to his legend and helps bring University of Kentucky their first ever NCDA National Title… toss his name in the ring as well. Lots of quality dodgeball players in the discussion, but all of them are playing catch up to one Mr. Peters at the moment. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out between now and mid-April.
Best Tweet of the Fall Semester: