Oh man, what do I even say about this tournament? It feels like ever since JMU hit the national scene about five years ago that the players between these two conferences have been clamoring for a regular season blowout tournament. Ok, maybe not a blowout, but people have been hoping that as the East Coast Conference has risen the teams over here would be able to face their Midwest counterparts during the regular season. There have been some regular season matchups before (BEAST and other various tournaments), but this marks the first time I can remember that multiple teams from either region have travelled the distance to the other. Saturday looks to be a barometer for a lot of teams heading into April and Nationals. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Block 1 (9AM estimated start)
MSU v. VCU – In years past I would have written this game off as a definite blowout. I’m excited to say I don’t think that would be reasonable anymore. VCU took a huge step forward at BEAST V by pulling off their first upset in taking down Maryland. Michigan State is bringing a full roster, but won’t have many subs on the trip. The early start and unfamiliar turf could create a tighter match than many expect.
Sean Smith (MSU def. VCU 4-0) – This might seem a little hypocritical as 4-0 seems like a blowout but I don’t believe it is. I think VCU would be very excited to walk away with keeping a game like this tight and potentially stealing a point.
Kevin Bailey (MSU def. VCU 4-0) – According to the MDC, MSU is the fourth best team in Michigan. According to the BEAST tournament that same weekend, VCU is the third best in the east. Despite this, Michigan State is clearly the superior team. The day should begin with a convincing win for the Spartans.
Colin O’Brien (MSU def. VCU) – Wouldn’t be surprised to see VCU take the opening point but too much talent on MSU.
Jacob Leski (MSU def. VCU 4-0) – Michigan State should have no problem handling the red hot Rams who are coming off a major upset over Maryland. Expect VCU to come out hot, but be cooled down by the Spartans overwhelming talent.
TU v. JMU – The last time these two teams played it was a tale of two halves. JMU took control early with a 2-0 halftime lead. Towson battled back in the second half taking their first point from the Dukes in about a year. Towson almost pushed overtime but ran out of time. This is the first match of the day for both teams as it was at BEAST. I believe this will shape out to be the most interesting match of the day.
Sean Smith (JMU def. TU 3-2 OT) – Last time we played JMU did not have Doug Schilling, they also played a lot of reserves at certain points. That aside I think Towson finally broke the ice and took a crucial point. I see the Dukes winning but in the closest, highly contested match in series history.
Kevin Bailey (JMU def. TU 2-1) – This one was very entertaining to watch at BEAST. Expect much of the same this time around. As much as I want to call for a Towson win on their home court, I like the Dukes in this one. JMU should take by at least one point despite a strong effort from the Tigers.
Colin O’Brien (JMU def. TU) – In a very close game, JMU makes enough plays to take the game winning point late in the second half.
Jacob Leski (TU def. JMU 2-1 OT) – I am an avid believer in home court advantage. Last season, CMU handled GVSU their only loss of the season at home right before Nationals. I am predicting a similar result in this matchup. JMU is currently undefeated, however the leadership on Towson’s squad will lead them to their first ever victory over JMU, their last matchup before Nationals.
Block 2 (10:15 estimated start)
UMD v. VCU – As previously mentioned VCU surprised many people by upsetting the Terps at BEAST for their first marquee victory in team history. Maryland appears to have lost some of their better players which could be a huge factor. Rohan Mittal was not present at JMU and it seems as if he will not be here this weekend either. However, in the event that something changes and he does play it changes the entire complexion of this matchup.
Sean Smith (VCU def. UMD 3-2 OT) – Truth is I really don’t know what to expect here. VCU has improved immensely from years past and Maryland’s roster seems to be in a state of fluctuation. That being said the Terps still have decent talent and a lot more practice time under their belt. My gut says VCU so I’m going to run with it.
Kevin Bailey (UMD def. VCU 3-2) – UMD lost ot VCU less than a month ago. I think they get their revenge at MVEC. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the Terrapins this time around.
Colin O’Brien (VCU def. UMD) – Don’t know too much about either, but as I heard UMD has been slipping this semester, I give the advantage to the Rams.
Jacob Leski (VCU def. UMD 3-1) – I have heard very disconcerting things about the Terrapins as of late, which only adds to my belief that they are an organization that thinks they are better than they will ever be. I expect the Rams to expose Maryland’s many flaws, thus starting a very long and winless day for the Terrapins.
GVSU v. JMU – A lot of people have been looking forward to this matchup. Grand Valley comes in rocking the #1 ranking and a lot of bravado with it. I find it safe to say this is JMU’s most important matchup of the day, looking to legitimize their undefeated record. A lot of people will either have expectations met or deflated after this match.
Sean Smith (GVSU def. JMU 3-1) – I have been very vocal in hoping for a team finally end the tyrannical reign of Michigan over the rest of the NCDA and take home the title. In the past JMU was my team of choice to slay the beast that is Michigan. However, the Dukes lost A LOT of talent from last year’s roster. I see Grand Valley taking this easily (unfortunately).
Kevin Bailey (GVSU def. JMU 3-1) – This is one of the most anticipated matches of the season for both teams. If JMU takes care of business vs. Towson, they will hold an undefeated record heading into a clash with #1 GVSU. Don’t be surprised if this is on eof the most entertaining games all year. Not surprisingly, I predict a convincing win by the Lakers!
Colin O’Brien (GVSU def. JMU) – Tightly contested game, but GVSU is too deep and I don’t think if JMU has the depth to match
Jacob Leski (GVSU def. JMU 4-1) – If Kevin Bailey can continue to guide and lead this incredibly young team as he has throughout the season then I expect them to have little to no issue with this matchup. While I believe JMU has an incredible top six, I do not trust the rest of their talent based off of what I have watched.
Block 3 (11:30 estimated start)
GVSU v. UMD – Right now this appears to be the most lopsided matchup of the day. UMD is coming off a disappointing showing at BEAST. GVSU is coming off yet another MDC title. Need I say more?
Sean Smith (GVSU def. UMD 5-0) – If Grand Valley had a full 20 I would have actually predicted this score be lower. I think the Lakers get try to rest as many of their players as possible but with only 18 there will be enough starts left over the roll the Terps.
Kevin Bailey (GVSU def. UMD 5-0) – From what I hear, UMD is a shadow of what they used to be. If that is the case, then GVSU should have no issue beating them handily. Give me the Lakers in a blowout.
Colin O’Brien (GVSU def. UMD) – Too much talent for GV. Win with ease.
Jacob Leski (GVSU def. UMD 7-0) – This should be a cake walk for GVSU. If they take the Terrapins seriously, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do, I expect this to be over before halftime. This will be a good learning experience for the Terrapins to see what ar eal dodgeball team looks and plays like.
MSU v. TU – A rematch of last year’s Saturday matchup at Nationals. The Spartans took the first ever matchup with a 3-1 victory. However, Towson was in every point, just unable to finish them out. On a personal note: I have been looking forward to playing MSU again ever since that loss.
Sean Smith (MSU def. TU 2-1) – I really, REALLY want to predict an upset here. I felt like my team performed much better than the score depicted the last time we played the Spartans. However, MSU has demonstrated the ability to take out GVSU this year, and I can’t say my team is on that level until I see us there. Hopefully I’m wrong though!
Kevin Bailey (MSU def. TU 3-1) – These teams matched up last season at Nationals and it was entertaining. I won’t be surprised if it once again is a great game. Will Colin O’Brien be Towson’s kryptonite once again, or have the Tigers learned their lesson?
Colin O’Brien (MSU def. TU) – I think it’ll be pretty similar to the match at Nationals last year with every point close, but MSU prevails in the end.
Jacob Leski (MSU def. TU 3-1) – I think this will be a very close match. Towson is a team on the rise right now and they have the talent to matchup well with the Spartans. Expect this game to be highly competitive throughout the entire match. For the sake of the home team, I hope my prediction is incorrect and Towson upsets MSU or at the very least takes them to overtime.
Block 4 (12:45 estimated start)
JMU v. MSU – Yet another bar setting match for JMU, and even slightly so for MSU. Sparty did not perform well at MDC and this match will be a chance to reprove their stature outside of the Michigan region. JMU will come off a break where they could either be refreshed or sluggish which could create an interesting dynamic.
Sean Smith (MSU def. JMU 3-2) – While I think MSU’s game against Towson will be very draining I feel like this matchup will create a very frenetic pace. JMU will try to take advantage of MSU having only one sub, but I just don’t see them matching up well against the Spartans.
Kevin Bailey (MSU def. JMU 2-1) – Bottom line here: Michigan State is battle tested, JMU is not, The Spartans have had so many tight games against top tier teams this season, so they are prepared for a barnburner against the Dukes. I think the experience in tough games will be the difference here. MSU survives with a win 2-1.
Colin O’Brien (MSU def. JMU) – We’ve never beaten JMU and we seek to end that streak now. A close game throughout but MSU is able to finish the game this time, unlike they’ve been able to in the past.
Jacob Leski (MSU def. JMU 3-2 OT) – I expect this game to be the closest match of the day. These two teams matchup perfectly, which is why I see this game going to overtime. I can see this overtime going either way, however MSU’s top six is outstanding and very cohesive, which is why I see them closing this one out.
TU v. UMD – The Old Line State rivalry renews again. Towson won the last matchup 3-2, but it was not as close as the score would have you think. Towson went up 3-0 at halftime, and rested many players in the second half. This will be the third match for both teams.
Sean Smith (TU def. UMD 4-1) – Last time out against Maryland just didn’t feel like the normal match between the two teams. I think Maryland will be better with the extra practice time, but something just didn’t seem right with them last time. Hopefully they turn it around, but until they do, I’m predicting a blowout by this rivalry’s standard.
Kevin Bailey (TU def. UMD 3-0) – Last year UMD had the upper hand in this rivalry. What a difference a year makes. TU is the team poised for a successful finish to the season, while UMD is seemingly limping to the finish line. Towson wins handily.
Colin O’Brien (TU def. UMD) – The in state rivalry is intense but TU refuses to lose at home to their rival.
Jacob Leski (TU def. UMD 4-2) – This should be a decent matchup. I say this because the Terrapins used to the be the second best team on the East Coast, now they are the 5th and Towson is now on a whole other level then they are. The Terrapins will try to prove they are still a “good” team, but Towson will put them in their place.
Block 5 (2PM estimated start)
VCU v. JMU – The last match of the day for both teams. This will be JMU’s 4th game of the day while it is only VCU’s 3rd. Ignoring the peculiar nature of that this could be a fun match. Last time VCU played JMU they marked it as a JV match, a curious tactic on both teams’ parts. However, I’m sure both teams will be very tired and we might see the same thing again. Though I hope it counts towards real records.
Sean Smith (JMU def. VCU 3-1) – I’m not sure if this match will count or not. Whether it does or doesn’t I see a lot of subs being played in this match. I just want this to count towards actual records.
Kevin Bailey (JMU def. VCU 3-1) – James Madison is far more talented than Virginia Commonwealth. That difference in talent level will be visible in this game. JMU should take the victory in this one despite coming off games against two Michigan powerhouses earlier in the day.
Colin O’Brien (JMU def. VCU) – Too much talent for the Dukes for VCU to overcome.
Jacob Leski (JMU def. VCU 5-1) – If JMU ended up losing both games to the Michigan schools and perhaps Towson, then I expect them to come out a little flat/defeated, but still able to use their superior talent to defeat the Rams easily.
GVSU v. MSU – Would it be any fun if these teams didn’t play each other? I mean really, why not? Who knows what will happen after playing a full schedule and a lack of depth on both sides. Either way it looks to be fun.
Sean Smith (GVSU def. MSU 1-0) – With the lack of depth on both sides and one more match looming for Grand Valley I see this being a very tight match. Whoever scores the first point wins in my mind.
Kevin Bailey (GVSU def. MSU 2-0) – I am losing track of how many times GVSU and MSU have played this season. The scheduler for this tournament was kind enough to give us one more clash before Nationals. I’ll predict a 2-0 win for GVSU.
Colin O’Brien (MSU def. GVSU) – Another overtime for the two Michigan schools, but MSU ets revenge for their MDC overtime loss.
Jacob Leski (GVSU def. MSU 2-1) – Not much I can say that I haven’t already said at some point about this matchup. This will be a phenomenal game to watch, as both teams have defeated each other multiple times, all of the contests being incredibly close. Hard game to predict, but I will have to go with GVSU only because I believe their 7-15 players will be better than the players MSU brings to this specific tournament.
Block 6 (3:15 estimated start)
TU v. GVSU – For the record, I was not a part of creating this weekend’s schedule at all. That being said it will have already been a long day for both squads. Grand Valley will be just coming off what should be a grueling matchup against MSU while Towson will be coming off a break period. Will the affects of all the travel and play catch up to the Lakers? Can the Tigers play out of their minds and pull off a monumental upset?
Sean Smith (GVSU def. TU 3-0) – I’m trying to predict with my brain rather than my heart here. However, my heart says the match will be closer than this, especially with Grand Valley only bringing 18. However, my brain says Grand Valley cruises to a victory here.
Kevin Bailey (GVSU def. TU 3-0) – Last game of the day. I wonder aloud: did Towson schedule this game last in hopes that GVSU’s arms fall off by then? I am very excited to see how this one plays out. The difference-maker in this one will be the depth [talent] on GVSU being superior to that on TU. I could be wrong though… maybe Towson has a surprise up their sleeve for this one. Biggest upset in NCDA history? I guess we will have to wait til the 26th to find out!
Colin O’Brien (GVSU def. TU) – GVSU will not lose two in a row and their talent is too much for Towson to overcome.
Jacob Leski (GVSU def. Towson 3-1) – This should be a fun match to watch. Towson is an incredibly hard team to predict. Expect a hard fought match, even though both teams will be tired playing at the end of the day.