- The following article was co-authored by Kevin Bailey and Hunter Ford.
Below, Chief of Content Kevin Bailey and Director of Nationals Hunter Ford take a stab at what the bracket will look like for Nationals. The two will dive into this discussion from two different angles. Kevin will take a look at what the bracket would look like if Nationals happened today, while Hunter is giving a projection on what the bracket will look like on the day of Nationals. Take a look below for the two brackets, and feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or predictions:
*To be clear, neither of these brackets are official, people. This is just our projection. The official Nationals Bracket is determined after pool-play on day one of the event…
Kevin’s Hypothetical Bracket:
As mentioned above, this is if Nationals were to happen today. The seedings are based strictly off of the most recent Gonzalez Standings. I only included the teams who would be eligible to play at Nationals (at least 3 games played this year). For that reason, teams such as Western Kentucky, Oregon State, and Gonzaga were not placed on my bracket. Lets take a deeper look at some of the most intriguing matchups in each round:
UWP #9 vs. Akron #24 – This is one of my favorite first round games because it would probably be much more competitive than the seeds suggest. It is absolutely crazy to me that Akron is ranked #32 in the most recent Gonzalez standings, and #24 out of teams eligible to attend Nationals. yeah, that means 8 teams who haven’t even played 3 games this year somehow still get to be ranked ahead of Akron, despite Akron having 7 wins this year! Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time. This game would be exciting. UWP is historically great at Nationals, but they are such an unknown this year. Akron’s top group of 4 or 5 players is very strong, so I could see this end up going down to the wire. I predict the better seed UWP would win, but not by a lot.
UK #8 vs. UVA #25 – Another matchup that could be closer than the difference in seed would indicate. UVA is a team on the rise, while Kentucky has not played as much this year as I would have liked them to. I think Kentucky would take this one, but UVA is a young and talented team that might just catch fire at the perfect time.
Miami #15 vs. UNL #18 – Here are two teams close in the standings, so naturally this could be a tight matchup. Miami and UNl are two schools who have had a bit of a resurgence over the past year or so. I am excited for the future of both programs, and I think a win in this matchup could spring one of these teams forward into the off-season (yes I’m assuming they lose to CMU in the next round).
MSU #10 vs. UCF #23 – I know, I know. Michigan State is the clear favorite in this game. But I’d just like to point out that last time they played a first-year NCDA squad filled with talented and confident young players… it was JMU back in 2012, and the Dukes pulled the crazy upset. I’m just saying…
UWP #9 vs. UK #8 – The classic 8-9 matchup. Always gives people trouble on their March madness brackets, and it’s giving me trouble right now. I predict UK takes the win, but as I mentioned earlier, UWP is nothing to mess with at Nationals. Don’t count them out here.
Kent #4 vs. Ohio #13 – Wow. If this matchup actually occurs in the second round, that is gonna be one heated round of 16 game. Ohio and Kent have a history the past few years of having a back and forth type of a rivalry. Ohio took ODC right away from Kent in 2017, but Kent took it right back in 2018. This game would be electric in the second round. Put it on the main court, and sit back and enjoy the fireworks…
MSU #10 vs. BGSU #7 – As you can see in my prediction, if Nationals was right now, BGSU would take this one. With that said, MSU has an exciting young team that has improved at a rapid rate. Come late April, maybe they will close the gap. Give me BGSU in this one, booking them a ticket to the quarterfinals.
Kent #4 vs. Towson #5 – Love this matchup. Kent has been to 3 Final Fours in program history, Towson has been to zero. Towson and Kent are both teams who have come on strong in the second half of the season. I think if this game happened today, TU would take the win maybe 4-3.
CMU #2 vs. BGSU #7 – Last time these squads met, BGSU held a 2-0 halftime lead before the Chippewas stormed back to win in OT 3-2. Yeah, sign me up for another round of that.. please, and thank you.
SVSU #3 vs. JMU #6 – I’m really enjoying this rivalry lately. Two very different groups of kids on these two squads. Two very similar teams when it comes to their level of talent. If the game were to happen today, give me SVSU in another OT thriller. But a month in a half from now, that might change. JMU is going to peak at the right time this year. They may hold the upper hand come April 22…
GVSU #1 vs. Towson #5 – Well, we all know how this one went down a few weeks ago. GVSU led 3-2 before choking away a point with less than a minute to go. Then in overtime, Towson’s 5-1 lead was taken away by Alex Jonauskas and Brandon Meisel. Towson was so close to a program-changing victory over the best team in the sport. But they came up short. Sets the stage quite nicely for a Final Four game. The contrast between these two programs is remarkable. TU would be journeying through uncharted waters here, as they have never made it to the Final Four, let alone earn a spot in the NCDA Championship Game. GVSU on the other hand, has been here before… literally every year in their team’s existence.
CMU #2 vs. SVSU #3 – I like to poke fun at Central Michigan for their not-so-great record in NCDA championship Games (1-4), but here’s an interesting stat for you: CMU is 5-1 in Final Four games! SVSU is a much more pedestrian 3-4 in such matches. I predict the trend continues for CMU in this one. Not to discredit SVSU, but Central is too deep, and too talented to lose to SVSU this year, especially if their Final Four game were right now.
GVSU #1 vs. CMU #2 – 4th time’s a charm for CMU? They have seen this exact same matchup each of the last three Nationals. If the game were to happen today, I would give my edge to GVSU, as their last game against the Chips was a 5-1 blowout. With that said, CMU has plenty of time (and another game or two against GV) to figure everything out before Nationals. Both of these schools are loaded with talent throughout their roster. Will CMU be able to get out of their own head and perform when a trophy is on the line? I can’t wait to find out.
Hunter’s Projected Bracket:
Full Disclaimer: If the regular season were to end today this is not the full seeding for the tournament. This is a projection of what teams I think are likely attend Nationals 2018, and what I believe their seeds will be with everything leading up to bracket play.
I’ll start by pointing out a couple teams that I think will either be higher or lower than their respective rank now.
SVSU (Currently #3 > Projected #5) – I don’t look on this as much of a knock on SVSU, as much as I do a credit to CMU and GVSU. Those two have shown they can handle the Cardinals, which I believe will hurt their ranking in the extremely tight 3-7 seed race.
JMU (Currently #6 > Projected #3) – There are three scheduled East Coast tournaments to round out the regular season and JMU hasn’t given me a reason to think they won’t win all of them. They’ll benefit from the wins, especially over East Coast foe Towson.
Towson (Currently #5 > Projected #6) – The inverse of what I said about JMU. That being said, if they win out over the rest of the East Coast like they should they won’t be damaged too badly in their ranking.
MSU (Currently #10 > Projected #9) – I think MSU finally reaps the benefits of playing tough competition all year when they come to play Saturday at Nationals and gets some wins to help them out. That being said, I still don’t think it will be enough to make a huge jump, but some upward movement nonetheless.
UWP (Currently #9 > Projected #11) – Once again, an inverse from MSU. UWP has done well with a young squad, but their strength of schedule is certainly lacking. All of their wins this season have come against DePaul, UNL, SIUe, and Midland which are also other young teams. Their youth and lack of experience hurt them in Saturday play, but they have a healthy enough rating gap to keep them ahead of some teams.
VCU (Currently #12 > Projected #10) – The Rams benefit from a home court atmosphere and having a (presumably) healthy captain. They’ll pick up some good wins, but won’t push them up the ladder a ton.
UVA (Currently #33 > Projected #15) – On paper it’s easy to say, “how in the world does a team make a leap like that?” There’s two things at play here. 1. I’m making the assumption that there are plenty of teams that won’t be making the trip to Richmond who are ranked ahead of them (UNT, Gonzaga, Oregon State, UWW, NIU, SIUe, Midland, Pitt). 2. UVA will rack up some good wins between now and Sunday of Nationals. I think they’ll solidify themselves towards the middle of the East Coast, and pick up wins the Saturday of to push them towards the top.
UNG (Currently #11 > Projected #16) – This is probably my most conflicted/controversial pick. I do think UNG is a solid group. My issue is they have zero officially scheduled games from now until Nationals, so they won’t have the opportunity to rack up more points. Additionally, they, like UWP, have benefited from from a lackluster strength of schedule. I hope UNG proves me wrong, and they certainly can, but this is just a gut feeling because I foresee this team getting a lot of requests at Nationals against tough competition.
Akron (Currently #32 > Projected #17) – Copy+paste from UVA, except apply it to the Ohio Region.
OSU, UNL, UMD, Stevenson, DePaul, UCF, BW – *Repeats missing teams reference*
Taking a look at the bracket itself, for the most part it’s straight chalk, and why wouldn’t it be? That’s pretty much been the story of our league for years with few exceptions. However, there are some matchups that I think will result in upsets, especially with the extended bracket this year due to more projected teams in attendance. Let’s take a look at some interesting potential matchups round-by-round.
UNG #17 def Akron #16 – If this matchup were to occur, this would be the most interesting game to watch in the first round and for good reason. This is basically a coin flip in my book, but I give the edge to UNG. If I had to say anything to tip the favor on one side, I give it to UNG because they have more of a commitment to catching than Akron does. Akron has just a little bit more talent at the top, but UNG appears to have a good strategy in place that fits their skills.
UVA #15 def OSU #18 – I have the Cavaliers getting the win here, but this is another tossup type of game. With the injury to Ben Johnson, it certainly hurts OSU’s chances at Nationals, and on top of that, UVA is traveling from only an hour away so expect a full roster and a relatively fresh team as well.
Ohio #12 def Stevenson #21 – This game I think has the most significant and possible upset potential in the first round. At the top, I think Stevenson’s roster is stronger, but from a whole roster perspective I like Ohio. If this game were to go into OT I might take Stevenson, but I could see them getting tired out from a lack of depth after Saturday, giving the edge to Ohio.
MSU #9 def UK #8 – This is one year where I don’t know much about either side. My preference towards MSU falls more under their level of competition this season, and the most recent common opponent for both of these schools, Ohio. MSU defeated Ohio 5-1 at the same event UK lost to Ohio 5-1. UK also beat Ohio 5-1 earlier this year though, so who the hell knows what UK team shows up.
VCU #10 def BGSU #7 – Call me biased, arrogant, or whatever but I feel good about the Rams playing at home for Nationals. Both teams should have relatively one-sided affairs in their projected first round matchup, and every single game between these two teams has been close. Call it a lucky feeling.
SVSU #5 def Kent #4 – These two teams met up during last year’s Nationals in the same round, and I have them here again in the quarterfinals once more. SVSU benefits a lot from their experience in this game compared to Kent. Kent has hit a quarterfinal wall two straight years, while SVSU has made it to the Final Four in two of their past three seasons. This gives me more confidence in the Cardinals if they were to meet up here.
JMU #3 def Towson #6 – I really, really, really, really, really hope these two teams don’t meet before a potential Final Four matchup. I think Towson stacks up better against the Michigan schools than JMU in terms of pulling off an upset, but Towson has yet to get through JMU this season. History repeats itself in a match between East Coast rivals.
GVSU #1 def SVSU #5 – The Lakers look to be just as good of a team this year as they did last year, if not better. They know what it takes to get to the finals and when year-in and year-out. GVSU also gets the benefit of a (potentially) easier matchup in the quarterfinals as compared to SVSU. Should this go to OT, I’d be inclined to take the Cardinals, but I don’t see it reaching that point.
CMU #2 def JMU #3 – CMU and JMU have already met once this season, with the Chippewas taking the win in the closing seconds of the match. I expect another close one here as well. CMU has displayed that they have a well rounded squad all year and know how to play as a team. They can take advantage of a team like JMU who is arguably more talented than them but less refined.
CMU #2 def GVSU #1 – You gotta figure CMU has to pull this one out at some point right? Well how about now? The two teams will most likely be exhausted once it gets to this point in the day so expect a lot of mistakes from both teams. In a match like that I’d normally take GVSU, but like I said, CMU’s gotta take this game at some point, might as well be now. Just a hunch.