Nationals 2018 Reaction

It’s been several days since teams returned home from NCDA Nationals 2018.  The season’s final tournament did not disappoint this year, with a record number of teams in attendance and plenty of unforgettable games.  The Content Team has plenty in store for you over the next few weeks, but to start, here are my initial thoughts from this past weekend’s tournament:

Can anyone beat GVSU?

I’m aware, CMU had their number basically all season long, but I’m not talking about that.  I mean at Nationals.  For 6-straight years GVSU has been the one riding home with trophy in hand.  No team has been able to get over that mental hurdle to take the top spot away from the Lakers.  Decades from now, people will look back at this era and wonder just how dominant GVSU must’ve been.  The fact of the matter is, for parts of this 6-year run, Grand Valley wasn’t even close to being the most talented team in the country.  GVSU just knows how to get it done when the pressure is on.  Eventually some team needs to put an end to that.  With GVSU returning all but two starters next season, I think the answer to my question “can anyone beat GVSU?”… is no.  Not gonna happen next season at least.

Is this the end of a historic run for Central Michigan?

For those who have been living under a rock recently, CMU just made it to their 4th-consecutive national title game.  Wow.  GVSU gets all the headlines, but can we take a moment to appreciate just how incredible this is?  Keep in mind, back in 2013 and 2014, the Chips barely could get 10 players to a tournament.  It’s unbelievable what the leaders of that program orchestrated over the next 4 seasons.  But back to my question: is this the end of their run?  Will CMU finally take a step back in 2019 and not get all the way to the title game?  When you take a look at who CMU loses to graduation this year (Riley, Webber, Belen, Kobus, Watson, Mudge, Delling), it’s heartbreaking but extremely realistic to speculate that the run might be over for CMU.  There is a very real possibility that the school will come up empty-handed from this 4-year resurgence.  If CMU can put together a world-beater of a recruiting class, then all bets are off.  New captain Austin Brege will be an MVP candidate next year, but can he piece together a title contender from their depleted roster?

James Madison is good, but next year they will be great.

Okay, I’ll say it.  JMU makes the championship game next year.  There, are you happy now?  My Way-Too-Early 2019 Rankings will come out sometime soon, and guess who will be #2?  James Madison.  From what I’ve been told, the only starter from their Nationals roster that’s graduating is Doug Schilling.  Tough loss, but when you look at the young talent and depth on that roster, I expect them to be a better overall team next year.  Keep in mind, this team played CMU three times this season, each of which went down to the wire.  JMU has a very high ceiling next year.  As long as they become more strategic and composed during big games, they could be a real title contender next year.  I’ve bought into the JMU hype and ended up wrong in the past, but there are reasons for my choice this year.  The combination of A) JMU returning all but one starter from a talented squad, and B) all the other top teams besides GVSU losing plenty of top-end talent, makes me confident in my pick that JMU will reach the title game in 2019.

Best BGSU season ever: 2017-18.

Bowling Green pulled it all together over the weekend.  A clutch OT win over PSU.  A satisfying victory over JMU.  And of course the crazy overtime win against Towson to reach the Final Four.  BGSU’s best team ever was clearly the 2017-18 version.

When will Towson end a season without heartbreak?

Four years ago, they lost at the hands of their in-state rivals, UMD in the first round.  Three years ago, a historic upset of OSU directly followed by a bitter loss to East Coast foe JMU.  Two years ago, a wild overtime game that ended with Kentucky advancing, rather than Towson.  One year ago, they tied it up with MSU with four minutes to play, then somehow lost a point in the last four minutes of regulation.  Then this year… the overtime game that ended with a player stepping out of bounds.  Heartbreak after heartbreak.  Hopefully they put an end to that next season.

College Dodgeball is exciting.  Like very, very exciting.

Not to disrespect any other form of this sport, but there’s just something about College Dodgeball that makes it by far the best in my opinion.  Full article on this coming soon.  But trust me folks, you’re spoiled right now.  No championship I will ever win in dodgeball will be as significant or meaningful to me as the ones I’ve earned as a college dodgeballer.  In the middle of the MSU vs. VCU game, Dylan Fettig (a ref for that game) walked by the scorer’s table and remarked “anyone who thinks other dodgeball leagues are more exciting than this… is wrong”.  Maybe he said “is dumb”, actually.  I forget, but either way he was right.  College Dodgeball is just the best.  And the content team will lay out all the many reasons why in the near future.

It’s only fitting that VCU had the two best games of the tournament.

Hunter Ford got out what he put into Nationals 2018, and that has got to be a satisfying feeling.  The guy responsible for this whole thing going down at VCU was able to have an unforgettable moment when he made the final catch in overtime to seal VCU’s best win ever, an upset over #3 SVSU.  Hunter should probably thank his rookie sensation Ike Fleckenstein for catching just about everyone on SVSU’s roster in that overtime period.  If it weren’t for his heroics, we probably never would’ve had this gem of a celebration.

If you haven’t watched the full Michigan State vs. Virginia Commonwealth Round of 16 game, I implore you to do so.  Kids these days would use the term “LIT” to describe that one.  The momentum shifted back and forth and back and forth throughout the entire match.  VCU’s catch with 2 seconds left forced overtime, where more epic plays ensued.  In the end MSU came out victorious, but everyone who had the chance to witness that match also left a winner.  I can’t wait for more games like this next season.

The East Coast has some serious depth.

JMU has already been mentioned.  They’re legit.  Towson was a heartbreaking OT away from making the Final Four.  VCU beat Saginaw in OT on Saturday, and nearly did the same to MSU on Sunday.  Maryland and Virginia were two pleasant surprises down the stretch this season, and both will be way better next year.  Oh, and Penn State at one point held a 2-1 lead over CMU… in bracket play.  Seriously, that happened.

What in the world is the order of the Ohio Region going to be next year?

Honestly, I have no clue.  BGSU was great this year, but they do lose a handful of major pieces.  Kent was in the title race heading into Sunday of Nationals with a loaded roster.  They lose a lot of big time performers.  Those were the clear top 2 teams in Ohio, but both will likely regress in 2019.  Now on to the middle of the pack teams: Miami, Akron, OSU, Ohio.  Yeah, lock it in, each of these teams will be improved next year.  Now you see the dilemma.  Everyone is headed towards the same spot.  There is going to be a heck of a lot of parity in the Ohio Region next year.  Should make for an awesome season.

Michigan State is fun to watch. But can they be contenders in 2019?

The Spartans were a completely different team at Nationals than they were at the start of this season.  Throughout the year I kept saying to keep an eye on this group, but they exceeded my expectations down the stretch this year.  The Spartans will lose a number of stars this offseason, but they have quite a bit of young talent on the roster that has not yet reached its potential.  A few months ago I predicted MSU to win the 2020 National Title, but could they accelerate that process and become a title contender in 2019?  Can’t wait to find out.

The South is just not there yet.

UNG, GSU, UCF, and NSU all had tough weekends.  I’m not going to sit here and harp about how many losses each team had, because in reality, the future is bright for each school.  I can’t wait to see how improved each group is come Nationals 2019.

Midway Conference had an up and down weekend.  Mostly down.

DePaul hung in there with UK for a while, but ended up losing.  They did pull off an OT win over UCF this weekend.  UNL lost every game, but held their own against a number of tough opponents, scoring at least one point in each match.  And of course, UWP.  Wisconsin Platteville had a tricky Saturday schedule and ended up going 0-3.  They were still able to make the Round of 16, but lost there to eventual champion, GVSU.  I hope to see each of the Midway schools make some improvements heading into next season.

Overtime is fun.

Just look up the videos, you don’t need to hear me say anything more here.  6 v 6 sudden death OT on a full-size basketball court (following 50 minutes of regulation play) is the most beautiful and exhausting thing in the world.  Even more so when it’s in bracket play at Nationals…

The NCDA rule-set continues to improve.

Two years ago, the final score of the championship game was 1-0.  This year, our National Title Game finished with a score of 6-1.  I know, points scored in a match is not the only factor that matters, nor does that necessarily mean the dodgeball is better.  But, the dodgeball I saw this weekend certainly passed the eye test.  Our league has made a few nice changes to make the game more exciting (12 v 12, clean blocking), and we have a few more good ones in the works.

We lose a lot of legends to graduation this year.

Too many to name.  But the list is extensive this year, trust me.

Next season is going to be a blast!

Sure, it looks like GVSU will be a heavy favorite next year, but overall, the league will have more parity than ever before.  Truthfully, the 15th best team at the start of next season could end the year ranked #3, and vice versa.  There will be more teams with a legitimate chance at making the Final Four next year than ever before in the league’s 14-year history.  With so much parity, we are probably going to see plenty of close games in 2018-19.  More last second comebacks.  More overtime classics.  More of me losing my voice trying to commentate.  Yeah, sign me up.

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content. Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

2 thoughts on “Nationals 2018 Reaction”

  1. This years Nationals Tournaments were amazing. As a parent watching these teams play against each other and to see the passion and drive they have to play is incredible. What is even more incredible was watching the VCU and MSU overtime game. MSU only had a handful of people cheering them on and the rest of the stadium crazy over VCU. After MSU beat them it was nice to see how they are all still like Family. Hunter is a very respected player on and off the court. He talked to some of MSU players after the game myself included and was such a sweetheart. They all played their hearts out.
    MSU was not just playing for themselves this past weekend, they were playing for a teammates lost loved one and for their family watching in the crowd.
    Talking to different teams over the weekend, I can honestly say Dodgeball made them all a Family.
    So to say if GVSU didnt exist
    I predict MSU to win 2019. GO GREEN!!

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