The question often arises: “Which Region is the best in College Dodgeball?”. While Michigan has historically had the best region in the country by a large margin, the argument for 2nd and 3rd place was always a big debate.
While reviewing the most recent Power Rankings, I noticed that the race for strongest region is much closer than some may anticipate. In fact, depending on what one determines to be the most important criteria, there could be a case made for several different regions as the best in the NCDA.
Over the past decade, many have accepted the narrative that the Michigan Region is the best in College Dodgeball and that it will never change. After taking a closer look at our current power rankings, the distinction of ‘strongest region’ is more up in the air than people may think.
I used two different methods to analyze the NCDA’s ‘Regional Hierarchy’, both of which were based off November’s Power Rankings. For reference, here is the top 20 for November:
- Central Michigan
- James Madison
- Grand Valley State
- Bowling Green State
- Saginaw Valley State
- Kent State
- Wisconsin Platteville
- Penn State
- Michigan State
- Virginia Commonwealth
- North Georgia
- Ohio State
- Oregon State
- Cleveland State
Before we get into it, I’d like to recognize that there are a certain amount of assumptions the Content team makes in grouping teams together in Regions. Regions are talking points and sometimes it’s a “know it when you see it” classification. The Michigan and Ohio regions are relatively established and straightforward. But how do we add teams to the Midway Conference (previously referred to as the Illinois Region) which spreads across the Great Plains from Canada to Mexico? Even the East Coast has exploded over the years, and how far south down the coastline are are we going to go before we run into the South? How does the South connect with our two Kentucky teams?
Just some questions to consider while we measure the quality of these teams.
Method #1 of my analysis was to simply measure regional strength based on how many teams from each region made it into the top 20 of the power rankings. The results from this measurement are below, along with a pie chart to illustrate what was found:
|Kentucky / South||2|
There are a few obvious takeaways from this chart. First of all, both Ohio and the East Coast have more teams within the top 20 than the historically powerful Michigan Region. This is in part due to Michigan only having four active schools in their region currently, but it is also a testament to the depth of both the Ohio Region and the East Coast Region. Miami University (Ohio) was ranked #21 and just missed the Top 20 Power Rankings, so factoring that in, it seems that Ohio is the deepest region in the nation as of the start of November.
Another observation I made when analyzing this chart is just how drastic a difference there is between the top three regions, and all the others listed.
Michigan, Ohio, and the East Coast combine to take up over 80% of the top 20 teams in the country. The other 3 regions produce only a combined 4 teams on the list.
Why is there such a polarizing difference between the top regions and everyone else? That is a discussion for another time.
Now onto method #2, which in my opinion is a more accurate way to determine which region is the best. In this method, I assigned a point value for each position in the top 20. Being ranked #1 was worth 20 points, #2 was worth 19, all the down to #20 being worth 1 point.
From here, I added the point values of each team in a certain region to find the total points earned by that region as a whole. This gave me a final point total for each region, shown below in the results table as well as in the chart:
|Kentucky / South||18|
Now, this measurement really shows how tight of a race it is to be the best region in the country. This method is better than the first because it recognizes a team’s place in the standings, rather than treating all positions in the top 20 as equal.
With 64 points, Michigan is able to claim the top spot, but surprisingly, it is only by one point! The East Coast is right behind Michigan with 63 points. Close behind these two regions is Ohio with a total of 50.
Once again, after the top 3 regions there is a massive drop off. The next highest region is the South Region (with Kentucky included). The South only has 18 points; a huge step down from the three regions above. The Midway Conference tallies only 13 points, but that is because Wisconsin Platteville is the only school from this area to make the list. Finally we have the brand new Northwest Region. Both Oregon State and Gonzaga were in the discussion to make the top 20, with OSU claiming a spot. I look forward to seeing rapid growth from this region in the coming months.
So… I guess the Michigan Region doesn’t have as tight of a grasp on the NCDA as we thought! Yeah, I know, that’s a silly statement to make when just last April, the Final Four at Nationals was comprised of all Michigan schools.
Yes, Michigan is still the best region in my eyes. Three of the top five teams in the country are still from this state. Even with Michigan State (a top 5 program in NCDA history) struggling through a rebuilding year, the Michigan Region is doing well.
With all of that being said, it is very interesting to see how the other regions are stacking up on these charts. Having depth as a region is significant, we certainly can’t ignore that. What the Ohio Region and East Coast Region lack in terms of top level teams, they make up for with their overall depth as a region. Both Ohio and EC have one team inside the top 4, so it isn’t like they have no real talent in their region. With that said, the true strength of these two regions is displayed in the number of teams that made the top 20 list (6 each).
As the league continues to grow, and more dodgeball programs pop up within existing regions, it will be very interesting to see how the regional hierarchy shifts over time. A league that has been historically dominated by one region, might just be shifting more towards… balance. Only time will tell!
Thank you to Zigmas Maloni for contributing to this article.