Opinion: NCDA Bracketology & Potential Nationals Matches

We already infused the March Madness style into our Baller of The Month voting, so why not for an actual bracket as well?  Now, keep in mind there are still a couple events that are on the way, which are sure to impact the current standings, along with…well you know, day 1 of Nationals.  But I have to work with what I have darn it!!  So given those limitations, let’s take a look at some intriguing matches to watch that could happen on a round-by-round basis when we get to the Sunday bracket play.

As a disclaimer, included are my personal predictions on a round by round basis, ultimately leading to a final champion.  These seeds are subject to change up until April 9th.

Current NCDA Bracket*

*This is subject to the teams that scheduled to attend Nationals, and is not a complete reflection of the current league standings

First Round

Ohio (16) v DePaul (17)

Truth be told, I haven’t seen DePaul play once this year.  On the other hand I have seen Ohio on a few occasions.  The Bobcats of Ohio have made plenty of headlines this year, most notably while winning the Ohio Dodgeball Cup.  But on the other hand, no one has paid much attention to DePaul despite what has been a sort of upswing year.  At 6-10-1 on the year, DePaul has just as many wins this year as their previous three combined, and that’s before Nationals.  Despite a lack of information on my part, give me Ohio in this matchup with a close margin.

OSU (9) v Miami (24)

The Buckeyes should be able to take this one without much problem.  More experience, more talent, more Hulbert’s and Starr’s.

BGSU (13) v BW (20)

Despite both being Ohio based schools they have only played one time this season, resulting in a 5-0 win for BGSU.  There’s not much reason to think it will be any different this time around.  I have the Falcons running away with this one, but expect something closer than the previous result as BW gains more experience.

WKU (12) v UVA (20)

I’m actually very interested in this one.  UVA picked up their first win in program history against UMD, and this will be their first ever Nationals appearance.  The Cavaliers have the athletes to keep up with many teams, but their lack of experience will hurt them against WKU.  Expect a Hilltopper victory.

UWP (15) v UNG (18)

At the moment, it looks like the story of North Georgia (UNG) will be how far can Kyle Dattelbaum carry this team?  The Nighthawks lost some talent in the transition from Fall to Spring, so this is definitely Kyle’s team at the moment.  Nick Harding will do his best to lead the Pioneers and could get some good exposure to show himself as a potential All-American candidate.  I’m feeling confident enough and will say that this will be the only OT match of the first round.  That being said, give me North Georgia in this nail biter at their first ever Nationals!

VCU (10) v UMD (23)

Let me just start by saying without a shadow of a doubt, UMD will not be this seed at the start of bracket play.  They are way better than the second to last seed in this tournament, and will prove it on Saturday.  But, working with what we have so far, we have VCU against UMD in a battle of East Coast rivals.  As of late VCU has had good control of the series, but it’s not without a competitive flare.  I’ll take VCU in this one.

NSULA (14) v CSU (19)

After years of hibernation, Northwestern State (LA) will be back in action on the dodgeball court!  Playing in their first event since 2013, a lot of eyes will be on this team to see what the new kids have.  On that note, they are currently paired with Cleveland State (CSU), a brand new team to the league this season.  In what will be a battle of two new groups, expect this to be an interesting contest.  Give me Cleveland State.

PSU (11) v Akron (22)

On paper, this game seems pretty meaningless.  An 11-seed against a 22-seed given our league’s history usually does not result in anything special.  However, Akron is realistically underseeded, especially since Cleveland State (CSU), Northwestern State (NSULA), and North Georgia (UNG) are all placed ahead of them (sorry guys).  These two teams have also met previously at PSU, which resulted in a close PSU win.  A potential argument could be made as well that PSU is overseeded given they only have played 3 teams the entire year.  Their appearance at Akron and Saturday at Nationals will give us a better estimate of their ability.  In a matchup where one side has a good seed but little experience, and the other has a low seed but tons of experience, expect some entertaining dodgeball here.  I’ll take PSU in this contest but this game will be within reach for an Akron upset.

Second Round

GVSU (1) v Ohio (16)

As I’m writing this, a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and it has never happened in NCDA history either.  Ironically, they will be playing each other at the War, which could give an interesting preview of things to come.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, the Lakers will take care of business here, but I think Ohio can sneak a point in this one if they play to their best potential.

Kent (8) v OSU (9)

These two Ohio based schools will have the chance to play each other once again.  They have played on three occasions this season, which has been 2-1 in favor of the Buckeyes.  Kent State has had a pretty solid year thus far with an 18-10-2 record.  Unfortunately, OSU is having a bit of a rebuilding year, sitting at 8-9-2.  That being said, almost all of OSU’s losses this season have come against teams currently in the top 10, the only exception being an improved BGSU team.  One can only expect good things from what have been two of the longest tenured programs in league history in this matchup.  Kent’s talent should shine here, and if this goes into OT I have more faith in Kent than OSU.

Towson (4) v BGSU (13)

After a 2-7 start to the year, BGSU has gone 12-6 since then, and are above .500 for the first time in their team’s history.  Towson is also enjoying an incredible year in their own right.  At 18-5-2 they look like a team that deserves their #4 ranking.  So here we have a match of two programs riding all-time highs and aren’t looking to slow down any time soon.  If both teams can keep up their momentum heading into Nationals, then this will make for a very competitive 4 v 13 game, something we haven’t seen traditionally.  Towson’s depth though will be a big part of there success and I expect them to get the win here.

SVSU (5) v WKU (12)

SVSU has been the 5 seed for the last two Nationals, fitting they have it again.  The 5-12 upset is usually very popular for March Madness but I don’t feel too excited about this happening here.  SVSU has arguably the best player in the league in Nick Hazergian, and enough talent to be able to make it past their first game without too much trouble.

CMU (2) v UNG (18)

Fire up Chips.

MSU (7) v VCU (10)

These teams met at the BEAST in what ended up being a 3-2 OT victory for the Spartans thanks to a strong overtime performance from Colin O’Brien and Wes Peters.  Who’s to say something similar won’t happen again?  Both VCU and MSU will play each other one more time before Nationals at Akron’s “War” which should give a clearer picture about which team has the true upper hand.  Both teams right now are on a little bit of a downturn, although it’s a little skewed given the competition they’ve played over that time period.  If this game goes into OT, it will fall into MSU’s favor once again.

JMU (3) v CSU (19)

Unfortunate for the new guys they have to play a team like JMU in the second round but yeah, it is what it is.  #RollDukes

UK (6) v PSU (11)

I think Penn State’s luck drops off very quickly as they enter the second round.  Having to face the hosts in UK, it will definitely be an uphill battle for this team.  The Wildcats have plenty of talent, will be well rested heading into Nationals, and will benefit greatly from a first round bye.  This game could be close, but UK has more depth than PSU which should give them the win here.

QuarterFinal

GVSU (1) v Kent (8)

Yeah, yeah, I know I went straight chalk but there’s a reason the teams are ranked where they are.  Anyways, should we expect to see an upset here?  Probably not.  But can an upset happen here? Sure.  Kent’s firepower will be important here, but I don’t think they can out-throw a well-balanced group like the Lakers.  On top of that, GVSU plays very well on counters and transitions, something that I think will expose some teams if they aren’t careful, Kent included.  GVSU to the Final Four.

CMU (2) v MSU (7)

These are the only two Michigan schools that have a chance to meet before the Final Four, and they have played each other a total of four times this season with an even split of two games each.  Three out of the four times they have met this year have resulted in OT, so the odds of another one occurring are very high.  CMU will benefit from having a projected easier second round matchup than MSU.  I picked MSU to be my National champions, and while I have started to feel less confident in that prediction, I have enough faith in them to make it to the Final Four with the upset win over CMU here.

Towson (4) v SVSU (5)

This would be the first time these two teams meet this season which by itself is very intriguing.  There is a lot to play for here with the winner getting the opportunity to play in the Final Four, and also the (most-likely) opportunity to play GVSU.  Kevin describes the Cardinals as being too top heavy, and I view Towson as being on the other end of the spectrum with a very balanced group.  It will definitely be in Towson’s best interest to try and take care of business before OT if possible.  If this game goes into OT, it is definitely not in their favor and will most likely result in a win for SVSU.  Nick Hazergian will be important for this team to make a run to the Final Four and beyond.  I like Towson a lot, but my gut tells me Cardinals right now for some reason.

JMU (3) v UK (6)

If JMU holds their 3 seed, they should move comfortably into the quarterfinal round regardless of who they get paired against, but especially if they play NSULA or CSU.  If UK does end up playing PSU, as I said I think it could be a good game, but the Wildcats should be able to take care of business.  Now this is a really tough scenario, for either side.  In JMU’s case they have to play a full strength UK team on UK’s home court.  In UK’s case, well…they have to play JMU, a team that beat them 3-1 at BEAST.  JMU should win the game, but with one caveat.  You need the whole squad at this tournament.  I’m serious.

Final Four

GVSU (1) v SVSU (5)

Here we are again, 3 Michigan teams in the Final Four, plus JMU.  Ugh, it’s like deja vu all over again.  The gap between the upper echelon and the rest of the league I believe is as narrow as it’s ever been.  However, schools like GVSU and SVSU are still at the top for now and any team would be smart to recognize that.  Here, I have a very weird feeling.  SVSU got the best of GVSU once this year in OT, but besides that lone victory GVSU has won the rest.  I don’t think this will be one of those situations where SVSU gets the best of the Lakers unless someone has an absolutely tremendous game.  If this were Vegas, I’d have the spread on this game at about 1.5 points in favor of GVSU.

JMU (3) v MSU (7)

Rematches are always fun.  The Dukes and Spartans faced off against each other last year during Sunday at Nationals where MSU won without much difficulty.  That will definitely not be the case here.  JMU took a 3-1 victory over MSU at BEAST this year against an MSU team that was admittedly missing some important pieces.  The real issue at hand here will be seeing if MSU has the stamina to keep going at this point.  Their game against VCU won’t be a cakewalk, then will have to play CMU and most likely end up in OT, only to have to play JMU.  With all that said, I’m still willing to put money on MSU over JMU.  As Kevin previously stated, there’s an “it” factor that is different about JMU now compared to JMU in the past.  Better as a team, but not quite as dominant or talented as previous teams.  Expect it to be tight, but as I said, in MSU’s favor.

Championship

GVSU (1) v MSU (7)

GVSU gets a 5-peat.  There, I said it.  While MSU has proven they can beat GVSU on more than one occasion, that usually occurs on the first game of the day, not what would be the fourth for both of these schools.  MSU has a much more daunting gauntlet of teams just to make it to the championship, and that is where I see them running out of steam.

 

Key takeaways

Some would consider this a very odd year for the NCDA given the amount of upsets, surprising rise of younger teams, and just the general growth of the league.  Sunday at Nationals could very well play out the same way, however I see things falling back into their usual place, with some exceptions.  The most glaring exception would be seeing 7-seed MSU make it to the championship.  Another rare exception would be seeing brand new North Georgia at their first Nationals picking up a win based on their current matchup against UWP.

With that being said, I foresee a lot of changes in the current seeding by this point in time.  For example, I strongly believe UMD and Akron will move up at least one to two spots at a minimum and teams such as NSULA and CSU will take a little bit of a hit.

Final Projected Bracket:

Other content team picks

Kevin Bailey:



Sean Smith:


Jake Leski:

Feel free to comment below with any of your NCDA bracketology picks!

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