What a fantastic regular season! With Nationals right around the corner, it is time to take a look at where each team stands heading into the season’s final tournament. Grand Valley State University will host Nationals 2019 on April 13-14 in Allendale, Michigan. Keep an eye out this week for more previews of this event!
Below is the official April 2019 Power Rankings list produced by NCDA Executive Board members Jacob Leski (Director of Recruitment and Retention) and Kevin Bailey (Chief of Content). Please keep in mind: these power rankings have no impact on the actual NCDA Standings.
1) Grand Valley State
Kevin Bailey: For the first time since 2009, we enter Nationals with an undefeated #1 team. Grand Valley State got the job done all regular season long, boasting wins over every contender (multiple wins against most of them). GVSU has a stacked lineup that will be even more difficult to pick apart thanks to Nationals being on their home court. Last Month, Towson played the Lakers close in two separate games, nearly getting a win in overtime in one of them. The month prior, the Lakers were trailing MSU in the second half at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup. Bottom line: the National Title is no guarantee. This team will still need to show up on Sunday of Nationals and have a great day, because there are multiple teams with the skill/experience necessary to beat them.
Jacob Leski: The dynasty continues to reign over their competition. While both Towson and Central Michigan have made it close with the Lakers at various times throughout the season, they continue to make plays when it matters most. Other than the Chippewas, there is no one else in the league that has the experience at Nationals that Grand Valley does, and the ability to turn it on when their back is against the wall. The only way I see this team losing at any point this weekend is them getting tired out by competitive teams on the way to the championship, similar to what happened to CMU last season. If GV has a similar Sunday schedule to what they had last season (extremely easy) then there is no doubt in my mind that they will win their 7th straight National Championship.
KB: What a difference a half-decade makes. For most of Towson’s existence, they have been second-fiddle to James Madison in the East, and not worth mentioning among the NCDA’s “elite”. That is the furthest thing from the truth these days. The Tigers are without a doubt the best team in the East, and it feels to me like their program is run as professionally as any in the NCDA. But, let’s talk about right now. Towson may look the part of an elite NCDA program, but until they can make it past the Quarterfinals they can’t really claim to be that, can they? The Tigers proved with their tight matches against GVSU that they are the #2 team in the country right now, but will they live up to their potential at Nationals. I worry about Towson’s ability to be at their best come the late rounds on Sunday of Nationals. They certainly are loaded with arms, but do those arms have the stamina to be playing at their best late in the tourney? Not to mention, does this Towson team have the versatility to play a style they aren’t accustomed to on GVSU’s main court? There are a handful of teams that have the ability to take down mighty Towson in a transition-heavy game. The Tigers will need to be clicking at Nationals if they plan on reaching the Finals. For as impressive of a year as this group has had, there are so many questions left to be answered.
JL: For all of Towson’s great success this season, I still have many doubts about this team’s capability of making it far on Sunday of Nationals. They have impressive wins over all of the Michigan schools (excluding GV), and taking Grand Valley to overtime, but with their past history at Nationals, I am very hesitant to pick them to go to the National Championship. Now, you could call me a hypocrite, CMU in 2015 went from an early first round exit the year prior to making it to the National Championship. However it is still concerning, for in my opinion they have choked the last 3 seasons at Nationals when they should have won. Yes, this is the best Towson team there has been in program history, but that still does not take away that the most experience this team has is a quarterfinals appearance. I am a strong believer that the team with more experience on Sunday has a much higher advantage than the team with little experience, and I truly believe that may very well be the difference maker on Sunday.
3) James Madison
KB: My counter part is a bit off with his statement below that this team had one of the most outstanding seasons in club history. That isn’t the way I see it. It is unfortunate for the Dukes that they have relinquished their spot atop the East Coast Region. This squad used to strike fear into every team in the league, but sadly they aren’t even the most feared team in the East now. It’s too bad the Dukes won’t be making the trip to Nationals this year, as I had high hopes they would have a great tourney and prove people like myself wrong about where their program is at, and where they can go in the future.
JL: It breaks my heart that the Dukes will not be attending. There are few teams I enjoy watching play more than this group. The amount of trash talk that will no longer take place due to their absence is to hard to think about… They had one of their most outstanding seasons in their club’s history, and unfortunately are walking away with little to show for it. I respect the decision the leaders of this club made not to come, it is purely related to a lack of funds and scheduling issues for other players. All in all, this was a great season for the Dukes, and their scrappy attitude will be missed in GR.
4) Central Michigan
KB: Central Michigan’s sweep of SVSU last month puts them in a realllllly nice place heading into Nationals. The Chips now sit at #3 in the Gonzalez Rankings, with a good chance to avoid #1 GVSU’s side of the bracket. This was not exactly what we expected after seeing CMU finish 4th at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup back in February. Does this team have the skill to win it all? Hard to say. If CMU is able to win it all this year, they would be one of the youngest squads to ever win the championship. Austin Brege, Tyler Prill, Eric Nelson, Casey Bielec, etc. this team has talent at the top. But what really will make or break this team is their class of stellar rookies. The Chips certainly have the potential to make it 5-straight title game appearances.
JL: Things are starting to look bright for the Chippewas and at the right time! With JMU’s absence, the Chips have a great opportunity to lock down the 3 seed on Saturday of Nationals. On the guidelines that everything goes according to plan, they would get to play Towson in the semifinals, who I believe they match up well with even with them losing to Towson earlier in the season. Their X-factor is whether or not the leaders on this team can use their playoff experience to their advantage to try and make it to the National Championship for a 5th season in a row. Let’s see if Austin Brege and Casey Bielec can join Joe Kobus to go to 4 straight National Titles games.
5) Saginaw Valley State
KB: I simply don’t see this team making it to the title game in 2019. The Cardinals are a solid team (see their 2nd Place finish at MDC), but I’m not sure if they have the depth/stamina to be playing their best late in the day on Sunday of Nationals. With that said, this is the best catching team in the country, so maybe they will not need to rely on their arms to carry them as much as other squads. SVSU is a blue-blood NCDA program, yet they’ve only made it to one title game since 2012. If they can get there this year it will be a huge success.
JL: The two back-to-back losses to CMU at home has really thrown me off. I thought their 2nd place finish at MDC was a clear indicator that this was a team that could not be taken lightly. While I still am going to back up my claim that this team will make it to the National Title game (pending they do not see any other Michigan schools in bracket play), their achilles heel year after year is there depth. Other than the 2014 squad that went to the National Title game and won MDC, this program is historically top-heavy. Which further explains why Kenny Mize and Kyle Bruce are the X-factors for this team at Nationals. On a side note, the results of the forfeits this team took (4th-7th place in Gonzalez Standings) makes Sunday that much more interesting.
6) Michigan State
KB: I believe that if Towson is the team most well-equipped to take down GVSU, Michigan State is 1A. The Spartans may not have the prettiest record, or the best finish at MDC, but I think this group has a high ceiling. There are a number of rookies on this roster who are basically unknowns to the rest of the league still, but they will make some noise at Nationals. MSU is obviously an inexperienced team still, but their top gear is good enough to beat Towson and hold a lead over GVSU. That gives me enough optimism to still stand by my statement from the beginning of the year that the Spartans will reach the Final Four.
JL: This team has the largest question mark for me going into Nationals. They have the ability to keep matches close with the top teams, but still have extremely questionable losses on their record to a team like UK. Yes, that was the first tournament of the season for both teams, still an ugly loss (Hunter Ford strongly agrees with me). However, this is most certainly a squad that can pull an upset on a team like Towson, barely beating to them in OT back in early February. Looking forward to seeing which MSU team shows up this weekend.
KB: Miami has had the best season in program history. But it isn’t over quite yet. The RedHawks have a real chance to reach the Final Four if they can play to their potential at Nationals. This group has shown in spurts that they can be a great team, but my main questions for Miami are if they can have the consistency, and offensive firepower to take down the other contenders. I know Miami has a solid top group of arms, and I know they have an athletic lineup overall, but I just worry they don’t have enough dynamic throwers to hang with some of the other top-notch teams. As of now it looks like they would play CMU in the Quarterfinals, a team they have already beat this year…
JL: Feels to me that not even a month ago everyone was riding the Redhawk train and that Tom Morand was the MVP frontrunner. I for one, do not consider Tom to be anything close to MVP candidate, but I do strongly consider him a top 12 player in the NCDA. I will say that I believe this team will either have an early exit on Sunday, or a deep run. In my eyes, they are extremely unpredictable, which is typical for a young team.
8) Bowling Green State
KB: Let’s not forget this team reached the Final Four just last year. BGSU may not be as stacked as they were in 2018, but this group has proven they can win some big games. Bowling Green is a team that relies heavily on catching, but if they can force teams into playing their pace of game, you never know. BGSU won the ODC this year, proving they know how to show up and play their best in the biggest situations. This weekend will be another opportunity for the Falcons to prove themselves to the rest of the NCDA.
JL: I personally believe that after Miami, the quality of talent on each team falls off drastically. The Falcons are by no means a team that you can take for granted, but their reliance on catching can often be their downfall as well. One aspect I love about this team is that when they are hot, they stay hot and it is extremely difficult to bring them back down. Go back to last year’s Nationals where they rode an impressive Saturday performance into Sunday and went to their first ever semi-finals appearance.
KB: Anyone who hasn’t seen Ohio in person in a while will be pretty surprised by the amount of talent on their roster. The Bobcats are legit. Jake Larsen isn’t a future star in the NCDA… cuz he’s a star right now. The leaders of Ohio’s program have built something really solid this year. A trip to the quarterfinals would be that next step for this club. I know they have the experience, talent, and teamwork to legitimately expect that of themselves. I can’t wait to see this team in action again at Nationals.
JL: This is a team that I can easily see losing their first game on Sunday, but at the same time, one that is more than capable of pulling off an upset and making it to the quarterfinals. While they are a very inconsistent team, they have the weapons to make a run. That is the only positive thing I really have to say about them at this time.
KB: After not living up to expectations a year ago, Akron Dodgeball should be proud of what they’ve accomplished so far this year. This team has made their way into the top 10 of the Power Rankings, and sit at #11 in the Gonzalez. Pretty impressive considering where the program was at a few years ago. Akron’s job is not finished in 2019 though. This team is inconsistent, but they have the ability to go neck and neck with top end programs like SVSU (see: WAR III OT loss to SVSU). The key for this tema will be how well they move up and down the court together. If this group can maintain coordination for a full 50-minutes, they have the ability to break into the Quarterfinals.
JL: This is a popular pick for many as their dark horse team for Nationals 2019. They are a top-heavy team similar to SVSU, but struggle with team cohesiveness more than others. While I do have high hopes for Akron, their leaders need to be able to keep their emotions in check when things do not go there way. Maintaining composure is the key to victory on Sunday, and if any of their captains lose their cool as they tend to, it will be their downfall. Going hand in hand with my statement above, Colby Briceland and Adam Pfeifer are the clear X-factors for this team.
11) Penn State
KB: I have a strong suspicion this PSU team isn’t like other sin the past. Sure, like teams from previous years they will have their best performance at Nationals, but I just think there is more depth and talent on this squad. PSU is one of the most athletic groups in the country, and they made more of a commitment to playing in a lot of tourneys this year. I think that with the added amount of experience on this team, paired with what I would argue is the most skilled lineup in PSU Dodgeball history, this team has a very real shot at making it into the Quarterfinals this year. Penn State will be one of the most fun teams to watch at Nationals.
JL: Would like nothing more than for this team to surprise me like they did on Day 2 last year. If this squad really wants to be more than a second round team, then they have to bring it on Saturday to improve their Gonzalez rating so they aren’t playing a Michigan team right off the bat on Sunday. Always one of my favorite teams to watch, they get fired up and always seem to find a way to keep things interesting.
12) North Georgia
KB: I am still not sure what to make of this group. A 7-0 record with their most notable win coming against the #17 team in the country… not the best resume in the world. With that said, I do hope they come to Nationals and use the experience they gained at last year’s event to play to their full potential. UNG is a tough team to predict. But I hope they bring their best roster and make a statement.
JL: This is the most unpredictable team coming to Nationals. They didn’t even have a full roster at their home tournament! That should frighten anyone to pick this team to go far. While I have heard that they are bringing a full roster to Nationals, I do not know if I can fully believe that. They have fallen drastically short of their expectations every time Nationals comes around, would be nice to see them rise to expectation for once.
13) Virginia Commonwealth
KB: VCU was hands down the best story from Nationals 2018. A massive upset win over SVSU on Saturday, followed by an epic comeback against MSU that ended in and overtime loss. VCU showed out on their home court. WHo knows if this team is capable of making such a statement in 2019. VCU has had an up and down year, but my intuition tells me they will impress the league with their teamwork and catching at Nationals. While I can’t predict that they will pull a major upset, I think they will prove to be a tougher out than some may expect.
JL: Another extremely unpredictable team. Many may be hoping for another Day 1 miracle that they experienced on their home court last year, but the leadership isn’t what it was last year. No discredit to the leaders of this team, but Hunter Ford did an outstanding job organizing and leading this team on and off the court. What we have seen so far that this team lacks the drive that he had when he was in charge of this team. Hope they can prove me wrong.
14) Kent State
KB: Kent can’t be used to sitting at #14 in the rankings. This team used to be one of the top programs in Ohio, but lately they have been passed by a few programs. Kent has Nationals as an opportunity to prove they still belong in that conversation. If this club can bring their best roster of the season, they could surprise some people.
JL: It still amazes me how much this team is a shell of its former self. They used to be a team that you could not take lightly, filled with veterans that knew how to get a big win when it mattered most. While they have been known to play exceptionally well on Saturday, I have a feeling that history will not repeat itself this time around.
KB: Maryland is a pretty huge unknown to most teams outside of the East Coast Region. While I don’t claim to know a whole lot about this group I do know that they turned some heads with their performance last year at Nationals. I hope to see much of the same this time around.
JL: This team took be my surprise at last year’s tournament. They looked organized, had a solid gameplan that they were able to execute, and had a ton of talent. Now I don’t know if that was the best performance of their season, but it looked like a finished product, and I am hoping I can see the same again this weekend.
16) Ohio State
KB: I worry that OSU’s lack of depth may do them in at Nationals. There is certainly some talent on the roster, but it is yet to be seen how their top arms can hang in there on day 2 of Nationals after already going through a full day of competition. With a Gonzalez Rating good for #23 in the country, this team will have a tough road to make it far in the bracket.
JL: Looking forward to seeing this squad play at Nationals for the first time all season. Dylan Greer and company looking to make a strong showing after a season that was extremely predictable, but fun to watch. I have a strong feeling this squad is going to take more than one team into overtime this weekend.
KB: Storyline to follow for UK at Nationals: is this team legit? They took down MSU earlier this season, but since then it has been pretty underwhelming. I want to know if UK is a strong program still and if they have a bright future. I know there are still a couple very strong players on this roster. If they can channel their catching hot streak that they had vs. MSU in September, maybe the Wildcats can make a run at Nationals.
JL: Hard to talk about a team that lost its two best players to graduation in December, and has only played three times this semester. If UK does what they did at last years Nationals and bring a roster of 13, most of which were made up of players that were very inexperienced, then they will fall far short of reaching the quarterfinals let alone the second round. Honestly, I am not really sure what to expect of them, but wishing for the best and that Wes Hopkins is magically eligible and plays for them.
KB: Very unfortunate that UVA is unable to make the trip to Allendale this year. I hope to see them pick it up next year and have a very strong 2019-20 season.
JL: Once again, the Cavaliers fail to live up to their potential as they have all season. The lack of commitment from the majority of the team is where I believe the overall problem lies with this club, which is clearly evident considering they will be absent from Nationals this season. While my counterpart highly encourages me to provide a positive aspect for each team, I myself have failed at thinking of one to say. Better luck next year.
19) Wisconsin Platteville
KB: Do not count out UWP at Nationals. Everyone seems to forget about this team, but (outside of last year) they always find a way to make major noise at Nationals. Look out for Platteville at Nationals.
JL: The heart of the Midway Conference has a great opportunity to make a statement this weekend. While I strongly believe that this team is nothing close to the original UWP teams that was a tough out a few years ago, this team still has a few diamonds in the rough that you need to keep an eye out for.
20) West Virginia
KB: Congrats to WVU on a strong second year int eh NCDA. This up and coming program finished the year on a high note with a home tournament last month. I have a feeling the 2019-20 season will be a breakout year for the Mountaineers.
JL: Love that they get to end their season on our final power rankings! This team continues to improve and become a worthy challenge for most “middle of the road” teams. Shoutout to Cory Nasiadka and the other leaders of this team for getting them to a spot they can be happy with going into the offseason.