Power Rankings: December 2018

We have reached the half-way point in the 2018-19 National Collegiate Dodgeball Association season.  There have certainly been some unexpected results so far this season, along with many teams living up to their pre-season hype.  Overall, it was another exciting fall of collegiate dodgeball.  As we set for the winter semester, now is a great time to take a look at where each team stands through half the season with our December Power Rankings.  The College Dodgeball season always seems to heat up once the temperatures start to drop, so don’t be surprised if many of these rankings change in the coming months.

Below is the official December 2018 Power Rankings list produced by NCDA Executive Board members Jacob Leski (Director of Recruitment and Retention), Hunter Ford (Director), 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: GVSU closed out the fall semester with quite the impressive final month.  The Lakers earned wins over every other team in the top 8 (besides Towson).  The Lakers are clearly the best team in the country right now, and the gap between them and the second best team will only increase during the second half of the season because GVSU will see some standout players return from injury, study abroad, etc. (Sam Stockdale, James Reyes, Logan Tenwalde, Blake Clevenger, and possibly Ray Franklin).  Don’t look now, but 2018-19 GVSU could be the first collegiate team in a decade to go undefeated for a complete season.

Jacob Leski: There is a good chance that I am overreacting here, but this feels like a very underwhelming 1st half of the season for the Lakers. Yes, they did beat most of their opponents with ease (except for one match with CMU), but there really isn’t a “WOW” factor with this team like there typically has been in years past. While I am not necessarily worried about them taking home the championship in April at their home arena, I would like to see them play more matches. What is alarming to me, is that it is very possible that Grand Valley is just that much better than everyone else this season. Hopefully a match with Towson can change my mind.

Hunter Ford: The Lakers are one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NCDA.  They have proven thus far they have what it takes to win another national title and anything less than that will be a disappointment this season.  GVSU is also returning an absurd amount of talent in the Spring with many players returning to campus from study abroad trips and other activities, most notably Assistant Captain Sam Stockdale.  Everyone should be ready.


2) Towson

KB: It’s hard to say Towson stumbled to the finish line this fall, but after winning 16-straight games they dropped the back-half of a doubleheader to James Madison, and now sit at 16-1.  Still, this was easily the best half of a season the Tigers have ever put together, and they remain favorites to make it to the National Championship Game in April.  Any team that is willing to play 17 games in the fall semester gets a thumbs up from me.  Especially when they win 16 of those games in dominant fashion.

JL: I will be the first to say that I was wrong about this team. I was completely certain that they would enter the season griping about their OT loss to BGSU at last year’s Nationals, but I was very wrong. All they have done is put any and all doubters to the side and pummeled their competition with ease. They do have a loss to JMU that piques my interest, but as much as I am rooting for this Dukes team, I still believe Towson is a step ahead of them. I believe a major reason this team will make it to the National Championship is not because of their talent alone, but because of the amount of games they are playing. They appear to travel well as a team and can play at a high level even when they were in a car for 12 hours.  Props to the leaders of this organization.

HF: The Towson Tigers finished the semester with an impressive 16-1 record, with the only blemish coming against #3 JMU.  Not too shabby.  Additionally, they also have the arguable MVP front-runner in Jordan Watt.  While it’s certainly never great to end on a loss, I imagine it will only serve to get this squad refocused and ready for next semester.


3) James Madison

KB: The Dukes finished the fall as well as any team not named Grand Valley State.  JMU had a fantastic last month, with wins over MSU, SVSU, CMU, and of course the upset over previously unbeaten Towson.  The only losses for JMU in that same time-span were to #1 GVSU and #2 Towson.  The Dukes are starting to look more like the squad we expected them to be when we placed them #2 in the preseason rankings.  The winter will be very telling, as I expect this team to increase the amount of tournaments they participate in.  For now, they are deserving of the #3 spot on the power rankings.

JL: Roll Dukes!! I am still very high on this team, especially with their big win over their “little brother” in Towson. Captain Evan Eschenburg is proving that he can get this team to perform at an elite level with Towson (unlike the rest of the East Coast). They have yet to prove that they can handle the likes of GVSU, but that takes planning and discipline, which comes with time and strong leadership, which they have both of thankfully. The big key for them next semester is being willing to travel out of their comfort zone when it comes to strategy. The JMU way does not usually involve much strategy, primarily relying on skill to get them a win.  It tends to work, but never has it gotten them to the title game.

HF: There are a lot of things I like about this JMU squad.  For one, this is arguably the most balanced team they have had in terms of overall talent.  There are no weak links on this team and everyone can do everything as well.  Second, they took it upon themselves to challenge the best which is reflected in their #2 overall strength of schedule.  Their only losses on the season come to GVSU and Towson, the latter of whom they also defeated, so it is certainly within reason to say this team should make a deep run at Nationals.


4) Saginaw Valley State

KB: Saginaw had a pretty strong first half to the season.  Sitting at 7-4, with those four losses coming to very strong teams, SVSU is in position to once again challenge for a Final Four spot in the Spring.  The Cardinals always seem to turn it up a notch in the second half of the season, and that will likely be the case again.  This team remains a dangerous out for anyone with a strong overtime roster including top catchers like Kyle Bruce and Kenny Mize.  I know SVSU plans to play in quite a lot of events in the winter, so don’t be surprised if they climb these rankings before we get to Nationals.

JL: If this team did not have Kyle Bruce on their team, they would drop 4 or 5 spots easily. The man is having an amazing season so far and should be included in discussions for Most Valuable Player. As for their future, I do not see this squad making it to the semifinals for the third year in a row. There are too many glaring holes in this team’s bottom tier of players. I hope they prove me wrong, but the Cardinals tendency to rely solely on their top 5 players will come back to haunt them in the long run.

HF: SVSU was able to finish the first half of the season strong with a 3-0 showing at the Spartan Invite which included wins over OSU, UWP, and Kent.  At this point in time, they appear to be the second best team in Michigan, behind GVSU.  The biggest goal for this team next semester should be to beat or at least push GVSU to the edge to prove they can be serious contenders for MDC and Nationals.


5) Michigan State

KB: Michigan State’s first half to the season left a lot to be desired, if you ask me.  MSU came into the year with plenty of hype, as their young team had the talent to potentially challenge for a title.  So far, I have been impressed with the rookie talent on the team, but not their scheduling, or execution.  They have dropped out of multiple tournament last minute, which is never a good trend for a program.  Hopefully that can be chalked up to growing pains for a very young squad that is still figuring it all out.  I expect a much better winter semester for the Spartans (and yes, a Final Four appearance).

JL: Payton “Bob Knight” Schuster has a lot of work cut out for him if he has intentions for this team to make it to the National Championship, let alone the semifinals. If the Spartans want to be taken seriously then they need to be a more consistent squad. Data does show that they are in fact trending in the right direction, but they cannot afford to get complacent going into the Spring semester.

HF: The Spartans are currently 4-6 overall, but I don’t feel their record accurately reflects what they have.  They had a sluggish start to the season at their home opener with two overtime losses to CMU and SVSU, and a one point loss to UK.  Since then, the young players on this team have started to fit into their roles better, which helped propel them to big wins over Miami and Kent in November.


6) Miami

KB: Miami had a stellar first half to the season.  Without a doubt, the best start in school history.  The RedHawks not only are positioned as the top team in the Ohio Region, but they have made noise outside of their state as well, with a win over 2018 National Runner-Up Central Michigan, and a close game with GVSU as well.  It will be very interesting to see if Miami can position themselves for a Final Four run at Nationals.

JL: This squad deserves a round of applause for what they have achieved so far this year. No, they will not make it past the quarterfinals at Nationals (the rest of the top teams are far too talented for them), but that should not take away the fact that this squad didn’t even exist 3 years ago…and now they are ranked #6 at the end of the 1st half of the season.

HF: The RedHawks came out the gate swinging to start the year and have mellowed out a bit since then, but still remain towards the top of the power rankings.  A big win over CMU helped salvage what would’ve been a mediocre November for this team.  I really like what this team has to offer, they just need to capitalize on the athletes they have so they can pull off more big wins.


7) Central Michigan

KB: For a team coming off 4-straight National Championship Game appearances, a 6-6 start to the year is not an ideal outcome.  Yet, Central Michigan’s severely inexperienced group has not been too far off from what was expected of them preseason.  The Chippewas are a real wild card heading into the mid-season break, because A) they have the top end talent to challenge anyone, thanks to players like Austin Brege and Eric Nelson, and B) their rookies are talented, and will undoubtedly take a large step forward in the winter.  Could CMU defy the odds and make it all the way to the title game for a 5th-consecutive season?

JL: Oh how the mighty have fallen. This is exactly what happens when former leaders do not make recruiting a priority! As a former Chippewa, I love what the current leaders at CMU are doing, but CMU has made a hard fall from the top due to a lack of experienced players.  This would never have happened if previous captains would have recruited more heavily.

HF: We knew this season would be a bit of a down year for the Chips after losing as much talent as they did last season, and where they are now I think is respectable.  They started the year strong, but their only noteworthy win in the last month was against BGSU, and that was a game they were favored in.  While they are currently the #4 Michigan team at the moment in terms of the power rankings, they certainly have potential to go beyond that.


8) Kent State

KB: I’m starting to get the feeling this Kent team is good, but not good enough to really challenge for a Final Four spot at Nationals 2019.  Mind you, heading into elimination day at Nationals 2018, they were arguably the third best team in the NCDA.  I hope this team is able to turn it around in the winter.  Playing 16 games in the fall is impressive, and that experience will certainly help them down the road.  I’m just not sure if it’ll be enough to win the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, or a quarterfinals match at Nationals.

JL: As I stated in previous articles, this squad would be wise to listen to their alumni, who simply want to help. I have heard from many sources that this team refuses to take advice from prominent alumni that are still heavily involved in dodgeball. If they want to continue to be mediocre and complacent, then keep at it, if not, use your resources around you to improve as a club.

HF: Last month was not very kind to the Golden Flashes.  They went 3-4 during that span but the losses outweighed the wins pretty substantially.  Credit where it’s due for playing a tougher schedule, just need to get more out of those tougher games.  Kent and Miami seem to be the clear favorites to win the upcoming ODC, but Kent has been straggling behind Miami for most of the season.


9) Virginia Commonwealth

KB: One of the toughest teams to read so far this season.  The main issue for me is that this squad did not travel outside the East Coast at all in the fall.  4 wins against a combined two teams!  They should feel lucky we gave them a spot in the top 10.  Bottom line, this team still has the talent and strategy to make some noise in the winter/spring.  It’s looking like they will once again be a dark horse team come Nationals.

JL: Maybe it is just me, but I feel like since the departure of Hunter Ford this club has completely fallen short of preseason expectations. They hardly travel like they used to, and similar to Kent, are stuck in mediocrity, and it doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

HF: VCU is a team that could be higher but their lack of presence so far this season has been a bit disappointing.  They sit at 4-2 on the season, but have yet to play anyone outside of UVA, UMD, and Towson.  All wins came against UVA and UMD, and I guess you can say a 3-1 loss to Towson is respectable given the way they’ve annihilated many teams this season.  Personally speaking, I know this team is capable of a lot more, and it will show before the end of the year.  For now though, this team is more of a “what if” than anything else.


10) Akron

KB: Akron is in a very interesting spot right now.  They have a nice 7-2 record, stand at #11 in the Gonzalez Rankings (what we use to seed teams at Nationals), and a fairly impressive point differential so far this season.  With that said, they still don’t have that signature win.  I am dying to see this team reach their full potential and take out a top 10 team.  Their projected Round of 16 Nationals matchup right now would be against Miami.  If Akron can schedule more games and climb the standing they can get an easier matchup in that round.  Otherwise… I guess that’s gonna have to be your signature win.  This team has what it takes to make the quarterfinals.  The first 3 months of 2019 will be massive for Akron if they plan on setting themselves up for success at Nationals.

JL: This squad continues to ride a low profile, but just wait. Come late March, they will come roaring out of the gates. I see this year being their first ever Quarterfinals appearance at Nationals, and that will be due to their vast experience, attributed primarily with the number of veterans they have leading this squad.

HF: Akron has a solid 7-2 record at the moment, which has been a program best for this point in the season.  They finished 3-0 at Kent’s Summit Street Slugfest with wins over GSU, UWP, and UK, respectively.  The 7-2 record is certainly nice, but I would like to see this team push the needle more in terms of scheduling tougher opponents.  If they can play and best higher level competition, I will personally be more than willing to keep this team in the top 10 conversation for the rest of the season.


11) North Georgia

KB: This team needs to get out of the South Region and see some new competition.  Not just for their own development, but for us to get a better gauge as to how good they really are.  The only undefeated team besides GVSU, UNG is the best in the young South Region.  Sadly, having the 28th toughest schedule won’t score you a much higher spot in the rankings than where we have them right now.  I’m excited to see what this team does in the second half of the season!

JL: The Kings of the North, I mean the South, are in great position going into break. They have had zero difficulty dealing with their kinsmen in the South, and have a spectacular victory over Kentucky. Look to see them travel further than they have in the past to prove their haters wrong.

HF: UNG is the other remaining undefeated team, currently sitting at 5-0.  The Nighthawks definitely have the upper hand on the rest of the South at the moment thanks in part to some impressive play from Thomas Clements and Royce Hogg.  Just like Akron, it would be nice to see this team play some higher level competition, or, you know, someone help out and travel to them *cough*.


12) Ohio

KB: Ohio once again has themselves in the mix as a contender in the Ohio Region.  No, they haven’t been as impressive as teams like Kent State and Miami thus far, but remember 2017?  Ohio won the Ohio Dodgeball Cup just two seasons ago, and it seems like this team is just as good, if not better than that one when taking into account the depth on the roster.  I look forward to seeing how the Bobcats develop in the winter.

JL: I have heard many rumors that they are extremely upset with not being given the right to host Nationals 2019, which consequently blows my damn mind. How could you possibly believe you have adequate facilities to host the largest tournament of the year when every single court has about 5 inches between them and a wall? Does not make much sense to me. Other then that, this squad has done a tremendous job of keeping up with their expectations for the season.

HF: Ohio has a good group, but suffered some serious injuries which held them back a bit.  There were some questions about where this team would be at this point in the season following the departure of Caleb Arnold and Adam Hynes, but they are doing alright for the time being.  Greg Sterenberg will be taking over as Captain for the Bobcats next semester, and I’m intrigued to see where he takes this team next.


13) Kentucky

KB: Few teams enter the winter break with more questions to answer than Kentucky.  For starters, they lose two star players to graduation (Parise and Menchaca), but on top of that, this team has realy slowed down a bit after the solid start to the season at MSU.  UK currently sits at #18 in the Gonzalez Rankings, which means they aren’t even favored to make it to the Round of 16 at Nationals right now…

JL: I am very curious to see just how far the Wildcats drop off after the loss of Zachary Parise and Ricardo Menchada (both graduated in December), both staples on this team for many years. They went a surprising 5-8 this fall, but I would be surprised if they won another game next semester.

HF: Kentucky is a team that I felt like had a lot of potential early in the season but that potential has not taken shape, yet.  The Wildcats are 5-8 and ended the semester on a sour note with losses to Kent, Ohio, and Akron.  The bad news doesn’t stop there either.  The team loses Ricardo Menchaca and Zach Parise, two staple players for the team, due to graduation.  It’s hard to say if this team will look again like the team that beat MSU at the beginning of the season.  A lot will depend on the success of Evan Kachelhoffer.


14) Bowling Green State

KB: Sure, BGSU was a top 4 team last year and really dropped off this fall.  With that said, I love the way they have seemed to rebound over the past month or so.  Bowling Green grabbed a few nice wins in November, most notably over Ohio.  If the Falcons can continue to progress, they can still make some noise at ODC and Nationals.

JL: This team was so deep last year, I know graduation hurt them, but to this degree? I really want to see them pick things back up next semester, and turn some heads with big victories over their Ohio comrades.

HF: BGSU was another team that was expected to have a bit of a down year, and things did not look very good for the Falcons early on.  That being said, they went 5-1 in their final six games this fall to help turn their season around a bit, with the only loss coming to Towson.  Another positive takeaway is the expected return of Reid Manger to his full form after having shoulder surgery in the offseason.


15) Ohio State

KB: Nothing new from OSU in November.  I would love to see this team increase their emphasis on scheduling in the winter.  The Buckeyes are a young team that would benefit greatly from playing in double-digit games each semester.

JL: They are right where they should be, but if they can develop their back 8 they can move up considerably. Yes, I said back 8, this team is incredibly top heavy.

HF: Not much to say about the Buckeyes right now.  They had two ranked matches in November, one against SVSU and the other against MSU, falling short both times.  It’s hard for me to say where I think this team will go, but depth seems to be an issue, which has limited traveling for them.


16) Penn State

KB: Simply not enough data on this team yet for me to come to a conclusion.  1-4 isn’t a great record, but they have played the nation’s 8th toughest schedule still.  The biggest question mark for me comes from their close loss to Kent earlier this season.  That shows me they have what it takes to compete with top 10 teams still.

JL: Was looking forward to going to PSU for the first time, but some things are not meant to be. As I have said in every single power rankings article, if they can develop a half-decent strategy they will do loads better versus just winging it like they do every game.

HF: PSU is another team with not much to report on.  The Nittany Lions haven’t played since October, and are currently 1-4 on the season.  Their one win came in a 5-0 victory over WVU, and they fell in close games against Ohio and Kent this season.  This tells me they still can be a competitive team like we saw the past two seasons, however they are falling behind quickly by not gaining necessary experience.


17) Virginia

KB: UVA clearly hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations this year.  With that said, they will have many more opportunities to shift that narative in the winter.  The Cavaliers will benefit greatly from seeing some out-of-region competition to help them develop their strategy and overall teamwork.  Still a team to keep an eye on.

JL: I really thought this was their year to move into the Elite group of teams, but boy was I wrong. They have plenty of work to do if they want to even make it to the 2nd round of games on Day 2 of Nationals.

HF: UVA had a lot of expectations coming into the season and had the potential of a breakout season in a year where many teams around them lost players.  The Cavaliers were close to a program defining win against VCU, but were unable to finish them in overtime.  This team is similar to OSU in that depth has been an issue thus far, especially when it comes to traveling with a full roster.


18) Cleveland State

KB: If it weren’t for their November loss to West Virginia, I would be singing their praise right now as an immensely improved team that exceeded all expectations in the fall.  Anyway, I still am happy with what I’ve seen as a whole for CSU.  Their results speak for themselves.  This is a top 20 team right now, and their emergence makes the Ohio Region that much deeper.

JL: Their loss to West Virginia baffles me every time I think about it. Other than that, this team has improved tremendously from last season and moving this club in the right direction.

HF: I wanted CSU to be higher on this list, and I still think they can be at some point.  However, I felt they under-performed last month.  They went 2-4 in November.  Their two wins were against GSU and Marietta who they were heavy favorites against, but they also were shutout by in-state rivals in BGSU and Kent.  On top of that, they blew a 3-0 lead to WVU in regulation which then resulted in WVU pulling off their first ever overtime win in program history.  I sound a bit pessimistic when I don’t want to be, but back me up next semester, guys.


19) Maryland

KB: 1-8 is NOT the first half to the season that I expected.  Luckily UMD was able to grab a win over UVA in November, otherwise they would be winless at mid-season.  Yikes.

JL: Similar to UVA, I was confident that they would jump up into the upper echelon of teams, but have clearly fallen far short of that. This team needs to travel outside of the East Coast desperately!

HF: Maryland got their first victory of the year in a 2-1 win over UVA last month, which was a good sign for the Terps.  UMD, just like UVA and VCU, has been stuck in the East Coast the entire first semester.  This team could definitely pull off some wins against the mid to lower tier Ohio and South region schools, but that’s up to them if it’s worth the travel time.


20) Nebraska

KB: 2-3 is a great start to the year by Nebraska’s standards.  And I don’t mean that in a negative way.  I am very pleased with how the leaders of this team have pushed the program in the right direction over the past two seasons.  UNL is a team on the rise.

JL: It blows my mind that this team is as low as they are.  They travel exceptionally well, but do not appear to have the talent to keep up with anyone east of them besides lowly UWP…

HF: Nebraska is another team that’s been quiet as of late, and hasn’t played since mid-October.  While they pulled off two big early wins against UWP, they unfortunately haven’t found the same magic since.  If they weren’t geographically isolated and money wasn’t a factor we would probably see this team improve at a more rapid pace.


21) Wisconsin Platteville

KB: Wisconsin Platteveille is having a bit of a down year in 2018-19.  3-9 isn’t what you like to see, but keep in mind many of UWP’s losses have come against top-10 teams.  For the rest of the season, look for them to benefit from the experienced they gained this fall and get a few higher quality wins.

JL: The Pioneers have been hit hard by the graduation bug this year, but also have had some former players just stop coming to practices, which has required them to play very inexperienced players on a regular basis, hence their poor performance so far this year.

HF: What I appreciate the most about UWP is their dedication to the sport and their willingness to compete.  They played in 10 ranked matches during the month of November and that will only help them down the road.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to stack the win column as much as they would like, only picking up wins over BSU and SIUE.


22) West Virginia

KB: West Virginia is seriously on the rise!  Admittedly, I think we have them too low in these rankings, especially after that big comeback win over Cleveland State!  I can’t wait to see what the winter semester brings for WVU.  Would love to see them make the trip to Nationals at GVSU as well.

JL: I expect this team to move up even further in the power rankings with each month. They have a great leader in Corey Nasiadka, and have a wide variety of athletes that are getting better with each match.

HF: WVU reminds me a bit of the 2016-17 Ohio team.  They are in their second season and currently sit at 3-4.  As mentioned before, they had a big comeback win against CSU, and also picked up a win against Marietta last month.  On the note of similarities too, Corey Nasiadka reminds me of Niko Nodal during his time with DePaul.  It’s a very lofty comparison, but he is definitely the heart and soul of that team, and I fully expect him to roll in some accolades in the future, given more opportunities.


23) Georgia Southern

KB: Another team that is a bit too low in the rankings I think.  GSU has developed so much over the past year or two.  Shoutout to Zachary Rivera for a great career.  He helped bring this team into the league, and now he can sit back and watch the program continue to develop.  He left this school heading in the right direction.

JL: The loss of Zachary Rivera is going to hurt, which leads me to believe that they are going to fall even further in the power rankings come February.

HF: GSU is a team that I noticed had a lot of numbers to start the season and looks to be moving in the right direction.  They traveled up to Kent last month and got a chance to experience some more games against new teams.  Unfortunately for GSU, they will be missing Zach Rivera, one of the club’s founders, after December.


24) Ball State

KB: Ball State clearly is on a mission to improve.  double-digit games played in the fall semester for BSU.  That’s a good sign for a young program.   Look out for this team in a couple years.

JL: The Cardinals are currently in a tough place, but are continuing to play more and more, which is very comforting. I am starting grad school at Ball State in the Spring, and may just lace them up one more time to play in the NCDA.

HF: BSU is another young team looking to find their stride and they are gaining more and more experience with every tournament they travel to.  Within the last month they faced off against GVSU, UWP, and Miami, which are good games to develop their skills.  I don’t see any big changes for BSU in the near future, but they should stay focused and continue to recruit and develop for the future.


25) Northwestern State

KB: I’m happy to see a few things from NSU.  First off, just the fact that they are able to play in more matches.  This was not always the case for this program, and if they continue to schedule more events, they will improve because of it.  Secondly, they are starting to become a more competitive team, and not just an easy win for any opponent.  I’m excited to see what the next stage of development will be for NSU.

JL: Many may not know this, but this team once struggled to field 8 people at a tournament.  Thanks to Casey Alfultis and company, they now boast an average of 30 people at practice this year and have more than enough bodies for any tournament they compete in this year. They are looking to get a match in with North Texas in the spring as well.

HF: NSU rounds out our top 25 power rankings.  While they did not compete within the last month, I have heard good things coming from their camp.  In the past NSU has been a team which has struggled to be competitive, but they had some tight games against GSU and UNG which shows they are improving.


 

Author: Kevin Bailey

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

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