Happy New Year College Dodgeballers! After taking a month off the power rankings during the mid-season winter break, we are finally back for the second half of the season, with the February Power Rankings. Not many matches have been played yet in 2019, but this is just the calm before the storm. The month of February promises to be the most exciting month yet this season with huge tournament taking place each of the next three weekends:
Feb. 9-10: The WAR
Feb. 16: Michigan Dodgeball Cup
Feb. 23: BEAST / Ohio Dodgeball Cup
Below is the official February 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: Just cruising along with two more wins over a top 5 team to start the winter semester. Business as usual for GVSU. This team looks like the obvious favorite to win it all this year, but let’s not forget an undefeated team was upset last year at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup (CMU). If the Lakers want to avoid that type of let down at MDC, they will need to simply continue to play as organized and disciplined as they did at Battle of the Valleys. The 15-0 start to the season has been great, but what truly determines your legacy at GV, is the way you perform down the stretch at tournaments like MDC and Nationals.
Jacob Leski: The biggest weekend of the year for this team is close upon us. The importance of the MDC is not far below the National Championship for this team. Other than their one match with CMU last semester, the Lakers have had little trouble defeating their competition with ease. I do not see that changing at all, in fact I expect them to blow out their competition at the MDC. It will be a battle for 2nd place.
KB: The Tigers have a busy month ahead of them with trips to Akron for WAR III and JMU for BEAST VIII. While Towson certainly has been the second best team in the nation thus far, a few slip ups in the coming weeks could lead to their stock dropping significantly. With star players like Jordan Watt, David Guare, and Colin Sporer, and an improved strategy, I’m told this team is a very tough one to beat. I expect Towson to come out of February remaining the #2 team in the country.
JL: This team needs to travel to the Midwest and challenge the 4 mighty Michigan schools to prove that they should be considered a real threat to win the National Title. While I think this team is legit, they remind me of the 2015 CMU National Runner-up, who had a tremendous amount of talent on their team, but faced a GVSU team that just had too much talent and experience on their end. Hard for me not to see the same thing happening at Nationals this year.
3) James Madison
KB: JMU stays at #3 in our current rankings with a 9-3 record right now. The Dukes are maybe a strong showing at BEAST VIII away from jumping to #2 in the rankings. If JMU can take a win over Towson this month (making it 2-straight over the Tigers), I have a hard time seeing them ranked below Towson in the March Power Rankings. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.
JL: I truly believe that if this team can pull off an upset over Towson just once this semester they will have the advantage going into Nationals. Their biggest issue always has and remains their ability to alter their strategy mid-game. Other teams like GVSU and Towson have demonstrated their ability to adapt on the fly, which in turn hurts teams like JMU.
4) Saginaw Valley State
KB: Few teams impressed me as much as SVSU this month. Yes, they got swept in their Battle of the Valleys doubleheader with GVSU, but the way they competed in those matches made me optimistic for this team’s chances. The Cardinals might be the best catching team int he country right now, and they have a great core group of players in Kenny Mize, Jake Bruce, Kyle Bruce, Grayson Hood, Ryan Anguilm. My worry is that beyond that top group, and a few others like Bryce Stevens, Mitch Oliver, and Dylan McDonald, their is quite a drop off in talent. This drop off is especially noticeable when it comes to dependable throwers. My hot take right now is that while SVSU is as organized and skilled as just about any team in the nation not named Grand Valley, the Cardinals might be too top heavy offensively for me to think they will have enough firepower left towards the end of Day 2 of Nationals. Would love for them to prove me wrong on this, and make a run at a National Title.
JL: I have to hand it to the Cardinals for an impressive 5-0 victory over Kent. They still are by far the most top-heavy team in the NCDA, but when their stars are on, they are extremely difficult to defeat. Catching once again remains this teams top strength, and one they can rely on to get them to the Final Four for a 3rd season in a row.
5) Michigan State
KB: MDC can’t come soon enough for anyone who wants to know what Michigan State is about this season. They land at #5 in our rankings right now but a lot of that is admittedly just speculation. DO we really know how much their talented young players are going to develop this semester? No. But I still expect the Spartans to be a team that makes a lot of noise down the stretch. It all will start on February 16th when they don’t finish last at MDC…
JL: I want to know more about this team. It feels to me that the only thing anyone really knows about them is that their Captain’s nickname is “Bob Knight” and they have a female player that is really good at catching. All kidding aside, I really want to see this team make a name for themselves this season. My big question is whether or not they will place 4th for a 4th consecutive season at the MDC?
KB: Miami has had some awesome moments over the last two season as they have climbed from an unranked afterthought team to a top 5 or 6 program in the NCDA. With that said, I believe the most important tournament in program history is coming up this month. The Ohio Dodgeball Cup right now is Miami’s for the taking. Will the RedHawks meet the high expectations and win this title? It would be a massive accomplishment for the young team, and a huge boost in momentum heading into the home stretch of the 2018-19 season. But before we even think about ODC, they need to come out and perform this weekend at WAR III.
JL: For the first time ever, I may actually tune in for the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. Typically it is one or two solid teams and the rest are uninspiring, but this year is a little different. Kent no longer appears to run the show. Miami has a true leader in Tom Morand and he along with the rest of their leadership has really built an impressive squad. While I do not expect them to make it to the Final Four this year, I fully anticipate them to have the best finish this program has ever seen, and by a long-shot.
7) Central Michigan
KB: Just like MSU, CMU is a pretty tough team to read so far this year. A 6-6 record isn’t very pretty, but when you consider they have the 3rd toughest strength of schedule maybe it makes that more forgivable. The Michigan Dodgeball Cup is just over a week away, and this team will be a very intriguing one to watch. They have wins over SVSU and MSU this year, and even a couple tight games with GVSU. If the Chippewas bring their best for MDC, a top 2 finish is certainly not out of the question.
JL: There is nothing more I would love to see than for this squad to take it to GVSU at MDC and put SVSU and MSU in their place, but this team has struggled to put together a full tournament. They tend to have one or two great showings, but then flop in their remaining game. The ability to stay consistent comes with experience and maturity, which is something the Chips are currently lacking. Casey Bielec and company have done a solid job of building up their young talent, but have to do more come February 16th.
8) Virginia Commonwealth
KB: I’ll start by saying this move to #8 is not deserved. VCU only jumps up in the rankings because of how poorly Kent State played last tournament. The Rams are a team that have a lot to prove this semester. Good news is, they will finally be back in action this month at the WAR and BEAST. I’m excited to see this team in person this weekend and get a better gauge for how good they really are.
JL: Is there a team that has flown under the radar more than VCU? Last season was a monumental season for them, and many believed they would build upon that success this season. Obviously, they have failed to do that. They have the pieces to be a threat at nationals, but the more you play the better you will play, and they have not played enough in my opinion. Hope to see them step it up this semester so that they can be taken more seriously.
9) Kent State
KB: Kent State had a rocky start to 2019 with a 5-0 loss at the hands of an SVSU team not even at full strength. I did not see that game, but will get the chance to see them this weekend at WAR. Is this program still good enough to compete for the top spot in Ohio or a Final Four spot at Nationals? They have plenty to prove in the next few months.
JL: What happened against SVSU? 5-0?! That is absurd. I hope all this can be attributed to a lack of quality players being able to show up to this tournament. If they had a full squad then I am truly at a loss. Their narrow victory over CSU is alarming as well.
KB: Ohio sits at 8-4 so far this year, and in my opinion they are one of the more intriguing teams to follow over the next month. The Bobcats are not on the same level as Miami (or Kent State as far we know considering their only meeting this year resulted in a 5-2 win for Kent). With that said, Ohio stands near the top of that second tier in the Ohio Region. Right now we have them ahead of Akron, BGSU, OSU, and CSU in the Power Rankings. Can they hang on to that #3 spot in Ohio, or better yet climb up to #2 or #1? They’ve pulled off more impressive things at ODC in the past (see 2017).
JL: I have heard rumors that Caleb Arnold is looking to make a comeback, not sure if that is true, but I am interested to find out. After Kent’s dismal performance against CSU and SVSU, it is hard not to think that Ohio may have the best chance at taking down Miami at the ODC.
11) North Georgia
KB: Very curious to find out if this team is improved from the 2017-18 version that climbed the rankings before a first round exit at Nationals. Would love to see them play some Ohio/East Coast schools. When will we get to see that?
JL: They need to come North! One of only two teams remaining with no losses on their record. If they want to be taken seriously, then they have to travel to play teams north of the Mason-Dixon line. Feels like deja vu to me, considering UNG is in the same position at the same time every season.
12) Penn State
KB: No team gets a bigger jump in the rankings than Penn State after an impressive showing in the month of January. PSU’s win over Akron proves they are a team that can challenge for a spot in the 10 by the end of the year. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the finish to their match with Akron, do yourself a favor and watch the video here.
JL: Good for the Nittany Lions. A solid 4-2 victory over Akron was just what they needed to get the semester off to a roll. My biggest concern with this team still is their firepower. They can catch like any other team, but their lack of cannons on the offensive end is what I believe will be their biggest downfall come April.
KB: Gosh, it would’ve been a great step forward for the program if they would have been able to finish off the comeback against PSU and win that game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the way the cookie crumbled. Good news for Akron is they have plenty of opportunities for big wins coming up, starting with their home tournament (WAR III). Akron is obviously serious about improving, as they have played in two tourneys already this semester, and have two more planned for the next 3 weeks. I am excited to see where this team is at come Nationals.
JL: The bright side to their loss to Penn State is that recruiting wise, this is the best year they have ever had, hence why I believe they will only continue to improve as an organization as a whole. The fact they are able to have a full squad speaks volumes about the leadership they have running the helm in Colby Briceland and Adam Pfeifers
KB: Kentucky quietly put together a solid fall semester, playing in 13 games! Unfortunately, I think they need to get in at least 13 more this winter if they want to improve enough to make any noise at Nationals. Currently sitting at #19 in the Gonzalez, the Wildcats have some work to do to secure themselves a respectable seed at Nationals.
JL: I unfortunately expect this to be the highest they get on the power rankings for the rest of the season. With the loss of Zach Parise and Ricardo Menchada, they have to find a way to fill those large gaps on their team, and frankly I do not think they have the talent to do that.
15) Bowling Green State
KB: DO not count this team out just yet! Clearly not of the caliber of the 2017-18 version of the BGSU Falcons, I still expect this team to turn it up a notch this winter and make a little bit of noise. It is not outside the realm of possibility for them to be the #3 team in Ohio this year. Especially since they are the host school for the Ohio Dodgeball Cup on Feb. 23. February is a very important one for Bowling Green.
JL: Still blows my mind at how big of a drop off they have had this season compared to the last. One thing that does remain from last year’s team is a strong leadership presence, which will go incredibly long way for this club down the road.
16) Ohio State
KB: Few teams intrigue me in Ohio as much as the Buckeyes. I can’t wait to see how they stack up against the likes of Akron, CSU, Ohio, and BGSU. February will be great for this teams development as they plan to attend WAR and ODC.
JL: If I am not mistaken, this has also been one of the best recruiting years for Ohio State in a long time. What is hard for me to fathom is that they may miss the quarterfinals for a second consecutive season in a row. Like most teams close to them, their ability to develop their players before April will determine whether they will have any post season success.
KB: UVA is not in the best of spots right now considering their #21 ranking in the Gonzalez System. This East Coast team has a lot of work to do to improve their position before Nationals.
JL: Zane “The Cane” Durbin is doing everything he can to get this team to where they ought to be, which is a top 10 team. If Zane wants to be considered an All-American this season, he must find a way to get this team to the quarterfinals come April.
18) Cleveland State
KB: Not going to lie, I didn’t expect CSU to be a consistent top 20 team this year. Sure, they didn’t have the best January, but they continue to improve. I like what this program is doing on and off the court. Their charity match with Cleveland Police was very cool.
JL: Good for this squad finding a way to make a game out of their match with Kent. They have slowly improved with each month of the season, as has their social media posts. Keep up the great work.
KB: Despite a 1-win season so far, UMD remains in the top 20, due to a few factors. A) I hear they compete well in their matches, and keep points close even with better opponents. B) the teams below UMD have done nothing to really convince us they are better. UMD is still a team to watch for Nationals.
JL: I am still in shock that this team has yet to live up to their potential. The team I watched play at Nationals last season played with heart and kept every game close. The team I watch now is a fragment of that. There really is no reason in my book that they can’t be a threat to every team outside of Michigan.
KB: Biggest question with this team is if they will make it to Nationals, and if so, with what type of a roster? UNL had a solid start to the year but they have been silent since then.
JL: I am genuinely concerned about the immediate future of this team. They are struggling to recruit at the current time, but thankfully have found multiple members of their team to step up after the departure of their previous Captain to help with organizational roles that are critical to the success of this team.