Less than two months left in the 2017-18 College Dodgeball season, and things are really starting to heat up. The month of February was the most chaotic of the season, and teams continue to jostle for positions in the rankings.
Below is the official Power Rankings list produced by NCDA Executive Board members Jacob Leski (Director of Recruitment and Retention), and Kevin Bailey (Chief of Content). Along with giving our opinions on each team, this month we have added some extra team info to provide readers with a better idea of how each school fared over the course of the last month. Please keep in mind: these power rankings have no impact on the actual NCDA Standings.
1) Grand Valley State
Kevin Bailey: After an underwhelming first half to the season, GVSU finally showed us a glimpse of what they’re capable of at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup, where they dismantled previously unbeaten Central Michigan to take home the title. They then traveled to JMU to win the BEAST (thanks to some late-game heroics by Alex Jonauskas). This team is the hottest in the country at the moment, but will be tested a lot over the final two months of the season. They will host CMU, SVSU, MSU, and many more top-level teams on March 25th. That will be a great preview for Nationals.
Jacob Leski: I highly doubt KB or myself was surprised to see GVSU come back in style as they seem to always do after winter break. They deserve the #1 spot in this month’s power rankings without question. Does that mean they deserve to be the #1 team in the nation? I am not yet convinced, but I am sure that will be answered very soon. Shout-out to Coach Dylan Fettig for instilling an incredible work ethic for this program, which is why I believe they are playing so well.
2) Central Michigan
KB: Look. Central Michigan has had the best SEASON of any team in the country. With that said, we dropped them to #2 because as of right now, GVSU is a better team with more momentum. I’m not delusional enough to count this team out though. The Chippewas are clearly a title contender, and they will make the necessary adjustments after their recent loss to GVSU. I am a big fan of what CMU has done this year. I love the amount of talented players on this roster. They are deep, and they are hungry. I expect a strong finish to the season for the Chips.
JL: The Chippewas are sitting at a pretty 19-1 record currently. For them that is one too many losses. As an alumni of CMU, it is very hard for me not to be incredibly proud of this record, especially with what the expectations were coming into this season. Yes, they fell apart in their first game back against GV, I blame part of that to complacency, but I have faith in the leaders at CMU to get the job done and do what it takes to return to the top of their playing ability.
3) Saginaw Valley State
KB: Saginaw had themselves a solid month of February. After dropping a game to BGSU in late-January, they have been on a roll! I love the way this team is always able to turn the corner in the winter months and develop into a title contender. I picked Saginaw as the #3 team in my Way-Too-Early Power Rankings for the 2017-18 season, and it’s no surprise they finally established themselves as a top-tier team this year. The top 5 or 6 players on this team are as skilled and experienced as any group in the nation, making them a very dangerous team in overtime games. Don’t be shocked when they make their way to yet another Final Four at Nationals.
JL: Took them long enough! The Cardinals have underachieved all season, I am glad to see that part of their season is far behind them. This club has an immense amount of talent, hence why my partner and I were so hard on them when they were dropping big games left and right. I believe the big reason they finally got over the hump was because of their bottom tier players, who are finally starting to step-up. To quote Kenny Mize, “Our next games with CMU and GV will be the same. 3-0 routs. They’ll know who the real MDC champs are”.
KB: Towson had an up and down month, resulting in us keeping them at #4 in our rankings. The Tigers tested themselves as much as anyone in the month of February, with wins over 5 different top-20 teams, along with three close losses to top 5 teams. The thing that has impressed me the most, is not just how much Towson has improved over the course of the year, but their ability to match up well with any other team in the country. The overtime losses to GVSU and JMU at BEAST were heartbreaking, but it just shows how close they are to making a real breakthrough. This team is in great position to finally make that Final Four run that has been so elusive for them in the past.
JL: I am very impressed that this squad took GV to overtime. From what I watched, they blew it in quick fashion, having their opponents down to 1 person left “Before Mike Hinely decided to go and play hero”. Had they played more as a team they would have come away with the biggest win in their school’s history. But I digress, this squad may have also lost an OT thriller to JMU, however they are heading in the right direction, they just need to win when it matters most.
5) James Madison
KB: Yes, JMU dropped in our rankings from 3 to 5, but I don’t want to make this about them falling off, because that is the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, I am more excited about JMU now than I was at the start of the month. They took a few tough losses at “The War” and “BEAST” (SVSU, Kent, and GVSU), but overall this team has shown us they are still one of the most talented groups in the NCDA. Doug Schilling is near the top of my MVP short-list right now. Evan Eschenburg had a very strong showing at BEAST and is in the Baller of the Month discussion at the moment. Also, from what I’ve been told, Jonathan Smith is as good a freshman as there is in college dodgeball right now. This team is no joke. They have all the pieces to win the title this year.
JL: I really like this team. They have great leadership and have the talent to compete with anyone. However, what continues to baffle me is their habit of losing to teams that they are clearly better than. I believe when Nationals hits they will have any kinks worked out and will be ready to compete for a National Championship.
6) Kent State
KB: Kent drops one spot in the rankings this month, but that isn’t the story here. This team is starting to turn the corner. They racked up three wins over top 7 teams this month, including a very impressive take-down of JMU. Kent also got their revenge by winning the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. A few months ago we were looking at BGSU as the obvious favorite to win ODC, but Kent has changed that narrative significantly. Kent is clearly the best team in Ohio at the moment. When you have a team as crafty as Kent that also plays together as a unit very cohesively, that spells doom for opponents. This team is going to be dangerous at Nationals. A dark horse national title contender in my opinion.
JL: I was not very confident in this team’s ability to compete with the top teams in the country, but they have finally gotten me to think otherwise. Big victories at The War and at The ODC have dropped Kent into the conversation of teams that have the real possibility of making the Final Four. I truly believe the reason why they are performing at such a high level is because they really play as one unit, which is often seen by teams like CMU and GVSU. That tactic often leads to many victories and championships, keep it up.
7) Bowling Green State
KB: Bowling Green has not had the ideal second half to the season so far. They have some things they need to figure out to get back to being the red-hot squad that they were in the fall. They are more than capable of making the Final Four, but the Falcons need to get back to being themselves and leave this slump behind. I had the opportunity to see a couple BGSU players in action at the GR Open tournament, and Reid Manger stuck out as one of the best catchers in the building. As Leski mentions below, he should be an All-American this year. Bottom line for me is this: the top end players on this roster (Manger, Broyles, Wickham, etc) make them a difficult matchup for anyone. BGSU won’t lose to a team less talented than them at Nationals, and when they do face a tough opponent in bracket play, I expect them to bring it like they did in the fall. This is still, by a landslide, the best BGSU team in recent memory.
JL: Reid Manger is one of my All-American picks if the season were to end today. He is an incredible catcher and has leadership qualities that many envy. In my opinion, this team has taken a few steps back this semester. Do I think they still have the ability to make the semifinals at Nationals? Yes, I do. They just need to figure out what is stopping them from beating the top teams in the country.
8) Michigan State
KB: No movement from MSU this month, as their only two matches came against the #1 and #2 teams in the nation. They lost both games, but we did see was some flashes of greatness. I can’t wait to see how this team performs against some closer competition. They have taken a beating this year by top level teams, but that has probably prepared them well for Nationals. Oh, and did I mention I’m a big fan of their rookie class?
JL: Yes, they lost all of their games at MDC for the 4th year in a row, but both of their opponents are easily the two best teams in the country at the given moment. This team continues to improve fundamentally with each game they play, credit that to team President Rebecca Shappell. She has them headed in the right direction.
9) Virginia Commonwealth
KB: This has probably been alluded to before, but this team truly is a healthy Hunter Ford away from being a contender for an “Elite Eight” spot. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch VCU play much, but I’m told they have been competitive with some top teams, and just haven’t been able to close the deal for a major upset. Maybe we see them finally pull off the upset when they are playing on their home court for Nationals…
JL: They are headed in the right direction. Their problem is a lack of victories over top-tier opponents. VCU’s victory over Ohio was significant, but until they beat a team in our top 7 Power Rankings, it will be hard for me to see them doing anything more than making the quarterfinals this year, and that is still a stretch.
10) North Georgia
KB: North Georgia has had themselves a heck of a month. They went 6-0 over the past 30 days, proving to everyone that they are clearly the top team in the South Region. As far as I’m concerned Kyle Dattelbaum is a lock for an All-American spot this year, as he has been the top player in his region for two years now. This team deserves a lot of credit, because in only year two as a program, they have climbed all the way into the top 10 of our power rankings. Not an easy task. Best Year-2 program since some school named James Madison pulled an upset over GVSU in their second season…
JL: They are still undefeated on the season. As I have said before, I am a big fan of this squad. Yes, they do not have any marquee victories over the top teams in the country, but for being only in their second season, it’s hard not to jump on the band-wagon.
KB: Ohio drops two spots in the PR after a month of missed opportunities. The Bobcats unfortunately failed to beat VCU in a game between closely ranked opponents, then followed it up with a loss at ODC to Kent. They are capable of keeping it close with every team in the Ohio Region, but just couldn’t put it all together on that day to defend their ODC title. Ohio is still a team to look out for as we inch closer to Nationals. They will be in the hunt for a quarterfinals spot.
JL: They were so close to beating Kent at the ODC! Similar to VCU’s situation, they are getting closer and closer to being taken seriously by the top teams in the country, they just need to get that first win. I have to admit that I was hoping they would get the big OT victory over Kent at the ODC. Would have been a monumental victory for this club.
12) Wisconsin Platteville
KB: UWP is far and away the best team in the Midway Conference. I haven’t seen more than a few minutes of footage on this squad this season, so I don’t have a great idea of how talented they are. With that said, I know they always seem to compete well down the stretch, so keep an eye out for UWP at Nationals.
JL: To no surprise, they handled UNL with ease. Still waiting to hear if they will be making the trip out to Nationals this year, but I do expect them to. This is a team I would stay away from come April.
KB: Not much to say about Kentucky at the moment. Just like their basketball team, it hasn’t been the greatest season for them just yet. But, there is still time to salvage the season. Kentucky has about a month and a half to get ready for Nationals. The last time UK didn’t make it to at least the quarterfinals at Nationals was… 2010! That’s a crazy impressive run, but it is in jeopardy this year.
JL: Nothing new to report here. We have not heard much out of the state of Kentucky this year. Currently working with WKU to boost their numbers and to get them playing again soon.
KB: Miami has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2017-18 NCDA season. I did not expect them to be as good as they are. Sure, they might be a year or two away from competing for championships, but Miami is still an exciting team that could make a major statement for 2019 by finishing the 2018 season strong. Also, I had the chance to see Tom Morand play in person a few weeks ago. He is a future star in this league. No question about it.
JL: Another great example of a team doing well in their second year back in the league. Tom Morand and company are doing a great job of leading this program in a positive direction.
15) Penn State
KB: I’ll be honest, we may be undervaluing PSU by placing them as low as we have over the past two months. Everyone knows this team is talented and tough to beat come Nationals. I expect 2018 to be no different.
JL: Happy that Jake Nasiadka was able to play against his brother Cory in his first ever Collegiate Dodgeball match. While I still believe this club has not reached their full potential, they impressed me by making it a close game with BGSU back at The War.
KB: Virginia looks to finally be turning the corner. After a disappointing fall semester, the Cavaliers were able to avenge their loss to Stevenson with a convincing win at BEAST. UVA apparently showed some flashes in that tournament, so maybe they are a dark horse team for Nationals. The next couple months will tell us a lot about where they are as a program, and how excited we should be for the future.
JL: Big victory over Stevenson. They are a very young team, but seems like they are happy with the way things are going over there. Appears they plan on riding the current success of their basketball team into March and April. It’s a bold strategy, let’s see if it pays off.
KB: Stevenson takes a big hit this month, dropping from #11 to #17. They didn’t have a great performance at BEAST, but this doesn’t mean they won’t be a tough out at Nationals this year. SU has a lot of talent at the top of their roster, which makes me optimistic that they could pull off an upset or two down the stretch this year.
JL: Not entirely sure what to make of this team. One minute they are hot, the next they can’t even compete with bottom-tier teams. I don’t know if there were roster mishaps this past weekend, but whatever it was they need to figure out their issues fast.
18) Ohio State
KB: The Buckeyes stay at #18 on our list after an up and down month. Their 4-2 victory over Akron confirms they are deserving of a spot on the PR list, but their loss to Ohio shows us that they aren’t one of the contenders in the Ohio Region. Keep in mind, Jeff Starr is working with an extremely young group this year. Doesn’t help that future NCDA All-American Ben Johnson is injured.
JL: The fighting Jeff Starr’s keep plugging away. While this season is their worst in recent memory, the future is very bright for this program. They have many committed individuals who are ready to help re-build this program from the bottom up.
KB: Akron has found their way back into the top 20, after a very busy month. Akron hosted WAR, then competed at ODC shortly after. They beat teams ranked below them, and unfortunately were unable to grab an upset over any of the higher ranked teams they played. Regardless, Akron is a top 20 team right now, and should make more improvements before Nationals.
JL: Welcome back to the Power Rankings! It has been quite a while since the Zips made an appearance in our Top 20. After hosting an impressive tournament, this squad was able to keep it close with teams that have pummeled them in recent matches. Looks like things are turning in the right direction.
20) Georgia Southern
KB: Georgia Southern had a huge month! They went from not having a single win in program history to ripping off 4 wins over the course of just a few weeks. GSU beat NSULA twice at Mardi Gras Madness, then beat UCF twice at Gold Rush to solidify their position as the #2 team in the South Region. This team deserves a great deal of credit as they are arguably the most improved team in the NCDA from a year ago until now.
JL: With victories over NSULA and UCF, it was hard not to include them as one of our top 20 teams in the country. Clearly their choice to focus primarily on recruitment last semester has paid off tremendously for this young squad.