New year, new dodgeball. We hit the ground running quick for the Spring semester of the 2016-17 season, as Penn State University hosts their first ever home tournament. A total of four teams will be mixed in the fray including our hosts, Akron University, Ohio University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. This tournament has a similar feel to UNG’s Dahlonega Dodgefall Fest. There is no clear favorite, and most of the teams here are around the same rank and skill level with each other, which could prove to make for an exciting weekend. Let’s take a quick look at what to expect from the attending teams.
The Zips currently sit at 5-8-1 on the year, and are ranked 22nd in the all-mighty Gonzalez Rankings. Going into this tournament, they have not played in a competitive match since October 30th. As a result, we may see some surprises and changes in Akron’s lineup come tournament time, for better or for worse. At the moment, they do not have a full roster scheduled to make the trip. While this certainly doesn’t help them, it may not hurt them in a dramatic way since they will still be going with some of their best. This includes players such as Adam Pfeifer, Colby Briceland, and Joshua Lyons.
Currently, Akron is a statistical favorite against OU, but underdogs against VCU and PSU. They have played against OU twice this year, resulting in two exciting overtime wins. Given their roster situation, I would be hard pressed to say they will get this win without any difficulty. This game is a toss-up in my opinion, but I will give the slight edge to Akron given their 6-0 all-time record against the Bobcats.
What are the chances Ohio goes into overtime in every game? As Kevin pointed out in his humorous but informative New Year’s Resolutions article, Ohio has been to overtime, a lot. They have yet to win any of their five overtime matches this season, but the key word is “yet.” This team has enough talent and ability now to get wins against some of the newer teams in the league, and I believe they will be able to get over the hump and beat an established team this season.
Despite being the underdog in every game, don’t expect the Bobcats to be walked over. Their best chance at an upset win will be against Akron as stated before, but the matchups with VCU and PSU should be interesting as well. They have not played against either school before, so the first time meeting should be interesting for both sides. Once again, Caleb Arnold will be in the discussion for his catching ability as well as his ability to survive points for an extended period of time. He plays a very smart game, and will need to be at his best once again for his team to remain competitive. Kyle Smart and Nate Sexauer will also be important. This team will need to make sure they play with composure in case things don’t go their way this weekend, and the individuals listed previously will be an important part of that.
This is a pretty historic moment for PSU. They will be hosting their first tournament in program history, and playing in their debut tournament for the season all on the same day. What are the chances they go undefeated to make it even better? Pretty high, actually. Even though they have yet to make it to any events this year, they could possibly have one of their best teams ever. Jeff Schwartz, Morgan McLean, and Damian Pazuchanics are big parts of that growth, and will be vital for this team’s success.
In terms of matchups, this team is positioned very well against the attending schools. PSU has some strong arms on the team which will be important in matching a team like Ohio which has some strong catchers. Additionally, they have good athletes on their team which will work well against a school like VCU who likes to move up and down the court quickly. They have not played against Akron before in their school’s history, so that should be a fun match to watch to see who wins the first game in that series. Overall, I think this team having a home court advantage will help them out a lot since they will not have to worry about any travel fatigue. This is part of why they are my favorites heading into the weekend.
According to Zig, “Virginia breeds Twitter Jockeys,” and now we will have to see if it breeds dodgeballers as well. This team had a successful first half of the season with a 10-7 record, their most successful by far. A big portion of that can be attributed to Assistant Captains Wayne Shortt and Torao Ota, who played well in the Fall and will be looking to carry that over into the Spring. Besides that, there have been some unsung heroes on this team including RJ Morgan and Jeff Shackleford who deserve praise as well.
While there are many people that consider this team a now “upper tier” member of the East Coast, the fact of the matter is they have to beat PSU to earn that distinction. The Rams have never beaten the Nittany Lions, and frankly, the games have not been close in the past few seasons. However, this is a different team, a team with a lot more talent, leadership, and drive than in the past. VCU has already played and beaten Akron this season in a 2-1 affair at Akron’s Pink Out 2 tournament, but has never played Ohio. Each game for VCU should be competitive, and we will truly see if this team is ready to take the next step to becoming Elite.
Predictions & Exchanges
|High Seed||Low Seed||Rating||Rating||Predicted Exchange||Exchange if Upset|
Zigmas: We do know that Home Court Advantage exists, but we don’t know how much it contributes. We’re compiling a review and report on HCA, but it seems like a +3 point boost might be too much to give to the home team’s rating. For the purposes of this prediction set, Penn State has been given 1 point home court boost instead.
The records tell us that the mean distance traveled for a loss against the home team is about 193 miles, with a standard deviation of 139 miles. Teams that travel between 54 and 332 miles will lose the the Home Team about 68% of the time.
Akron to PSU: 216.1 mi
Ohio to PSU: 326.8 mi
VCU to PSU: 315.6 mi
PSU vs Ohio
HF: Ohio does have the advantage in terms of experience and games played this season. However, PSU has a lot of veterans on this team with past experience, so that advantage will not mean much for them compared to the talent of PSU. 3-0 PSU
Zigmas Maloni: An upset by Ohio would be super significant, in the 95 percentile of technical upsets. Because of the odds, I’d have to give PSU the nod here. PSU
Kevin Bailey: 4-0 PSU
Felix Perrone: 3-2 PSU
Jacob Leski: 4-2 PSU
VCU vs Akron
HF: VCU will have a pretty good squad at their disposal which will be important for them. Each game has been close between these two schools (2-0 VCU, 2-1 VCU) so I expect it to be close again. 2-1 VCU
ZM: When the data was young and sparse, I’d consider this Rating Gap a tad too far for an Akron upset. But that’s not the case anymore. Last we saw this matchup, it was a minor technical upset in VCU’s favor (1.254). I’ll buck the trend and say this will be a fast and close match in Akron’s favor. 4-2 Akron
KB: 4-1 VCU
FP: 5-0 VCU
JL: 5-3 VCU
Akron vs Ohio
HF: For one reason or another, Akron has Ohio’s number. Why that is, I don’t know, however until Ohio proves otherwise, I have to go with history. 3-2 OT Akron
ZM: The second closest rating gap of the day, and the best chance for Ohio to pull a technical upset. The historical data shows that if an upset were to happen anywhere in the day, it would be most likely be here. I predict a close match. 2-1 OT Akron
KB: 3-1 Akron
FP: 2-1 Ohio
JL: 2-1 Akron
PSU vs VCU
HF: PSU having the home court should prove to be an advantage for their team, and they have a consistent win streak against VCU. 3-1 PSU
ZM: The closest match of the day, and a toss up with ratings so comparable even before Home Court Advantage is thrown in. I think VCU has the edge because of the data for PSU is less confident than the available data for VCU. And when that happens, I get to call a hunch: 3-2 VCU
KB: 4-2 VCU
FP: 3-1 VCU
JL: 3-2 PSU
VCU vs Ohio
HF: Ohio should be able to sneak a point in this matchup since VCU has somewhat struggled against teams with good catchers, but the overall talent is in VCU’s favor. 3-1 VCU
ZM: With PSU hosting, it’s even neutral ground for these two travelers. That being equal, the Gonzalez Exchange for this match has minor weight and it’s hard to find an advantage for Ohio in this matchup. End of the day games are also very tricky, and I’m going to say it’ll be a low scorer. Hopefully we’ll see some Gladiator. 2-1 VCU
KB: 5-1 VCU
FP: 3-2 VCU OT
JL: 3-2 VCU
PSU vs Akron
HF: PSU benefits from the home court advantage, and a total player advantage since Akron will not have a full roster for their matchup. Akron has some talent to keep them in the game, but the lack of numbers will be a problem. 2-0 PSU
ZM: The home team will have the advantage in many factors. Akron will have traveled many miles and this is the last match of the day. In this situation, any team would struggle without a full bench. PSU should be able to take the Rating Exchange if they keep it together. 3-0 PSU
KB: 3-2 PSU
FP: 2-1 PSU
JL: 4-2 PSU