Way-Too-Early 2023-24 Power Rankings

Team writeups provided by the NCDA Power Ranking Panel
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1) Ohio State – Ohio State will head into the 2023-24 season as the number one power ranked team. They’ll return 10 starters to a team that was an overtime away from a final four appearance, which is more than every other team that played in the quarterfinals. The two departures will be All-American Ryan Ginsberg and All-Ohio player Ben Dardia, both of whom plan to stay with the club as coaches. The corners for the Buckeyes will stay intact, headlined by two All-Rookie players on the right and Ethan Lehmkuhl on the left. The Buckeyes will still need a strong recruiting class to beat the best of the best, but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern as they have had two All-Rookie players each of the past two years. Look for this team to use their experience early on but continue to improve throughout the year in hopes of their first National Title since 2006.

2) Michigan State – The reigning National Champions Michigan State won’t start the year as the top power ranked team but will fall to the number two spot. This is due to losing the “Core Four” that led MSU to their first ever Championship, headlined by three All-Americans – Jack Girling, Barry Butler III and Josh Kramer. It’ll be almost impossible to replace the talent, experience, and leadership that they brought to the team, but if there is a team that can do it, it’s the Spartans. Every year they tend to have multiple rookies battling for the Rookie of the Year title. Speaking of Rookie of the Year, 2022 ROTY Alec Deen will lead the title defense for the Spartans as the new Captain for Michigan State, along with two 2023 All-Rookie players in Nick Fedewa and Matt Barriball. Even though the Spartans lose a ton of talent, they will use their elite recruiting and coaching to be in the mix for another National Title.

3) Penn State – Penn State ended their season a little sooner than they would’ve liked at Nationals, losing to Ohio in the round of 16. While they might have had a disappointing finish, few teams are as poised to “run it back” as PSU is. While they do lose Zachary Eck, they retain a solid handful of their OT6 including Hunter Stewart. The Nittany Lions have a massive talent pool to build their roster around before they even begin recruiting for the fall semester. Look for Penn State to be a real threat next year, very few teams have as many options as they do at their disposal. Their biggest key to success will be developing more of a consistent strategy than they showed this season.

4) Grand Valley State – Grand Valley State will enter the 2023-24 season at number 4 after perhaps their worst season in school history (a season in which they still made the National Title Game). GVSU loses 2 All-Americans in Josh Hill and Tyler Peach, as well as second team All-American Owen Israels. The Lakers will be a very young squad next year and will need a strong recruiting class to compete with the elite teams. With that being said, it’s hardly as if Grand Valley hasn’t historically been known to just simply reload with a massive rookie class. GVSU will be led by rising star Matt Budai and All-Rookie Mason Smith. Even though the Lakers might not be the most talented roster on paper, they always seem to find a way to be in title contention come April. Expect them to bring in another strong recruiting class and be fighting to bring back the trophy come 2024 Nationals.

5) Cincinnati – The Bearcats have shown since their inception that they are perennial contenders. With that said, a new era begins for Cincinnati. They graduate the entire core they founded the program on in Brett Liming, Cory Heitmann, Brannon McGinn, Ryan Engelman and transfers Kevin Skiba and Jacob Weber. The resiliency of this program will be put to the test, and their ability to develop talent will truly be put on display with a very new-looking roster next season. Cincy does however, look to be in very good hands. With young stars like Will Hyatt looking to continue the program’s success beyond what we’ve seen from the usual suspects. While we could see some growing pains, it’s hard to imagine UC not maintaining their status as a contender come April next season.

6) James Madison – Following back to back semi-final appearances, the Dukes are losing much of their core this year. First team All-Americans Evan Eschenburg and James Turner are moving on. However, JMU should not be worried. Returning second team All-American, Trent Shaffer, as well as standout rookies in Nick Foss, Ryan Pendleton, and Noah Conyers. New captain Eli Villareal should have no problem keeping the Dukes contending in a wide open NCDA next season.

7) Ohio – Sliding in at number 7 in our way-too-early PR, comes our national’s host team, the Ohio Bobcats. Perhaps rated too low given how much other teams lose, Ohio seems poised to take a step forward this season, after what could only be considered a disappointment of a spring semester. While they lose the household names that helped rebuild the club from the brink of going defunct in Caleb Arnold, Alex Jonauskas, and Max Stoeckel, this club has a huge group of juniors with something to say about this club’s trajectory. Similar to Cincinnati, we’re looking forward to Captain Terence Checkett and company beginning a new era for Ohio dodgeball this season.

8) Nebraska – The Cornhuskers’ season ended on a high note after a bad showing at the War. It was clear that they had made some adjustments and figured out how to better manage wall ball and made their first ever top eight finish. They are losing key players next season in Colby Chohrach, Tre Sumrall, Alex Johnson, and Tommy Eggert, all were important leaders and top players on the court for them. On a positive note, they have solid core returning so don’t be surprised if they keep building off their much improved performance at Nationals and find themselves in the conversation for top teams in the league by year’s end.

9) Akron – Akron is another school that gets hit hard by graduations this year. Losing top players such as Clay Egleston, Matt Young, Ryan Curtis, and Wyatt Robinson. That said, Akron does retain quite a bit of its firepower. All-American PJ Antalek will continue to lead the charge, with players such as Arik Kavanaugh, Jeremy Faircloth, and Cooper Sites looking to step up into the spotlight for the Zips next year. Akron has also been the most dominant school in the league at developing women’s talent, with the likes of Alexis Shultz, Nicole Cutich, Abby Emery and Zoe DeLand all having great seasons for Akron. There’s quite a bit of talent to replace for the Zips, but they have a stable enough foundation to build off of, and continue being a threat year-round.

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10) Maryland – Maryland had a somewhat underwhelming nationals performance, but that was only due to the expectations the Terps set with their play throughout the season. Losing only 1 of their top 9 players, UMD should be ready to make some noise next season. Led by All-American Adam Butz and last season’s captain, Connor Engel, the Terps will likely have an upper hand on the many teams with significant numbers graduating. It will also be interesting to see how much senior Zach Demos can play next season after tearing his ACL in the first game at Nationals. If UMD is going to challenge for the final four, they will need Zach at his best as well as some of their lesser known players and incoming freshmen stepping up.

11) Bowling Green State – The Falcons find themselves just on the outside of the top ten of our early glimpse into next season. Expect Captain Evan Brown to have this team feeling hungry and ready to compete right away next season. Bowling Green had a very impressive showing at Nationals, hanging tough with James Madison, a team that made it all the way to the Final Four. This team has good, young talent. It will be on their leadership to pull that potential forth and leap frog Bowling Green into contention next season. How high is the ceiling for this club, exactly? Don’t be shocked if we see Bowling Green fighting for a Final Four spot next April if all breaks right for them.

12) Western Michigan – Western Michigan comes off undoubtedly its most successful season in program history, finishing the year 9-16 in a tough Michigan region. Including two program defining victories late in the year against Saginaw Valley, it was good for the Broncos really just to feel what winning is like in this league, particularly against similarly talented foes. It was clear they weren’t ready to take on powerhouses of the league, but a solid rookie class and a boatload (RIP rowing the boat in Kalamazoo) of experience bodes well for the 2023/24 season. This committee considers Western only to be a couple of big arms away from taking a monumental step forward as a club, and we hope to see them do just that next year.

13) Miami – Speaking of teams coming off a successful season, look no further than the RedHawks. This team has talent up and down the roster. While they lose Captain and nicest person on earth, Elly Schipfer, this team is poised, much like Western Michigan, to take a big step forward competitively next season. This is a group that has taken its share of lumps the past two seasons as they’ve rebuilt from the pandemic, and it might just be time to have that all pay off. With plenty of arm strength and athletic players up and down the roster, taking another step forward strategically might be what separates Miami from reclaiming a top spot in the Ohio region, and significant recognition nationally.

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14) Saginaw Valley State – Saginaw Valley State slides in at 14 on our list, and frankly we aren’t quite sure what to make of this club’s status at the moment. They lose their biggest arm, Joe Barber, to graduation, but retain a talented young core featuring standout Cole Machiela. We see this team in a similar spot as Western Michigan, oddly enough, of being a few big arms away from truly competing with the top tier teams in the league. SVSU has all the catching you could want, and a good grasp of strategy, but ultimately it comes down to arms and athleticism for the Cardinals. A big recruiting class could springboard them back into their historically high standing leaguewide.

15) Wisconsin Platteville – The Pioneers saw improvements this season as they were able to double their wins from their 2021/23 campaign. They are, however, losing several top players, so they have a lot of work ahead of them. A big recruiting class will need to be their top priority this next season. They need to create good habits and returning players will have to take their games to the next level. If Platteville does not put more effort into, as well as outside, their practices to get better, they will struggle next season.

16) Virginia – The Cavaliers had an outstanding season. Going from basically not playing at all last season to playing very well at their first Nationals since 2018, UVA should be proud of the work they put in. While they do lose a bit to graduation, captain Wyndham White IV will surely have this group coming in strong as they finally have some veterans to mix in with what is hopefully a strong crop of rookies.

17) Kent State – Kent State looks to make a leap forward as a program next season, and appears to be in a solid position to do so. The Golden Flashes played the majority of last season with 10 or fewer players, but they retain almost all of them. They do lose captain Vanessa Hudson and one of their better catchers in Spencer Murphy, but they also return several players from injury and school commitments. If recruitment goes as planned, Kent State should finally have a full 18+ man roster, giving them all the tools they need to start returning the program to its former glory. It’s been a long few seasons for the Flashes, but they have an opportunity to start finally turning a corner. Rookies such as Andrew Radigan, Branden Stevens, and Mike Bilczo have shown a lot of promise so far, and will all be key parts of this team for the next few seasons.

18) Cleveland State – While CSU may have struggled last season, they retain essentially their entire roster going into next year. Very few things can benefit a program the way that stability can, and having a core continue to play together for a few years can make a big difference. Veteran leadership from the likes of Kathryn Mays, Sky Thornsberry, and William McCartney will give their incoming rookies plenty of help to build from. If CSU can recruit a few arms this upcoming season, they could have a significantly more successful season next year. With youth and raw talent to build around, it’s easy to see the Vikings taking some big steps forward next year.

19) Concordia (Wisconsin) – Bird up! Concordia University Wisconsin lands at 19th on our post-Nationals power rankings, with plenty of room to spread their wings and grow. Alright, bird puns aside, this group gained some truly invaluable experience in April, attending their first Nationals. We expect Connor Knott and company to come back much improved in the fall, with hopefully another big set of recruits as well.

20) Central Michigan – Back from the brink of death (what is this, the second? No, third time..?) yet again are the Chips of Central Michigan! This club just refuses to die, and we’re happy to have had them back and playing matches this past season. While this group was unable to attend Nationals in April, they did attend multiple tournaments, getting their feet wet and a core group of freshmen excited to keep the club going and rebuild for what we imagine is yet another trip to the upper echelon of the league. We hope this group has staying power once and for all. Excited to see what this group does with a rookie recruiting class this fall.

21) Northern Kentucky – That’s right, a brand new team! Northern Kentucky will play their first matches ever starting this year led by UC Coach Wes Peters. NKU has been practicing already and will have former Ohio Assistant Captain, Jacob Fleck, playing for them. Having a coach with experience starting a team and a player with prior NCDA experience will help NKU develop quickly and perhaps rise in the ranks during the year. NKU being a mere 5 miles down the road from Cincinnati should help them get valuable experience against a top team in the league, and learn quickly.

22) Illinois – Making the list at 22 is the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign! Playing their first matches two weeks before Nationals, this group seems poised to take a leap forward this season. A big, talented group made their way to Miami University at the end of March, and we only imagine they’ll be able to build off of the experience they were quickly able to gain (making strategical adjustments in their first day of matches is impressive!). It took them some time to get fully approved as a club on their campus and secure consistent court space to practice, but expect UIUC to quickly leap up these rankings and become a legitimate team in this league for the foreseeable future.

23) North Georgia – Speaking of clubs returning from the dead, North Georgia attended nationals last month! While they were unable to secure a victory that weekend, simply playing matches and getting their young players excited about playing competitive dodgeball should bode well for future success and excitement within the club. We hope to see them back playing matches again this fall. We just need to find them closer competition..

24) Kentucky – Landing at 24 are the Kentucky Wildcats. A long time club and staple of this league, UK has struggled to put it mildly, since COVID-19 hit and shut things down. With that being said, they do return a core of players and appear to have a coach committed to helping rebuild things, so it can only be up from here, right?

25) Stony Brook – Rounding out our top 25 Way-Too-Early Power Rankings are the Stony Brook Seawolves. Like, NKU, Stony Brook is expected to play their first ever matches this fall! They started their club within the last calendar year and are fully approved on campus, so while they will certainly experience an adjustment transitioning to pinch 8.5″ rubber dodgeball, expect them to get their bearings and quickly become competitive within the league.

Author: Kevin Bailey

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

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