Nationals 2017 came to a close just over a week ago, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking forward to next season. As we enter the off-season, I figured I might as well begin the discussion on the 2017-18 version of NCDA Dodgeball. Listed below is my way-too-early top 25 rankings for next year, with some brief explanations for each team.
1. Grand Valley State
Fun Fact: GVSU Captain Brandon Meisel has more NCDA National Titles than he has ACLs… also, his name is pronounced My-zul, not Mee-zul.
On a serious note, GVSU has to be the early favorites. They will lose a few of their top guys, but nobody reloads the way GVSU does. The Lakers need to get a strong rookie class next year to keep them in good shape for years to come, but 2018 should be a year of dominance by the Lakers. The Michigan Region likely won’t be as tightly contested top to bottom next season.
Regardless, the quest for a 6-Peat will be fun to watch!
Last season I had them ranked #4 in my way-too-early rankings, and they ended up finishing close to there. I have a feeling TU jumps all the way to #2 by next season.
Mike Hinely and his squad should be fired up to start the season after the tragic way they ended Nationals.
Look for the Tigers to finish next season as the clear top team on the East Coast. Last year when I put TU in the top 4, it was a surprising pick. This time around, nobody really should question it. Towson will be an elite NCDA team in 2017-18.
3. Saginaw Valley State
This team is going to be for real next year! Returning Nick Hazergian and Kyle Bruce already gives them two of the top 10 players in the country.
On top of that, SVSU played the past season or two with a lot of raw, inexperienced talent. They no longer will use that excuse. This team will be talented, experienced, and deep.
Maybe the Michigan region will get back to the “good ole days” where GVSU and SVSU battled it out at the top.
Also, there has been talk for years (partial credit to my former roommate Aaron Terenzi for this) of having a trophy for the Battle of the Valleys matchup. Well, I’m sick of waiting around. SVSU/GVSU players, send your trophy ideas my way so we can get a ‘traveling trophy’ in place by next season. I pledge to pay a portion of the cost for this thing… won’t even force y’all to put my name on it (maybe). For real though. The Battle of the Valleys Trophy needs to be a thing. Design ideas are welcome.
4. Central Michigan
Central, as I mentioned in my previous article, will lose a lot of talent. But what remains is still a solid core group that can get the job done.
I’m not totally sure who will be their captain just yet. My sources say it will be Mike Riley.
Regardless, they will have a difficult task ahead of them to replace some CMU stars from the past few years including Zach Bachner, Shane Willette, Alex Holzgen, Tyler Prill, and more.
I really wonder if the Chips will remain a strong catching team after they lose some of the top catchers in the league. I guess we will have to wait until next year to find out. Still a Final Four level team in my eyes.
5. James Madison
It’s weird that I am predicting JMU to improve from this year to next, but also predicting them to no longer be the top dog in the east.
That might be the new reality for the Dukes though. They have some catching up to do if they want to get back to being clearly the top program on the east coast.
My hope for this talented group is that they schedule far more games in the fall of 2017, and position themselves for success down the stretch in the spring of 2018. JMU is still one of the better programs in the league, and I think their top guys will get them back in the top 5 in 2017-18, but they obviously have to improve.
UK loses a lot of talent from what I’m told. But they were a 20-win team last year. I have a feeling they will recruit well, and schedule enough games to gain experience, and by seasons end, they can be a top 8 team in the NCDA.
If they bring Wes Hopkins out of retirement I might push them up to #5…
7. Bowling Green State
This team impressed me a lot at Nationals, as I have mentioned in the past. One thing BGSU has never done, is get a win on Day 2 of Nationals. I believe that streak ends in 2018. BGSU’s top tier talent is there. They just need to recruit a few more athletic players next season to round out the back half of their roster and they will be very competitive.
My biggest advice for BG: schedule as many tournaments in Michigan as possible. Sure, it may hurt your record, but playing the best competition possible will make your team “battle tested”.
If BGSU makes the short drive up I-75 to the state of Michigan for several tournaments next fall, it will result in them becoming a far more competent team. I’m not kidding, BG. Do this. Seriously…
8. Kent State
Kent State. Do the same thing as BG and go to Michigan more. But besides that, I just want to see a more consistent effort from Kent throughout the full year.
They lose a number of top level athletes, but always seem to find some new crafty players. I hope Kent State takes the regular season seriously next year so they are primed for a Final Four run by next April.
9. Penn State
Athletes! As I mentioned, PSU was a talented group. The only thing missing was experience and strategy.
I’m optimistic, so this is how I picture the drive home from Nationals going for the leaders of the PSU Dodgeball Club:
Person A: “Hey, that tournament was fun. I like dodgeball. We should do more dodgeball stuff.”
Person B: “Yeah, I agree. And we were pretty good for a team that doesn’t do dodgeball stuff that often. I wonder what would’ve happened if we did dodgeball stuff all the time like these other schools…”
Person C: “Alright guys (and girls), that’s it! Let’s go to way more tournaments next season so we can be a really good team!”
Anyway… if PSU plays in a lot of tourneys next year they will finish as a top 10 team. If they don’t, well, it will be a missed opportunity.
10. Michigan State
MSU loses probably about 80% of their offense to graduation. If Noe Galaviz returns that will help a lot, but doesn’t mean there aren’t still some big shoes to fill.
The top player on this team (besides Noe) may end up being Hunter Whitehill. he is a very talented guy, who was only a rookie in 2016-17.
Michigan State has had a great 5-year run. Whether it continues or not, depends on the way this squad recruits to replace some all-time greats.
I am very concerned that this team’s first match against GVSU ends in a 6-0 blowout. The leaders of this team will have a LOT of work to do!
11. Virginia Commonwealth
VCU is another team with a lot of work to do. What they have going for them is they are a team that plays together very well. What they don’t have going for them is talent and experience.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. I guess my point is: if VCU can recruit a few more quality arms, and continue to schedule lots of games to build up experience, then this team will make more noise in 2017-18.
Virginia Commonwealth is no longer an afterthought in the East Coast Region. I can’t wait to see what they do next season.
Call me crazy, but I really did like what I saw from Ohio at Nationals. They didn’t have their best tournament of the season, but the potential is there. #11 Evan Radivoyevitch is potentially the most underrated player in the country.
With another year of experience under their belts, look for Caleb Arnold, Adam Hynes, and the rest of the squad to take another step forward as a program in 2017-18.
Virginia exceeded my expectations last season. For that reason, I will put them up high at #13 for 2017-18.
Step one of building a program is getting enough players committed to being a part of the team. Virginia has that part down. Next for the Cavaliers will be to schedule as many games as possible to build experience. By Nationals 2018 I expect this team to be ready to make some noise.
14. Ohio State
OSU. A solid group at the top, but I need to see more depth and talent on the back end from these guys. Jeff Starr is a known commodity in this league. Jacob Hulbert is a great player, and a potential All-American next season. Ben Johnson was one of the best rookies in the league last year. Just watch… he will have a breakout sophomore year.
Joey Stack is the top guy on this team. Beyond him, they have some good arms in Adam Pfeifer, Colby Briceland, and others. I hope this team puts it all together in 2017-18, and they prove me wrong by being more than a #15 team. We will have to wait and see.
16. Wisconsin Platteville
Platteville has always been a decent team in this league. They have yet to break through to becoming a top team though. Losing Nick Harding will hurt this squad, but if they can recruit some talent, they will still be a tough group to beat.
17. Wisconsin Whitewater
Yeah, I’ve got second year program UW-Whitewater right behind Platteville. I can tell you right now that this team has athletes. They need another year or two to get their numbers up and gain more experience, but UWP Captain Erik Zander predict this team will be very good in the future. I have high hopes for UWW in 2017-18. They should make a splash in their second season.
18. North Georgia
Kyle Dattelbaum is a solid leader, and a solid ball player as well. He will be right in the middle of the All-American discussion next Spring, and hopefully his team will be making some noise as well. If UNG can recruit a few more power arms, and continue to travel to tournaments, this should be a much improved group next year.
I didn’t get to see UMD much this past season. What I do know is they still are in the rebuilding process. Hopefully they get back to where they were near the top of the East Coast in a year or two. Their work is cut out for them.
Losing Brian Hymel and Tyler Hamilton is one of the most severe two-player losses any team will endure going into next season. Yep, that’s how good those two were.
With that said, having Josiah Nodal (Yes, Niko’s brother) certainly is going to help. DePaul should once again be a team with some top level talent, but not enough depth, or consistency to compete with the top teams throughout the league.
21. Georgia State
GSU will be a new team in 2017-18. their captain, Ryan Cato, seems to have the right attitude. I have a feeling they will come in and compete right away in the South Region. UNG and Georgia Southern have experience on their side, but Georgia State is still going to make some noise next year.
22. Western Kentucky
WKU had a good year in 2016-17. The Hilltoppers finished with a solid record, but they couldn’t make any noise at Nationals.
If 2017-18 bring WKU some talented rookies, then this ranking may be way off.
The league is going out west! The brand new West Coast Region will be led by Gonzaga in my opinion. My sources tell me they will likely have the most talented roster of all the West Coast squads. I am very excited to see how this play out for them. Could Gonzaga be National Title contenders in 2018? Don’t call me crazy until we see them compete!
24. Central Florida
This one is my wildcard choice. A group of guys that won an intramural tournament at UCF, who are now in the process of building a team to compete in the NCDA… I have a feeling they will be more talented and competitive than most new schools. UCF is not yet a registered team in the league, but I will write them in at #24 on my list because I have high hopes for this team from the Sunshine State!
Minnesota is another new team set to join our league in the fall. The Golden Gophers get the last spot on my Top-25 list because my sources also told me this team will have some talent. I look forward to them competing in the league. Their likely opponents early on will be the Wisconsin schools.
Well that wraps it up folks. Any thoughts on my preseason top 25? What would your list look like? Feel free to leave a comment below!