Towson hosts the East Coast version of the MDC/ODC this weekend, with the Tigers being joined by James Madison, Maryland, and Virginia Commonwealth.
Towson is coming off their first Nationals appearance, and they were ranked #12 in the preseason Captains’ Poll. Last year they finished with a 6-11 final record, including going 2-2 at Nationals (wins over Wisconsin-Platteville and the Misc. team, losses to Central Michigan and Western Kentucky.) However, they were down some of their top throwers at Nationals, and the experience of going and playing teams outside the East Coast should be good for their growth. Going into their third year, the Tigers are captained by Jon Shaw, who made the All-Nationals Second Team last year. This could be a very big year for Towson, as they will look to build upon a huge jump last year from the year before, but they’ll need to continue making huge strides if they want to compete with the top teams in the league. The Tigers boasted before the season that they would be a top ten team at year’s end, which would be a great goal for a third year team, and they were the #9 seed on Sunday at Nationals. This weekend should be a relatively good one for them, they do have the talent to potentially upset James Madison, and they won their last matchup with Maryland. Add in the growth from last year and the home court advantage of at least having most of your guys, and they should be set.
Maryland is a team that did well last year (4-5 record) and if they went to Nationals would have pegged in at a #7 seed. However, they have not played a competitive match since early February (losing to Towson and defeating VCU) and they do have a new captain. I am a firm believer that sometimes a new captain can breath life into a team, inspiring them or having new strategies or different recruiting ideas. That being said, sometimes it does take a new captain a little bit of time to get the whole lay of the land with playing and leading and talking to the refs and such. Dylan Allred is the man taking the reigns of the Terrapins going into this season, and he’ll have a big test ahead of him this weekend. UMD is heading into the season ranked #14 in the Captains’ Poll, but going into a tournament with teams like JMU and Towson that have only gotten better since the last time UMD played (and lost) to them will not be necessarily easy.
Virginia Commonwealth heads into their second season in the NCDA this weekend, and they are searching for their first victory in club history. Shadeed Drakeford has been working hard to try and improve his team, and this will be their first test since the BEAST II. The Rams have a #18 Captains’ Poll ranking after going 0-11 last season. The Rams will be considered an extreme underdog this weekend, but there is no doubt they won’t gain some valuable experience from the tournament which will definitely help them out by second semester. Sure, everyone wants to go undefeated and win every tournament. But, not every team can win every tournament, and a flawless season hasn’t happened in five years. These early season tournaments are where you want to work out your kinks, get your rookies and younger players experienced, and mold your team into a a cohesive unit. VCU can use this as a way to hopefully get a win or three, but if not a chance to gel your team to prepare for later tournaments like the BEAST III and ultimately Nationals 2014.
Finally, James Madison. The most athletic team in the country. The most hyper-kinetic team in the league. I’ve been vocal about how good I think these guys can be, whether it’s when they’re playing loose or when they’re playing ball possession and ruthlessly gunning people down. They were ranked #2 in the Captains’ Poll, and were downed by eventual National Champion GVSU in the Quarterfinals last season after defeating the Lakers the day before. One of the things I like about James Madison (and also about Grand Valley, but that’s not relevant to this tournament) is that they don’t have one or two star players. Sometimes you play a team, and you get out their alpha dog(s) and the team looks around trying to figure out what to do next. This doesn’t mean the team only has one or two good players, but they have one or two players that not only play extremely well but also command the court. With JMU, they have literally five or six guys that I can think of off the top of my head that can take control of a match verbally and physically. Another thing I like about them is how confident (nearly arrogant) they are. It’s annoying when you’re playing them, but honestly, if you’re on the court you need to be confident. In regards to this tournament, I think it’ll be a fairly easy tournament for the Dukes. They may lose a point or two, but they are on a different level than the other teams are currently.
JMU 3-0, TU 2-1, UMD 1-2, VCU 0-3.