Entering what is the largest annual East Coast tournament and also one of the most intriguing tournaments across the nation, we have BEAST (Big Eastern Appalachian Super Tournament) this Saturday, February 10th, at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, VA. Let’s take a look at some of the competitors this weekend starting with the out-of-region squads.
By Daniel Fernald (UMD) and Ethan Lehmkuhl (OSU)
University of Cincinnati (UC)
It wasn’t certain that Cincinnati was going to be in attendance for BEAST this year, but ultimately the Bearcats decided to forgo the South Oak Showdown and head to Harrisonburg. UC will have a tough draw as they play PSU, UMD, and JMU. There is no doubt all three of these teams will be hungry to knock off UC, but I predict a 3-0 performance out of the Bearcats. They were able to beat JMU without 3 of their starters and coach, so I only see them improving from their recent performance at Kent State. If UC can put together the performance I am predicting, they will cement themselves as the #1 ranked team in the NCDA standings ahead of the Ohio Dodgeball Cup.
Ohio University (OU)
Ohio finally got the train back on the tracks with a nice 3-0 performance at Kent State. Now, they have a great opportunity to really pick up some momentum. With a schedule of UVA, JMU, and PSU, Ohio has their work cut out for them, but I wouldn’t put a 3-0 performance past them either. These should be some highly anticipated matchups for the Bobcats as they look to avenge their loss to JMU at last year’s BEAST that saw the crowd get into it a little bit. Also looking for revenge is PSU from their round of 16 loss at 2023 nationals on Ohio’s home court.
Pennsylvania State University (PSU)
This could be a huge tournament for Penn State to cement themselves as a contender once again. They’ve struggled with consistency for much of the year which is something you cannot have as a team with national title hopes. A schedule of UMD, UC, and OU presents them with teams in three different levels of the upper NCDA. A 3-0 here would go a huge way into proving the Nittany Lions are a force. One area of concern is who will show up for PSU this tournament. Their roster has been wildly inconsistent all year. However, if they have national player of the year contender, Hunter Stewart, this group can knock off anyone.
James Madison University (JMU)
JMU has historically dominated at BEAST. On their home court and backed by the best home fans in the NCDA, the Dukes are ready to hold down the fort. After 3 close losses to top teams 2 weeks ago, JMU is looking to pick up some big wins here. With a schedule of OU, UC, and UVA, it would be hard to believe JMU is focusing much on any of their games besides that versus UC. These two teams have had some intense battles in past seasons and this year will likely be no different.
University of Maryland (UMD)
UMD comes into the Spring in a somewhat odd spot. Coming off a fall semester where they were inches from multiple huge wins vs JMU and Akron, the Terps will need to find their identity again after the graduation of head captain Connor Engel in December. Until Zach Demos can make it back from his ACL injury suffered at Nationals last season, sophomore Franklin Zessis will have to fill that middle hole. Expect Adam Butz and Caleb Dixon to be at the heart of everything for the Terps as well. Given their schedule of PSU, JMU-B, and UC, there are some teams that this group can beat, but a cohesive performance is needed.
University of Virginia (UVA)
Virginia comes off a strong first semester and could potentially be battling their way out of the bottom of the East Coast soon. Although, the Spring semester is often a dreaded one for the Cavaliers. Year after year, UVA loses a large portion of their rookies to other activities in the Spring. Captain Wyndham White IV will need to work hard to keep this group together. This team has loads of talent, they just need the time to develop. Games vs OU, JMU-B, and JMU will lend plenty of opportunity for the Cavaliers to impress. Beating either OU or JMU would be potentially the best win in program history and hopefully kickstart Virginia into a respected NCDA program.