PUMPKIN SMASH PREVIEW
As the air gets a little cooler in the Appalachians this time of year, the 2013-2014 NCDA season is heating up as James Madison hosts an East Coast slate of teams this weekend at Pumpkin Smash 2K13. The Dukes play host to Maryland, Towson, VCU, and Penn State to clear up where these teams stand amongst themselves.
Penn State (0-0)
The Nittany Lions will step onto the court at Pumpkin Smash not only for the first time this season, but in their first NCDA regular season tournament in the team’s short history. The team is headed by captain Chris Cetnar, who introduced Penn State to the NCDA scene at Nationals 2013 at the University of Kentucky. The Nittany Lions looked understandably raw during the first night at Nationals where they opened to powerhouse UK and were blanked by the Wildcats, 9-0. PSU turned it around on the second day, and came as close as upsetting Bowling Green in overtime. As their first tournament ever outside of Nationals, Pumpkin Smash will be a great test for Penn State. They will get a variety of teams when it comes to experience, and could turn some of these games into wins.
The Rams from Richmond had a disappointing record to show after their performance at the Beltway Bash but there was much to be taken away when they left Baltimore in September. The new look Rams have a few weapons to boast of including Mar Coleman and Joe Weggen that provide offensive stability that seemed to have lacked in years past. VCU is beginning to look more strategic in play, and instead of crowding the baseline, their captains have encouraged the Rams to press up on the court. Look for them to improve, but all of their opponents will be hungry for wins at this tournament. The Rams definitely have a shot to take a win or two from the teams in attendance, but their main goal needs to be taking advantage of opportunities to score the point when they can.
The Maryland Terrapins started off the season at Towson with a great learning experience for several new members that they added to their starting 20. Captain Dylan Allred, however, looks to lead the Terps into a better outcome in Harrisonburg as they take on their familiar foes. After a heartbreaking overtime loss to Towson in September, nobody could blame him for wanting to set the bar higher. The well-rounded Tyler Wieland [UMD-#88] and Curtis Reybold highlight the team with both of their capabilities to throw and catch. While the Terps don’t necessarily take over court space, their athletic team has the ability to transition quickly into their offense. The main X-Factor for Maryland in this tournament will be their level of confidence. When the Terps have confidence in their abilities, they press up further into the neutral zone and pin their opponents on their baseline. There, the arms from Maryland are able to take out opposing players seamlessly. One player the league should watch out for this year is Rohan Mittal [UMD-#99]. With great speed behind his arm, Mittal might have exactly what it takes to boost the Terps confidence, and in turn create better court presence for Maryland this year.
Towson has started their campaign for a top-10 season with a bang when they hosted the Beltway Bash in Northern Baltimore. Will they have similar results in Harrisonburg? That will all depend on what strategy Towson will use and how it will play to their strengths. We’re now familiar of the explosive arms on their team including Dylan Levy [TU-#15] and 2013 NCDA All-Star Joe Tobin [TU-#5]. While these players stand out, they aren’t always pressed to the throw line, because Towson assigns coverage around these playmakers to keep them in until the very end of a point. In addition, Towson has an offense regulated by ball possession. When they have it, they know how to keep tempo for the point. Don’t expect the Tigers to give every ball away in a team throw, however if the time is right, they look to pick off players that aren’t paying attention. Captain Jon Shaw has been mulling an ankle injury long before Beltway Bash, so his participation could be limited. In any case, look for newer faces like JUCO-transfer Chris Thomas [TU-#31] to step forward for Towson this weekend.
James Madison (3-0)
The host team James Madison heads into October with wins against all of their East Coast opponents except Penn State. While they’ve claimed victory against these teams, the Dukes are still looking for the true identity of their strategy. As one of the more athletic teams in the country, JMU is focusing on transitions to pick up on easier kills rather than pinning oppponents on the baseline. Amongst the massive 65-member roster for James Madison, head captains Chris Hess [JMU-#5] and Brent Gromer [JMU-#00] are looking into the depths of the roster to see how well their younger players respond in NCDA gameplay. Sophomores Derek Pierce [JMU-#29] and Gunnar Kane [JMU-#91] have stepped up to the occasion and led the youth movement all the way to their spots on JMU’s 2013 Nationals Roster. If scores from the Beltway Bash deem anything, it might be an easy grouping of teams for the Dukes, but who knows what Maryland or Towson could bring with a fired-up roster. One main X-Factor for the Dukes in this tournament could be their home-court advantage. Without the need to travel, a well-rested roster for JMU in addition to a rowdy crowd could energize the Dukes to play well.
Chris Hess’ Predictions:
Penn State v. VCU [ PSU 4-2 ]
Penn State v. Maryland [ UMD 3-2 ]
Penn State v. Towson [ TU 4-1 ]
Penn State v. JMU [ JMU 5-0 ]
VCU v. Towson [ TU 4-2 ]
VCU v. Maryland [ UMD 3-2 ]
VCU v. JMU [ JMU 5-0 ]
Maryland v. Towson [ UMD 3-2 OT ]
Maryland v. JMU [ JMU 4-1 ]
Towson v. JMU [ JMU 4-1 ]
VCU: 0-4 PSU: 1-3 TU: 2-2-1 UMD: 3-1 JMU: 4-0
Sam Hiller’s Predictions:
While it could possibly be a repeat of the Beltway Bash, it will be a lot of fun watching a re-kindled fire between these East Coast schools to pick up on some much needed points on the trail to this year’s Nationals.
-Chris Hess, JMU #5-C