With pool play of nationals right around the corner, everybody’s looking forward to the matchups of the high seeds, the rematch, or the potential upset. Instead, I’d like to focus on matchups that may fly under the radar, may not get the most attention, but have the potential to be close and exciting games. This has nothing to do with Gonzalez Rankings, it’s just my personal opinion. I’ll go in order of queue, so without further explanation, here are some games that have potential for excitement.
Ohio State vs. Maryland
The headliner for queue one is indisputably CMU-Miami. However, you shouldn’t let OSU-UMD be ignored. Last year, these two teams squared off on Sunday of Nationals and OSU was eliminated by a 3-2 loss in overtime. This year, UMD took down OSU 3-1 at WVU’s first ever home tournament. Look for Ohio State to try to get some revenge on the Terps in this one.
NSULA vs. Cincinnati
Yeah, yeah, queue two might have the most exciting matchups of the day. GVSU-MSU is a classic showdown of powerhouses, Kent-VCU should be a great game, and we finally get to see the UNG-PSU game that everybody’s been asking for since Nationals 2018. However, I think this NSULA-UC game will be one to watch for a couple of reasons. First, I’m excited to see both of these teams make the trip to Nationals. NSULA might have the worst location in the NCDA, but they’re putting that aside and making the trip anyways. For UC, I always love to see first-year teams making the trip. I think that’s great for the league and expansion in general. Secondly, Cincinnati has the potential to pull off their first ever win. Can they pull off the upset? Only time will tell, but you should definitely check this game out on Saturday.
Kentucky vs. Cleveland State
Again, I’m overlooking a marquee matchup of SVSU-Towson for what should be another tightly contested game. Kentucky so far has had a very up and down year. Overall, they’re 7-9, which is a ton more games than I thought they had played. Cleveland State is in a similar boat, showing some promise at some tournaments, but falling flat at other times. They’ve also played a ton of games this year, so both of these teams have experience. This may turn out to be one of the most exciting matchups of the day.
Penn State vs. Virginia Commonwealth
Somehow these two East Coast teams didn’t play a single time over the course of the year, but I’m glad we’ll get to see it at Nationals. Overall, these two teams couldn’t be more different. PSU probably plays at the fastest pace of any team in the NCDA. I reffed their game against OSU, and I probably spent more time setting up the balls in between games than they did actually playing the games. VCU, on the other hand, plays at a slow and methodical pace, waiting for you to make a mistake. It’ll be interesting to see which team dictates the pace of play during this one, so we’ll just have to tune in to find out.
Georgia Southern vs. Cincinnati
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this is another chance for UC to pick up their first/second win ever. This also isn’t a dig on GSU, but the situation isn’t ideal for them. They go into this matchup immediately after playing Miami, and that turnaround may be difficult to handle. Hopefully GSU will hold themselves back from using all their energy during the Miami game and instead go all out for this UC matchup. GSU Alumni and founder Zach Rivera says that his team needs to work on closing out games, and I see this as a great opportunity to do so. Overall, we have a team with more experience against a team that will be well rested and able to scout during the game before.
Grand Valley State vs. Penn State
For me, queue six, although it only has three games, looks incredible. In writing this, I feel like I also need to highlight the UMD-OU game, because I think that one should be close. However, I’m most intrigued by the GVSU-PSU game. It couldn’t be a Nationals article without mentioning the 10 time champs, but I feel like this mention is justified. Like I said earlier, Penn State plays at a ridiculously fast pace. GV on the other hand, does not play at the same tempo. PSU last year also put #1 seed CMU on upset alert on Sunday of Nationals. I’m not saying that 2018 CMU is the same team as 2019 GVSU, but I am saying that Penn State may be able to throw Grand Valley off balance and this could make for an interesting game. On the other hand, it could end up being a blowout. Overall, I just want to see how GV reacts to the blazing fast play style of Penn State.