The last tournament of the first half of the season took place this past weekend in Wisconsin. With that, I thought it’s time to look across the league and review the first semester as well as look forward to the second half of this season by posing some questions for the regions in the NCDA.
The East Coast has been in recent years widely considered the second-best region in the NCDA, behind the Michigan region. That is largely due to the dominance of JMU within the region and relative success outside it, going to two final fours and picking up several wins against the Michigan schools. However, another significant reason for the recent success of the East Coast has been the rise of Towson. Although they lost a heartbreaker in OT to UK in the first round of Nationals last season, they have otherwise proven to be a team to be reckoned with in the league. They beat OSU in the first round of Nationals the prior season and beat JMU for the first time and took MSU to OT at their home tournament last season. Last but not least has been the rise of VCU. They already have more wins so far this season (10) than they did the past two seasons combined (1 and 6). The question for all three of these teams is can they take the next step at Nationals. Can VCU win their first game on Sunday? Can Towson go to Final Four? And can JMU make it to their first championship game? That would be the first non-Michigan team in the championship since 2012.
Georgia and Wisconsin
This will be a combined question for both the Georgia and Wisconsin regions. The league has seen two new teams in each of these regions this season. There is also potential for one more in Wisconsin – Eau Claire. Even if they are unable to join the league this season (hopefully they are able), the question remains, can these new teams make it to Nationals in 2017? The two Georgia teams are fortunate that the host for potentially their first Nationals, UK, is relatively close compared to the other teams in the league. Because of that, I would hope both Georgia schools are able to make it. It is a bit more of a drive for the Wisconsin region schools, but if Platteville has been able to go year after year I would hope the new schools make it as well. Nationals is a great experience for everyone but it really offers great growth for new teams to see what the top of the league looks like. Hopefully each new team is able to join us in Lexington in April.
Historically one Ohio team has separated themselves from the pack and been a serious contender at Nationals. For a long time that team was Kent State, but as of late Ohio State has taken over the mantle as Ohio’s best team as the Buckeyes were able to go back to the Final Four last season. But with OSU seemingly taking a step back this year, the top spot is once again up for grabs. Kent has looked the most impressive thus far, but my question for the Ohio region is can anyone separate themselves from the pack and make some noise at Nationals once again?
Although only two teams currently comprise the Kentucky region, I have two questions for them. Both UK and WKU currently hold impressive win streaks, with them having won 7 and 6 games in a row respectively. In fact, the Hilltopper’s only loss this season was their second match of the year against the Wildcats, a double header in which they won game 1. So my two questions for the two Kentucky schools are how long can these win streaks last and who takes control of the state?
And finally, the last region to examine is none other than the Michigan region. It should come as no surprise to anyone, but the region is once again the heavy favorite to take home the national championship. As I mentioned in my last article, I fully expect SVSU to rebound in the second half. But nonetheless, the question I have to ask is can the Cardinals stick to character and rebound in the MDC and Nationals? Very similarly to last season, SVSU has looked lackluster in the first half. Only time will tell if they will be able to replicate last season’s late success at the two big tournaments. CMU came into the season as the probable favorite if any team were able to unseat Grand Valley as kings of the league. However, that has not been the case thus far into the season. CMU is 1-6 (with 4 OT losses) against the Michigan schools this season. Flip those four games around and the story is quite different for the Chippewas. But nonetheless, the question for CMU is can they live up to their potential and close out games in the second half? They have the talent to win the championship, but they will have to play better, specifically in the second half of games, in order to do so. If you played the game which of these things is not like the other with the Michigan schools, the easy answer is MSU doesn’t have a national championship. They won the first MDC in a solo match against Delta College, but since their trophy case is quite bare. With a strong team once again and already having picked up wins against each other Michigan school, the question for MSU is can they finally take home a trophy this season? The question for GVSU is quite the simple one. Can Grand Valley continue the streak? They’ve won four championships in a row and anything less at this point has to be a disappointment.
The teams that are able to answer their questions successfully should be fairly content at season’s end, while the one who are unable may be pondering what went wrong.