the following preview was co-authored by kevin bailey and tom morand.
This Saturday, Michigan State University will host one of the more intriguing tournaments of the fall. The Spartan Invite will welcome in 9 teams for a long day of dodgeball that will tel us a lot about where teams stand as we head towards Thanksgiving weekend.
In attendance will be the usual four Michigan schools (GVSU, SVSU, CMU, MSU), along with one new member of the region: Western Michigan. All eyes will be on this team, led by former Laker/Chippewa Peter Broe.
Outside of the Michigan schools, there are a few more teams making the trip to East Lansing. The top two teams from Ohio will be in attendance (Kent State and Miami), each of which will be tested throughout the day with multiple games against Michigan squads. Ohio State is an up and coming team that will also be at this event. The experience they will gain in their games this weekend will pay dividends down the road.
One last team making the trip is Wisconsin Platteville. UWP historically has not shied away from competing with the top teams from other regions, so their choice to come to MSU for this event is no surprise.
Central Michigan enters the Spartan Invite holding a 5-4 record, with wins over MSU, SVSU, and UK. The Chippewas currently sit at #3 in the Monthly Power Rankings, but they undoubtedly come into this tournament needing to prove themselves. The Chippewas’ was not their best, as they left the Grand Valley Gauntlet 1-2 with losses to MSU and JMU.
I expect to see a much more focused and lively team at the Spartan Invite. CMU will have an opportunity to get their legs under them to start the day before their tough matches begin, as they begin the day with games against UWP and Western Michigan before finishing off the tourney with a few tough tests against GVSU and Miami. If I had to guess, I would predict the Chips finish the day 3-1, but they could certainly go 2-2 if Miami is able to play a great game against them.
Grand Valley State
On the docket for Grand Valley this weekend is Kent, Miami, and CMU. An interesting slate of games for the defending champs, considering they have only faced one Ohio Region team so far this season. It’s safe to say GVSU will be predicted to win all three of their matches handily, but the real storyline to follow in these games is how well each team competes with the current #1 squad in collegiate dodgeball. Will either of the top two Ohio teams surprise GVSU with their playstyle/strategy, or will it be business as usual for the Lakers? Also worth watching, can CMU avenge their early season 4-0 loss to GVSU, or will it be a 3rd straight blowout win for Grand Valley in this historically competitive series?
Michigan State, in my opinion, is one of the most intriguing teams at this event. That’s saying a lot considering we have the top two Ohio schools finally facing off against the Michigan Region, and a brand new school entering the league (Western Michigan). Michigan State is a team to keep an eye on at this event, as they seem to be slowly but surely inching towards their potential.
While MSU seems like a team that is going to be hitting their stride in the near future, Miami has a chance to knock those plans off the rails in the first round of action on Saturday. After the game with Miami, MSU will have two more matches on the day, against Kent and OSU. Playing three Ohio schools will be a good change for MSU, but nonetheless will be a test. If Michigan State can come away with a 3-0 record at this tournament, it isn’t out of the question that they jump back into the top 5 of the Power Rankings for the first time since the preseason.
Saginaw Valley State
Saginaw Valley will travel a few hours to East Lansing for what looks to be an easier slate for them than their past few tourneys. SVSU’s main test this weekend will be their game to end the day against Kent State. Saginaw should be favored to win that matchup, but if Kent’s depth is better than theirs, it could turn into a dogfight with both teams likely being exhausted after a long day a games. Good news for SVSU is their two matchups prior to Kent are not as tough. SVSU will face off with OSU in the second round of games, then take on UWP in the third, before a two hour break heading into the Kent game. The schedule sets up nicely for SVSU to earn a 3-0 record at the Spartan Invite.
Peter Broe will captain Western Michigan, the league’s newest team. This will be a very interesting team to watch at this event. WMU’s young squad has a very tough task ahead of them this weekend, as they will be inducted into the league with a game against powerhouse Central Michigan. Following that game, WMU will play Ohio State and Wisconsin Platteville. I hope to see this squad learn a lot on the day and improve enough to maybe earn a point or two by the time they face UWP. WMU is in a difficult position as a new team in the Michigan Region. It isn’t easy to join the league and have success early, let alone when your region is as stacked as Michigan is. Congrats to Peter for getting this team started, we look forward to seeing the Broncos in action on Saturday!
Kent State is coming off of a less than ideal home tournament. Even after a 3-1 showing last weekend, many were expecting a competitive game against Towson, but it was anything, but competitive. Nevertheless, Kent looks to regain some momentum to close out the fall semester and hope to carry it to the spring. Kent has the opportunity to come out of this weekend with a few signature wins to determine where they lie in comparison to the Michigan Region. Keep in mind, last year when Kent traveled to GVSU’s Gauntlet they left 2-1 with wins over MSU and SVSU. Kent starts the day off hot with their first game against GVSU and they must decide whether to keep this game close or save their arms for MSU and SVSU. Right after GVSU, expect Kent to come out firing on all cylinders regardless of the result of the last match. To finish the day off Kent faces, an all too familiar team, SVSU looking to leave the Spartan Invite with a record of 2-1.
The Buckeyes have a tough schedule in front of them this weekend. They will be taking on the Cardinals, Broncos, and Spartans. Ohio State is 3-2 on the season with a signature win over BGSU at the Pinkout. This tournament will be their third tournament of the season, but by far the best competition they will face. I expect their captain, Dylan Greer, to use every opportunity to teach the rookies on his team the ins and outs of the game while playing in Michigan. The first matchup against SVSU will likely have the Cardinals leave on top, but might be closer than some people think. The game against WMU should let OSU show off their talent and prove why beating BGSU wasn’t a fluke. The last game versus MSU, OSU’s rookies will have to step up quickly and take some of the weight off of Dylan Greer, Ben Johnson and Jacob Hulbert for them to put up a fight.
Miami travels to Michigan for the first time since coming back into the league in the 2017 season. At this point last year, Miami was ranked 27th in the league with only a few wins. They are currently power ranked at 6th, and are finally traveling to a Michigan tournament. After their month-long hiatus and 7-1 start to the season, expect them to be making a statement this weekend. The first match is bright and early against MSU on their home court and I expect it to be a close match being decided only by a point or two. The second game in line for the Redhawks will be GVSU. GVSU is expected to win this game, but how close Miami keeps this game will be a test to their skills. Rounding out one of the toughest schedules of the Spartan Invite, they will battle against CMU. This match could go in either direction depending on the results from earlier in the day.
The Spartan Invite marks UWP back to back road trips for their team after attending Kent’s tournament last weekend. UWP is off to a rough start to there season at 2-5 with both wins over SIUE. I give them props for traveling so far to compete. This weekend, Erik Zander will looking to lead his team to wins over CMU, SVSU and WMU. The first match up will be against CMU and it will not be an easy game. I expect CMU to take this game even though UWP has the most recent experience. SVSU will likely beat out UWP in this game due to SVSU’s top players. UWP will close out the day with a match facing WMU. This game should be a chance for UWP to take over and win handily, but WMU might take a point or two by this point in the day.