NCDA Nationals is always an eventful weekend, but this year in particular, the league’s season-ending tournament seems destined to be an exciting one. There is so much to talk about when previewing what will be another great NCDA tournament. Below is my “In-Depth” preview of Nationals which takes place April 11-12 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This preview will include a brief summary of the storylines to follow, round-by-round game previews (with a prediction for each individual match!), and lastly, I will have my predictions on the results of the final day’s bracket.
Storylines to Follow
This year, NCDA Nationals will have a number of interesting storylines to follow. Grand Valley State will enter the tournament as the top team in the nation, but they are coming off a loss to Central Michigan who currently sits at #2 in the rankings. Both teams will be determined to take home the trophy.
Following those two Michigan powerhouses is James Madison, from the East Coast. The Dukes have a strong squad this year, and will be looking to finally bring the national championship back to Harrisonburg, Virginia after coming up just short the past few seasons.
Michigan State and Saginaw Valley State round out the Michigan region teams at this year’s Nationals. Both teams have had their ups and downs this year, and while neither will be favored to win it all, both have the ability to beat any team in the league if they are playing their best dodgeball.
Maryland and Towson will enter this year’s Nationals on a mission. Both teams will have an opportunity to step out of the shadow that is James Madison, and prove that the East Coast is comprised of more than just one good team. If either UMD or TU can make a deep run in bracket play at Nationals, it will be a huge step in the right direction for their region as a whole.
The Ohio region will have three teams represented in the 16-team field at Nationals. Ohio State is arguably the top team from that group. The Buckeyes have been mentioned as a dark horse candidate to possibly make a run at the championship this year, and based off what I’ve seen from them, it is absolutely a possibility.
Kent State and Bowling Green State are the other two Ohio teams. Kent is having a down year this season, but when they have their full roster, they are a very dangerous matchup. There is more “hype” surrounding Bowling Green State entering Nationals than there arguably ever has been before, and justifiably so. BGSU is coming off an Ohio Dodgeball Cup title, and they boast a talented young roster that could be destined to make some noise at this tournament.
The success of the Kentucky region will be another interesting storyline to follow. Western Kentucky will play host for this season’s Nationals, and while they have struggled as a whole this year, they will finally have their full roster in attendance, which will benefit them greatly. Kentucky has not had the best year either, but the Wildcats seemed to be picking up momentum with a solid performance at their home tournament during the second half of the season. If UK is playing their best, they could surprise some people at Nationals.
Wisconsin Platteville and DePaul are the two Illinois region teams that will be in attendance. Neither team has played many matches this year. Both groups will have an uphill battle trying to make the later rounds during bracket play since they will both be lower seeds.
Finishing off the list of attending teams are two East Coast squads that are largely an unknown to the rest of the league: Penn State and Virginia Commonwealth. Neither of these teams boast a strong record this year, and neither school will likely make a deep run at Nationals. The experience that both teams will get from this tournament is invaluable. It will be intriguing to see how each of these inexperienced teams improve throughout Nationals weekend.
Round-by-Round Game Previews
Saturday First Round of Games
PSU vs DePaul Court 2
Penn State will face DePaul to start off the tournament. These two teams have never faced each other, so it will be an interesting matchup for sure. I expect DePaul’s superior talent and experience will earn them the win.
Prediction: DePaul def PSU 4-1
UK vs VCU Court 3
Kentucky will start off their Nationals with a game against East Coast team: Virginia Commonwealth. This is another unique matchup since a team like VCU is not able to travel often. Expect UK to take this match quite easily.
Prediction: UK def VCU 5-0
UMD vs OSU Court 4
Maryland will face Ohio State in what may end up being one of the best matches all day. Maryland is the second best team in the East, while OSU is the top team in Ohio. This match will be a huge indicator towards which of these squads has a better chance to make a deep run in the tournament the next day. UMD and OSU both have an opportunity to show they are the real deal with a big win in this game.
Prediction: OSU def UMD 3-2 in OT
GVSU vs UWP Court 6
Grand Valley will begin their quest for a third straight national title with a game against Wisconsin Platteville. GVSU has played 29 more games this season than UWP, so based on that stat alone, it will be an uphill battle for the Pioneers. GVSU should take this match without much drama.
Prediction: GVSU def UWP 5-0
Saturday Second Round of Games
CMU vs Kent Court 2
Round two features a few good matches including this one between the Chippewas and the Golden Flashes. Central Michigan enters the tournament as the projected #2 seed, and they will be careful not to lose hold of it. Don’t be surprised if CMU pulls away early in this game despite Kent being a solid opponent.
Prediction: CMU def Kent 4-0
JMU vs BGSU Court 3
James Madison will face Bowling Green in both teams’ first match at Nationals. JMU has been a top tier program for a few seasons now, while BGSU is an up-and-coming team with a lot of young talent. James Madison should win this one by a decent margin, but BGSU is no cupcake game anymore.
Prediction: JMU def BGSU 4-0
SVSU vs WKU Court 4
Saginaw Valley will take on host school Western Kentucky on the main court for this round. WKU will benefit from finally having their entire roster, but SVSU will still be a bit too talented and organized for the Hilltoppers. Look for both teams to come out fast and energetic, but don’t expect that WKU will be able to keep pace with the Cardinals all game.
Prediction: SVSU def WKU 3-0
MSU vs TU Court 6
Michigan State will face Towson in another matchup that has never happened before. MSU is arguably a top-five team, while Towson is more towards the middle of the pack. TU has the talent to keep it close, but I assume that in the end MSU’s team coordination will be too much for Towson to handle.
Prediction: MSU def TU 3-0
Saturday Third Round of Games
OSU vs DePaul Court 2
The third round of Saturday’s schedule involves a match between two of the founding members of the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association: Ohio State and DePaul. OSU has historically been the superior team, and this season is no different. DePaul has some talented players, but as a whole they won’t be able to hang with the Buckeyes.
Prediction: OSU def. DePaul 4-0
UWP vs PSU Court 3
In yet another unique game, Wisconsin Platteville will play Penn State in a game that would never happen during the regular season due to the two teams being located so far apart. If last year is any indication, UWP’s arms will be enough to give them a victory in this one.
Prediction: UWP def PSU 3-1
Lunch Break Court 4
Lunch Break Court 6
Saturday Fourth Round of Games
Lunch Break Court 2
Lunch Break Court 3
WKU vs VCU Court 4
The game between WKU and VCU is far from a premiere match, but it will be interesting to watch nonetheless. The two teams have combined for three wins all season. This game will be a great opportunity for both teams. WKU should still get a convincing win, but VCU will benefit from the match.
Prediction: WKU def VCU 4-1
GVSU vs UK Court 6
Grand Valley State will take on Kentucky for the second time this season, the first being at the CMU tournament back in September. It’s safe to say Kentucky has improved since that tourney, and they will have closer to their full varsity roster in attendance at Nationals, so it should be a more competitive match than that game.
Prediction: GVSU def UK 4-0
Saturday Fifth Round of Games
TU vs BGSU Court 2
The fifth round of Saturday’s schedule involves some of the most exciting games all day. Towson v. Bowling Green will certainly be one to watch. This game will feature two teams who might be overlooked throughout the league. TU is a team that most of the league has not seen this year, while BGSU recently improved to the point where they are Ohio Dodgeball Cup Champions. Don’t be surprised if this one goes down to the wire.
Prediction: TU def BGSU 3-2
JMU vs SVSU Court 3
In a rematch from the CMU Showdown, JMU will take on SVSU in a game that could have a big effect on Sunday’s seeding. Last time these two played, SVSU took an early lead, but lost the momentum and dropped the game 2-1 to the Dukes. I think JMU won’t come out flat this time, but they will still have to play well to get the victory.
Prediction: JMU def SVSU 3-1
CMU vs UMD Court 4
Central Michigan against Maryland is one of the most intriguing games of Nationals in my mind. This game features two teams with similar play styles. Both will try to play slow, and rely on their organization and catching prowess to get an advantage. The team that is able to dictate the pace of the game will come out on top in this one.
Prediction: CMU def UMD 3-0
MSU vs Kent Court 6
Michigan State will take on Kent State in the fifth round of Saturday’s games. MSU is favored to win this one, and I don’t see why they won’t. Kent has the top end talent to make some noise at Nationals, but their back end players need to produce if they expect to compete with teams of MSU’s caliber.
Prediction: MSU def Kent 3-1
Saturday Sixth Round of Games
GVSU vs PSU Court 2
Grand Valley State and Penn State will finish up their Day-1 schedule with a sixth round matchup. I expect GVSU will have an easy time winning this one, but PSU will once again benefit from the opportunity to play a strong team like the Lakers.
GVSU def PSU 7-0
UWP vs BGSU Court 3
Wisconsin Platteville will take on Bowling Green in a game that could end up being very exciting. I think this could end up going into overtime, with BGSU narrowly winning the game.
Prediction: BGSU def UWP 2-1 in OT
JMU vs OSU Court 4
James Madison will take on Ohio State in a rematch from one of the more exciting games at the Kentucky Invitational. Last time they played, OSU nearly tied the game at two in the second half, but JMU was able to take the point and pull away with a 3-1 victory. The Buckeyes will be determined to change their fate this time around, and if they do it would likely have an effect on the bracket seeding for Day-2.
JMU def OSU 3-1
WKU vs DePaul Court 6
Western Kentucky will get a matchup with DePaul to finish up the day for both teams. DePaul was victorious the last time these teams played, but WKU will now have their entire roster and a home court advantage.
Prediction: WKU def DePaul 3-2
Saturday Seventh Round of Games
CMU vs VCU Court 2
The last round of games will include the first ever matchup between CMU and VCU. Central Michigan comes in at #2 in the nation, while VCU is a young and inexperienced team. CMU will likely take this one with ease.
Prediction: CMU def VCU 7-0
SVSU vs TU Court 3
Towson will take on their second Michigan opponent of the day when they face SVSU in the seventh round. Towson once again will have the talent to hang with a team like this for a while, but I don’t believe SVSU will drop this matchup. Expect several close points that end up going Saginaw’s way.
Prediction: SVSU def TU 3-1
MSU vs UK Court 4
Michigan State will take on Kentucky in a game that features two teams in the NCAA Basketball Final Four. The difference between basketball and dodgeball is that MSU will be heavily favored to win in this game.
Prediction: MSU def UK 2-1
UMD vs Kent Court 6
Kent State will get a rematch of their match at BEAST IV against Maryland at Nationals. UMD’s catching skills will come in handy late in the day when players will have weak arms. Expect UMD to use a slow pace to pick apart Kent for the win.
Prediction: UMD def Kent 3-1
Final Four Games:
GVSU def MSU 3-0
CMU def JMU 3-2 in OT
GVSU def CMU 3-0
It’s safe to say that this Nationals will once again be a a fantastic weekend of dodgeball. Western Kentucky hosted a great tournament back in 2011, and I expect more of the same this time around. With so many teams positioned to possibly compete for a spot in the Final Four, there is no question we will see some great dodgeball games on April 11-12.