Nationals 2016 Preview


Well folks, Nationals is right around the corner.  Here is an extremely brief preview for each attending team.


Starting things off with the 3-time defending champs.  This will be the final Nationals for a number of GVSU stars including Austin Morley, Anthony Incrocci, Terrance Spears, Steven Snyder, and myself.  I expect to literally and figuratively ride off into the sunset with one last title.  With all that said, the story of this season has been the youth on the team.  GVSU is comprised largely of first year players.  How will they compete on the biggest stage in the NCDA? We will find out this weekend…



Where do I even start?  I have incredible respect for the leaders of this squad for how much they have improved from a few years ago.  CMU is no doubt in the title hunt, and sitting at the #2 seed right now, I think they plan to meet up with GVSU for a rematch in the finals.  Say goodbye to possibly the most well known Chippewa dodgeballer of all-time, Brett Hadwin after this weekend.  Also the send off tourney for Mr. Jacob Leski.  Will these two scrubs be able to steal the trophy from GVSU? I certainly hope not, but if they do I will be proud of them and happy for them.  Very deserving team of recognition as an elite squad.  Their roster is filled top to bottom with talented, passionate dodgeball players.



The Spartans started the year about as hot as any team in the history of College Dodgeball.  In one tournament they beat the two teams that were in the title match the season previous.  That is quite impressive.  A popular opinion around the league is that MSU goes as O’Brien goes, but I disagree.  This team is deeper than they have been in years.  There are talented players scattered throughout the roster.  If the Spartans want to win it all for the first time ever they will need to execute better than at their last few tournaments, but I know they are capable enough to beat anyone in this league.



The Dukes are not the same as they were in the past, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t for real.  I have seen them play once this season, and they looked solid.  They came close to forcing OT with GVSU, and beat MSU in OT.  They also dropped a game to Towson that same day.  Which JMU team will show up to Nationals?  They have the potential to go far in the tourney on Sunday if they can play focused the whole time.  The Dukes have improved each season in terms of Nationals finish (2012-loss in quarterfinals, 2013- close loss to GVSU in quarterfinals, 2014- loss to GVSU in Final Four, 2015-heartbreaking OT loss to CMU in Final Four).  Well JMU, looks like making the finals is the next step… best of luck to ya.



I genuinely wish I would have seen this squad at least once this regular season.  I have only heard good things about the Buckeyes.  I know for a fact that Josh Conner has been a great leader for the Bucks, and he will hope to send himself off with a National Title.  Jeff Starr and Conner were the 2nd and 3rd picks in the All Star Draft.  I have no choice but to respect them for that.  OSU will play GVSU on day 1, so the league will have a clear measuring stick for them by mid day on Saturday.



Well no Cody Putnam for this tourney since he injured (broke?) his elbow at MDC.  By the way Putnam if you’re reading this, you are a grown man for playing through that injury to lead tyour team to 2nd place at MDC. Impressive.  Let’s talk about the guys that will play this weekend for them though.  Kyle Foster is a lock for the All-American team unless he decides to play worse than he ever has this weekend.  Joe McCumber has improved immensely over the last year.  Nick Hazergian has a terrifying throw.  SVSU tends to turn up at Nationals, so don’t be surprised when they make an upset or two happen.



Kent State has been a mystery to me this year.  They seem to have the talent to compete with the big guys, but they don’t have the organization to do so.  I wonder what they will be able to do at Nationals.  If this team is on, they are hard to beat.  Their top level talent is as good as just about any team in the country.  I really hope these guys (and girls) come to play this weekend.  If they can bring their A-game, then somebody is gonna get upset by the Golden Flashes.



Well Towson has had an interesting year to say the least.  These guys (and girls) have gone through some tough situations this year but they are a resilient group to say the least.  That upset over JMU was a privilege to watch (ref actually…).  The OT game against MSU was a few plays away from being an instant classic (Wes Peters decided to go off in OT though, thanks a lot Wes).  These team is so exciting to watch.  When they get some momentum, it can get pretty loud in the gym.  That upset over OSU last year was on another level (but not quite to the level of the Kentucky vs. Ohio State OT thriller from Nationals 2013…).  I look forward to seeing this squad attempt to make history and reach the Final Four this weekend.



Kentucky came into the year with high expectations.  They had in my opinion the best rookie class from the year before, so I expected a big jump from them.  Well they haven’t brought a full roster to many tournaments so that may be part of the issue, but UK has not impressed me as much as I expected this year.  With that being said, I think they will surprise the heck out of some people this weekend.  Don’t let the Wildcats grab the momentum on you, or your title chances will be toast.



I’ll be real here, I know less about PSU than I do of any other team in the NCDA.  From what I saw last year they had a few very talented guys.  I wonder how well the squad has stuck together.  I don’t consider them a legitimate threat this weekend, and that is due in part to how little experience they have.  They played very few matches this year.  That may come back to bite them this weekend.



I thoroughly enjoyed facing this squad at the CMU tourney back in January.  I am excited to see how much they have developed as a team.  There was certainly some talent on the roster, so I can see them making a little bit of noise at their first Nationals.



I have a lot of respect for the leaders of this team.  Erik Zander and Matt Bautch both have done a tremendous job.  This team lost a lot of talent to graduation, but they have worked to get better and they have.  UWP could surprise some teams this weekend.  Bautch is no doubt an All-American with his power arm.  If UWP has improved the back end of their roster then I see them doing decent at BGSU in a few days.



Remember when I said I know nothing about PSU?  I guess that goes for BW as well.  I do know Baldwin Wallace’s captain TJ Levitsky has done a tremendous job.  I am told that this squad has some real potential.  I look forward to watching them play in person in a few days.  Baldwin Wallace could be a dark horse to pull an upset this weekend.



The host school has a tall task in front of them.  They do not have the best seed at the moment, but if they play well on Saturday that could all change.  Tyrell Smith is a well known player throughout the league, and I expect him to have a solid Nationals.  I wonder if BGSU will have the depth to make some noise though.  They have a few talented players on the top end of their roster, but that won’t be enough unless the 10-15 players are improved sine the last time I saw them (last fall).



I can tell you right now this team has high expectations for themselves.  A regular season that only saw them win 3 games is the issue here.  Nick Johnson mentioned to me that they know they are better than the ranking they have right now, and they hope to win big Saturday to improve their seeding.  I will say that Dom Warfield and Nick Johnson are two leaders that truly want to improve their team.  Even if Nationals 2016 doesn’t go well for the Hilltoppers, I think 2017 will be a big year for them.



VCU has had a great season by their standards.  This squad has won three straight over UMD.  VCU is no longer the easy win at Nationals.  This team is rapidly improving and I hope to see them have a few big games this weekend.  Virginia Commonwealth will impress some teams that haven’t seen them since last Nationals.  They are on a whole knew level as a team now.



Unfortunately I haven’t seen this team in action this year.  But I am going to just assume that they still chant “We’ve got Niko” all the time.  Niko Nodal is the clear headliner for DePaul, and one of the best players in the NCDA.  I want to see this team show up and play hard this year, because I think they have the top level talent to win a game or two.  Either way, I think they will enjoy themselves, and I can’t argue with that.



Huge shout-out to Caleb Arnold and what he has done to make this team better.  I am very excited to play this group for the first time at Nationals 2016.  0-25 is not the best record in the world, but guess what?  It is a while lot better than 0-5 or 0-8 or something like that.  Caleb has the right mindset as a leader, and he is doing what he can to get Ohio to where they need to be.  I know that his squad will get plenty of valuable experience this weekend when they play a few of the top teams in the league.  A learning experience no doubt.

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content. Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

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