We have reached the midway point in the 2019-20 NCDA season. There have been some surprising upsets so far this year, with some teams performing differently than expected preseason. With still four months until NCDA Nationals 2020, teams continue to shuffle in the power rankings order, as we get a better grasp at who are the contenders and who are the pretenders.
Below is the official December Power Rankings list, voted on and written by the NCDA Content Team. Please keep in mind: these power rankings have no impact on the actual NCDA Standings.
1) Grand Valley State
For the second consecutive fall semester, the Lakers finish undefeated. GVSU is once again a title contender, proving their abilities against many of the top teams in the country. Grand Valley has several players who should be considered in the MVP hunt, most notably Ben Smart and Nolan Stanko. It’s never a bad thing to have several players in that discussion. The the biggest bright spot for GVSU though, is the way Captain Josh Hill and the other leaders have been able to develop the talented depth on this roster. GVSU is a much deeper team than some may have expected them to be after how may contributors they lost from a year ago. This team looks poised to start a new title streak this spring.
The top team in the Ohio Region has started off the season with their best record (12-0) with five key wins against the top 10 (BGSU, CMU, Miami, Towson, and VCU). This team is extremely balance from top to bottom and when they play as an unit, it’s extremely difficult to stop them. If they continue their level of success and dominance over their opponents in the spring semester like they did in the fall semester, get your bracket out and write their names into the Final Four. With a pen.
The reigning champs are the top team in the East Coast Region and they are having a successful season thus far. Their only three loses have been against Top 4 teams (GVSU, Ohio, and JMU). However after going 1-2 at the No Fear Invitational, they understand that their work is cut out for them and if they don’t play as a team, they can be beaten at any time. Look for Towson to hit the reset button in the spring semester and be more dominant and disciplined within their play style.
Miami finishes the semester at 9-3, with some pretty impressive performances. One in particular that should not go unnoticed is their OT loss to GVSU. The RedHawks came from several points down to force overtime, showing that this team has no quit, and that they have the firepower to put up points against top teams. This group has the upside to beat any team in the country, so any discussion that is being had about title contenders should include Miami. Look out for them to have a strong winter and head into Nationals with momentum.
5) James Madison
James Madison is in an interesting spot as an organization. While the team doesn’t quite have the same depth of prior seasons, they are still getting results. JMU is ranked 4th in strength of schedule by the Gonzalez ratings of their opponents and is 5-2. Some of their key wins include Towson, BGSU, and CMU, all of whom are in the top 10. The upper echelon of the team is still quite talented, headlined by Evan Eschenburg and Shawn Donahue, but they will need to get more production out of the bottom half of the lineup for us to lock them in as a Final Four squad. This sort of story is not much different from JMU in the past, good talent, just need to capitalize on it.
6) Michigan State
The Spartans sit at number 6 in the PR rankings at the midway point of the season. Their record is not very indicative of their level of play as three of their losses came from GVSU and the other from an early season overtime loss to BGSU. Their second year players look like they took a big step forward this year and their rookie class is beginning to get comfortable with the way the game flows. Look out for this team come second semester as I have them them as a lock as a final four team.
7) Ohio State
The Buckeyes have been one of the more pleasant surprises this season. Through the first half of the year they are 7-2 which includes some good wins against SVSU and BGSU. They are starting to look like previous Ohio State teams that have made deep runs at Nationals. Led by Dylan Greer and Ben Johnson, the two are utilizing their experience to the fullest. They pretty much own the court any time they are on it, and their teammates recognize this and respond well to it.
8) Virginia Commonwealth
VCU pulled off a historic win in November, taking down JMU in overtime. That huge win pushes them up 4 spots to #8 in the nation. If the Rams can consistently bring the level of effort that they had in that JMU game, this team will be a real Quarterfinals contender (something this program has never accomplished). Losing Wayne Shortt to graduation will hurt in the short term, but hopefully his absence opens up more playing time for other VCU players with bright futures. If VCU can improve their overall depth, they will be a tough out in the spring.
9) Central Michigan
CMU is an interesting team this year. They have some very good top end players and then a slew of younger, inexperienced 1st and 2nd year players. This truth makes the result of each point very dependent on if they can keep their top guys in the game. They have had a lead on GVSU this semester, but were also down 3 or 4 points to UC at halftime so it’s hard to know what you are going to get from this team. Kyle “The Gun” Garner has played like an All-American so far. He has been reliable at making big time catches and throws when his team needs it most. Look for this team to move up the rankings in the second semester as they get more game experience under their freshmen player’s belts.
10) Bowling Green State
BGSU is a very tough team to nail down at this point in the season. BGSU has the skill to take down talented teams (like MSU early this season), but they also have some inconsistencies. Losing Owen Sill to graduation is a massive blow to this team’s chances to reach the quarterfinals, but they still have depth and experience on their roster. BGSU is the type of team that can get on a hot streak and ride it for an entire game. If that team shows up more consistently in the winter/spring, they can maybe contend with the three Ohio schools listed above them.
The Terps have a traveling restriction that prevents them from traveling a certain amount of miles in the season unless it is Nationals. As a result, they were unable to play many games in November. However, they have a key win against VCU which shows that they are capable of competing against Top 10 opponents. They will have a few opportunities in the spring semester to play against their counterparts on the East Coast before they head over to OSU for Nationals 2020.
Akron has had an up and down season thus far, with some nice wins, but also some losses against teams that they should be beating (including a loss to Kent last month). Just as was the case last year, Akron has a weak strength of schedule, so the 8-7 record may not hold that much weight, but the fact of the matter is they stand at #15 in the Gonzalez Standings which puts them in position to compete int eh Championship Bracket at Nationals (only top 16 teams).
13) Saginaw Valley State
Don’t look now, but SVSU is only 2-7 this year. The once dominant program is in the midst of a rebuilding project it seems. They have fallen all the way to #13 in the Gonzalez Standings, due to a few tough tournaments. Look for SVSU to regain their footing in the second half of the season, as they will have more time to develop their young players. SVSU has shocked the nation with their winter turnarounds in the past, so don’t count them out just yet.
Cincinnati has been a pleasant surprise this season. They have vaulted up the standings, and have gone from unranked to #14 in the nation according tot he Power Rankings. This team is poised to continue to improve next semester, but will they have enough to crack the top 16 by Day 2 of Nationals. If so, it would be an incredible feat for a second year team to make it into the Championship Bracket.
15) Penn State
One of the least talked about games of the season so far has to be when Penn State forced overtime with Ohio in November. The Bobcats ended up winning the game, but that would have likely been the upset of the year so far if PSU would’ve finished the deal. Penn State currently sits at #14 in the rankings, and will need to keep their foot on the gas in the winter/spring if they plan to make the Championship Bracket at Nationals.
16) Wisconsin Platteville
UWP remained undefeated within their region last month, but Nebraska made the sweat a bit, taking the Pioneers to OT before falling 2-1. Platteville holds a solid 6-2 record this year, and seem like a team that will once again enter Nationals with little hype surrounding their team, but will surprised higher ranked opponents with their level of skill and smart strategic play. Let’s hope we can see this team close to their full roster at an out-of-region tourney next semester, so we can get a better gauge as to where they stand nationally.
17) Cleveland State
Cleveland State is one of the toughest teams to judge at this point in the year. They have had some very good days, but have also had some bad ones. At the No Fear Invitational CSU was able to get wins over WVU and UK to jump them up to #17 in the PR. Next semester will provide this team with the opportunity to string together several strong performances, and maybe gain some momentum and get back into the top 15 prior to Nationals.
Kentucky has fallen all the way to #21 in the Gonzalez Standings, putting them at risk to not make it into the Championship Bracket come Nationals. The Wildcats will look to make some improvement sin the winter and after a tough finish to the semester (losing to Cincinnati and Cleveland State).
19) North Georgia
We got what we wanted in November as North Georgia traveled to Athens for the No Fear Invitational. They came away with a win over unranked Ball State, but lost to both BGSU and Ohio. This team remains Power Ranked, falling to #19, and sits at #16 in the Gonzalez right now. The winter semester will be crucial for this team, as their are many teams looking to jump them in the standings.
20) West Virginia
West Virginia finishes the fall at #20 in the Power Rankings. It was an up and down semester for this young squad, but the good news is they have showed some real flashes. WVU has some talent, and as they continue to gain experience, they will become even more dangerous. If WVU can schedule a lot of games in the winter/spring, don’t count them out for a late surge up the standings.