"We're not going to schedule any more D-IIIs. That's an absolute not win." Read more.
Even more surprising than the knockdown of the D-I Air Force Academy by the little D-III sharing the city of Colorado Springs has been the reaction at the Academy.
“We're not going to schedule any more D-IIIs. That's an absolute,” Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh, told Frank Schwab of The Gazette the day after the defeat, in which Colorado College defeated the Falcons 60-57, Nov. 17.
Remember Michigan's football loss to Appalachian State in 2007? Coach Lloyd Carr retired after the season and Rich Rodriguez came in and lost to Toledo, which while not in a lower classification, was certainly a case of a lower level of school beating one at the top level.
Losing to a school from a lower classification isn't supposed to happen often and when it does its generally a sign of either 1) a very good lower classification team beating a struggling higher level team; 2) a good lower team on a good night beating a struggling higher team on a bad night or 3) that determining classifications has been turned over to the same system that controls the playoff-less BCS.
In this case Colorado College, the same peculiar institution that is the only Division III school in the Mountain Time Zone but plays in the southern based SCAC, is on the upswing from coach Andy Partee's 0-22 start four seasons ago and may get over the hump to give basketball a prime spot at a hockey school.
It also speaks volumes about the state of the Air Force basketball program, which is limited in D-I terms by high admissions criteria and the awesome responsibilities its cadets must meet on graduation, but after making the postseason three of four seasons has to put it mildly, suffered the last two seasons.
The three main service academies have chosen to play in the D-I arena and from perspective is to walk a tightrope to compete against the best while maintaining a mission and standard that would be considered more characteristic of a D-III school.
If your mission is to “build officers of character” for what must be considered the preeminent air force on this planet, than it seems giving those future officers the opportunity to learn how to battle against -- win or lose -- an inferior opponent, would be a valuable teaching tool, not an “absolute” one must avoid.
So plus-one to Colorado College for the upset and even though the Tigers fell to Lewis and Clark over the weekend, they've put themselves on the radar as a team to watch.
Plus-one to the Air Force team for bouncing back against D-II Tennessee State and a minus-one to athletic director Mueh for not scheduling the game under the exhibition blanket that encourages such matchups by also protecting the D-I team's record.
Paper to binary
Western Connecticut State released official congratulations of coach Bob Campbell's 500th victory following an 86-80 win against Plattsburgh State on Friday evening in an opening-round game of the Manhattanville tournament that brought the Colonials to 3-0 before Saturday's 81-74 loss to Manhattanville.
Campbell entered the 2010-11 season 14th among active D3 coaches with a record of 496-212, according to the NCAA record book and 19th in career winning percentage at .701. But if you're doing the math at home, that brought Campbell to only 499 – not 500.
It was a lot of adding and number crunching to make WSCU's staff sure of their numbers that started Campbell's 27th season at 497, just exactly at what point along the way the count has differed from the NCAA's paper trail -- the one converted to electronic five years ago -- is a mystery, but after 26 years it's still an impressive number.
“We were on the road and I joked with my assistant coaches that if there's anything true, the game always humbles you,” said Campbell, chuckling before Tuesday's home game against Colby. “We win this game and a half-hour after its over and I'm back sharing a hotel room with our trainer who snores and it's not a real glamorous kind of celebration.”
WCSU will be hosting a more home-oriented recognition after the holiday that will include former players and staff.
Campbell admits he's picked up a few tricks and has gained perspective since over his 700-game career.
“I think maybe I've give up a little more control than what I wanted back then,” the coach admitted. “I don't know if the game has changed all that much, the shorts were tighter when I started. I guess the biggest change is offensively. Things were more disciplined and patterned then. It's more a players game now, at least to me.”
The Colonials are coming off a 19-7 season that featured a trio of losses to Rhode Island College. WCSU and have eight newcomers in the mix this season. Campbell adjusted their nonconference slate slightly before entering Little East play.
“Winning against Plattsburgh was a good win for us. We're going to get tested before we get into league games,” Campbell said. “I think maybe we felt like last year we didn't do enough of that and we'll find out if it helps.”
Next on the road to 500 is Johns Hopkins coach Bill Nelson, who was apparently erroneously listed as tied with Campbell, but was actually one back at 496. The Blue Jays are 1-2 in the early going, but have a chance to get their skipper to the “D List” (for those who have slept since Western Civ the D is the roman numeral for 500) in time for Christmas.
For the record, the NCAA lists have UW-Stevens Point coach Bob Smeling as the active D3 leader for winning percentage (min. 5 seasons) at 119-29 (.804) entering his sixth year. Glenn Robinson at Franklin & Marshall is the active win's leader starting out with 782 wins over his first 39 seasons.
All-time by percentage is Steve Moore (Muhlenberg and Wooster) at .766, going 625-191, while Robinson is also the all-time wins leader and is 2-0 going into tonight's game with Washington College.
FYI: Official NCAA Division I records count victories from any four-year college in the United States, so long as the coach has spent five years at the Division I level. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan's record, for example, includes 353 victories from his run as coach of Division III UW-Plateville.
Is that a March breeze?
It wasn't supposed to work this way at all, but when the women's tip-off tournament rotated to DePauw this year, things got interesting.
“We've had this rotating tournament the last 20 years and this was our year to host,” said DePauw coach Kris Huffman. “We had a team that dropped out in July and we could not find a replacement and we went with just the three.”
Those three just happened to all be found among the Top 15 of the preseason D3hoops.com poll with No. 3 Illinois Wesleyan and No. 7 Washington U. coming to Neal Fieldhouse last weekend to take on the No. 12 Lady Tigers.
DePauw opened play with a 77-65 win over Wesleyan in the adapted play-round format.
“We've got a lot of new pieces to our team this year and Wesleyan has nine of its top 10 back from last year so we didn't match them on experience,” Huffman said. “But we were able to hold on to get a win.”
Wesleyan then turned around the next day to take a 73-68 win over Wash U and if that weren't enough of a puzzle to poll voters Annie Sayers' buzzer-beating putback lifted Wash U to a 58-56 win over DePauw to close out the event.
“Wash U is just so fundamentally sound and well coached. We thought that we would have problems in the paint but it was the guards who hurt us,” Huffman said. “It was a heck of a way for all of us to open up the season. It was a great environment for it, everyone came out to support the teams and see what they can do.”
The closing loss snapped DePauw's 50-game home court win streak and its 66-game home win string in the regular season. The Tigers' last loss in the Neal Fieldhouse was on March 11, 2006, in the NCAA Quarterfinals against Hope, while the last regular-season loss came, ironically, at the hands of Wash U on Nov. 20, 2004.
“Next year Wash U hosts,” Huffman said. “ I don't know if they've secured the fourth team, but I hope they have.”
The elusive quality win in the South
Scheduling the teams to get quality wins in the South has always been a tad of a challenge for men's coaches. In the western side, the ASC simply doesn't have that many spots available for nonconference play. In the upper east side, there are lots of backyard games available but with the rigors of the win-loss ratio in the USAC and ODAC scheduling a win that will help in late February can be tricky.
In the heartland the challenge is the same but the pickings are even slimmer with geography adding an extra hurdle.
So its really no surprise that of last year's regular season champions, a few have already met in the season's first few days.
SCAC champ Centre won at GSAC champ Maryville (Tenn.) to open the season and MC turned around the next game to beat Thomas More, which is technically Great Lakes, but playing the defending Presidents Athletic Conference champs at the 40th Shriners Tournament in Marietta, Ohio, was almost a no-brainer in terms of a Great South team always looking at a B slot. The Scots (1-2) also have ODAC champ Guilford and USAC champ N.C. Wesleyan on the schedule that features just six conference games, with two more against Covenant, located in Georgia, which becomes a full member next season.
“With our conference the way it is, it's eight guaranteed games this year, I have to go and find 17 other games,” said Maryville coach Randy Lambert. “When you've had 12 straight trips to the tournament and 20-win seasons that can get difficult to schedule close to home. The three closest D3 schools to us, won't play us anymore.” (That's Emory and Henry, Sewanee and Transylvania.)
The GSAC's need to schedule aggressively for Pool B and the same considerations for limited Pool C slots in the other conferences tosses the ideal scheduling out the window.
“The best-case scenario is to play games early that allows your team to gain some experience on the floor and hopefully your schedule gets harder as the year goes along and you enter conference play,” Lambert said. “It doesn't work that way for us and several teams in our region.”
Centre took no chances in who might win the GSAC during its first week and at 3-0 after wins over Maryville, LaGrange and Huntingdon would rest atop that conference's standings until at least January when the league's actual members begin playing.
N.C. Wesleyan is taking the south by weekends, scheduling an ODAC trip against Guilford and Hampden-Sydney then Maryville and LaGrange the week after.
It makes for a lot of good out-of-conference matchups in all but the western corner, where out of conference contests are counted on one hand, leaving the opportunities to venture out of the neighborhood to the rest of the south an exception rather than rule.
“They have a lot of travel just to play within the ASC but they have a lot of guaranteed games as well,” Lambert said.
The Coast Guard women beat Merchant Marine 62-45 early this week that helped avenge the men's opening loss to the Mariners.
The Mariners hit just 2-of-28 from the floor in the first 19 minutes of the game while Coast Guard freshman Kaitlin Ward had early career-highs with 20 points and eight rebounds in her fourth college game.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is a multi-platform editor at The Daily Times in Maryville, Tenn., who is relearning the lost art of skee ball with guidance from an 11-year-old. E-mail him at email@example.com.