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Beware: Defending champs even more fired up now

Alyssa McDonough just missed a triple-double in what turned out to be FDU-Florham's last home game of 2015.
FDU-Florham athletics photo by Scott Giglio

For the entire season, the reigning NCAA Division III national champion FDU-Florham Devil women’s basketball team was a fixture at the top four of the D3hoops.com Top 25.

However, you wouldn’t know it from looking at this weekend’s women’s sectional hosts Calvin, Tufts, Montclair State and Thomas More. You can see undefeated George Fox not hosting since the committee felt it was cheaper to fly one team out instead of sending three squads to Oregon.

Yet, one school isn’t hosting: FDU-Florham, winners of 61 of its last 62 outings.

The fact that the Devils have to hit the road this weekend to meet Geneseo on Friday night at Tufts beginning at 5:30 p.m. puzzles many without knowledge of the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee’s criteria.

Here was FDU-Florham’s crime during a 28-1 season in which it spent most of it probably feeling like the most disrespected No. 1-ranked team in the country: The Devils lost 89-88 in overtime on the road to an Eastern team that also qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

Choosing discipline over perfection, FDU-Florham head coach Marc Mitchell benched two starters for an entire first half against Eastern. The Devils lost and fell to fourth nationally and didn’t receive any additional first place votes and somehow ended up second in their region to their in-state foe Montclair State, who has enjoyed a fine season.

The committee probably used some of these factors to rank Montclair ahead of FDU-Florham. According to the numbers, Montclair State’s strength of schedule (.559) was higher than FDU's (.537). Also, Montclair State's road loss was to a team higher in the regional rankings (Stockton was fourth while Eastern was fifth). This debate was probably really nit-picky since both teams played strong schedules, ended with a single defeat and didn’t play one another.

So, unfortunately, one of these strong programs had to hit the road this weekend.

This year, the only way Montclair and FDU-Florham would be able to settle the Garden State debate of the best team is in the national title game, which is possible.

“We look at it as another game,” FDU-Florham junior double-double machine Schalette Brown said. “We don’t think about playing on the road. I mean, we would like to be home, but at the end of the day, whether we’re home or away, it doesn’t really matter.”

The venue...

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Columnist

Rob Knox

A former Division III Sports Information Director at Lincoln University, Rob Knox also worked at ESPN, Kutztown and at the Delaware County Daily Times. He was named the CoSIDA Rising Star Award College Division winner and won three writing awards for various game stories including the 2007 D-III sectional triple-OT game between Guilford and Lincoln. In the past, he has also written articles for SLAM magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan, a graduate of Lincoln and is from Chester, Pa.
Previous columnists:
2010-13: Brian Falzarano
2010: Marcus Fitzsimmons
2008-2010: Evans Clinchy
Before 2008: Mark Simon

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