Log In

Reset Password
Columnists View from the Center Bear Smart The Travel Troubleshooter Dear Abby Student Aide Of Sound Mind Others Say Powerful solutions You are What You Eat Out Standing in the Fields What's up in Durango Skies Watch Yore Topknot Local First RE-4 Education Update MECC Cares for kids

Column: NCAA Division II tournament needs reform

But the Skyhawks will still need to win big games to achieve their goals
Fort Lewis College head coach Bob Pietrack talks to his players in a huddle against Lubbock Christian on March 16 during the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament at West Texas A&M University's First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas. (Joe Garcia III/Special to the Herald file)

The NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament is outdated and needs reform.

Currently, the Division II model is region-based to begin with. The difference between Division II and Division I is in Division II a team is stuck in your region no matter what happens.

Let’s take Fort Lewis for example. In the Division II model, the Skyhawks are stuck in the South Central region no matter what if they make the tournament. As are the rest of the teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and the Lone Star Conference, which makes up the South Central region.

But this isn’t fair because both of those conferences are two of the best in the country. The unfairness played out on Sunday, March 17, when Fort Lewis, the fifth-ranked team in Division II in the NABC Coaches poll, played the sixth-ranked team Colorado Mesa in the second round of the South Central region.

The Skyhawks were the second seed and the Mavericks were the third seed in the region and Fort Lewis lost 85-80. It was the third time the teams matched up and the first time the Skyhawks lost.

This wouldn’t have happened at the Division I level. Both of those teams would have gone to separate regions and would have likely been two or three seeds.

The equivalent of this at the Division I level would be if one region of the bracket was composed of only ACC and Big East teams. Then hypothetically you could have North Carolina and Marquette matching up in the second round when in reality they are two of the top 10 teams in the sport.

A good example of how screwed up the Division II model has been is the East region. St. Michael’s had an RPI of .581 and a 22-8 record but got the top seed in its region. Fort Lewis had an RPI of .620. St. Michael’s wasn’t even ranked in the final NABC top 25 poll.

“I think I speak for all Division II coaches that we'd like to see more like Division I tournament,” Fort Lewis head coach Bob Pietrack said. “I don't think there'll be any coach in the country that would say no. But it’s not and this is what it is. These games are great. That was a great college basketball game. … Would we like it the other way? Yeah, but will we pout or blame it? No, we won’t. It's not who we are. So until it's different, we'll just be prepared to play.”

With a Division I-like model, it would guarantee the best teams in the country would be awarded for their regular season play in Division II and that the best eight teams would have a fair shot to make the Elite Eight.

Some people might say that Division II programs may not have the funds to travel for a national tournament but with proper planning and support from the NCAA, it could be made possible.

While a revised Division II tournament would have most likely helped the Skyhawks, Fort Lewis still has to figure out how to win the big games to achieve its goals and go deep in the tournament.

If the Skyhawks want to contend for national championships, they’ll have to beat teams like Colorado Mesa. It may not be in the second round but in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8.

Fort Lewis is 58-8 in the past two seasons but has lost in the second round both years after allowing an average of 83 points per game. That’s not going to get it done. Defense wins championships as shot-making can come and go as seen in the game against Colorado Mesa in the second round.

The Skyhawks’ program is in a great place with Pietrack running the show. Fort Lewis would be helped if the NCAA would change the Division II format. But to be a national contender, the Skyhawks have to win big games they’ve lost regardless of where they are.


Reader Comments