This Week in Division III: Feb. 5, 2004

The Tie’s the Limit

Watching the scores come in over the past few weeks in Division III, I’ve been noticing what I thought was an inordinate number of ties.

Asking around, other fans and coaches agreed.

Time to get out the ol’ slide rule.

1998-99: 53 ties
1999-00: 60
2000-01: 56
2001-02: 64
2002-03: 71
2003-04: 75 (projected)

There have been 52 ties to date, with four weeks remaining in the season, plus playoffs and the NCAA tournament. At the rate we are going, we’ll wind up with 75. This continues a trend that has seen the number of ties increase five of the last six seasons, for a gain of 25% from 1998-99 to 2002-03.

Looking at the Division III Poll, there were 21 ties among the top 15 at this time last season, and the final poll had a total of 25. This week’s poll already has 27.

Just 15 out of the 68 Division III schools don’t have a tie. What’s going on?

“Parity”, says RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “The difference between teams is narrowing. The fourth or fifth place team in each league has a good chance to beat the first place team.

“You have to bring it every game or you’re going to lose.”

Or at least tie. RIT (10-4-4) is one tie away from a school record, set in 1997-98 when the Tigers played 29 NCAA games. This season, RIT has played only 18 to date. The Tigers actually already have a fifth tie, in an exhibition against the US Under-18 Team.

“I give credit to a lot of teams getting better,” said Plattsburgh head coach Bob Emery, whose team has tied twice this season. “The differences between teams has narrowed, so it’s natural that we’re seeing more tie games.”

Pool Play

All these ties have made for a pileup near the top of the standings in each league. In most leagues, there’s a frontrunner, but, assuming those teams win their conference titles, the battle for NCAA at-large berths will be intense. Who’s in the mix?

ECAC East — Norwich is out to an insurmountable eight-point lead with six games to play. New England College can make a case for a Pool “C” bid if the Pilgrims finish strong. St. Anselm has a better record than NEC, but is a Division II team and therefore ineligible for the ECAC East playoffs and NCAA tournament. Expect St. Anselm to be the heavy favorite in the Northeast 10 tournament.

ECAC Northeast — There’s never been an at-large team selected from the ECAC Northeast, but Curry (15-2-1) will get some consideration if the Colonels don’t win the league title and get the NCAA Automatic Qualifier. Wentworth and Lebanon Valley each have seven losses, probably too many since they’ll have at least eight if they don’t win the ECAC Northeast title.

ECAC West — RIT and Manhattanville, tied for first, will most likely battle for the lone Pool B slot. Elmira, with nine losses, has to run the table all the way to the conference title and hope that the Tigers and Valiants fall apart.

MCHA — Marian is the class of the league, but not good enough to challenge for the Pool B berth.

MIAC — Both St.John’s and St. Thomas have decent shots at a Pool C bid if they don’t win the title, especially if the NCHA teams continue to beat up on each other.

NCHA — This league deserves three NCAA spots, but it will probably be only two. St. Norbert is in for sure, win or lose the title. Wisconsin-River Falls is playing well enough right now to take a Pool C slot. The rest will probably have to win their way in.

NESCAC — The most balanced league (8 teams within five points of first place) will send Middlebury and maybe another team if Colby, Bowdoin, Williams or Hamilton can put together a string of wins.

SUNYAC — Plattsburgh, Geneseo and Oswego are all in the running; the rest will have to win the league title in order to make the NCAAs. The top three can only afford another loss or two if they hope to claim an at-large spot in the event they don’t go all the way.

Making Their Mark

Several milestones were achieved last week:

  • Lake Forest’s Tony Fritz won his 300th game with a 5-1 victory over Wisconsin-Stevens Point last Saturday. In 26 seasons behind the Forester bench, Fritz has a 300-319-33 record.
  • RIT’s Wayne Wilson got his 100th win with a 6-1 victory over Hobart on Saturday. In five seasons, Wilson has compiled a gaudy 100-18-10 record.
  • Middlebury’ s Kevin Cooper became the school’s all-time leading goal-scorer in the “modern era” with 82 goals (Phil Latreille scored 250 goals from 1957-1961). The senior from Mississauga, Ontario set the mark with a hat-trick in a 9-2 win at Mass-Boston on Saturday. Cooper leads the NESCAC in scoring with 18 goals and 11 assists.

    Gone, Suddenly

    No one is talking at Wentworth, but Bill Bowes is out, a shock to the rest of college hockey. I have received many calls looking for information as to what happened, as well as a forwarding address for Bowes.

    I have neither.

    Hopefully, Bowes will land on his feet. He turned around Wentworth in just a few years from a doormat to a league champion and NCAA contender.

    Not That It Really Matters

    Well, it’s time again for what has become an annual tradition for me: Bashing the Super Bowl. OK, this is only the second year in a row, but that means I’ll well on my way to making it a tradition.

    I will say up front that I’m not a football fan, as blasphemous as that sounds. I’m a loyal American and all that, and I realize the two go hand-in-hand, but I have always thought that football and basketball rely too much on physical traits and not enough on mastering the sport itself.

    That’s why I brought my kids up to play what I like to refer to as the “skilled sports”: baseball and hockey.

    So, here in rough chronological order, was how I spent my Super Bowl Sunday.

    10:00 am — I notice that the kids are watching the pre-pre-pre-game show, airing on Nickelodeon. I kid you not. Isn’t that always the way? Get them hooked early and they’re yours forever.

    1:00-3:00 pm — My son Matt has a hockey game at Geneseo, so I regrettably miss the pre-pre-game festivities.

    3:00-6:00 pm — Nap time. No pre-game for me.

    6:35 pm — Sigh. I guess I should watch the thing.

    7:20 pm — Damn. This is like watching paint dry. At least the commercials are good. Not.

    7:45 pm — Based on the commercials, it seems that the typical Super Bowl viewer drinks beer, goes to movies, watches CBS, and has erectile dysfunction.

    8:15 pm — Halftime. I’m not even gonna go there. The jokes have been done to death (“Did you see the boob at halftime? No, not Kid Rock!”), so I’ll just make one comment. This year’s halftime was a fine addition to the long and storied list of halftimes, keeping with tradition.

    It sucked. They have ALL sucked.

    9:00 pm — The game is getting better to watch. Wish I could say the same for the commercials. Budweiser seems obsessed with bathroom humor, which I guess makes sense. I mean, have you ever tasted the stuff? Now Mike Ditka is on telling us that “Baseball needs Levitra.” No, Mike, impotent blowhards like you need Levitra. Baseball has steroids.

    10:30 pm — It’s finally over. I picked New England by three (check my last column if you don’t believe me) so I’m feeling smug. They’re saying this game could go down in history as “The greatest Super Bowl ever”, which is kind of like picking out the prettiest pig in the barnyard.

    10:35 pm — Now for the REAL competition. Survivor All-Stars. Bring on the naked fat guy. Wait, didn’t he run on the field at halftime?